[Author’s Note: Every week of The Middle of Nowhere presale, I’ll be posting a new excerpt from the book on Sunday. This excerpt features is the very first time we meet Jason Thieson, a central character of #MoN]
I STOOD OUTSIDE in the cold, smoking. I watched as she leaned up against the counter, arms crossed, deep in thought. She was the prettiest girl I had ever seen up close.
Killian, Dana, Jesse, and I came here a lot to board, since the curbs were great for grinds and boardslides. I hadn’t been here for a while, though, and so I hadn’t seen the girl behind the counter yet. There was an older lady who worked here, too, who hated us. She’d popped her head out here earlier, yelling, “You little fuckers, if any of you hurts someone with those goddamn skateboards of yours, I’m callin’ the cops!”
Killian nodded solemnly at her, then watched her go back inside. “Aww, c’mon, Rita,” he called. “Why don’t you come back out here and suck my diiick?”
“Least she’s wearing the right costume,” I mumbled, watching her black pointed witch hat bob up and down as she walked back in.
“Fuck that fascist bullshit,” Jesse bitched, lighting up a smoke. Killian motioned for his lighter as we watched Dana get into position. Dana wasn’t much for grinding – he usually just looked at it as a preview for flip and pressure tricks. His feet were like fucking lightening, even if his head wasn’t.
“I hate the way so many people think that because we’re boarders it automatically makes us menaces to society,” Jesse added.
“That’s because we are,” Killian replied absentmindedly as he flipped the lighter back to Jesse.
I didn’t say anything. I thought it was hilarious how people thought I was this renegade bad kid just because I boarded. “Do your parents think that’s cool, Jason?” a teacher once asked me, looking at the black gauges I had in my ears.
“Who do you think helped me pick them out?” I shot back. My parents were awesome. My dad’s probably more psyched about me finishing my sleeve of tats than I am. “Look at that, Carley!” he said to my mom when I came home after the last installment. “That’s fucking art!” And I know to a lot of people it’s not probably the coolest thing, to still be living with your parents after high school, but it’s just smart, right now. It lets me save up for school (or whatever it is that I decide to do), and it always feels good to come home. I’d gladly take that over some shithole apartment in Holden with some slacker buddy any day.
I got up to trick. I was on my way, my wheels vibrating smoothly against the sidewalk, when I saw Killian smile and wave to someone inside. I glanced back to see who it was, and BOOM, I totally messed up, barely catching myself before I fell flat on my face. Quickly grabbing my board, I looked back. It didn’t look like she had seen that. Good. I walked back over to the guys.
“Dude, she totally fucking saw that,” Killian laughed, as I rejoined the huddle.
“Fuck,” I said under my breath, looking down at the pavement I had almost kissed seconds earlier. I had probably looked like the biggest fucking dumbass…
“Yeah, but she was nice enough to look away and pretend she hadn’t.”
I looked back up at the window again. “Who is that?” I asked.
“Holiday Chick,” Killian answered. “She’s hot, right?
Staring at her, I suddenly remembered the guys talking about her before. I’d rolled my eyes at the time, fairly sure they were exaggerating, and greatly. There weren’t exactly a lot of options around here, so pretty much all it took was one new girl in this dick town and every single guy was gunning for her. Didn’t mean she was pretty, though. It meant that she was new.
But it looked like it wasn’t just tall tales this time. “Yeah, she’s totally pretty.”
“First-class taste in a second-class town,” Jesse added.
I smirked back at him. You probably wouldn’t know it to look at him, but the kid was intelligent. He was always digging through a thick book or watching some movie nobody else had ever heard of, and he had a wit like whiplash. He was salty, but sometimes I wondered if that was only because he knew exactly how smart he was. Being stuck in Holden will do that to a person, I figured. Makes you feel small.
“So you know her, right?” I asked Killian, trying to sound casual as I pulled out a pack of cigs from my back pocket.
“Yeah, she’s cool. She’s been over a couple of times at Derek and Cory’s.”
“Speaking of which, where the fuck have you been, man?” Jesse asked. “Last week was a total rager.”
“Working, dude.” I worked with my dad at the sawmill. The summer had been easy, working construction: Great money, cool guys, and whole days on a rooftop to work on my nonexistent tan. But the business around here pretty much dried up around Labor Day, so my dad got me a job at the mill. Even though it paid decent and was steady work, it was definitely not something I wanted to do forever. Nothing here is anything I want to do forever, I thought, as I pulled a cigarette out of my pack and placed it between my lips. So I was working overtime so I could save up to get the fuck out of this place.
Besides, every weekend was always the same here. Everyone always acted like a kegger was some big event, but it was always the same dudes chasing after the same chicks, the same dumbasses puking on the front lawn, and the same fights about the same old shit.
I’d been missing out, though, if she’d been around. I glanced over at her again. Not really wanting to hear the answer but knowing I needed to ask, I turned to Killian. “You diggin’ on her?”
“Who, Aden?” Killian laughed. He shook his head. “Nah. I mean, I am, ‘cause she’s a cool chick and all, but we’re kinda rockin’ the friend vibe, if you know what I mean.”
“He’s still after Jessica,” Dana explained, like I needed clarification.
Killian rolled his eyes, ignoring Dana. “You, though,” he said, gesturing at me with his cigarette, “you should go talk to that girl.”
“Yeah. She’s totally cool, for real. You might have to be smooth, though,” he added. “She gets hit on a lot.”
“I don’t doubt that. Who else is gaming on her?”
“Dude, practically everybody. You know how it is, fresh meat and all that.”
“More like fresh pussy,” Dana added.
“Dude,” I winced. “Don’t say stuff like that.” Dana was one of my oldest friends – since kindergarten, actually – but sometimes he could sound like a complete tool.
“Anyway,” Killian continued, rolling his eyes at me in agreement. “Just ‘cause everyone’s been playing the game doesn’t mean anyone’s won yet.”
“Yeah, what was that at the party a few weeks back about Derek stalking her?” Jesse pinched his cigarette in between his thumb and forefinger and smirked as he blew out the smoke.
“Shut up,” I said.
“Yeah, Cory says Derek’s obsessed with her,” Killian added.
“But doesn’t he have a girlfriend?”
“That’s what they say. And I don’t even know how he managed that much, but that girl?!”
I nodded, following his glance towards the window. Aden, Aden. Someone was at the counter, waiting to pay, and I watched as she smiled and rang them up. I wondered what she was like.
I pulled out another cigarette and held it in my lips as I dug in my pocket for my lighter. Finding it, I pulled it out, and was just about to light my cigarette with it when Killian snatched it out of my hand and threw it across the parking lot.
“Yo, what the fuck?” I watched the orange plastic cylinder skip across the pavement.
“Aw shit, man, you just lost your lighter!” Killian exclaimed, smiling wide at me. He thumbed towards the store, raising his eyebrows in mock discovery. “Guess you’ll have to go buy another one, huh?”
I stood there for a second, staring at the window and thinking, then shoved the cigarette back into the pack and walked toward the store.