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I’m the good girl from Ashton Hills.
He’s the bad boy from Duncan.
Two lost souls searching for freedom and happiness.
Sometimes love is instantaneous.
A supernova collision of emotions.
As our hearts tangle to the point they’ll never be able to part, the past comes creeping up like an evil villain. The mistakes of our parents become our consequences to face.
We’re madly, deeply, foolishly in love.
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Once you make a decision,
the universe conspires to make it happen.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson ~
I can feel the defeating weight of stone sinking into my chest. I sit in front of my mother’s pristine vanity while she brushes my long raven locks, making sure to tame the unruly ends so they look perfect. Perfect like her hair.
The stone wall threatening to crush me moves in closer until my breathing is noticeably shallow. My ears burn with the imaginary sound of stone on stone.
“Sage, your ears are beet red. Are you nervous?” A sympathetic smile curves my mother’s ruby red lips.
“A little.” I manage to get my voice to work in the face of being obliterated by a wall of anxiety.
“Oh, honey, you’ll be fine. All of your friends will be there. I know you can’t wait to see them.” The smile fades from her face, but I still see joy swimming in her ice-blue eyes. How she finds happiness in social gatherings is beyond me. The thought of being around a crowd of people, with phony smiles and endless conversation, makes me itch.
Is being allergic to people a real thing?
I told her over and over, those girls she tries shoving down my throat aren’t my friends. She wants them to be my friends because she’s close to their mothers and birds of a feather…right?
I’m nothing like them with their perfect hair and matching outfits. I’m blue jeans and retro concert tees, and they’re busy following the latest Instagram trends.
I bounce a curled knuckle against my lip and gaze into the brightly lit mirror. Mom stops fussing over my hair long enough to stare at me with her perfect brows gathered. I know that look. That is the stop-that-right-this-instant look.
“You’re going to smudge your lipstick.” She gestures to my knuckle and I stare at the smear of mauve on my finger. I scrub it away with the heel of my hand, and she lets out a sigh that’s full of disapproval. The kind of sigh you give a kid who just spilled chocolate milk on a white dress.
“There, look at how beautiful you are, Sage.” She twists her lips to the side at the sight of my eyebrows and before I can protest, out comes the brow gel. She rakes the cold gel through my misbehaved brows, and I stifle a groan in my throat. “Okay, much better. I knew my daughter was there somewhere under the T-shirt and jeans you insist upon wearing. You know they make you look like a boy, right, honey?”
“Mom, please,” I beg. I want her to spare me the lectures about my clothes because I’m already nearly smashed by the stone wall in my mind.
“I’m just saying, you’d look so much better if you actually took time to groom yourself. You’re not the kind of girl who just wakes up beautiful.”
Not like you, right, Mom?
I stand abruptly and turn my eyes away from the mirror. I hate seeing what I look like once all my personality is groomed away. I want to get the stupid charity event at the country club over with, then I can rush home to my room and detox from dealing with so many phony people.
I hear Mom talking in the background as I leave the bedroom, but she sounds muffled through the wall closing in on me. I feel like a baby deer wobbling in heels toward the front door. When most women walk in heels, the bright click-pop noise their shoes make on the floor sounds like a melody. Not me. I’m pretty sure I’m the opposite of a melody…whatever that is.
The moment I stumble out of the front door of my house and drink in fresh air, the stone wall recedes and my lungs inflate again. “Hey, kiddo. I see Mom got you in a dress.” My father smiles at me. His smiles have the power to chase away any anxiety kicking up dust in my mind. Maybe he’s outside waiting because he wants to escape any further inspection from Mom before we leave.
“Yeah, I see she got you all dolled up too, huh?” A half-smile lifts one side of my mouth, as I take in his perfectly coiffed mahogany hair and tailored suit. He glances down at his formal wear and shrugs like it’s nothing.
“I definitely wouldn’t say dolled up, but your old man cleans up nicely.” Most of the time, Dad prefers to be in a pair of khakis hitting golf balls on the course at the country club. Suits aren’t his thing. Neither are the huge charity functions Mom loves so much.
“Yeah, well that makes one of us.” I tug at the hem of the silky blue dress Mom made me wear and fold my arms across my body. Dad shoots me a disapproving look, that I pretend to ignore, but there’s no ignoring the prickle of heat washing over my ears.