I jolted awake, my sleepy eyes ill-adjusted to the darkness around me, but even on this moonless night I could tell I was alone. It was just a dream.
Shame. I'd finally almost fallen asleep, and now my heart was racing. I could have sworn I heard her voice, but no, Monica was not in my bedroom. She was most likely at home hugging one of her cherished stuffed animals, and now I was wide awake again, my thoughts and pulse at a rate that was never going to allow me to fall back asleep.
I turned on my bedside lamp and rubbed my eyes to try and rid them of their last bit of drowsiness. Perfect time to pick up a book I had yet to finish.
This time I heard her voice as I was climbing out of my bed; I jumped, tripping over my own feet and slamming into the wall by my bed. Shit. I got back to my feet quickly however, though my shoulder was screaming in agony and got a good look around the room, even dropping to the floor to check underneath my bed. No Monica, and by the looks of the alarm clock's face I had to have been sleepwalking. It was 3 in the morning. Her voice had to have been just the leftovers of a dream spilling into my waking life.
I'd definitely been a sleepwalker as a kid. I hadn't done in at least 6 or 7 years, but I could have been sleepwalking just then. But damn, if I wasn't awake now. I rubbed my shoulder, inspecting its tenderness to predict the likelihood of a bruise; it was a definite possibility. Now that sleep had finally left me, I could hear the sound of the ever-present rain hitting the screen on my window. It was a dull metallic sound that was as familiar to me as the sound of cicadas; in fact, both sounds were so frequent in my daily life, that the absence of them felt rather ominous, as if the world around me was suddenly unfamiliar, maybe even dangerous.
That was the south for me. The sounds of a midnight summer thunderstorm could calm me down like nothing else, and the sound of it outside my window put all other thoughts out of my head. In fact, I felt a million times better as I sat down on my bed, pulling the blinds open to I could watch the lightning play above the treeline. There were few days that it didn't rain in Greenbank, and I loved the town even more for that alone. I smiled softly to myself. Thanks to the rain, I may actually be able to go back to sleep.
"Teagan!" This time it sounded far away.
I jumped back to my feet. Now fully certain that I was awake, I knew I had to be hearing Monica from out in the storm. I was not dreaming. In fact, the next time the lightning flashed, I could make out a silouhette out in the yard. She called my name again.
What was Monica doing out at 3 in the morning? Something had to be wrong. To say her being outside at this time in the middle of a thunderstorm was uncharacteristic of her would be a colossal understatement; Monica was in bed at 9:00 pm every night. She was our local preacher's daughter and definitely not the sneaking out type. And she was trying to get my attention.
Monica was the girl of my dreams. Naturally, I didn't give running to her aide a second thought. Still in my pajamas, I kicked on my rainboots and pulled on a raincoat, buttoning it all the way up on my way out of the kitchen door. I grabbed a flashlight on my way out too; it was heavy duty: the large kind with the handle on top, practically a handheld searchlight.
I pointed it around the yard by my bedroom window and then eventually all around the yard, but there was no sign that anyone was outside. There wasn't even a single footprint in the sticky red clay.
The rain seemed to be falling much harder outside than I had originally thought from the window. It was difficult to see through when I illuminated the space
in front of me with the flashlight, almost like the rain was creating a wall of water.
The cicadas were completely silent.
A flash of lightning lit up the whole yard suddenly, and as the earth shook underneath me, I caught a glimpse of honey brown hair in the light of my flashlight along the treeline. I swallowed thickly. Why would she go into the woods? We weren't supposed to go in the woods.
It took me embarassingly long to muster the courage to follow after her. The forest filled me with such fear; I'd never been farther than that treeline since I was a child. My hands shook the beam of light in front of me as I crossed the threshold into a place that so often filled my nightmares, but as I took that first step, I saw her.
Monica was leaning against a tree, her hair a mess of wet curls, seemingly a little dryer than mine. It was then that I noticed the downpour was gentled to almost a sprinkle here, the thick foliage cupping the rain droplets in mother nature's hands before it spilled over the the leaf covered ground. Her nightgown however, was soaked.
