Famous in a Small Town(9)

“I got more to take home!” she said.

August reached for them.

“I can do it!” She turned away quickly, tightening her arms around the books.

“You’re right, that’s way too big a stack for me anyway,” he said to Cadence, and then to me: “See you later.”

“Fondest wishes!” I called.

He grinned, quick and bright, and then they were heading away.


“Those shoes are stupid,” Brit said, gesturing to Flora’s high-heeled sandals. “You’re gonna regret it.”

“I will not. I look cute.”

“We’re literally biking there. At least wear sneakers to ride.”

“I’m gonna sit on Sophie’s handlebars.”

“You know Sophie has terrible balance and you’re gonna end up on my handlebars, and I’m not letting you on my handlebars when you can obviously bike yourself with the right fricking shoes on. Sophie tell her—Where are you going?”

I was already crossing the lawn. “To Heather’s.”

“Why? She won’t drive us.”

“To see if August wants to come.”

“I thought he told you no.”

Technically, it was an I probably shouldn’t. I didn’t know how to parse that exactly, but I figured it was worth one more shot, just in case. I told Heather I would introduce him to people. This was due diligence.

“Just gimme a minute,” I said, cutting across the neighboring yard to the Conlins’ house.

Brit huffed and set her bike down to follow. Flora carefully picked her way after us, in her platform sandals and short shorts—the kind that were more ass than short, according to Brit.

“This is Kyle’s secret brother?” Flora asked.

“He’s not a secret brother,” I hissed.

“When you have a brother no one knows about, that’s a secret brother,” Brit said.

I could see the TV on through the front window. I stepped up to the door and knocked.

“No one say ‘secret brother.’”

Shepherd barked from inside, followed by the sound of some shuffling.

“Clandestine sibling,” Brit whispered, before the door swung open.

“Hey, girls.” Heather had Harper in her arms, who was squirming to get away from her.

“Hey. We’re going to Tegan’s, and I was wondering if August wanted to come.”

Heather’s face lit up. “Yes! He does!”

“Really? ’Cause he told Sophie he didn’t.” Brit wasn’t much for second chances.

“He’ll be right out.”

August shuffled out a few moments later.

“Have fun! Back by curfew!” Heather called, and shut the door definitively.

We all stood for a moment. It wasn’t uncomfortable per se. But it wasn’t super comfortable either.

“This is Brit and Flora,” I said to August, and “This is August,” to them.

“Nice to meet you,” Flora said.

“That’s what I’ve heard,” he replied, and my eyes snapped toward him.

“That was my joke! I said that when we met!”

“Did you?” His face was totally stoic, but there was something alight in his eyes.

“I did.”

“Oh. So you own the copyright?”

“Yes. That shit is in the Library of Congress.”

He smiled, and it was a moment before I realized that Flora and Brit were both staring at us.

“Uh, so—”

“You got a bike?” Brit said.

“No.” August looked back at the house. “Maybe Kyle—”

“You can borrow mine!” Flora exclaimed. “I’ll ride on the handlebars.”

* * *

Tegan Wendall’s house was just a little ways outside of town, off 49. It was nice—surrounded by trees, set back a bit with a big yard.

We left our bikes propped against the garage and walked toward the back, where there was a fire pit with some plastic lawn chairs arranged around it. A crowd had already formed.

It was almost entirely people from band—Tegan was on the color guard—and I knew basically everyone, but we immediately zeroed in on one person in particular.

Dashiell Cunningham was standing a little apart from the groups that had formed, clutching a plastic cup. To most, he would appear disinterested in his surroundings, but I could see the tightness around his mouth, which eased immediately when Brit ran up and pushed him playfully with both hands.

He barely jostled. He was the size of a small mountain.

Dash got all the height and Terrance got everything else, I had heard someone say of the Cunningham brothers once. Brit had shut that down with a simple but pointed Excuse me? and as such, I had never heard it again.

Dash, Brit, and I had been in class together since preschool. I remember him bringing a plastic dump truck into show-and-tell back then, holding it under one arm and looking out at the class with solemn eyes while the teacher gently urged him to tell us more about it.

“It’s a truck,” he had said.

“What kind of truck?”

“A good truck.”

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