Savannah Ch. 02byfrozenhero1©
Grace rubbed her eyes when she reached the bottom of the page she was reading, realizing nothing had sunk in despite reading it three times previously. With a resigned sigh, Grace closed her history book and accepted the fact she wasn't going to accomplish any meaningful study during free period. Stretching her arms out to the side, a tiny smile decorated her lips when she thought of who had become a seemingly-constant mental distraction. Chase was all she could think about, it seemed. Though Grace hadn't seen him since the weekend previous when Chase took her bowling, the pair of them had spoken on the phone every night since. They had a habit of talking until the late hours, each of them blissfully infatuated with the other. It was new love, spring love, and Grace felt a constant tingling of excitement in the pit of her stomach whenever she thought of him.
Ashlee suddenly appeared from between two book stacks, interrupting Grace's thoughts, "Thank god it's Friday. This has been such a long week." Ashlee had the same period free and the two best friends met in the library almost every day to study. Grace watched as Ashlee practically fell into a chair and plopped her stack of textbooks on the table between them.
"Only three weeks to go before summer break, hon. Think you can survive that long?"
"Graduation can't come soon enough," Ashlee groaned, pushing a hand through her straight black hair. "I am so sick of this place. You're never going to believe this -- you know that bitch Simone? She actually asked me to sign her yearbook today during first period."
"So?" Grace wondered confusedly, "What's wrong with Simone? Ah like her; she's nice."
Ashlee made an incredulous look, "How can you say that? I mean, she basically stole my boyfriend right out from under me!"
Grace looked further confused; "What boyfriend? You haven't had a steady fella since junior year."
"Hello? Don't you remember when she stole Henry Young from me?"
Grace made a dry expression, "Ash darlin', that was in the seventh grade. And Henry wasn't your boyfriend; y'all were just sucking face behind the bleachers after school for a couple days."
"That's about as serious you can get in the seventh grade," Ashlee stated in a flat tone. "And there's no statute of limitations on boyfriend-theft."
"M'ah mistake," Grace rolled her eyes and reached for a bottle of water. "What's got you in such a fit, anyhow? Simone can't be the only thing bothering you."
Ashlee let out a disgusted sigh, "I finally got the guts to call Chase last night, that cutie we met at the Spring Gala last week."
Grace nearly choked on her water mid-swallow.
"You okay?" Ashlee asked with concern.
"Went down the wrong pipe," Grace lied in a strained voice. She coughed and wiped the back of a hand across her chin, "You called Chase?"
"Yeah, and he totally shot me down." Ashlee folded her arms across the table and sullenly rested her chin on a wrist, "I really liked him, too."
"You mean you asked him out?"
"Yep, I asked him if he wanted to go out this weekend."
Since Ashlee didn't have any idea of her developing relationship, Grace tried not to sound too curious, "What'd he say?"
Ashlee frowned, "He said he didn't think we had any chemistry. Can you believe that? Like two people can know if they have chemistry if they've never even gone out. He probably thinks I'm ugly. I was standing next to you the night we met him, after all."
"Ah'm sure he doesn't think you're ugly," Grace offered obligatorily. Ashlee was, after all, an extremely attractive girl who rarely lacked male attention.
"Whatever," Ashlee wallowed. "I just know I really liked him."
"Ah'm surprised you're still interested, usually you don't linger on a fella for more than a couple of days."
"Chase seemed worth lingering for, you know? I mean, he's totally gorgeous, slightly mysterious, and he's got a bit of a bad-boy thing going on. It's really sexy."
Grace hid her frown, "He didn't seem like a 'bad-boy' to me..."
"Please," Ashlee scoffed. "Did you see his car? Plus, he's from 'the other side of the tracks'. Those kinds of boys are always bad-boys compared to the brandy-sniffers we go to school with."
"Ah don't know," Grace twirled a strand of her long blonde hair nervously around a finger, "he seemed pretty nice to me." All week long Grace had been wondering how she was going to tell Ashlee about Chase, feeling guiltier by the day. Ashlee's prolonged interest in Chase was nearly unprecedented, since she rarely fixated on one boy for very long, so Grace understood how badly Ashlee must have been crushing on him -- that fact only escalated her guilt.
Continually putting the conversation off, Grace kept telling herself she was waiting for the right moment. But she realized the right moment had probably already passed, and the longer she deceived Ashlee the worse her best friend's reaction would be.
Tucking her wave of blonde hair behind an ear Grace tried to use a gentle tone, "Listen, Ash, ah need to tell you something."