"Monica...what are you doing out here?" I breathed, a little taken back by her appearance. It was unpresentable of the Monica I had known my entire life to be so...well, exposed. The nightgown clung to her body in a way that almost felt sacreligious.
She didn't say anything in response, and instead turned and started walking deeper into the forest; I threw my beam of light after her, watching as she carelessly walked on with bare feet. It was a hot night, but she had to be freezing.
"Monica?" I called after her, following her.
She began peeling her nightgown from her skin. My eyes widened. I had no idea what to make of her behavior. I followed after her quickly, but I couldn't seem to catch up to her. She was moving so slowly, but somehow she was covering ground with so much speed that I felt like I was running after her.
She disappeared from my view when we were so deep in the forest that I wasn't entirely sure how to get back out. The moon was absent, and the night made the trees seem even more imposing than they did in the daylight. Their branches tangled and netted in such a way that any vague resemblance of a moonbeam couldn't penetrate the thick timber roof above me; a feeling of dread filled me as I felt as if I were in total darkness with nothing more than the dying flashlight in my hand.
Suddenly, as if everything had changed, I saw the moon. It was illuminating a little clearing in the thicket, something so lush and green and full of flowers that its presence immediately made me feel somewhat hopeful that this situation was nothing more than a misunderstanding, no matter how odd Monica was acting.
I followed the treeline to the opening, stepping over a line of little blue and yellow flowers before entering the clearing. In the tall grass, there seemed to be nothing and no one, except for a gigantic oak tree with a trunk at least 8 feet in diameter that sat alone, perfectly centered in the clearing. I walked toward it, drawn to such a anomaly among all the pine and poplar trees around me. Oak trees were common in Alabama, sure, but this one was old. Its trunk was thick, and it branched out so far that its roots and leaves probably ensured that it had this whole spot just to itself. It was beautiful. But it was still all alone.
I looked at it for a while, my eyes particularly fixated on the huge branches with equally huge leaves; like hands upreaching to catch the moonlight and drizzle of rain, they swayed gently in the wind. When my eyes finally drifted down to the trunk, I found Monica there, leaning against it, completely naked.
Her lips rose to a soft smile, seemingly almost bashful. She held a hand out to me. A lump rose to my throat, unsure of how to respond.
"Monica, I..." I took a step toward her.
"Teagan," she said softly. I took another step toward her, unsure exactly what I was going to do upon getting closer to her.
The moonlight was starting to disappear behind one of those dastardly clouds, obscuring my vision of her lily-white skin, making those curves of hers disappear with the light, but I kept coming toward her. The tree seemed to breathe behind her in the wind; it was alive as I was in this moment.
Suddenly in the darkness, the lightning flashed, illuminating a face in front of me that didn't belong to my beloved Monica. The light exposed two empty sockets where her eyes should be, and a huge toothy smile. I screamed, falling backward just in time to see a branch of that tree slither out of her mouth.
I sat up, covered in a cold sweat, my breath heavy. Thankfully, I was in my own bed.
I pushed my hair back off of my face, taking a deep, shaky breath in. The only comforting sight around me was that the sun was peeking in through my closed blinds. What a rare sight. The sun would be gone by noon.
The birds had begun to chirp outside the window, and the cicadas were still whirring strong. I had never been more thankful to be awake before 8 am.
I pulled myself out of bed though my limbs were heavy, a side effect of yet another night of restless sleep. No matter how I tried, and no matter how hot I turned the water in the shower, I couldn't shake that image of Monica's face. Nightmares were not exactly an uncommon occurrance in my sleep; in fact, the nightmares were exactly why I'd barely slept at all this summer, aside from the blistering humidity that always found its way to my second story room. My bedroom was like a sauna during July, and it wasn't something an open window could fix.
Moments after I slicked my half-dry hair back with a comb and pulled on a pair of loose, ill-fitting basketball shorts the heat already caused a prickle of sweat to begin to form on the back of my neck.
I needed a haircut.
I contemplated cutting on a huge box fan at the foot of my bed that I had so conveniently left unplugged the night before, and laying there half naked for the rest of the day, avoiding the sun that was intruding on an otherwise beautiful Sunday morning. At least before it was time to put on my church clothes.
