The weekend came too quickly in Marie’s opinion. Before she knew it, it was Saturday and she was walking to Spencer’s.
She greeted Jenny and Isaac as they happened to reach the doors of the small diner at the same moment. Jenny, from the junior cheerleader squad, ignored her, but Isaac smiled and replied with a soft-spoken hello.
Spencer stood at the counter, yelling orders at Tyson and Leann as they scrambled to get ready for opening. The blonde (although her hair looked ginger today) glanced at the clock hanging over the door to the kitchen. Only ten minutes to go. Quickly, she headed for the backroom lockers, pulling her up into a ponytail as she did. The mirror in her locker made it easier for her to put on her contacts.
“Oi, get your butt out here. Spencer’s ready for his pep talk,” Jackie said as Marie put in her second contact. The brunette held a whisk in one hand and a cutting board in the other.
She reached for her apron, slammed her locker close and rushed out just in time for employee count.
Spencer’s eyes scanned the small crowd of (mostly) teenagers, and nodded, satisfied. “Alright people!” he said, clasping his hands as he began, “It’s a Saturday, it’s naturally going to get crowded in here, so I want everyone to pace themselves and make sure they’re not lagging behind, got it?” Their heads bobbed, and he continued his speech, “Make sure to keep an eye on your quotas, and if you find you’re struggling, don’t hesitate to ask for help from someone who doesn’t look as busy! We’re a business, but we’re also a family!”
The server rolled her eyes at the cheesy line, as did several of her co-workers. Nevertheless, they smiled at Spencer, who dismissed them to their posts. Isaac flipped on the neon sign that said “OPEN” and Marie got ready for what would hopefully an exciting day.
“Hi, welcome to Spencer’s! What can I get for you?” she said to her (hopefully) last patron.
He lowered his menu, and Marie gapped at him. “Dane!” she exclaimed in surprise. “What are you doing here?”
He gave her his large, charming grin, and nodded his head to the clock. “Your shift ends in twenty, doesn’t it? I told you I’d pick you up from here to the party, remember?”
She hadn’t. To be honest, the Dane issue had completely slipped her mind. Now it made sense why Haley seemed to be so concerned over her wardrobe…
Her facial expression seemed to key the footballer in on the fact that she had forgotten, and he laughed lightly. “Don’t worry about it,” he said, running a hand through his hair. Marie’s eyes unconsciously followed the muscled arm, before she realized herself and snapped back to Dane’s amused and knowing face. “Just get me a cup of that famous tea I hear so much about. The “Coffee Lover’s” sounds good to me.” He winked at her and she blushed, but wrote down the order and nodded at him.
He answered in the negative, and the blonde quickly escaped the table, ignoring the odd look Jenny threw at her as she entered the backroom.
As she approached the tea table, Marie lost herself in thought, her hands automatically moving without her accord from years of brewing tea constantly. What was this party going to be like? Why had Dane taken such an interest in her so suddenly? He was attractive and funny but…she didn’t know anything about him. She sighed, and mentally smacked herself. She didn’t truly know if he was interested in her romantically. For all she knew, he genuinely just wanted to get to know her platonically. Silence reigned in her mid for a moment, and she snorted as she tipped the water-filled kettle over the teapot. Sometimes Haley and Alex called her naïve, but she wasn’t that innocent.
She quickly wiped down her tray before setting the teapot and cup on it, and made her way out of the backroom. As she reached Dane, he sent her a wide grin and pushed away his menu. The blonde carefully set the tray on the table, and straightened herself, ready to leave the table. Dane however grabbed her arm as she began to walk away, and murmured, “You’re pretty much done for the day. Why don’t you sit with me and we can bail when it’s four?”
Marie glanced around for Spencer, but Dane said casually as he tugged her into the booth, “He won’t mind. You forget I work here as well! He won’t have a problem with you clocking out ten minutes earlier.” His light blue eyes sent her another wink, and she blushed, any protests dying at her lips.
Dane reached out for the teapot and teacup, carefully pouring out some of the tea. An eyebrow rose as he stared down at the amber-colored liquid. “Doesn’t look much like a Coffee Lover’s tea,” he commented.