Ashlee took note of Grace's tone, "Uh-oh. That sounds ominous. Is it something about Chase?"
Grace pushed her lips together and nodded.
"Oh god, he's not gay is he? Because I remember the last time -"
"He's not gay," Grace quickly verified.
"Then what is it?"
Grace took a deep breath, trying to find the words.
Ashlee developed a suspicious expression, "Why do you look so guilty all of the sudden?"
"Ah kissed him," Grace blurted out.
Ashlee's mouth hung open, "What?! You kissed him?"
Grace winced, "Ah'm so sorry hon. Ah meant to tell you sooner -"
"H-how, I mean, when?"
"Last Friday. After the party."
Ashlee's eyes narrowed dangerously.
"Then again on Saturday night," Grace added with reluctance.
Ashlee gasped, "You were with him on Saturday night and didn't tell me?"
"He took me bowling," Grace admitted.
"Bowling?" Ashlee squeaked with disbelief. "I can't believe you! You knew how much I liked him!"
"Ah didn't know! Ah swear! Not at first -"
"You're so full of shit, Grace," Ashlee hissed. "I told you at the party how much I liked him!"
"You just said you thought he was cute," Grace corrected defensively. "And then you proceeded to flirt with every guy at that party. Ah didn't know you thought Chase was anything special until you woke up and told me the next morning."
"And what did you do with that information?" Ashlee folded her arms across her chest, "You go out with him that very night, behind my back?!"
"Ah can't help what happened," Grace tried to explain. "Ah wasn't even into him at first; we were just talking and stuff, y'know? The next thing ah know we're making out on mother's designer couch."
"Making out?" Ashlee had an expression of betrayal dripping off her face, "Sounds like a lot more happened than just one kiss!"
Grace conceded, "It was several kisses, ah guess."
"You always do this!" Ashlee accused.
"Always do what?"
"As soon as you find out I like a guy, you steal him away from me with a few tosses of your blonde hair and that phony 'southern belle' act of yours."
Grace grew angry, "Ah'm not phony! And ah've never stolen anything from you, much less a boy."
It was a good thing the two girls were near the back of the library, as their voices were growing heated. Still, they attracted more than one curious glance from nearby students.
"Oh no?" Ashlee challenged, "What about Julius Tucker?"
"Ah didn't steal Julius from you. He kissed me out of the blue and earned a kick in the jimmy for his efforts."
Ashlee frowned, "The fact remains he liked me first, but he got over it right-quick after laying eyes on you."
"And how's that m'ah fault?" Grace glared across the table, "Besides, that happened six years ago; we were only twelve!"
"Well, what about Bobby Ross, huh?" Ashlee leveled a smug look at Grace, defying her to argue.
"What are you talking about?" Grace scowled, annoyed. "Ah liked Bobby long before you ever did."
"You did not!"
"Ah did too!"
"Well you couldn't have liked him very much," Ashlee argued. "You only went out with him once before dumping him."
"He kissed like a sucker-fish," Grace declared, justifying the break-up. "His lips were all over the damn place."
"I wouldn't know how Bobby kisses," Ashlee gathered her books angrily, "because you stole him from me!"
"Ash, wait," Grace pleaded, "Ah'm sorry about Chase, ah didn't mean for it to work out like this."
"Whatever." Ashlee pushed her chair in harshly before turning in a huff, "I'll see you around."
Grace let out a heavy breath and let Ashlee go, sick of arguing. Despite the fight, Grace was relieved she had finally been honest. The hard part was over, and Ashlee would eventually get over it; probably as soon as she spotted the next random cute guy.
Actually, Grace thought Ashlee took it rather well.
"Why didn't you tell me Ashlee called you last night?" Grace asked into her cell phone, having called Chase as soon as she arrived home from school.
"She called me after you and I talked, late last night," Chase replied. "I haven't talked to you since then..."
"Ah could have used a heads-up," Grace remarked dryly. "She caught me off-guard and ah ended up telling her about us."
"Sorry," Chase apologized. "So... how bad was it?"
"We've had worse scrapes," Grace answered. "But we definitely violated the school library's noise policy."
"I'm sorry," Chase repeated.
"It's okay, darlin'. We didn't even really fight about you." Grace sat down on her bed with a tired sigh, "She and ah have been best friends since for a long time, so y'all aren't first boy who's come between us. We were fighting over milk spilled long ago."
"Does that mean I can see you tonight?" Chase wondered hopefully.
"Ah don't know, hon. Ah should probably go and try to square things with Ashlee. How about tomorrow night?"
