Jake was silent as they walked along the boardwalk, hand in hand. He was supposedly leading Anna to a nice seafood restaurant right on the beach, but he hadn’t said anything about it since he’d picked her up at her house. She pulled him toward her, wrapped her free arm around his waist and kissed his arm. For the first time in at least a half hour, he looked at her.
“What’s on your mind?” she asked.
He shrugged. “A lot of things, I guess.”
She already knew the answer, but she wanted to see if he would tell her instead.
“Chase,” he said, “the thing that attacked him, how his death has affected Sarah.”
“My sister loved him,” said Anna as they approached the restaurant.
“I could tell,” said Jake before asking the hostess for a table for two.
Anna fell silent as they walked toward their table on the patio and sat down. Several minutes went by before an idea popped into Anna’s head.
“Hey Jake?” she asked, reaching across the table and gripped his arm.
“What are you doing for the next two weeks or so?” she asked.
He smiled. “Working for your dad.”
“Great,” said Anna, “then you can come to France with me.”
He stared at her. “Wait, what?”
“My dad gave me four tickets to France for two weeks and said I could invite anyone I wanted,” she informed him. “And I want to invite you.”
“You’re serious?” he asked.
She laughed. “Of course I’m serious.”
“Then I’ll come,” he said with a smile. “But I’ll have to ask your dad for overtime work to get some extra cash.”
“Wonderful,” said Anna with a huge smile.
He grinned as she slowly wrapped her arms around his neck.
“So you like it when I work my butt off?” he asked, raising an eyebrow.
“I like a hardworking man who does a good job at what he does,” she replied, kissing his lips for a second. “And that just happens to be you.”
Jake laughed as she pulled away from him. After dinner, Jake dropped Anna off at home and kissed her on the lips before he watched her walk into the house. She waved before she closed the front door and he smiled to himself as he drove away.
Anna smiled as she answered the phone.
“Hey Jake,” she said.
“I swear sometimes that you’re psychic,” he laughed.
“Hardly,” said Anna, “it’s called Caller ID.”
“I know, I was just fantasizing,” he said. “Listen baby, about our France trip.”
“You’re cancelling?” Anna asked.
Jake laughed. “Not in a million years, but my parents, well mostly my mother, wants to meet you and your family formally before I can go anywhere.”
“I can see how that’s reasonable,” she said as she curled up on the couch next to Charlie, who put his arm around her. “Even though we’ve been dating for a week now.”
“Just tell your family that my parents are having a barbeque slash picnic tomorrow night at 7 at my house.”
“Will do,” said Anna.
“So how’s Jake?” Charlie asked when she hung up.
“Why only okay?”
“He’s been having a lot on his mind lately.”
“You of all people would know,” Charlie teased.
Anna smiled. “Yeah and his family wants us over for a barbeque tomorrow.”
“You know I’ll be there,” he said with a smile. “It’s another chance to see Mr. Hottie.”
Anna laughed and kissed his cheek.
“You’re impossible,” she said as Sarah and Connie, her best friend, came into the living room.
Connie had been over the night before while Anna was out with Jake on their second date. She had been supposedly spending the night to be with Sarah, but both Sarah and Anna knew that Connie wanted to get closer to Charlie. Anna smiled at Connie, who briefly smiled back before her gaze fell on Charlie.
“Can I talk to you?” she asked.
Charlie was clearly surprised by her request, but nodded as he stood up. She held out her hand for him and he took it, automatically lacing their fingers. He led her out the back door, across the lawn and took a shortcut through the woods until the tree house was in sight.
“Wow,” said Connie.
“You like it? Me, Dan, Anna, Sarah and my dad built it when we were kids.”
“It’s awesome,” she said as they started walking toward the tree.
He led the way up the ladder and through the trap door. He gave her a quick tour before drop-ping onto the couch.
“You wanted to talk?” he asked as she sat on a chair across from the couch.
She nodded as her gaze drifted around the room.