Marie was used to getting such comments about this particular tea. Just because it wasn’t black, people hesitated before trying it. Nevertheless, she was quick to reassure him. “Just trust me on this one,” she said, smiling at him, “It’ll taste just like coffee. You can even sweeten it with the exact amount you would use for your coffee.”
He gave her an unreadable look, but did as she said, adding three cups of creamer and two teaspoons of sugar and stirring. As he put the spoon away, he brought the cup closer to his face, sniffing it tentatively. His second eyebrow shot up to join the first, and he slowly took a sip of the hot liquid. His eyes widened, and he turned to glance at her as she gave him a wide grin.
“Whoa,” he said after he set the cup down. “That tasted just like a macchiato!” He smacked his lips together, his face in thought, “I even taste chocolate! That’s incredible!”
Marie beamed at him, pleased to have satisfied once again. “It’s a different tea plant than what’s used for regular tea. With a little makeover, you get that awesome macchiato taste.” She slipped him a sly grin, as if sharing a secret with him. And to her, she was. Although she had learned from Michelle, Haley and Alex that people didn’t want to hear her go on and on about the properties of tea. She still couldn’t help but get nerdy about the topic when it came up in her vicinity.
Dane smiled fondly at her, then took another glance at the clock. “Hey, your shift’s over! Go dump that apron and let’s get out of here!” His exuberance caught the attention of Spencer, who scowled at him and gestured for him to approach the counter. Dane chuckled sheepishly, and the two Spencer’s employees rose from the booth, one headed for the lockers and the other casually strolling to the counter.
As Marie rushed to untie her serving apron and grab her purse, Jenny walked over to her, eyeing her curiously. The blonde only spared her co-worker a glance as she dug into her purse to check for her keys, wallet, phone and contact case.
“So,” Jenny said, her eyes on her fingernails, “you’re going to be at the bonfire tonight?”
Marie looked up from her purse, a questioning look on her face. “Um, yeah. Dane invited me. Why?”
Jenny said nothing in reply, but gave her a long assessing look from head to toe. “Hm,” she said vaguely. “Wear something light. No jeans – unless they’re shorts. Do something nice with your hair, also. Let it down for once or something.” With that, the tan-skinned girl strolled out of the locker room, leaving Marie to gape at her back.
Fuming, the blonde slammed her locker closed, and stalked out, ready to find Jenny and confront her on her nerve. She could dress however she pleased! She wasn’t going to be bossed around by little Miss Popular!
Before she could unleash her fiery rage on the younger girl however, a tanned muscled arm snuck itself around her waist and led her towards the exit. Startled, she looked up and found herself staring at Dane’s signature charming smile.
“Dane!” she exclaimed, blushing as they walked out of Spencer’s. Any thoughts of Jenny flew out of her head.
“It’s good to get out of there! No need for us to be cooped up in that diner when it’s such a beautiful day out,” he looked down at her and gave her wink, then began to lead her to his truck.
Marie let herself be led to the sleek black truck, but was once against startled as she was spun around, her back hitting the door.
“Dane!” she said, her eyes wide in surprise. “What are you doing?”
The other blond was slightly crouched, his face inches away from hers. She blushed deeply, staring at his narrowed blue eyes. Was he going to do what she thought he was going to do…?
“Your eyes,” he rumbled, his own eyes narrowing even more, and he stepped further into her personal space, ignoring her squeak. “Why are they brown?”
The tips of their noses were almost touching now. Marie resisted the edge to lick her lips, and stammered out, “T-they’re contacts. L-lots of people like to comment about my eyes when I first started working at Spencer’s, s-so I got contacts ‘cause I got tired of the questions and comments.”
Dane pulled away, an unreadable look on his face, but it quickly cleared away and he smirked down at her. “That’s actually brilliant,” he commented, nudging her to the side as he opened the door for her, “but you better take them off when we go to the bonfire. Your eyes are way too pretty hidden under plain brown contacts.”
“Says the one with baby blues,” she muttered as buckled her seatbelt and he closed the passenger door.