"I have to work tomorrow night."
Grace fretted, "Ah guess squaring things with Ashlee will just have to wait until tomorrow then."
Grace couldn't wait another day before seeing Chase again, "Pick me up at six?"
"How bad is it?" Virginia Lattimore asked, distress coloring her voice.
"Simmer down, Virginia," Branford gestured dismissively with his hand as he read the daily paper. "It's only one plant."
"You've never had to close a plant down before," Virginia looked towards her husband, where he sat in his favorite living room chair. "You know how this will look, don't you?"
"Ah do," Branford chuckled knowingly, folding up the paper and setting it aside.
"People will talk," Virginia worried.
"Virginia, darlin', you fret too much." Branford lifted a hand to his moustache; he had a habit of playing with one end of it and turning the hairs in his fingers.
"Do I?" Virginia asked, "I'm worried, Branford. I don't want to lose this house. I won't lose it!"
"We're not going to lose the house," Branford stood up and approached his wife, "It's just tough times right now, is all. Nothin' to get so upset over."
"I hope you're right," Virginia leaned into Branford's hugging arms.
"Of course ah'm right," Branford soothed his wife. "Ah'll be able to re-open the plant come fall, after we get the Montgomery contract."
Just as Virginia was about to say something in reply, the sound of a loud car pulling up the front drive interrupted her.
"What in tarnation?" Branford stepped to the bay window, pulling back a curtain to see a flat-black classic Mustang pull to a stop in front of the house.
Grace came bounding down the steps, dressed in a pair of tight black jeans and a clinging, lacy white top which did little to conceal her torso or the black bra she wore beneath.
Branford asked towards his daughter's sudden appearance, "Grace, honey, why is there a young man with a loud hot-rod parked in front of m'ah house?"
"Ah have a date tonight," Grace informed her parents casually, her thick southern drawl mimicking her father's accent in a way only a child can do.
"Not looking like that you don't," Virginia declared. "My goodness, Grace, the way you dress sometimes!"
Grace rolled her eyes, "Mother..."
"She's right, hon," Branford agreed. "At least put a jacket on."
"Fine," Grace reluctantly moved to a closet by the doorway.
"Who is this boy?" Virginia wondered.
"His name is Chase," Grace said, slipping into a black leather jacket. "Ah met him last week, at the Spring Gala."
"Oh?" Virginia was curious, "I don't remember him. Who was he paired with?"
"He wasn't a guest; he works for the catering company." Grace opened the door, "Ah'll be home by midnight. Love you!"
Branford watched through the window as his daughter hurried outside excitedly, giving Chase a hug before they both got into the car.
"A catering boy?" Virginia wondered aloud, appearing beside her husband to watch the scene outside.
Branford made a dismissive sound with his tongue, "Ah wouldn't worry yourself, dear. He's just another boy. She's interested in a new one every week."
"You better be right," Virginia commented ominously. "Otherwise there will be no living with her."
"You look hot," Chase said as he drove. "Like, seriously hot."
"Yeah?" Grace smiled, pushing a strand of wavy hair behind an ear. She peeled out of her leather jacket and tossed it to the back seat, "Thanks, sugah."
Chase smiled back, "You're welcome."
Grace beamed, happy to finally be with Chase again. Noticing that he was turning onto Parkside she asked, "Where are we going?"
"Grayson," Chase replied, which was a stadium located not far from where Grace lived. "Do you like the Sand Gnats?"
"Are you kidding? Daddy used to take me to their games all the time when ah was a little girl."
"You like baseball?" Chase sounded surprised.
"Of course," Grace replied. Her voice grew proud as she declared, "Ah even played in the All-Girls Savannah Parks & Recreation softball league when ah was ten."
Chase looked impressed, "What position did you play?"
"Ah was the catcher, for two whole innings."
Chase glanced curiously, "Just two?"
"Uh-huh, then Lucy Harris charged me at the plate and put me right on m'ah ass. Ah was crying like a baby. The poor coach didn't know what to do with me."
Chase looked amused, "She hit you pretty hard?"
"Not really. But m'ah nail broke when ah fell down." She added assuredly, "It was very traumatic."
Chase started laughing as he turned into the stadium parking lot.
"It's not funny," Grace tried to pout. "Ah was banished to the outfield. It's boring out there."
"You probably didn't break as many nails, though."
The evening was a perfect one for baseball. The sun hung low in the sky but the air felt warm and comfortable. A slight breeze carried the scents of stale beer and popcorn through the air as Chase and Grace walked through the parking lot towards the ticket-stand, hand-in-hand. Grace didn't think anything could foul her mood, until she heard a voice.
