With his attention focused on the minivan barreling toward them, Rob didn’t have time to jerk the car out of the tree’s path. I spun my hands around the wheel blindly, until we were facing away from the wreckage. I heard the sound of shattering glass and crunching metal as Rob tried to veer, only to overcorrect. When I looked back in the side mirror, the SUV was on its side in a smoking heap. Beside it was the splintered body of a tree, still rolling to a stop after the collision.
Clancy nodded. That’s the way I do it. When I feel the sensation, I push back the image of that curtain and I don’t let up, no matter what. So what I want you to do is bring to mind some kind of secret or memory—something you wouldn’t necessarily want me or anyone else to see—and I want you to drop your own curtain down to protect it.I must not have been doing a good job of hiding my hesitation, because he took both of my hands in his again, lacing our fingers. Come on, he said. What’s the worst that could happen? I see some embarrassing moment? I think we’re good enough friends now that you can trust me when I say I won’t tell a soul about any falls or public puking.
What about streaking and eating playground sand?He pretended to consider it for a moment, grinning. I suppose I could refrain from sharing that with the entire camp at dinner.What a fair, just leader you are, I said. After a moment, I added, Do you really consider me a friend, or are you just saying that because you want to see me get my four front teeth knocked out when I tried to play soccer?
Clancy shook his head and laughed. His favorite stories always seemed to be the ones that involved me trying to pretend I was a boy, or the fast-food binges my dad used to take me on when my mom was out of town at a teacher’s conference. They were so completely foreign to his experience, I realized, that I must have seemed like an alien.Of course I consider you my friend. Actually… he began, his voice low. When he glanced at me again, his dark eyes were burning with a kind of intensity that made me feel like my head was full of air, ready to float away. I consider you a lot more than that.
You may have been looking for me, but let’s just say that I was waiting for you. It’s been a long time since I felt like someone understood what I was going through. Being an Orange…you can’t compare it to what the others are. They don’t understand us or what we can do.
It’s only us, came a small voice in my mind, it’s just the two of us.Brax guzzled his drink and stood. I just gotta take a leak. I’ll be right back.
My fear jettisoned into a geyser of panic. No! I mean, do you have to go here? We can find a McDonald’s or some local garage. I twisted my fingers, hidden in my lap. I doubt the facilities will be clean.He laughed. This isn’t convenience central. I don’t know if we’ll be able to find anywhere else, and it will be another hour before we’re back at the hotel. I’ll just be a tick.
I clutched my Coke until my fingers turned white, trying to stem panic, and stop being so clingy. I nodded.Brax blew me a kiss, striding toward the back of the café. His green t-shirt was dark with sweat, showing every curve of muscle. Muscle that could protect me, muscle that was walking away. With every step he took, my heart died a little more. I had no explanation for my behaviour, but some pessimistic part throbbed with grief.