Playing With Fire

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MUSTANG

My nerves had made themselves a jumble inside me, closing off different parts of my brain and clouding my thoughts. I'd managed to relax some while talking with Eric, and by the time it was twelve thirty I suddenly realized that I hadn't phoned Kiera. She had been my escape plan, and I'd been so nervous and caught up in confusion that I hadn't called her! What if she was already busy, and couldn't go out with me in half an hour? Tarry would be suspicious and maybe even a little upset.

When Eric paused in his story about basketball playoffs, I held up my finger. "I need to use the washroom, do you mind?"

"Oh yeah, no. No problem. I'll wait here," he smiled and leaned back on the stairs to prove it.

"Thanks." I quickly jogged up the stairs and locked myself in the bathroom. I dialed Kiera's number.

"Hi?"

"Kiera, it's Ella," I sat down on the counter and brought my voice down to a lower level.

"Oh, hey! What's going on?" she asked. Her voice sounded a little winded.

"Are you running?"

"Well not anymore because I'm talking to you. But yeah, that was what I was up to, why?"

I closed my eyes and hoped for the best. "Do you think we can go out? Today?"

"Sure, when?"

Studying the soap container, I bit my lip. "In half an hour."

She was silent for a second. "Half an hour? Thanks for the heads up!"

"Sorry," I apologized. "But I told my dad yesterday that we were going out today. I didn't think I could stand being here with everyone for a whole day."

"Too bad I didn't know about our plans." She laughed and I sighed in relief. "Of course I'll come get you, babe! One o'clock you say? Do I need to hurry?"

"Maybe rush a little," I suggested. "Sooner than later would be better."

"How are things going?" she sounded genuinely concerned.

"...Okay. I'll tell you later. Hurry!"

By the sound of her voice, she was already jogging again. "I'll be home soon, then I've got to grab a shower, and I'll be there before you have time to miss me!"

"I already do miss you!" I objected.

I could feel her smiling through the phone. "Of course you do! I'll be there ASAP!"

I closed my cell and shoved it back in my pocket, then left the bathroom. Eric was still waiting in the exact position I'd left him in. He turned his head to the left to watch me approach.

"That was quick," he commented, and I wasn't sure if he was being sarcastic, or truthful.

Exactly twenty five minutes later, Kiera rolled to a stop in the driveway. Eric and his parents were standing by the door, and I was holding my purse impatiently.

"Sorry," I mumbled, "Got to go." I didn't look in any of their eyes as I shrugged, hoping I looked more apologetic than I was, and slipped past them out the door.

"See you later," Eric said as I brushed past him.

Kiera gave me a broad smile as I dropped into shotgun. "Told you I'd be here, and here I am!"

I sighed and relaxed into the seat as she backed out. "I can't tell you how good it is to see you."

"Oh, believe me, I know how you feel!" she declared. "I had to suffer through two and a half weeks while you were recovering. It was painful."

Smiling, I nodded. "Yeah, but this is just... ugh, relief."

"Was it really that bad?"

"No," I confessed a little reluctantly. "It wasn't too bad. But maybe a little much. I still don't really see how this is supposed to work. The whole 'arranged marriage' isn't really my thing."

She sped the car up. "Not really your thing? How so?"

"I don't know. In twilight -"

"Wait," she cut me off, "You're basing your theory off of a book?"

I shook my head. "No, hear me out. In twilight, Bella and Edward fell in love. Many of the people at school walk around with linked arms. Hand in hand. I like the idea of falling in love. It sounds so much more... enchanting," I tried to explain, wanting her to see it from my perspective.

Kiera cocked her head as she listened. "Okay. That sounds nice, but messy. Dangerous," she said. "Say you thought you were in love. What happens when he sees some other girl? He cheats on you. It's pain and heartache. Not romance. Life isn't about fantasy and books, it's about reality and strong relationships. How can you trust someone if you don't know everything about them?"

"That's where faith kicks in," I stated. "Besides, what if your parent makes a mistake and ends up hitching you to an alcoholic? Now you're stuck with him for life, and it's because you didn't do your part and make the love connection beforehand."

