Play Hard (Make the Play #2)

BOOK: Play Hard (Make the Play #2)
9.19Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub






Amber Garza

Cover: Matt @ The Cover Lure

Copyright © 2015 Amber Garza

All rights reserved.


This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance of characters to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. The author holds exclusive rights to this work. Unauthorized duplication is prohibited.


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To my fan club, for always cheering me on




Hell has always been described to me as a place of fire and brimstone. A place filled with crying and gnashing of teeth. A place of eternal damnation. But that description is false. I know this because I’m currently in hell.

Apparently, hell is a frilly pink bedroom in a small country town called Prairie Creek. Sounds innocent enough. The name conjures up visions of ponds and creeks, of large fields with grass and trees. And that’s exactly what it’s like. Too bad I’m not a country girl. I’m a city girl, through and through.

Glancing around the small bedroom, I sigh. There are no flames licking up the walls, but honestly that would be more interesting than the girly framed pictures my aunt hung before my arrival. Clearly she thought I was going to show up wearing a dress and pink bows in my hair instead of ripped jeans, a black t-shirt and beanie on my head. I almost laughed at the shocked expression on her and my uncle’s face when they picked me up. By the way their eyebrows shot up and their mouths gaped open, I would say my appearance was a surprise.

They used to visit during holidays and summer vacations, but it’s been years since I’ve seen them. My uncle is the pastor of Prairie Creek Christian Church, and in the two weeks that I’ve been here, it’s clear that he and my aunt live a pretty sheltered existence. This town is nothing like what I’m used to. It’s quiet and slow, everyone calling each other “ma’am” and “sir”. I feel like I’ve stepped into an old black and white sitcom. Like I’m actually living in Mayberry. I half expect Barney Fife to walk in here any minute.

I can see now why my mom never visited her brother and his wife. I can see why she chose to stay in the city. And it angers me that she sent me to this godforsaken place. My only prayer is that I don’t have to spend eternity here, rotting away in my aunt and uncle’s house. I miss the city. I miss the lights and noise. I miss my friends. Heck, at this point, I even miss my parents.

But none of it matters. I can’t go back. At least not now.

As upset as I am, I understand why I’m here. I know that it was my actions that set this in motion. And I know that I don’t have any other choice. My being here is for my safety. I get that.

Lying back on the bed, I stare up at the ceiling, all smooth and white. At home, my bedroom walls are filled with posters – my favorite bands and skateboarders. I’m fairly certain I won’t be allowed to hang those here. Besides, they would clash with the whole girly-girl theme my aunt has going on.

It’s fine though. This is only temporary. I’ll put in my time. Do what I need to do, and when it’s safe, I’ll hightail it back to the city. Back to my home.

Back to where I belong.

Until then I’ll make the best of things. Sliding my hands down the silky bedspread, I touch the thigh of my shredded jeans. Absentmindedly, my fingertips slide into one of the holes in the denim and tug on the edges. The material gives with a ripping noise. The pads of my fingers skim over one of my scars, and I remember the trick I was attempting when I got that one. Rolling my head to the side, my gaze lands on the skateboard propped against the wall. I itch to snatch it up, head outside and ride it down the sidewalk. An ache spreads through my chest at the thought of the wind in my hair, the rumble of asphalt beneath my feet. But I haven’t been on my board since I got here. Actually, I haven’t been on it for over a month.

My skateboard used to make me happy. Now it reminds of me of pain, and betrayal. It reminds me of him.

Shivering, I return my attention back to the ceiling. I will my thoughts back to the present, back to this boring, safe town. But it’s no use. The memories have overtaken me. They’ve enveloped me, wrapping me tightly. Pressing my eyes closed, I allow them to come, to wash over me. It’s no use fighting them anyway. They own me. And the faster I allow them entrance, the faster they can fade into the background again.

Dark eyes.

Bitter words.

Angry hands.

Stinging pain.

Broken heart.

Hugging myself, my eyes flip open, my gaze sweeping the room. As much as I hate being here, the knowledge that I’m safe comforts me. My chest expands, the tightness dissipating with each labored breath. I stare out the window, at the tree stationed outside. Stately and large, rooted in place, like a guard hired to stand watch. I drop my hands over my stomach. My fingertips trace the raised lettering that’s printed across my t-shirt spelling out the phrase BAD GIRL.

When I went downstairs earlier, Aunt Molly’s eyebrows raised when she took in my outfit. I expected her to make a snide remark, but she kept her mouth closed tightly into a thin line. I did detect a faint shake of her head though. So far I haven’t been able to push her buttons no matter how hard I try. And it makes me feel kind of stupid. Honestly, I don’t even know why I want to get under her skin.

She and my uncle are helping me. I shouldn’t be messing with them. It’s just that there’s not much else to do here. Besides, messing with people is kind of my thing. Back home it’s so easy. It doesn’t take much to get Mom and Dad riled up. Then again, look where I am now. Maybe if I’d spent more time getting my head on straight and less time playing games I wouldn’t be in this hellhole.

