Sneaking Out The Back Door

Before

The glacial snap of the previous week was over; the sun was shining brightly as Winter hurried across Mika's front yard, the hood of her jacket up to keep her hair from blowing across her face. The weather might have warmed up, but the wind off lake Lanier could still be brutish.

Dylan was waiting for her on the front porch, sprawled in a falling apart swing set. He had his phone balanced on his blue-jeaned knees and was poking away at it industriously with his thumbs. "Eat me," he said as she came up the steps. "I'm kicking your ass on Minion Rush."

Winter pushed her hood back, shaking bangs out of her eyes, and rummaged in her pocket for her keys. "Man," she began to scold, and Dylan was expecting something about how the end of pre-med affected her gaming skills. Instead she hissed, "Where the hell have you been? I've been calling you all week."

Dylan got to his feet, shoving his blinking phone into his pocket. "I was at Ksenia's. LSATs."

Winter stopped jiggling the key in the lock---it always stuck--long enough to pout at him. "LSATs? You mean you're still---"

"Trying to get into law school? Why wouldn't I be?" He reaches around her. "Move. Let me do it."

Winter stood still while Dylan expertly twisted the key with just the right amount of pressure, making the decade old lock spring open. His hand brushed hers; his skin cooler than the temperature of the air outside. She shivered a little. After nineteen years of friendship, she still felt muddled whenever she was reminded how cold-blooded Dylan ran.

"Thanks," she hummed. Winter took the key back without looking at him.

It was hot in Mika's living room. Winter hung her jacket up on the hook inside the parlor and headed to Mika's bedroom, Dylan trailing like a baby duck. She frowned. Mika's suitcase was open like a clamshell on the bed, her clothes and journals strewn everywhere. The hot pink plastic binder Winter had gotten her was the pearl, glimmering in the middle of Mika's open suitcase 'TOUR' etched onto it in familiar block letters.

"I thought you were going to Dublin in just a couple of days," Dylan said, taking in the mess with a look of faint dismay.

"We are, but it looks like Mika thinks she's packing for a trip to PCB," Winter sighed, holding up two string bikini tops with her index finger.

"Why wouldn't she? You're going to be gone for three months. You know Mika likes---"

"Not having tan lines," Winter finished, raising a perfectly manicured eyebrow. "I just figured she would be packed by now since I literally told her to---" Winter broke off and huffed. "It's nothing. I'm just projecting all my anxiety about touring into Mika being packed. Let's talk about something else. How is it going with Ksenia? Still not dating yet?"

"Ksenia and I are fine," Dylan hopped onto the corner of Mika's small desktop, shoving her laptop further into the corner, his legs dangling over the side. "I'm considering asking her out after I pass. With something ironic, like 'I rocked the LSATs and now it's time to rock you.'"

"Don't do that. Have you told her that---"

"That I'm planning on going to Stanford? No. It isn't the sort of thing you just spring into casual conversation with the girl you're in love with."

"Maybe not, but I sprung going on tour to David in casual conversation."

"But you're not in love with David, I'm in love with Ksenia. Stanford could make or break us."

"What do you mean I'm not in love with David?" Winter scoffed. "We're engaged. Ksenia is one of your best friends. She should know. And besides, she'll just like you more once she finds out Stanford accepted you."

"Winter," Dylan drawled. "You've--- never mind. Anyway, I don't see you running to tell all your friends that you're touring with One Direction."

"What friends? You, Mika, and Ksenia are the only friends I have." She threw herself down onto Mika's bed and looked up at Dylan. "I told y'all, didn't I?"

"Because you had no choice," Dylan put his head to the side, studying her; the bedside light reflected off his eyes, turning them gray. "Ksenia and I will miss y'all when you're gone."

"I'll miss you too," Winter said, although her skin was prickling all over with a nervous anticipation that made it hard to concentrate. I'm going to Ireland! Her mind sang, I'll meet One Direction. And I won't be with David. For the first time since ninth grade I won't be within twenty miles of him.

Dylan's eyes flashed as if he could hear her thoughts, but his voice was soft. "Tell me again---why do you have to go on tour? If it's the family business, why can't your grandfather and Allese take care of it without you?"

"Well, I suppose if they could take care of it without me I wouldn't have been asked."