Damn organized religion. Ruins the best day of the week, in my opinion.
Normally I would have been elated to go to church. I always sat behind Monica so I could whisper to her during the service and smell her freshly washed hair. It only smelled like shampoo, but it was still enjoyable. I knew it irritated her when I bothered her during the service; in fact, I'm sure I'd gotten her in trouble on more than one occasion.
Her father, being our town's very own Baptist Preacher Extraordinaire, had a great view of his daughter sinning from the pulpit.
My best friend, Derick, would be there too, right next to me. Of course by right next to me, I mean probably taking a nap against my shoulder. He wasn't much for religion or mornings, for that matter.
The service wasn't until 9, and the way the town was set up, I was within walking distance from the little Baptist church. Greenbank, Alabama was about 60 miles south of Huntsville, but you never knew it was there unless you had family that lived in the town. Not many people did.
The population of Greenbank was no more than 219 people, and there was only one road in and out of town that veered off a highway that no one would call major. As far as I had ever known, everyone who lived in the town had lived there their entire lives as their family before them had. No one ever moved into town, though there were several vacant houses, abandoned and condemned, and no one ever moved out. Everyone knew everyone because all of us, other than the recluses and the elderly that simply couldn't move about anymore, went to the Greenbank Baptist Church every Sunday morning for some delicious fire and brimstone.
Pastor Wade was an extremely intimidating man. In all the ways that his daughter was soft and innocent, he was hard and calloused, a real sour puss. That was indicated by his permanently furrowed eyebrows and a down turned mouth. Aside from that, he was burly and hairy, and to make ends meet, 4 days a week he worked in a lumber mill two towns over.
He also hated me.
He was not exactly a lover of all creatures big and small, as he was an avid hunter which I learned after staring down the nose of a shotgun he wielded many times. He also was a chain smoker, which I'm pretty sure isn't exactly kosher in the Baptist faith.
His house was directly next door to the church and connected by a little breezeway made of white wood. Monica enjoyed reading there at night, and Pastor Wade liked to do target practice there whenever I visited. Monica's mother died in childbirth, but that hard, calloused man had no shortage of love for his daughter. She had never gone without any want or desire, save a larger group of friends.
Much to her father's disapproval, the only two children in the whole town in her age group were me and Derick Lawrence, my best friend. We adored Monica. Though pious, she was adventurous and had a lust for knowledge. Her curiousity was never ending; she could climb a tree better than the two of us, and she was about the only person in town that could put Derick's loud mouth in check. I'd never once seen her blush at a profanity or back down from a dare.
She was also an excellent shot and could turn any sundress into a pair of pants. But she sunburned like no one I'd ever seen.
A few elderly couples lived in the area around the church as well, and near the treeline on a a small hill, just before the sparse speckling of pine and oak trees around town turned into nearly unnavigable timberland that under no circumstances were we allowed to "play in."
Derick and I had on more than one occasion tried to explain to our parents and Pastor Wade that we weren't children anymore, and therefore didn't play. We were still forbidden from going in. My parent's forbade it fear of my safety, though I'm not so sure why Derick's parents cared. Pastor Wade, I assumed, forbade us in fear for his daughter's virtue.
Monica could take care of herself though, and neither of us would have ever hurt her.
By the time 8:30 rolled around, the sun had retreated back behind the clouds, and a nice misting had started to coat my screen in little droplets of water, and the shade had allowed my room to cool off enough for it to be bearable to put on a pair of dress pants, a belt, and tuck my shirt in.
My hair, however, was a different story. I'd washed it not even two hours before and my scalp was drenched in sweat, giving my hair an oily look to it. I washed it in the sink and slicked it back, tiny brown curls settling against the nape of my neck. My hair had never been this long before, and I'd decided to let it grow on a whim. I never knew hair was so hot. How Monica did it, I'll never know. Although it was uncomfortable, there was something about the aesthetic that I liked, and that was enough to motivate me to let it continue to grow.
"Teagan? How do you want your eggs?" my mom called to me from the staircase.
