Chapter 4.3Y

Scrunch scrunch scrunch. Ahead of them Annie saw the lights of the Johnson house appear through the dense trees, about five minutes away.

Bernie helps keep the mood light at practice Annie said. The team needs that balance.

Double-J shrugged. If you say so. I just don’t trust him.

Do you trust anyone?

Double-J grunted. Don’t make this about me. Bernie wants something from you, needs you for something — don’t know what he’s after, but there’s something, it’s obvious to me. You need to look out for yourself.

Annie laughed. Why suddenly are you being so protective?

Dunno. Probably because I almost wrapped you around a tree back there.

Annie heard the sound of a car door closing in the crisp winter air. They’re home, Annie said, motioning down the fire road in the direction of the Johnson’s house.

Annie, said Double-J. She turned, saw Double-J had stopped, stood still, looking at her. She could not see his face, but she heard in his voice, and saw in the dark outline of his posture, a feeling she had never seen coming from Double-J, not in all the years they had known each other, not through all their hours of fencing together, not even in that brief time a year earlier when they had been dating. Double-J was regretful.

I’m — sorry.

Annie looked at him, then beyond him to the fire road they had walked down. It’s OK. You couldn’t have seen that deer coming, it was an accident, things happen.

Double-J looked down. Yeah. Things happen.

He began walking again. Annie walked up to him, spread her arms to embrace him — then stopped as she saw Double-J silently raise his hand, and walk past her.

They walked side by side, the dirt of the fire road finally giving way to the crumbling asphalt of the county road. They turned left, crossed the county road, Annie feeling the weight in her feet finally lift as they walked onto the Johnson’s driveway. There was a pickup parked near the house, fresh tire tracks leading up to it. Lights shown in the house’s windows.

You call your parents first Double-J said.

Annie shook her head. Call for a tow first. I’ll be OK.

I’m sure you will. She turned to him, saw that he was smiling broadly, no hint of sarcasm in his face.

A moment later, they were at the front door. Double-J pressed the doorbell, the sound inside quickly followed by footsteps. A moment later, the door opened.

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