Marie was quick to direct Dane to her home, and was relieved to see that her grandparents were out. She didn’t mind them, but every time she brought a boy home, she had to prevent her grandmother from squealing and asking uncomfortable questions. Her grandfather wasn’t any better; he would sit in silence and stare at the boy until he left the house. And let’s not get started on the ridiculous open-door policy she had. Most of the people she brought home were friends, or merely assignment partners.
Ming, settled in Reginald’s sofa, mewed in greeting, his tail swinging languidly at the sight of them.
“Cute cat,” Dane complimented, stepping closer to pet the Siamese cat.
“Thanks,” she said as she took off her shoes. “His name’s Ming, and he’s an attention-whore. Don’t give him too much or he’ll stick to you like glue.”
The boy chuckled and reached down to grab the cat. “I don’t mind,” he said, stroking Ming’s light grey fur. Ming purred loudly as the large hands ran over his body. “To be honest, I love cats as much as I love dogs. They’re bossy and think they rule the world, which I find absolutely adorable. Besides,” turning to her and winking, “if he gets attached to me, that means I have to come here more often to see him, and you.”
Marie blushed, and quickly muttered, “I’m gonna go change. I’ll be right back.”
Dane’s cheeky “Can I come with?” was met with a pillow to his face. Ming mewed, displeased at the lack of attention on him, and the football player was quick to return to stroking the cat.
Jenny’s words ran through Marie’s head as she stood in front of her closet after taking off her contacts. The strawberry blonde scowled as she pulled her hairband out of her hair. Running her hands through her curls, she eyes the content of her closet as she inwardly debated what would be best to wear.
After five minutes of mentally debating whether or not she wanted to symbolically tell Jenny to stuff it or not, she eventually settled on going for something that would impress: a high-rise skirt, long-sleeved crop top, and beach sandals. She used a hair scarf as a makeshift headband, tying it into a neat bow on top her head, and left her elbow-length curls flowing behind her. She grinned at her reflection as she put on light make-up. She almost never got to doll up, because she hardly went out, unless it was a vacation with her grandparents or a rare event with her best friends.
She heard Dane call out and immediately rushed to leave, but not before grabbing her shawl, messenger purse, phone and keys. She hopped down the stairs and made her way to the kitchen, pretending not to notice as Dane stared her down.
The blond whistled lowly, giving her a once-over. “Now I don’t know if I want to take you to the bonfire with you looking like that!” he exclaimed, finally setting Ming down on the floor and walking to her.
She laughed as she wrote her grandparents a note to let them know she was going to be out and they shouldn’t wait up. Ending the note with a heart, she stuck the Post-It on the fridge door and spun around into Dane’s chest.
A sense of déjà-vu came over her and she blinked up at his smoldering eyes. After a moment of silence, Dane seemed to have found what he was looking for and gave her a brilliant smile, walking to the front door. Marie stared at him in confusion, but shrugged and followed him out, making sure to pet Ming goodbye and lock the door behind her.
Dane was quick to park his truck when they reached the beach, and the two grabbed iceboxes in the back and headed for the sand. As they approached the semi-large group sitting in the sand, Marie’s heart sped up in nervousness.
Her nerves must have shown, because Dane pulled her closer, putting an arm around her shoulders and said, “Don’t worry, everyone’s really friendly. I’ll make sure you have a good time.”
Someone must have noticed them approaching, and the group turned to them, cheering loudly at the sight of Dane and his iceboxes in hand. A much taller, dark-skinned boy ran up to them, and boisterously greeted, “Dane, my man! Just in time with the refreshment!”
Marie was quick to identify him as Brennen Bennett, star of Greenholt High’s basketball team. Brennen gave her a curious look, but held his hand out amicably. “Marie, right? White’s friend?”
The blonde knew she was bound to be known only through the people she knew, so nodded and gave him a smile as she shook his either way. It was odd to shake hands with him, only because they were teenagers and that wasn’t exactly how she greeted others, but she went with the flow anyway.
Dane gave her an approving look and pulled her closer. “She’s my date for tonight,” he declared proudly, not noticing as Marie’s cheeks filled with blood. “Get used to seeing her around!”