I shook my head in exasperation. Every Sunday morning she asked me that same question, and every Sunday morning I gave her the same answer. "Fried. Runny in the middle please!"
It amazed me that after 17 years worth of Sundays she still always asked that question.
A few minutes later I could smell her burning the bacon. She always said it was "extra crispy! Just like my mom made it for me." Crispy, my ass. I headed down the narrow stairway, and leaned against the kitchen island, my hands deep in my pockets.
My father looked to be on his third cup of coffee of the morning as he sat at the kitchen table, his graying hair a little disheveled, and his eyes as sleepy as ever. He was a state trooper, and he was on the night shift this quarter. Valliant, the town thought, that he was keeping our roadways safe and staying up to praise the lord. I didn't hold that in such high regard. My dad was killing himself to take care of us and to keep the pastor happy.
He looked up at me over his crisp Sunday paper, probably the funnies, his glasses sliding down the bridge of his nose. "You're down early."
I shrugged, sitting down at the table in front of a glass of orange juice. "I've been up."
My mother let out a long sigh. "Teagan, are you not sleeping again?"
"No, no," I said defensively, folding down the collar of my shirt. "I just woke up a little earlier than usual. Couldn't go back to sleep."
"It's a good habit to be in, Teagan. Good for the force."
I cringed almost instantly. I was nearly eighteen, and the idea of throwing my youth away to become a cop like my dad was revolting. Granted, my father was a good cop, but he was also a safe cop. Nothing ever happened around here, and he knew that when he took the job. It was a nice state job with nice state benefits. Nothing more, nothing less.
He continued. "You know we let you move into the attic room to give you a little bit of privacy, but you're gonna want a place of your own soon. You're gonna have to pay bills."
"Do we have to talk about work right now? Isn't it the sabbath day or something?" I groaned.
My mom put a plate full of "bacon", grits, and deliciously nearly raw eggs in front of me. I ate the bacon first and washed it down with the orange juice.
My dad started peppering his grits. "It's something to think about. We've never made you work, but your friend, Derick, has been working in his dad's garage since he was old enough to hold a wrench."
"Dad, your grits are turning black," I groused. Shrugging, I reached for the salt. "I get what you're saying, but Derick hates working as a mechanic. Derick never had another option."
"What're you saying, Teagan?" My mom poured my dad some more coffee before looking at me with a concerned expression.
"I was thinking, I don't know...Maybe I could go to the community college in Decatur. Get a degree in something." I bit my lip.
My dads expression didn't look impressed. "A degree?"
"In what?"
I swallowed. "Are you just asking? Or do you actually want to know?"
He gave me a pointed look.
"Library science," I said, quietly. No one said anything. I shoved an entire egg in my mouth, hoping that if they asked me a question I could escape it by chewing.
They just stared at me.
I swallowed thickly. "Where's Bennett?" I asked.
My mother had paled. My father on the other hand was slowly turning a shade of red that I wasn't even sure was humanly possible before that moment. In fact, he was so red, I wouldn't have been surprised if smoke started coming out of his ears.
I looked between them several times, now sure that I was not going to get an answer to my question about my brother before my father's head exploded.
"Teagan," my mom tried, pausing before carefully saying, "We don't even have a libra-"
"We don't even have a library!" My father suddenly exploded, causing my mother to somehow pale even further before sitting down, melodramatically claiming that she was suffering from a bout of lightheadedness.
I stammered for a moment in shock before finally getting the words out I had carefully prepared to say to my mother. "T-That's kind of my, you know, my point. We don't have one. I think it'd be beneficial, you know, for like, the town...stuff. For education, you know?" I felt as if I was going to choke on my tongue. "S-Seriously, guys. Where's Bennett?"
My father slammed his fist on the table, his eyes closed and his face turning that shade of red, and this time I was pretty sure I could see the smoke. "A librarian?"
I jumped back, my chair nearly tipping over before I stood up out of the chair. "I...think I'll just meet you guys at the church." I stumbled over my feet. "You know, the whole early start thing I've been going for today." I punctuated my sentence with a nice swing of the arm before scurrying out of the house before I could hear my dad holler that this discussion wasn't over.
