GENRE: YA contemporary
Ryan’s music is too loud—not exactly a problem, except that it’s louder than mine. I jack up my iPod. My tiny speakers can’t drown out the noise.
Especially since they aren’t just competing with music, but laughter, splashing, screams. Fun. That’s what’s on the other side of the fence.
My phone buzzes and skitters across the swing’s wide seat. Amber’s name flashes on the screen, followed almost immediately by Max’s. Their texts are identical. She’s headed to his house, his parents are headed out, I can come if I want.
Half an invitation from each that doesn’t add up to a whole.
Can’t make it, I text. Family movie night.
Not a complete lie. The living room windows flicker with light from a DVD.
I give up the fight with the music and shut mine off. Despite the dark sky, the air is hot.
I could join my parents, but instead I stay outside, between my house and Ryan’s, pushing myself in the swing, digging my bare toes into the grass, listening to the party I’m definitely not invited to.
Until the soccer ball lands in my lap. I clutch it and blink into the darkness, trying to see if anyone’s there to claim it. A head pops over the back fence, followed by a body, which lands with a two-footed thump on my side.
“Nice one, man,” Ryan yells back over the fence, then turns and jogs toward me.
I could throw the ball back, but I wait for him to come to me.