“Ok so my parents have these friends that they’ve know forever,” she said, looking at him and trying to keep her breathing even. “And the friends have this 18 year old boy who is in love with me even though I’ve only met him like ten times. So he is coming to stay with my family for a little bit and is bringing his friends.”
“Your parents are letting this guy and his friends stay at your house?” he broke in.
“No, just him,” she said, “but he is a complete bastard. Anyway, his friends are crashing at a hotel in Portland. So Dylan, the one who is in love with me and is a complete bastard, said that he and his friends are going to the movies the night after they get here. And I don’t feel comfortable going to Portland at night with 6 18 year old boys that I don’t really know. Especially with that creature running around.”
Charlie nodded to show that he was paying attention.
“What do I have to do with this?”
She blushed as she fidgeted with her hands.
“Well, I was kinda hoping that you would come with me,” she said nervously. Then she quickly added, “I mean as friends. Because I know about you being gay.”
Charlie raised an eyebrow.
“You do, huh?”
“Danny told me when I first met him,” she confessed, looking at the floor. “Is it true?”
“Is what true?”
“You being gay.”
Charlie nodded and she sighed as she looked around the strangely decorated room.
“It figures that the attractive guy who comes into my life is gay,” she said, shaking her head. She suddenly stood up. “I have to go.”
Faster than she had ever seen a person move, Charlie was in front of her, holding her hand to his chest.
“Can I trust you enough that if I tell you my deep dark secret, that you won’t tell a soul?”
She nodded as she put her other hand on his chest. She was trying to keep her breathing even as he put his arms around her waist.
“Now, for this to work,” he said, “you have to do everything I tell you.”
She nodded. He smiled and she thought her knees would give out.
“Keep breathing as normally as you can,” he instructed. “Close your eyes if you get motion sickness and most importantly, hold on tight.”
She nodded and pressed her body against his. A horrible, cold feeling engulfed her body as colors whizzed around her in a sickening motion. She could feel Charlie slipping away from her as the feeling of falling ripped through her body. She felt his lips against her ear.
“It’s over,” he whispered softly. “You’re all right.”
She slowly opened her eyes and gasped. The scenario around her was incredible. She could see all of Wells, including the boardwalk and ocean.
“Where?” she whispered.
“On top of my house,” he said, “it pays to live on a huge hill. You get to see things like this.”
She noticed that he made no move to let go of her, but she dared left her head from his chest to look around.
“This is amazing,” she said as he slowly began to lead her across the slanted roof toward a win-dow. “But how did we get from the tree house to here?”
He pushed the window open and sat her on the wide sill with her back against the frame. He sat directly across from her.
“That’s my secret I’m trusting you with,” he said seriously.
“You have my word.”
“I’m not going to try to explain it so it’s crystal clear, but hopefully, you’ll understand.”
“As normal as my family looks, we are the farthest from it,” he said. He paused.
“I don’t know where to begin.”
“Just tell me about you.”
“I can teleport.”
She held her knees and stared off toward the ocean.
“Are there…limitations?” she asked finally.
“In a way.”
“Well, I can teleport anywhere and everywhere and be just fine if I’m alone,” he said. “I can teleport one person as far as 1000 miles at once, but I don’t think I could handle much further. You see, teleporting takes a lot of energy and when I take another person, it takes even more.”
“So if I wanted you to,” she said, “you could poof me to the top of the Empire State building?”
“I’ll save that for a sunset,” he said.
“Is that a promise?”
“The most important promise anyone will ever make you.”
“By the way, the answer is yes.”
“Yes to what?” she asked.
“Being your date to the movies,” he replied.
She squealed and hugged him. He smiled as he buried his face in her hair. Her body tensed up and she slowly slid out of the hug. She had a slight look of worry and fear in her eyes.
“What is it?” he asked urgently.
“What if Dylan or one of his idiot friends asks us to kiss?”
He looked out at the ocean.
“Then I will just have to kiss you,” he responded with an amused smile.
She stared at him in disbelief. He raised an eyebrow and grinned.