She smiled as if something I said was funny. "Okay, I want to know what exactly you're talking about," she said, glancing at me. "When are you going to be finished that book?"

"I'm already done it," I said, taken by surprise.

"Then I want to read it."

"I thought you said you weren't a reader," I protested.

Kiera looked at me quickly, then turned back to the road. "I'm not a reader, but I want to know what you're talking about."

For a minute I just stared at her. This was a side of her I hadn't seen. I was so sure she was absolutely against loving someone of your own choice. "What has changed?" I questioned, suddenly anxious for an explanation.

"What do you mean?"

"I mean, why do you want to read twilight? I thought you were sticking to this rule."

She shrugged. "I am still with the rule, because I know it's good. It has always worked, and I don't think it's going to change anytime soon. Also, because I don't like the idea of finding out what will happen if we defy it." Her eyes slid sideways at me. "But you are my best friend, and I want to understand how you feel. Maybe if I had some insight on what you're thinking, I'll... I don't know. Be able to see things from your view. And," she shook her head, "I don't ever want to lose you. I don't want this to be the reason we slip apart. If understanding you costs me, so be it. I'm not about to let anything happen to us."

I was speechless. She believed that my way of seeing the rule was dangerous, yet she was willing to risk anything to stay friends with me. How could one person be so perfect? If angles lived in humans, she surly had a hundred living in her. Wings thrusting and hearts blazing. "Thank you," I whispered. "I don't know what I'd do without you."

"Hey," she smiled an amazing glamorous flash of white teeth. "Friends forever, sisters for life."

We drove to Fargo and shopped for a few hours. Neither of us had eaten, so we decided to stop in a fast food restaurant. Kiera insisted we go to Long John Silver's. That was when I learned about her Disney fascination.

Taking our food to a table, Kiera split our chocolate cream pie. We had both agreed that dessert was the most appetizing thing.

"So, Disney?" I stated through a mouthful.

She smiled broadly. "Yup! All the characters and creations are insane!" she laughed, filling her fork. "I love the ideas, they are so easy to go with. Like, you could merge their worlds together so well!"

I had to return her smile, finding it impossible not to. "So Disney has a Long John Silver, I'm assuming?"

Her mouth fell open. "Have you never seen Treasure Planet?"

"Umm... no?"

"Holy crow, you have to see it!" she stared at me. "Tonight. At my place."

I took another bite of pie. "What about Tarry?"

She shook her head. "Text him. You have not lived until you see that movie. That's like saying you've never had apple pie!"

"Well I don't remember ever eating apple pie," I muttered.

"-or like saying you've never watched Peter Pan." She took a sip of water and rolled her eyes.

"I haven't seen Peter Pan." The thought was so nonchalant, it just popped out. I was surprised when Kiera nearly choked on her water.

"You what?"

I looked at her wide-eyed. It was almost as if the comment had offended her, but then I saw the dazzling sparkle spring to life in her stunning green eyes.

"Oh. My. Word. Holy crow!" she clapped her hands together. "Okay, now you have to come to my place! We are going to watch Treasure Planet and Peter Pan if I have to kidnap you myself!"

I laughed. "Okay! So let's get going then." We left the restaurant, and I called Tarry on our way out, telling him I was going to Kiera's for the evening, and staying for a sleepover. He said he and Sydney were about to go on a walk.

I was about to get in Kiera's car when I heard her moan loudly and mutter something angrily.

"What's wrong?" I asked, looking to where she was standing at the back of the car on the driver's side.

She moaned again and looked down.

I rounded the car and caught site of a yellow boot on her back right tire. "Oh."

"I didn't realize this was a no-parking zone!" she sighed. "Now what?"

"I guess we have to find a way home," I said. "Who do you want to call?"

Her lip pouted and she turned away from her car, putting her face in a more determined look as she did. "My parents are out of town right now. Can we call your dad?"