Brennen look amused as he took both iceboxes away from the blond couple. “Alright man,” he said, a small smirk on his lips. “Why don’t you two head down to the others? I’ll be right behind you.”
She was led away by Dane’s strong arm on her waist, and was immediately introduced to several athletes who knew her by face, but not by name.
Surprisingly enough, everyone had been extremely welcoming and friendly. She hadn’t been sure what she expected. She fit in with them right away, laughing at jokes and making easy conversation with them as they ate, drank, and got high. Time went by quickly, and soon enough, people began to trickle out of the circle and away to their homes.
Marie was pulled out of her conversation with Tracy Huggins by Dane, who gave Tracy an apologetic smile, and told Marie, “It’s almost two. I’m not sure what time you’re supposed to be back at home, but I figured we’d head out soon.”
Startled, the blonde glanced at her phone. Time had flown by! She hadn’t even seemed to notice the sun going down and the number of people who had already left.
Tracy pouted, clinging on to her arm. “Awh, but I want Marie to stay!” she whined, leaning heavily on her arm. “She’s so adorable and I wanna keep her.”
The two blonds shared an amused look over the drunk girl’s head. To be honest, she was amazed at the cheerleader’s ability to drink so much and keep up with a decent conversation at the same time. Marie herself had only had two cans of beer (because she hated the taste) and several puffs of the blunts that had been passed around. Although her eyes were extremely bloodshot, the only speech impediment she had gained was excessive giggling. And she had it under control. Mostly.
Tracy’s twin brother – whose name the girl couldn’t be bothered to remember at the moment – pulled his sister away, waving goodbye to Dane and Marie.
Dane moved closer to her as they disappeared from view, and Marie inwardly gulped. The beach seemed a lot quieter and darker without anyone else but the footballer and her around.
“How did you like the bonfire?” he murmured, his hand reaching up and brushing strands of her hair away from her cheeks.
Marie’s throat felt dry and she didn’t think she could speak. Although Dane’s blue eyes were just as bloodshot as hers, they were still intense and she felt like shrinking under his heavy gaze. Eventually, she managed to croak out, “It was good.”
He chuckled, moving closer, and pulling her into his chest. “Just good huh? I guess that’s a start.”
She hadn’t realized she had been shivering from the cold until his warm arms wrapped up around her torso, and she gladly wrapped her arms around what she could of his muscled upper-body.
All too soon, the embrace ended, and Marie couldn’t help the frown that appeared on her face as Dane pulled away. Seeing the frown, he laughed quietly, using his thumb to smoothen out the creases in her forehead.
“I’m just going to get the iceboxes from the cave,” he jerked his head behind him, and her eyes looked past him to see the dark entrance of Greenholt’s cave. “Then I can drive you home and show you my appreciating for coming with me.”
The strawberry blonde blushed a bright red as the sandy blond waggled his eyebrows at her. He laughed at her embarrassed expression, and she shoved him away with a scoff, settling herself back on the log to watch him walk away.
She definitely wasn’t staring at his ass…
The bonfire was all but embers now, and she shivered in the almost-darkness. It had been so long she had been to the beachside, she had forgotten how exceptionally windy and chilly it got her, compared to inland Greenholt. She should have brought a sweater; maybe the new one Odette had gotten –
A loud bang rang out, and she heard yelling. Marie jumped to her feet, her eyes wide. Another loud bang rang out, and she took off to the cave, her heart pounding out of her chest and hoping that wasn’t a gunshot she was hearing.
The yelling was indiscernible, but she could tell it was coming from the cave. Oh god, Dane…Marie began to run faster, faster than she ever had, and once she was close enough to the cave, began calling out for him. Any sense of danger flew from her head as she pulled out her phone and charged straight into the consuming darkness of the cave, screaming for Dane the whole way.
She found him crouched in front of another body, his arm cradled in his chest. She skidded to a stop next to him, breathless, and fell to her knees.
“I’m okay,” he gasped out, shifting his arm into her view. “Crazy fucker only got my arm. This guy on the other hand, he’s hurt really badly.”
Marie turned her attention to the man lying at their feet, blood slowly streaming out of a bullet hole in his chest, and she gasped, “I know him!”