“Do you not want me to kiss you?” he asked as he scooted toward her. He pushed her legs to the side and smiled.
“But you’re gay,” she said as he stroked her cheek.
“Being gay doesn’t mean I can’t kiss a girl,” he said, grinning again.
He leaned forward and gently pressed his lips to hers. She put her hands on his shoulders and continued to kiss him. Twenty seconds later, she pulled out.
“Why do you do this to me?” she asked.
“What do you mean?”
“You’re tormenting me.”
“By kissing me like that.”
“Can’t you see that I have feelings for you?” she asked, her eyes darting across his face.
He wrapped his arms around her and held her against his body. She closed her eyes and breathed in his scent.
“When and where are we going to the movies?” he asked, trying to start a conversation.
“Huh?” she asked as she pulled back.
“The movies?” he prompted.
“Oh, that’s actually tonight,” she said, blushing.
“Great, then I can show you New York at sunset.”
“You’re really going to do that?”
“I promised I would.”
Without thinking about it, Connie threw her arms around his neck and kissed him.
“Whoops, sorry,” she said, embarrassed as she pulled away.
“Being gay also doesn’t mean that I can’t have an attractive girl as a best friend,” he said, “mak-ing all the guys jealous.”
She smiled as Anna walked into the room.
“Charlie, Dad wants you downstairs,” she informed him.
He nodded and vanished into thin air.
“Cool, isn’t it?” Anna asked with a smile as she took Charlie’s place on the sill.
“I’m falling for him,” she said, looking at Anna. “I know he’s gay, but I can’t help myself.”
“No one can help feelings like that,” said Anna.
Charlie suddenly vaporized next to Anna, who smiled.
“I’ll leave you two alone,” she said, standing up. She left the room as Charlie took her spot and took Connie’s hand.
“I’ve got everything planned for tonight,” he said with a huge smile that made her heart skip a beat. “All I need to know is what time is the movie?”
“8:30,” she said.
“Perfect,” he replied, “I’ll pick you up at 5.”
He leaned forward and kissed her cheek.
“I’ll take you home,” he said, pulling her to her feet. “The normal way.”
“It doesn’t bother you that I’m a year younger than you, does it?” he asked.
“Why should it? We’re not dating,” she said.
He heard the hint of sadness in her voice.
“Besides,” she continued, “we’re the same age.”
“But I thought,” he began.
“Just because I’m in Anna’s classes, doesn’t mean I’m in her grade.”
He pulled into her driveway and parked.
“You don’t have to,” she began as she unbuckled.
Her door suddenly opened and Charlie grinned as he held out his hand for her.
“Too late,” he said as she took his hand.
He walked her to the front door where she opened it and paused.
“Do you want to come in and meet my family?” she asked.
Now that she was standing on the doorstep, she was eye level with him. He stepped up onto it and regained his six inches on her.
“I’ve got stuff to do to get ready for tonight,” he said as she wrapped her arms around his neck. “How about I formally meet them when I pick you up in a couple hours?”
“That’d probably be better,” she said as he put his hands on her waist. “My brother’s here with his friends.”
“So I can’t meet you whole family?” he teased as he pressed his forehead against hers.
“It’s my brother’s friends I don’t want you to meet,” she said with a smile.
Charlie laughed again as he pulled away.
“I’ll see you at five,” he said.
“What should I where?” she called as he opened his truck door.
“Surprise me,” he said with a smile.
She waved as he drove down the road. She whipped out her cell phone and speed dialed her best friend and fashion expert, Kristen Walker.
At exactly five o’clock that afternoon, Charlie pushed the doorbell. He straightened his blazer jacket as the door opened.
“You must be Charlie,” Connie’s mother said with a huge smile as she opened the door to let him inside.
“Yes ma’am,” he said.
“Well, you can call me Mrs. Stewart,” she said, “Anna always does.”
“That’s right,” said Charlie with another smile. “You know my sisters.”