Note to self: Grow up.

Pulling in a shaky breath, I sit up. All the blood rushes to my head, and I’m momentarily disoriented. That’s when it hits me that I haven’t eaten yet today. Glancing over at the clock, my stomach sours. It’s past noon.

Aunt Molly tried to force feed me breakfast this morning, but I refused. I wasn’t hungry, and I was irritated that she was treating me like a child. I may have been one the last time she saw me, but now I was almost a grown up. Well, sort of. I’m sixteen. In less than two years I’ll be eighteen, which is technically an adult.

That should excite me, and on some level it does. I mean, being an adult is something I’ve fantasized about for years. What kid doesn’t? Finally I can make my own choices, have freedom. The problem is that I’ve screwed up so badly, those choices have narrowed down considerably.

But I know one thing.

I sure as hell won’t be staying here.

When my stomach growls, I swing my legs off the bed and press my feet to the floor. The wood slats are cold against my bare feet. It’s spring, but the air is relatively cool. Aunt Molly likes to keep the windows open to allow the breeze to blow through. Sniffing at the fresh air, I wrinkle my nose. I miss the crisp city air, the scent of cars and hot dog vendors. Out here it smells like honeysuckle and grass.

The cream colored curtains billow as the air hits them. After shoving them aside, I stare out the window at the large property. My aunt and uncle live at the end of a long driveway, so the road is a little ways up. Not a car for miles. My stomach twists. We live in an apartment at home. There are always cars outside of my window, people chatting and walking past.

What do people do around here for fun?

The buzz around school is all about the baseball season starting. Who wants to sit on an uncomfortable bleacher in the sun watching boys in tight pants throw around a tiny white ball and run bases? Sounds about as fun as a trip to the dentist to me.

I’ve yet to meet anyone like me around here. It seems that no one else at Prairie Creek High has even heard of a skateboard, much less ridden one. I made the mistake of trying to befriend a group of kids my first week. They were wearing flannels, baggy jeans and Converse tennis shoes. A couple of the guys had long hair, one of the girls wore gauges in her ears. In fact, one of the guys even had a picture of a skateboard on his t-shirt. But when I struck up a conversation, it was clear that they were nothing more than posers. It also became painfully obvious that skateboarding is a lost art around here. There are no skate parks. No skate club at the high school.

No one to connect with.

When I complained to Mom about it the other night on the phone, she sounded a little too giddy about that.

“It’s probably a good thing, Taylor. You went to Prairie Creek to get away from that lifestyle.”

I bristled. “That is not why I came here.”


I felt like shit. Reminding Mom of the real reason I was here wasn’t a good idea. It forced her out of her denial bubble, and there’s nothing Mom enjoyed more than good old fashioned denial. I was convinced that was the main reason I was here – so Mom wouldn’t have to be reminded of what had happened. Without me there she could pretend it all away.

Ignoring my statement, she finally said, “Now you can make new friends.

She used the word “friends” plural. But I know she was referring to one friend in particular. And that friend was someone I never wanted to think about again.

Shaking away the thought, I make my way to the bedroom door. After flinging it open, I pad down the hallway. Some light music plays from the family room. As I near it, I hear words like “praise” and “God” intermixed in the song. It’s weird, and it makes me wonder if this whole religious thing is an act. Like my aunt and uncle have to behave a certain way because of his job.

And I know all about that.

About being the person other people need you to be.

About playing a part.

Rounding the corner, I find my aunt sitting on the couch, hardback book open in her lap. Her head bobs up, a smile leaping to her face. It’s so large and inviting, it makes me uncomfortable. I have to turn away as if it’s the sun and looking at it too long will blind me.

“Hey, Taylor,” she says in that sugary sweet tone of hers.

“Hey,” I answer, shifting from one foot to the other. My gaze flickers toward the kitchen. “I was…um…just coming down to get something to eat.” I wonder if this place will ever feel like home or if I’ll always feel like a guest, an outsider.

Her smile deepens. She sets down the book, the pages fluttering with the motion. “Of course. I’ll help you.” Wiping her hands down her pants, she walks toward me. When she reaches me she lifts her arm like she’s going to drape it over my shoulder.  I involuntarily flinch. Her forehead scrunches and she drops her arm swiftly. It falls against her side, and it makes me feel bad that I’ve had such a chip on my shoulder since arriving here. A little affection might have felt good.

Then again, I don’t think my aunt and uncle’s attention toward me is completely pure. Sure they’ve been kind toward me, caring even. But I know it’s not because of some deep love for me. It’s because of the void I’m filling in their life.

They may have this whole town fooled, but I know better. People aren’t nice out of the pure goodness of their heart. Everyone has an ulterior motive. And I know exactly what theirs is.

BOOK: Play Hard (Make the Play #2)
9.19Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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