Grace turned to see Dylan Montgomery along with three other boys from her high school; Stuart, Chet, and Lyle. The four boys were tail-gating behind a brand new pick-up truck, drinking canned beers and grilling food.
"Hey Grace," Dylan eyed the couple with a jealous aspect. "Who's your date?"
Chase sensed trouble immediately and muttered so only Grace could hear, "Friend of yours?"
"Not exactly," Grace replied quietly.
Dylan stepped towards the pair with a cocky swagger, "I asked you who your friend is?"
Stuart, Chet, and Lyle all fell in behind Dylan as though they were his personal guards.
"Chase, ah'd like to introduce you to Dylan Montgomery," Grace continued to hold Chase's hand. "Those three stooges behind him are Ardsley Park's village idiots."
Chase regarded them all silently, recognizing quickly how Dylan seemed to be the rooster of their pack. Stuart, Chet, and Lyle were obviously the thugs, if skinny rich kids could ever be described as such. Chase was familiar with the social structure of bullies like Dylan and his crew; he began formulating worst-case methods of dealing with them.
Chet seemed to take offense to Grace's insult and stepped forward, but Dylan held him back with an outstretched arm.
"Now that wasn't very nice, Grace." Dylan's words were slurred and deliberate, "I'd hate for this to get ugly before we all get to know one another."
"Y'all are drunker than skunks on whiskey," Grace declared defiantly. "Leave us alone."
"Me and the boys here only want to meet your new boyfriend, if that's what he is." Dylan looked right at Chase, "That's what he is, right? Your new boyfriend?"
"So what if he is?" Grace challenged.
Dylan swallowed down the rest of his beer, casting the empty can into the back of his pick-up truck, "We just want to give him a warm Ardsley Park welcome, that's all. Don't we, guys?"
Stuart, Chet, and Lyle all sneered with amusement and moved towards Chase.
"Leave him alone!" Grace cried angrily, knowing exactly what kind of 'welcome' the jealous Dylan intended.
Chase moved between Grace and the approaching threesome, staring them down. His worst-case fears were quickly developing.
Stuart was the bravest, so he was within reach first. Chase shot his fist forward, punching Stuart right in the nose with a calculated thrust.
A sharp crack indicated a clean break. "Fuck!" Stuart yelped, clutching his hands to cup instantly-bloodied nostrils.
Chet was next; he maneuvered a clumsy swing towards Chase, but Chase grabbed him by the wrist and twisted Chet's arm around in a way that human arms weren't designed to bend.
"Oww!!!" Chet howled, contorting his body to try and alleviate the pain.
Lyle was done before ever getting close to Chase, backing away after seeing his two friends humbled so quickly. He wanted no part of the suddenly dangerous adversary.
"The girl asked to be left alone," Chase said calmly. He still held a wincing Chet by his wrist, "Is that going to be a problem?"
Grace found herself holding her breath, reminding her lungs to breathe as she watched Chase deal with the four bullies.
"I asked if that was going to be a problem," Chase repeated in a firm voice aimed towards Dylan.
Dylan shook his head, deciding he wanted no part of Chase either. He sounded far more humble when he finally answered, "No, no problem..."
Chet promptly fell to his knees and clutched his sore arm when Chase let go of him.
Chase looked Dylan in the eye for a few more seconds, a silent warning, before turning to collect Grace.
Walking away with him, Chase's arm around her shoulders and hers around his waist, Grace looked back towards Dylan briefly, "That was 'mazing! Ah ain't never seen anyone shut Dylan up so quickly."
"Who is that guy, anyway?" Chase wondered.
"The Montgomery's are the one of the richest family in Savannah; Dylan's their number one son. He's been trying to get in m'ah britches since elementary school, but ah'm not real fond of cockroaches."
Chase let out an amused breath. "Great, so what you're saying is I just made an enemy of the richest brat in Savannah."
Grace shook her head, "You did what you had to, sugah." She looked back once more to see Dylan seething in anger, "But he certainly made an enemy of you."
Grace quickly put the incident with Dylan out of her mind as soon as she and Chase were seated in the bleachers. She cuddled close, often holding his arm and leaning into him. The Sand Gnats lost 4-3, but Grace didn't care about the final score. By the end of the game she hadn't been paying attention to the action on the field, far more interested in talking and flirting with Chase.
"So, where'd you learn to fight like that?"
Chase grinned as he and Grace slowly meandered towards the parking lot after the game, "That wasn't much of a fight."