“Yes and I adore them,” she said as a tall, broad shouldered man walked into the foyer. “And the family resemblance is remarkable.”
Charlie laughed. He held out his hand to the man. “Charlie Vicks.”
“Dan Stewart,” the man replied, shaking Charlie’s hand.
“Well, don’t you look spiffy?” a voice asked.
The three of them looked up and saw Connie walking down the front stairs, her fingers trailing along the oak banister. She was wearing a strapless knee length red dress with black ribbon.
“Wow, you look amazing,” Charlie said with a huge smile.
“You told me to surprise you,” she grinned as she stopped in front of him.
“Well, you executed that perfectly,” he said, holding his arm out. “Shall we?”
She placed her hand on the crook of his elbow and smiled.
They said bye to her parents and walked outside. Her jaw dropped when she saw the car in the driveway.
“A Lamborghini?” she asked in amazement as he opened her door. Instead of opening out, the door lifted up.
“It’s my dad’s,” he said, “I thought it would help with the jealousy.”
He flashed a grin, closed her door and appeared in the driver’s seat.
“You really do look amazing,” he said as he reversed into the street.
“A little birdie told me that dinner was involved,” she said with a smile.
“Remind me to kill Anna for ruining the surprise,” he laughed.
Connie laughed as he got onto the highway to Portland. A half-hour later, Charlie pulled into a parking space in the theater lot. He vanished again and her door seemed to open on its own.
“How many people know about this?” she asked as she got out of the car.
“My family and a few contacts,” he said as he closed her car door and locked the car.
“Contacts?” she asked.
He wrapped his arms around her and smiled.
“Hold on tight.”
Connie didn’t even have time to close her eyes before the parking lot vanished and was replaced by gray walls.
“It gets easier the more you do it,” he explained as he took her hand and opened the only door in the room.
Lights and music surrounded them as they walked into an extremely fancy restaurant. The waiters were all in tuxedos and were speaking French.
“I am so underdressed,” she muttered as they reached the host.
“Ahh! Young Mr. Vicks!” the maître d'hôtel said in English. “Come right this way.”
He grabbed two menus and led the way through the tables.
“Your waiter will be with you shortly,” he said as Connie Charlie sat down.
“Thank you,” said Charlie as he picked up his menu. He looked at Connie. “How’s your French?”
“Able,” she grinned as a waiter appeared.
“Hello, Charlie,” said the waiter with a smile. Charlie looked up and grinned ear to ear.
“Jean-Phillipe!” he said. “It’s been a long time!”
“Yes, I agree,” said Jean-Phillipe. “How’s Annie?”
“She has a boyfriend,” said Charlie.
“Good for her,” said Jean-Phillipe. “Now, what would you like to drink?”
“I’ll have a Coke,” said Connie with a smile as she remembered the way Anna had reacted to seeing the man in front of her.
Charlie spoke in rapid French. Jean-Phillipe nodded and left. Connie glared at Charlie.
“I hate you,” she said playfully.
“Oh, by the way, I’m fluent in French and Russian,” he said, “in case I forgot to mention.”
She rolled her eyes and he laughed again.
They finished dinner and paid the bill just as the sun was setting.
“Perfect timing,” he said with a smile. “Come on.”
He led her back to the gray room, winking at Jean-Phillipe as they past him, and wrapped his arms around Connie. The next thing she knew, they were on top of the Empire State building, watching the sunset. She smiled as he wrapped his arms around her waist from behind and rested his chin on her shoulder.
“You know what?” he asked.
“I’m going to try,” he said.
“To become straight.”
She looked at him.
“You can’t help that you’re gay, Charlie,” she said, “if you’re not attracted to me, then please don’t force yourself to be.”
“But I am attracted to you,” he said as she turned around in his arms. “I just don’t know how yet.”
She stood on her toes and briefly kissed him.
“Don’t kill yourself,” she said as he placed his fingers on her cheek.
He leaned down and pressed his lips to hers. Just then, his watch beeped, abruptly ending the kiss.
