Excerpt from “And Then There’s You”
Instead of Jace Aiko Anderson’s hand coming down lovingly on Brooke’s shoulder, he poked her. “Tag!” His mischievous tone was followed by him darting off the bench and into a muddy, grassy field between them and the road.
“What? No. Don’t start this.”
“No! We’ll get in trouble.”
“I thought I had you figured out, Brooke Kella Boe. I thought you wouldn’t back down from a tag game if it meant your life. Guess I was wrong…”
Brooke was so ridiculously, unreasonably irritated with him. And that made her want to kick his ass into the ground with a game of tag.
Jace saw the look in her eyes and realized the mistake he made.
It was the calm before the storm; she looked down, removing her slippers. Then, she pulled her hair back into a ponytail. The air took on a different mood when Jace could see the pale, bald spots on her head. Brooke bolted towards Jace with a ridiculous amount of energy. “I don’t turn down a game of tag!” She laughed, chasing him with her arms out.
“See, that’s the Brooke I know! C’mon, fight me!”
“You’re the one chasing me barefooted. That jacket looks like a cape on you. You’re practically the new disney supervillain.”
Circles and circles and circles were carved into the grass by their feet. Brooke actually enjoyed the feeling of the mud, the grass in between her toes. She felt like she was catching fireflies with her father again, before her cancer.
Jace felt like he was flying. That is, until he fell hands- and face-first into the mud. Actually, he flew into the mud. “Ugh, ouch.” He didn’t realize what happened until he was on the ground. But at the same time he didn’t mind that much.
Brooke, on the other hand, could see her downfall coming from miles away. Time slowed down just as she tripped over Jace’s abnormally and disproportionately large feet. He did break her fall though. Only her hands hit the mud, but her face was spared by his back. “Ow.”
And, just to prove its point, the universe decided to make it rain right at that exact moment. It could’ve started ten minutes earlier, ten minutes later. No, Jace thought, the universe hates me and it feels the need to prove it to me every second of every day.
“You okay?” Jace started to turn over, so he could see her.
Her face — covered in mud, rain, sweat, hair, whatever — was somewhat of a shock to him. To have her that incredibly close. His thumb brushed her cheek, leaving a smear of mud.
“Oh, now you’re starting a mud fight? Real mature.” Brooke retaliated with a full hand of mud to his nose.
“What? No! It was on accident, but if you really want to…”
“No, no. The nurses will throw a fit.”
If this was a cheesy Disney Channel movie, I would kiss her. But that would mean there would be a part of the movie where everything goes downhill and sucks for a while. I don’t want that to happen. No, don’t kiss her. This is only your second day visiting her anyway. And you’re covered in mud. She might take away points for being romantic.
After Jace’s mental soliloquy, he sat up. She was now in his lap, and was still wearing his jacket.
“Shit, you’re gonna get a cold and it’ll be my fault.” Jace didn’t really mean to say that out loud but he did. He just felt really bad about it. Hastily, he scooped her up and carried her back inside.