I really wished it was.

I nearly ran to the church to escape my father. He wasn't a violent man, but I don't think he'd ever been more disappointed in me in my life.
No matter how unfair of a reason it was to be disappointed, it was still a huge blow to my ego.
I'd never been exactly the most atheletic or tough kid. Sure, I was best friends with a guy who had scars from fights all over his hands, and he'd tried to teach me a move or two, but I was never much help chopping wood for the fireplace or helping with repairs around the house. The idea of me fighting crime and helping people who were in danger or seriously injured was laughable. Even in a small, sleepy town like Greenbank, accidents happened.
The sight of blood often made me physically ill.
The church was practically next door to us, the small building residing in our odd little cul-de-sac of sorts. Behind it stood those imposing woods from my dream the night before, but under that breezeway was something else from my dream.
Monica. A lump rose to my throat as I remembered the dream, suddenly feeling dirty as a stepped onto the hallowed ground that she called home, but that was quickly soothed as I watched the breeze blow her dark hair gently, and her face scrunch up into a look of dispair as the pages in her bible flipped haphazardly in the wind.
"You know," I said, trying to get some kind of smoothness into my shaking voice, "That could be a sign"
She looked up, not at all startled by my presence, smiling softly, her eyes twinkling with a mixture of curiosity and mischief. "A sign of what?"
"The first scripture that catches your eyes on that page may be the advice you need most right now." I said, sitting down gently beside her.
"Leviticus 18:20."
I cringed.
"'Moreover thou shalt not lie carnally with thy neighbour's wife, to defile thyself with her.'" She turned her head sideways. "What good advice. I'll make sure I don't do that." She laughed softly, closing her bible.
I shook my head. "I don't know what I expected. Maybe you were actually supposed to read the one about stoning mediums."
Monica rolled her eyes, before nudging my shoulder. "You seem rather morose. What's up?"
"Dad found out I don't want to be a state trooper this morning. I'm sure he's gonna ask the whole congregation to pray for my salvation and purge the demon that has its claws on my soul from my corporeal vessel."
"You sound like your mother right now."
"You weren't there. He was all puffed up. I'm not sure that he's ever going to be okay." I cracked my knuckles out of nervous habit. "I'm just...not really tough enough, you know? I know it's an easy, sleepy job around here. But he's a trooper. Weird stuff happens out on the highway."
Monica was quiet for a minute, her lips pursed. "I know it's hard to see, but he just wants what's best for you. Even if his idea of what's best for you is...a little...clouded."
"I know that. I just wish he could. I don't know. Be a little more open-minded." I sighed, finally realizing how stupid of an idea this all really was anyway. "Besides, I don't even know where I would get the money out-of-pocket or funding to open a library. We don't even have an official school."
"You don't have to stay in Greenbank forever."
I bit my lip, considering that for a moment. "Yes. Yes, I do."
There was a long moment of silence between the two of us. In our adolescence we had dreamt of moving out of town, following lofty dreams of becoming movie stars and artists and seeing the big cities of small town legend, but as we reached our eighteenth birthdays, the unfortunate truth was made abundantly clear.
Greenbank was not the kind of town you just...left behind.
In that moment, all illusions of dreams between the two of us were gone. For the first time in our lives, we were having to acknowledge what was truly real. I was never going to get out of this town and go to college in Decatur. Derick was going to be a mechanic like his father before him and his father before him and so on. Monica would probably stay in town and use what she had taught herself to teach the town's children just like her mother had.
The circle of life. I'd have to give in to my father and become a state trooper like him.
Monica let out a breath that I wasn't aware she'd been holding. "Teagan...listen. I have something really important to tell you."
I raised my brows. "Yeah? What is it?"
I couldn't help but secretly wish that Monica was going to confess to harboring a secret love for me all these years, but the elation that that hope brought was shortly diminished.
"I got accepted to the University of South Alabama."
I felt my heart drop and my cheeks and ears begin to burn. I knew that I was turning red, making it hard to play it cool. I held my breath for a moment before I finally asked, "You're leaving?"
