Hey everyone! I'm working hard on finishing up THE LAST SHOT. I thought I'd share with you a teaser, well, not a teaser exactly. This was meant to be the Prologue from the book but I think it works better without it. Rather than cut it and leave it to rot on my computer, I decided to share it instead. What do you think? Are you ready to fall in love with Dutch?
Annie sat on the swing in the weed-filled playground. The rusted chain squeaked as she gently rocked back and forth on her tip-toes. At fourteen, she was smaller, both in size and height, than most kids her age, perhaps because she had to fend for herself so much over the years, but not now. Apparently her grandmother would watch over her now.
She came here to be alone with her thoughts. Living with her grandmother Grace would be an adjustment. Being neglected her whole life had given her a sense of autonomy. She could do what she wanted and when she wanted it do it. Now, her grandmother called the shots and she pulled the reins tight. As much as she liked that her grandmother cared enough to make her follow those rules, Annie sure missed her freedom.
When she looked up from the sparse gravel and dirt below her feet she met the gaze of a boy not much older than her. He was gangly, like her, but unlike her he was tall and a little bit awkward. He trudged through the weeds, his hands dug deep in the pockets of his faded, ripped jeans. Without asking her, he stopped and took a seat on the swing beside her. They rocked side by side, not saying a word, just as they’d done every day now since she’d arrived in this town, smack dab in the middle of nowhere. They never talked, though. Not once. But today was different somehow. He looked different. From a sideways glance she could see his face was red and his eyes were bloodshot. She remembered seeing another boy’s face like this before, one of the two boys she’d lived with at the foster home her grandmother had rescued her from.
Her foster father used to hit the boys with his belt when they talked back to him. With the girls, he preferred to lock them in the closet. The boys she lived with never cried, but they often looked like this, and when they did, they wouldn’t talk, they would just sit with her. Thinking of this made her feel comfortable with his presence…familiar. So she did what she always felt the urge to do in these situations; she reached out her hand and waited for him to slide his into hers. She didn’t think he’d take it, but she’d offer it, just in case. To her surprise, his warm, rough hand did reach out and take hers.
“I’m Annie,” she said quietly, still focussing her gaze on the woods on the other end of the park.
“Henry. My friends call me Dutch.”
“Why?” Now he had her attention and she waited patiently for him to explain.
He shrugged his shoulders. “I guess cause I’m fast like Dutch Alders.”
“I don’t know who that is,” Annie said flatly.
“He plays hockey and he’s really good. I’m going to be as good as him someday. But my dad says I’m dreaming.”
“It’s good to dream. Sometimes I’d rather dream than be awake.”
“I know what you mean,” Dutch said. “What do you want to do…when you get older?”
Annie thought about that for a moment. For the longest time, she’d only thought about making it through the day. Being a grownup hadn’t really crossed her mind. But it didn’t take her long to come up with an answer.
“I just want a family,” she said, matter of factly.
“That’s it?” he said, looking a little bit confused.
“That’s enough, isn’t it?”
“Sure, if it’s what you want, I guess. But it seems an awfully small request.”
“Not from where I’m sitting,” Annie said. “My family took me to camp one day and never came to pick me up. I thought something happened to them when they took me to live with strangers, but then I found out they just didn’t want me anymore.”
“Wow. I thought I had it bad.” Dutch squeezed her hand, just enough for Annie to register him holding her a little tighter.
“I live with my grandma now. She wants me. She wants me to be happy.”
“If you stick around for a while, I’ll want you too.”
Annie let go of his hand and giggled nervously, in a way she never had before. Carefree. Content. “I don’t think so, Dutch.”
“Well, I can’t wait to prove you wrong.”
Annie met his eyes and her face became serious when she realized the boy actually meant what he said. His words did strange things to her stomach, made it flutter as her chest became tight. She’s been lied to before, and she’d gotten used to mistrusting what people said about things that mattered. In this moment, she realized how much she wanted his words to be true. And instead of living for the moment, she thought about the day he’d make good on his word.