“We have to go,” he said, “hold on.”
The movie theater parking lot was under their feet seconds later.
“Hey, you all right?” she asked when she saw that he was slightly out of breath.
“I’m fine,” he assured her. “Where are we supposed to meet them?”
“The lobby,” she said, though she didn’t think he was all right.
“I’ll meet you there; I’ve got a call to make.”
She nodded and started walking across the parking lot. Once inside the theater, Connie saw Dylan and his friends immediately. And he saw her. Seconds later, she was surrounded by rich, snobby white boys. They started touching her arms when she told them to stop.
“What’s the matter, sweet thing?” Dylan grinned.
“What seems to be the problem, boys?” a voice asked.
The boys separated and Connie was thrilled when she saw Charlie, looking much better than he did minutes before in the parking lot.
“Who the hell are you?” Dylan demanded.
“Charlie Vicks, Connie’s boyfriend.”
Dylan glared at him.
“The movie is starting,” said Connie, taking Charlie’s hand.
“I had fun tonight,” said Connie with a smile as Charlie parked the Lamborghini in her driveway. He vanished and her car door opened.
“So did I,” he said as she got out.
“Too bad it has to end,” she said as they walked to her front door.
Charlie smiled broadly.
“Who says it has to end?” he asked.
Just then, the front door opened, revealing an angry yet sad looking Mr. Stewart.
“Daddy, what’s wrong?” she asked nervously.
“Your brother took off,” Mr. Stewart replied. “No one knows where he is.”
“How long ago did he leave?” Connie asked.
“Just after you left,” said her father.
“With all due respect sir,” Charlie spoke up, “but I think that it would be better if Connie spent the night at my house with Anna and Sarah. That way, she won’t be in the way here.”
“Go pack,” Mr. Stewart grunted at his daughter. She went inside and Mr. Stewart came out, closing the door behind him.
“If you so much as look at my daughter,” he growled at Charlie, poking him hard in the chest.
“No need to worry, sir,” said Charlie, “I’m not that type of guy.”
“Be sure that you’re not,” said Connie’s father.
Connie came outside a few minutes later. She had changed from the red dress to a pair of sweatpants and a t-shirt. Charlie took her bag from her, led the way to the car and drove to his house. He parked in the garage and used the door to get out. He opened her door and helped her out of the car. The sound of deep growling filled the garage as a creature emerged from the shadows of Anna’s Rav4. Connie froze like a deer in headlights. Her eyes went wide with fear.
“If you plan on showing her, why do it in a confined space where she has nowhere to run?” Charlie asked the growling creature with a smile.
The door to the house opened and Natalie appeared.
“Anthony Vicks, you get your furry butt in this house right this instant!” she said angrily.
The growling stopped instantly and the creature lowered its head and slowly stalked around the cars and through the door. Connie gasped when she saw just how big it was.
“Charlie, I believe you have some explaining to do,” said Natalie as he and Connie passed her on their way into the house.
“No, Dad has some explaining to do,” Charlie corrected as he glared at the massive creature.
Connie whimpered in fear and gripped Charlie’s hand. Charlie couldn’t help but smile.
“He won’t hurt you,” he promised as the creature slowly walked up to them. It lowered its head just enough to be eye level with Connie. Charlie put his hand on the creature’s head.
“See?” Charlie asked. “He’s harmless.”
“What is he?” Connie asked as she slowly reached up to touch its nose.
To her horror and Charlie’s dismay, Anthony Vicks morphed out of the massive creature.
“Charlie said that you were trustworthy,” Anthony told her very seriously.
“Jesus, Dad, stop scaring her!” said Charlie with a frown. “She won’t tell anyone. Even if she’ll be able to talk after the scream she’s holding in.”
“She better not,” said Anthony.
Connie had never seen him so anger before. She shook her head slowly.
“I won’t, Mr. Vicks,” she almost whispered, “I promise.”
Charlie gave her a quick squeeze and kissed the side of her head.