Monica nodded, biting her lip to avoid smiling as she probably thought it inconsiderate. "Yeah, I went into Huntsville with Dad a couple of months ago and got all my testing and transcripts done and I got in. I'm heading down there in August."
I ran a hand through my hair. "That...That's next month, Monica. That's...crazy."
"I know. I haven't told Derick yet, so don't mention it to him!" She bit her lip. "I know he's gonna be really upset, since I've been tutoring him."
"Yeah...I bet." I couldn't muster the ability to tell her I was happy for her. Unfortunately, in truth, that was because I wasn't. I was envious as all hell. And devastated.
Monica was going away. She was gonna go to south Alabama, and she was gonna fall in love with some college guy, and she was never going to come back home to Greenbank.
"That's so great, Monica. I'm happy for you," I lied, finally. I gave her a smile that I hoped at least gave the illusion that I was happy for her.

Derick didn't even bother coming to church that morning. Neither did his family, which was uncharacteristic of his father, the town drunk; David Lawrence was one for keeping up appearances, though the whole town knew, and had always known, that he beat his wife and son and drank himself near into a coma every night.
They put up with him, however, because the man would do any work for a cheap price: alcohol.
Naturally, with the oddity of the Lawrence's not coming to church, I was concerned about Derick, but I also knew that there was absolutely no way that I was going to get out of going straight home for lunch.
Luckily for me, my father had been awake for far too long to stay awake for lunch, and had decided to go to bed instead of grill me about my distaste of his idea of me joining the police, allowing me to retire to my room after grabbing a sandwich from the kitchen. I also took the time between lunch and dinner to nap after finding myself too exhausted to read anymore of my book.
I wasn't getting any sleep. And the sleep that I was getting wasn't restful in the least.
My dreamless sleep was interrupted by the sound of the smoke detectors in the house going off, something that was so commonplace in the house that I didn't bother to even move from my bed.
Dinner was late, as mom had burned the meatloaf that she'd been slaving over all afternoon, and instead of just coating it with ketchup and calling it saved, she threw it in the garbage and decided to serve severely underboiled hotdogs instead.
Bennett sat at the table, waiting for dinner impatiently, nearly standing up in his chair as he leaned over and onto the kitchen table to make the salt and pepper shakers talk to one another, pretending that the pepper shaker was Jesus Christ and the salt shaker was a sinner.
I was quiet as I watched him play, wondering what was so entertaining about Pepper Shaker Jesus. The charade was definitely much more riveting than one of Pastor Wade's sermons, though my four-year-old cherubic little brother had definitely picked up his ability to effectively condemn all sinners to Hell.
"What're you making?" I asked my mother.
She stood with her hands on her hips, intently watching a pot of boiling water. "Hotdogs," she said without looking up.
I nodded, turning my attention back to Bennett and his shakers as my father emerged from the bedroom, trying my hardest not to make eye contact. Though it didn't seem like either one of my parents were entirely keen on talking about my fucked up priorities for the future.
In her irritation, my mother must have gotten tired of staring at the little sausages in the boiling water and just pulled them out. She, much like everyone else at the dinner table, was- painfully silent.
I bit into and chewed the gritty, pale tube that was barely even warm, some places still feeling as cold as the bottom drawer in the refrigerator where they were kept. I tried not to make a face as I ate and swallowed it.
I didn't look up from my plate, though Bennett seemed confused as to why everyone was so quiet. He didn't say a word though. I was never really sure if children that young could sense tension, but Bennett seemed to know something was up and he didn't want to get involved.
After I had somehow managed to put two of those abominations away into my stomach, I finally looked up from my plate to see my father glaring at me from the end of the table. Great.
"I'm going out," I announced as I stood from the table, unable to force myself to sit there any longer. I threw the little paper plate away, and I pulled on my raincoat.
No one objected. I guess they were just that mad at me for wanting to be a librarian.

The rain was in full force outside as the sun of the morning had faded long ago, and the hood of my raincoat was hardly keeping my face dry, the run off water from it threatening to run into the coat soaking me even more wet than the dampness of the humidity had. My rainboots only sort of protected my feet; the ankles of my socks were very wet.