Dane gave her a pained, but questioning look. “You do?”
The blonde nodded, already unlocking her phone in order to dial 911. “Yeah, he’s shaved, but I would remember him anywhere. He came into Spencer’s the night I took your shift, looking like he just stepped out of the Stone Age.”
The police and ambulance were quick to respond to her call, and 10 minutes later, Dane and Marie were both in an open ambulance van. Dane was being treated while Marie watched, and they were both being questioned.
“I heard the gunshots right after he had gone into the cave, then I heard a lot of yelling, and I ran in there as quickly as I could. I turned on the flashlight on my phone, so I could find him easier, but I didn’t see anyone else,” Marie recounted to Sheriff Dearden.
“I just went in there to grab my iceboxes – we had a bonfire with the football team, basketball team and cheerleading squad – and I heard someone talking, so I set the boxes down to go check it out,” Dane began, wincing as the nurses began to disinfect his wound. Marie grabbed his uninjured arm, and he gave her a warm smile. “Soon enough, I was staring at the barrel of a gun, and this guy, the shooter, he asked who I was, and why I was following them. I tried to tell him that there had been a bonfire going on the beach for a couple of hours now, and it was finally over, but he wouldn’t listen; he was ready to pull the trigger.”
He shuddered, and Marie felt his hand tighten against hers. She grasped he limb firmly with both hands and began stroking it, trying to calm him down. He had been so close to death just a few minutes ago, it was no surprise he was in shock.
Dane took a deep breath and continued his story, “The other guy,” referring to the Spencer’s patron that had immediately been rushed to the hospital, “told him to let me go, cos I was a kid, I obviously had no clue what was going on. He told him that the fight was between them and he didn’t need to bring kids into it.
“That must have made him mad, ‘cos he spun around and…and he just shot him. And the guy looked so surprised, then he just dropped to the floor. That’s when I started yelling, ‘cos fuck, y’know? He just shot another guy! Then he turned back to me and just fired again, but he only got me in the arm, ‘cos he was shaking really badly. Then I started yelling again, because I had just been shot. It didn’t hurt at first, then I just saw the blood and suddenly it was this intense pain, and I could barely keep myself on my feet. The shooter shoved me out of the way, and I landed next to the unconscious guy, and he just ran out of the cave. That’s when Marie found me.”
Sherriff Dearden turned to Marie once more , giving her a critical eye. “Now, you’re sure you didn’t see anyone run past you as you went in, Ms. Dehaan?”
“I’m certain! He must have hid himself somewhere when he heard me entering the cave, and since I was so focused on finding Dane and making sure he was alright, I didn’t notice if he was hiding in one of the alcoves,” she replied indignantly.
“Alright, just making sure. Will you be needing a ride home?”
Marie looked over to Dane. She knew he had to get his wound bandaged up properly at the hospital, yet didn’t want to leave him. He gave her a reassuring smile and addressed Dearden, “Please make sure she gets home safely, Sheriff. I would take her home if I could, but I can’t, and I’d like to know she’ll get back safely.”
The nurses cooed at them, and she flushed, but turned to hug him either way. Dane promised to come visit as soon as he was able to, and she was quickly ushered to the Sheriff’s Jeep. The ambulance doors closed behind her, and the red and white van quickly drove off as she entered the Jeep.
The ride to her home was relatively quiet. Neither of the car’s inhabitants attempted to make conversation with each other, and the silence was filled with the quiet croons of Sinatra. As the Jeep pulled in front of the unique house, Sheriff Dearden was quick to warn her to be more careful, and to be sure to let her grandparents about what had occurred before they found out from someone else. With a thank you and a goodnight, Marie exited the car and made her way into her house.
All lights were out, but years of living here made the teenager adept at getting around the house without needing lights. Marie quickly got out of her clothes and jumped into the warm comfort of her bed. She was dreading the conversation she was going to have with her grandparents in the morning…
Although I have several other chapters completed, this is as much as I want to post while I write some more! So let me know what you think, good and bad, any suggestions? And thanks for reading my outrageously long chapters (: