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Summer Nights

By:J.M. Sevilla

to her chest, "And I'm Sam."

Maddox lights a cigarette and passes the pack to Danny, "How old are you?"

"Thirteen," I barely make out above a whisper.

He gives out a low whistle and shakes his head like this makes him sad, "That's a damn shame."

"Don't be a douche," Danny says around his cigarette right before lighting it.

I've been warned about cigarettes, about how they'll kill you and turn you into a sinner, but seeing them against his lips? I have the sudden urge to be a cigarette. It's completely ridiculous, but that's what runs through my head.

Sam claps and jumps with excitement, "I'm thirteen too. What's your birthday?"

"January twenty-second."

She frowns, "Dammit, mine's April fifteenth. I'm the youngest still. Fuck." Her body flops back to the ground, letting her back hit as she lets out a big, exaggerated sigh. She lifts back up onto her elbows. "Sit."

I swallow and look around the group. They are nothing like what I'm used to and it frightens me a bit; however, they excite me more than anything. I also know I need to get home.

I can't bring myself to leave, so I gently lay my bike in the grass and plop down right next to Sam. She seems like the safest person to be close to. No way could I sit on the other side next to her brother; I'd die. Seriously. My heart would stop. I know it.

It's hot out, even with the shade of the trees, and I wish I had on a tank top like Sam. I wouldn't be brave enough to wear shorts as short as she does, but I think I could do the top. It would feel so good right now. Sweat is collecting all over my body, adding to my discomfort.

They're still staring at me like they're expecting me to say or do something.

Maddox puffs smoke up into the trees, "Your parents religious freaks or something?"

I nod, because they are. My whole family is.

"Mormon?" He guesses.

I shake my head no.

"What then?" He probes, blowing more smoke into the air.

"Leave her alone," Sam comes to my defense. She turns more towards me, "What school do you go to?"

"I don't. I'm homeschooled," I confess, wary and cautious of what they think of me.

Sam makes a face, "Really? Does that suck? I think I'd get so bored."

It does suck, and I am bored. All the time. I nod my head yes.

Tag kicks my foot to get my attention, "You're a quiet one, aren't you?"

I shrug, not knowing how to respond. Everyone laughs except for Danny, who flicks his cap up a bit. He squints like the sun's in his eyes as he gets a better look at me. He isn't smiling, but he isn't frowning. I nervously pluck at the grass in front of me.

Danny puts out his cigarette in an almost empty Pepsi bottle, "Back off guys, shit." He gets up and points to the field, "Let's go play some ball."

They all oblige. He demands it, they comply. He's like my dad, except not at all.

Sam stays behind and talks my ear off about everything: clothes, shoes, boys, how her mom is never around so she and Danny basically get to do whatever they want, but mostly her love of dancing.

"Do you dance?"

I shake my head no, "I'm not allowed, it's against our faith."

She scrunches her nose up, "Dancing? That's crazy! Our bodies were meant for it."

I don't have a response. I've never danced, so I can't agree with her, but I don't have a good enough case to disagree either.

"Are your parents strict?" She guesses.

"That's an understatement," I breathe out.


"Yeah," I agree.

With the boys playing baseball I finally get up the courage to talk. "How long have you guys known each other?"

"Let's see," Sam looks up into the trees while she rattles off her answer. "Maddox for as long as I can remember. Same with Jerry. The twins moved to our neighborhood when I was in the second grade, Danny was in the fifth. North just kind of appeared one day, we still don't really know from where." She stops to laugh, finding entertainment from the fact that they don't know where he's from. "Tag joined us when they were all in the sixth grade. His parents died, so he came to live with his grandma. He got in a lot of fights. Danny took him in, said they needed a good fighter on their side. Now he's one of us, Danny's right hand man. They have a real bromance thing going." She laughs again, amused by what she said.

Bromance? I have never heard that term before. I wonder if it referred to homosexuals. That would be good, then maybe Danny wouldn't make me so nervous if I knew he liked other guys. "Are they gay?"

Sam laughs so hard she falls back, rolling on the ground, tears falling down. "That's the funniest shit I've heard in a while. I can't wait to tell them that!"

Once again I'm a deep shade of red. "Please don't!" I announce in horror.

Her face turns serious as she wipes at her eyes, "Don't fall for my brother. All girls do, and it never ends well. And I like you."

"Okay," I say, at a loss with how else to reply.

"Promise?" She holds out her pinkie. Finally, something I've seen before.

"Promise." I give her my pinkie back. I'm pretty sure I'm already breaking that promise but it's not like anything would ever come of this crush.

"I have to go," I say sadly. Even though they all make me far too nervous and Sam talks really fast, I'm drawn to them. I love hearing about how she lives. It's so different. She has so much freedom.

"That sucks, I like talking to you." I like talking to her too. "Come back tomorrow, okay?"

"I don't think I can." I wish I could though, oh how I wish I could. "Next Tuesday?"

She lights up, "Yes! I'll make sure we're here."

I arrive home expecting that I'm about to get the worst scolding of my life, but my dad's not even home yet and my mom is busy sewing, showing Lauren how to do fancy edging on a dress.

She glances up when she sees me, "Can you get dinner going?"

I nod, astounded that they never realized I wasn't home. I guess there are benefits t