"He went on a walk with Sydney, and I doubt he'll have his phone on him." I tried anyway, but it was just as useless as I'd predicted. "We could call Kate," I suggested.

Kiera shook her head. "No, she's at a concert with John, remember? And Aria too."

Stumped, we both stared at each other for a few minutes. I went thought my options and came up completely blank. At least blank with anything good.

It was around seven already. We needed to find a way to get to Kiera's place soon. Staying out late in a city with nowhere to go probably wasn't a good idea. Just as the thought crossed my mind, two men in baggy sweatshirts sauntered up to us. They both wore their hoods up, making it hard to see their faces, but I could tell one of them had a fair amount of whiskers along his round face.

Kiera shuffled closer to me.

"Hey, how's it going girls?" Whiskers asked, stopping a few feet away from us with his buddy on his heels.

"Just ignore them," Kiera hissed in my ear.

Whiskers grinned. "Never seen you two around here before. Having trouble?" he guessed, motioning to Kiera's car.

"We're fine," I replied, embarrassed by the obvious nervousness in my voice.

His grin seemed to get even cockier. "Need a ride home?"

No! Leave us alone! I should run, scream... I panicked, going through all the possible moves I could use if I had to. "No," I blurted.

"Aww, come one darling," he stepped closer, and Kiera and I stepped back in unison. "We couldn't leave the two of you out here alone. Do you have a ride?"

There was no way around. We could bolt, but they would catch us, guaranteed. Or me at least. Kiera could probably outrun them. I gripped my purse, readying myself to use it as defence. My eyes sliced over them, and caught sight of a shiny black Mustang. My heart pounded as I saw someone step out. Whoever it was looked tall, and although I couldn't see them very well from this distance, he looked fairly young from his stance and shape.

"Uh, yeah we have a ride," I stuttered, pointing to the Mustang's owner. "There."

Kiera gave me a look that screamed, what are you doing? Whiskers and his friend looked in the direction I'd pointed. "Who's he?"

"My boyfriend," I stated, proud of how confident I sounded. Now I just needed them to buy it.

Unfortunately, it wasn't going to be so easy. "Really? Why's he over there then, instead of here with you?"

I grappled for an explanation. "He just doesn't know we're on this side." My whole body tightened and my stomach flipped as I cleared my throat and raised my voice, "Hey babe! Over here!" I called, thankful my panic attack was still tucked inside for the moment.

The Mustang driver turned toward us, interested in my call, and I froze to the spot. Before I had time to smack myself, relief flooded my mind. I might be able to pull this off. But as he approached us, my hopes wavered and took a turn for the worst. He wouldn't play along, because to him, everything was a joke. And this would just be another reason for him to laugh in my face.

As soon as Hawkins was within a ten foot radius of us, I announced -with a dry throat- "This is my... boyfriend." I wanted to sink into the ground in humiliation.

But I was completely surprised when he said, "Yeah, hey Tiger. Where have you been? I was looking for you." He stepped right up to me and kissed my cheek. I resisted the instinct to pull away and wipe my face.

"We were waiting for you too," Kiera said, crossing her arms and cocking her head in an annoyed way, as if she was upset at him for taking too long.

"Sorry, didn't realize I kept you waiting so long," Hawkins gave her a grin and turned back to Whisker and his friend who both looked stunned.

"Umm, I'm Blake and this is Garret," Whiskers explained quickly, extending his hand toward Hawkins as if to deny having caused Kiera and I any trouble.

Hawkins observed Blake's outstretched hand, but didn't return the gesture. "Jace," he said. I was startled with the realization that I now knew his name. He turned back toward me. "Come on, Tiger. Let's get going."

Kiera and I huddled close behind him as he stepped around the two men and crossed the street. I glanced back at them. They stared after us in confusion, and I didn't stay to see how long they'd watch us. I just continued to play along as they stared, sliding into the passenger's seat after Kiera crawled to the back of the Mustang. Hawkins- Jace, held the door -something I never thought I'd see him do- for us as we got in, then he walked around the front of the car and dropped into the driver's seat.


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