Ch 1: Strangers 2

    It made me feel like I needed to be on guard for it, and I wondered if that meant it wasn’t going to be good. Dale and Sue would’ve just shrugged it off as being nerves or something, but I learned years ago that feelings like these had merit.

    Mom will be waking up soon, I thought, and smiled even though I knew I was headed for trouble. On the way home, I made Dale stop by a little bookstore-slash-coffee shop called Pages & Pie so I could pick up some specialty coffee and muffins as a peace offering. Plus, I knew Dale wouldn’t mind ‘cause he’d get to see his all-time crush, Johanna Colt. She was almost his height, with a sexy curvy figure, long dark brown hair and matching eyes that he stared at whenever she wasn’t looking.

    “Hey guys, how’d it go?” Johanna greeted us when we got to the counter. “What would you like this morning?” Sue and I made our orders while Dale leaned on the counter feigning interest in a cinnamon roll the size of his fist.

    “I did pretty good,” Dale said, acting like he was trying not to brag. “I got a big one, right in the heart. He’s got a pretty nice head on him too. You wanna see?”

    “Yeah, and we did pretty good too,” I said and we all smiled.

    She laughed and nodded to Dale, who whipped out his phone. “Well I wish I could’ve gone, but Mom needed help this morning so… He looks good Dale, and are you carrying him on your shoulder?”

    “Yeah,” he grinned and I knew he was fighting off a blush.

    “That sucks, but hey it’s gotta be great working here, right?” Sue said.

    “Yeah, but it’s hard not getting fat with all these sweets around me,” she gestured to the display counter full of mouth-watering treats.

    “You are not fat,” Dale said almost instantly, sounding like he was forcefully stating a fact. We all looked at him and he blinked, realizing how he sounded. “Um, I just meant – I’m gonna go check on the deer.”

    “Okay, I guess we’ll see you later,” I said, Sue and I grabbing our orders, “We better go before he drives off without us.” She just laughed and waved.

    When we got in the truck, before I could say anything Dale held up his hand and said, “Not a word.” Sue and I just smiled and drank our coffee.

    When we got to mine and Sue’s houses, which were next door to each other, I let Dale into my back yard to drop the buck and then went inside to confront my mother. “Where have you been?” Mom asked as soon as she heard the door close.

    “Good morning to you too,” I replied, continuing into the kitchen where she and Dad were sitting at the dining room table in the corner. “I brought you some coffee and muffins for breakfast!”

    “Are you going to answer me?”

    “Sweetie, she already told us last night she was going hunting in the morning,” Dad glanced at Mom and then grabbed two blueberry muffins from the bag. “Thank you, sweetie.”

    I smiled at him. “You’re welcome.”

    “Then why didn’t you wake me up before you left, like you’re supposed to?”

    “I told you what time I was leaving last night, why didn’t you set an alarm if you wanted to be up when I left? Why can’t you just enjoy breakfast and thank me for getting us some more deer meat?” I said, walking passed her to the sliding glass door and rolling my eyes.

    “Don’t you cop an attitude with me Dakota Riley,” she said, a warning in her tone.

    “Mom, I’m turning nineteen this year. Why do I still have to tell you every time I make a move?”

    “Because if something happens to you, I want to know where to look, that’s why. And because I’m your mother and as long as you’re living in our house you’ll do what we say.”

    “Dad’s not saying anything!” I snapped, which I knew I shouldn’t have done, but I was so tired of this. “He’s fine! He’s not overreacting because I told ya’ll everything you wanted to know! I was good!”

    “Enough!” Dad interrupted Mom as she was about to yell back at me. He stood up and looked between us. “Kota, you are not allowed to yell at your mom, it’s disrespectful.”

    I sighed deeply and looked at the floor. “I’m sorry,” I said, because I had no choice.

    “You can go now,” he said, “I’ll handle the deer.”

    I grabbed two muffins from the bag and turned on my heel, heading up to my room where I ranted to Sue while stuffing my face. “You think you’ll still be able to go to the party tonight?” she asked.

    “Probably not,” I groaned. “I’m an idiot. I should’ve just said I forgot to wake her up or something, but no, I had to start a freakin’ fight.”

    “Well, she’s always been a little overbearing, but I still agree with you. She’s got to give you more freedom now that you’re older.”

    “I know! I feel like I’m suffocating. I might just go to college to get away from her, pick one that’s across the country or something.” I smiled at the thought of being away from Mom’s authority, her parental hold on me diminishing the more miles I put between us, and I felt better.

    “Well, you have to get accepted first, and before that you have to freakin’ apply.”

    “I know, I know,” I said, smiling and rolling my eyes. “You’re getting as bad as my mom about the college thing.” We laughed at that, and then we hung up because I had to take a shower.

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