Somehow there was already an inch or so of water over the entire ground. The thunder that could be heard faintly rolling in from the distance only threatened even more rain.
As I shuffled down the many hills on the way to Dericks house, the run off water seemed to be moving down the man-made steps in the earth built for that purpose. I followed the gravel down to Derick's trailer. The trailer was borderline in the woods; though the trees were sparse, the ground was absolutely littered with leaves of autumns past.
I found Derick outside underneath the aluminum awning on the backside of the trailer, his hands deep in a car, and rather irresponsibly, with a lit cigarette hanging loosely from his lips. His hair was wet too, hanging down into his face, the middle part of his hair not allowing any other place for it to go.
I approached and he looked up, giving me a toothy grin. "Heya, Teag."
His lip was split and he had one of the worst shiners I'd ever seen. The hollow of his left eye was all puffed up and in varying shades of black, blue, and red. The vessels of his eye had been popped, and given what I could actually see around the swelling, the white of his eye was almost entirely red.
I bit my lip to keep from gasping at the sight of it, and instead replied cooly with a small wry smile. "I was wondering why you and your folks missed church today, but I see the answer, I guess."
He chuckled humorlessly. "Punched me over a beer. He swore up and down that I drank the last one. But you know me, Teag. I wouldn't touch a Miller. I'm a Bud man."
"Too bad I wasn't there to be a character witness," I said dryly. "Can I bum a cigarette?"
He fished a pack out of his jean shorts and tossed it at me. He began wiping his hands on a dirty oil rag, leaning againt the side of the car. He took a drag of his cigarette, blowing the smoke out of his nose.
I pulled one out along with the lighter Derick had so lovingly tucked inside, lighting the cigarette with ease before taking a long drag. "My folks are on my ass," I said, taking the cigarette out of my mouth and folling the filter between my index finger and my thumb. "Dad has decided that I, his forced born son, must be his heir. Says I gotta be a cop."
"You'd make one shitty cop," Derick said, a breathless laugh escaping.
For some reason, that offended me. "Thanks."
He blew out some more cigarette smoke before stubbing the butt out in an overflowing ashtray. "What about your-uh- thingy? With the books."
I shrugged. "wouldn't be able to get any funding. Can't be a librarian without a library."
"So move somewhere where there is one."
I laughed incredulously. "God! I can't believe I hadn't thought of that. Problem solved."
"Well, I mean, I can't believe you didn't think of it either, really," Derick said, rubbing the back of his neck. My sarcasm was completely wasted on him.
I just rolled my eyes in response, taking a new direction. "There's no way I'd be able to afford to go to college anyway, even if I could get in."
Derick shrugged, tossing the oilrag aside as he took the cigarette pack away from me to light another one. "It's only natural that we should do what our fathers do right? I hate working on cars, but it's damn near the only thing I know how to do."
"YEah, but I don't know how to be a cop."
"Sure you do," he insisted. "You just drive around in your car all day and eat doughnut holes. That's what your dad does. Nothing ever happens around here. This county is as dead as they come."
"I can't drive."
"Okay, so you eat the doughnut holes without the keys in the ignition. Easy."
I groaned. "I don't want to be a cop, and I don't wanna be stuck here in bum fuck Alabama for the rest of my life."
"You're preaching to the choir, kid." Derick said, pursing his lips. "But Greenbank is a farm, and we're the crops right? We grow here; we die here."
We both sat there silent for a while, both of us having a hard time breaking the tension before I finally spoke up. "Monica asked about you."
The corners of his mouth perked up. "Yeah? She miss me?"
I nodded, crushing out my cigarette. It had burned down and I'd only taken the one drag off of it.
"I haven't seen here all week. We should all three get together at the Shack tomorrow."
"If I'm not placed under house arrest until I decide to go to the police academy," I snorted. "Speaking of which...I should probably head back."
He nodded, waving me off. "Call her and tell her, okay? And bring flashlights. I have an idea."
Derick's ideas always frightened me, but I told him okay and began the trudge back to my house just as the lightning seemed to hit its peak.
Definitely time to go home.