Transcend (Page 42)

He shrugs. “We are human. Claiming to be infallible is risky. A professor I had in college told her students that certainty leads to nowhere except one’s demise. Sparingly use the words promise, guarantee, always, and never.” Nate chuckles. “That philosophy makes the writing of wedding vows a little tricky. ‘I vow to try to be faithful. I shall do my best to love you in sickness and health for as long as I can.’”

I grin, but I’m not sure why. “You suck at easing my mind.”


“Are you really?”

He covers his mouth with his napkin and nods. “I promise.” The napkin doesn’t hide his smirk.

“You’re terrible.” I punch him on the arm.

His body shakes with laughter.

“You owe me. Take my mind off how human my boyfriend is. Tell me a story … more Daisy.”

“More Daisy, huh?” Nate leans back. A soft smile steals his mouth as his gaze meets mine. “I can do that.”


Nathaniel Hunt Age 15

“What do you think?” I puffed out my chest, chin up.

Daisy circled the Camaro in the driveway, eyes shifting between me and the car my uncle left me when he died. I had three weeks until I turned sixteen.

“Well … it’s free.” Her lower lip curled around her top lip, a goofy look that she gave me when she tried to be honest without telling the whole truth.

“It could use a little work.” I shrugged.

“A little.” She circled it a second time, arms crossed over her chest.

“I’ll take you for a ride.”

“You don’t have your license yet.”

“Just around the block. My dad won’t be home for hours.” I tugged open the passenger’s side door.

She flinched, sticking her fingers in her ears. “Might need to spray something on the hinges.”

“Stop being such a prissy cat. Get in.”

“A prissy cat?” She laughed. “I’m not being prissy. But I think I should call home first and ask my mom when I had my last tetanus shot.”

“It’s just a little rust.”

She eased into the bucket seat. “I think you don’t know the meaning of ‘little.’”

I shut the door and hopped in behind the wheel—a wheel with peeling black tape all over it, but nevertheless, my wheel.

“It smells like a forest fire in here.” Her nose wrinkled.

I ignored her complaining. I had a car. That’s all that mattered. My uncle was a chain-smoker and there were a half dozen pine-scented air fresheners hanging from the rearview mirror, but she didn’t need to make a big deal of it.

We drove around the block and pulled back into the driveway. “She’s not a bad ride.” I stretched my arm out behind Daisy’s headrest.

“You’re crazy.” She shook her head, but no amount of prissiness could hide her grin.

“Do you want to make out in the back seat before my dad gets home?”


“No? Really? Hmm … so unlike you.” My fingers drummed on the steering wheel.

“Yes, so unlike me. I’m always wanting to make out in the back of junkyard cars.”

“Shh … don’t be offensive to Georgia when you’re in her.”

She giggled. “Georgia? Please tell me you did not name your car.”

“My uncle did. He bought her in Georgia and drove her to Wisconsin with his first wife, Savannah.”

“No.” Daisy shook her head a half dozen times. “I’m not buying that story. Your uncle did not buy this car in Georgia and his first wife was not named Savannah. You’re making this up as you go. It’s a terrible story. You are a terrible storyteller.”

“Swear to God.”

“Your dad would not approve of you swearing to God. And when he gets home, I’m going to ask him about Savannah, Georgia.”

“Go ahead.”

“Whatever.” She crossed her arms over her chest and stared ahead at our one-car detached garaged. “Last one in the back seat has to be on bottom.”

It took me two seconds to process what she meant, by the time I did, she had already shimmied her way between the front seats. I took the bottom as we made out for the next fifteen minutes, exploring each other and nudging new boundaries.

After we righted our disheveled clothes and climbed out of a backseat that was not made for making out, we grabbed sodas and sat on the back porch in old blue lawn chairs.

“I left my jacket in the tree house last week, so I rode my bike over there yesterday afternoon to get it.”

I frowned. “I thought we agreed never to go alone.”

“I was careful. I didn’t even get near the lake, and I made my way up and down the ladder slooowly.”

“You should have at least told me you were going.”

She kicked my leg. “Are you going to let me finish my story?”

“Yeah, yeah, go ahead.”

“Anyway … on my way out of the gate a car pulled in the driveway—an old silver station wagon with a rattling motor and chipped gray paint with almost as much rust on it as Georgia.”

I bared my teeth, ready to snarl at her for poking fun of my car.

“Scared the living daylights out of me at first. The guy got out and he had this creepy child-molester look.”

“I don’t know if child molesters have an actual look.”

“I think they do. Chubby belly. Smelly. Clothes that have not been washed for weeks. You know … when jeans get that oily sheen to them? Bad dandruff. Crooked teeth with really red gums. And a mustache that’s thin and cheesy.” She shivered. “Creeps me out.”

“Again … none of that means he’s a child molester, but your parents would ground you for life if they knew you were there at all, but definitely if they knew you went there alone. Did you get out of there as fast as possible? I hope so.”

“Not exactly.”

“Morgan.” If I called her Morgan then the situation was serious.

“I kept a good distance. It was still light outside. And I didn’t get off my bike. But he asked me what I was doing there. Before I could answer, he smiled and said, ‘Ah, let me guess … the tree house.’ I nodded. It’s all I could do. Stranger danger and all that. But then he started telling me about him and his dad building the tree house together. I’m not saying he’s not still creepy, but—”

“No. Don’t say ‘but’ anything. You need to stay away. We’re done. Tell everyone else too. We’ve been trespassing.”

“I told him.” Her nose wrinkled. “He wasn’t mad at all. He thought it was cool that someone was getting some good out of the tree house and the lake. His mom died a few years ago and his dad recently died of a heart attack. He’s staying at the house for a while to figure out what to do with their stuff. Then he’s going to sell the place, but he said we can still play in the woods or swim in the lake until it sells.”


“Nate, don’t be such a party pooper.”

“Promise me you won’t go back there.”


“Just promise me.”

“Ugh! Fine. I’m going home. I have to clean my room or else I can’t spend the night at Danielle’s house this weekend.”

“Slumber party, huh? A long night of talking about boys?”

“Maybe.” She stood, tossing her ponytail over her shoulder.

“What do you say about me?” I held open the back door for her, and we set our empty cans on the counter.

“I don’t talk about you. We only talk about real boyfriends.” Dang, she loved to put me in my place.

“That’s fair. When I hang out with my friends we only talk about girls with big tits.”

She whipped around, clutching my shirt. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“I don’t know. What do you think it means?”

“I think you’re saying I have small tits.”

“If the training bra fits …”

“Take it back.”

“No way.” I laughed as she attempted to shake me, but I was twice her size. She wasn’t going to budge me. “Oh, Daisy, Daisy, Daisy …” I hugged her to me as she tried and failed to wriggle out of my hold. “I hope you love me this much in another five years.”

“Let go of me, you big jerk! I’m not going to love you in another five seconds.” She punched my gut until I released her. “You’re on your own for food. I’m done feeling sorry for you.”

My smile didn’t waver, but that truth sucked the air from my lungs. She deserved a boyfriend who could buy her things. Real boyfriends didn’t need handouts.

“You should be done feeling sorry for me. It’s a waste of your time. Especially when your room is a mess.”

“You know what I mean.”

I turned, grabbing some trash from the counter and tossing it in the garbage.

“Yeah, I know. Better get going.”

“Are you mad?” She grabbed my arm.

I tugged it away. “I’m fine.”

“You’re not fine. Just look at me.” She grabbed my arm with both hands.