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Perfect Collision

By:Lina Andersson

e.”

She shook her head and put the sketchbook back into her bag. He should've remembered what Lisa'd said not too many minutes earlier––no one ever got to see except Bear.

He would've loved to see the rest of those pictures; it must be like a diary showing biker life. That's when he finally got it—it probably was her diary, but in pictures. He knew Vi'd had some problems in school, and it seemed likely she'd rather draw than write in it.

“It was good, what I had time to see. Looked just like them.”

“Okay.”

“Okay?” he laughed. “You're not good with compliments, are you?”

She shrugged and looked at everything and everyone in the room but him. More than anything, she seemed embarrassed, and he could see a slight blush on her cheeks.

“Fine. I'll leave you alone, but for the record—that hair color is fucking awesome.”

He thought she should know, and considering Ella's earlier reaction she probably needed some encouragement. But she just stared at him, glaring, as if he was making fun of her which hadn't been his intention at all.

“Not kidding you, Vi. It's great.”

“Thanks,” she almost whispered. She always spoke in that low voice. When she spoke at all.

He gave her shoulder a slight nudge before getting up. “That's how you respond to a compliment, girl.”

She shrugged again. As he walked back, he snuck a glance behind him and saw her taking out the sketchbook from her bag again.

“What did you say to her?” Lisa asked when he was back next to them.

“Not much. Just that her drawing was good, and that I liked her new hair color.”

“Marcus Baxter, you are a good person,” Lisa declared and rose up to her toes to give his cheek a kiss. “Thank you.”

“Hey!” Mitch yelled. “What the fuck, you didn't give me a kiss.”

“I did, don't get greedy.” Lisa lowered her voice to a whisper. “I'm gonna have to be all nice with Mom and Dad tonight, but the roof tomorrow night? I bring the drinks, and you bring the smokes.”

They'd done that often, spent a night on the roof of the garage, smoking pot and having a few drinks. It had been a while since the three of them did it together, but he'd like it.

“Absolutely!” Mac agreed, looking at his brother who nodded with a big smile. “We're in!”

PROLOGUE TWO:

16 years, 3 months

-o0o-

I RAN THROUGH THE apartment, trying to find my phone. It was just me and Dad living here. They'd separated over a year earlier, and now they were divorced. I had a feeling it was my fault.

They’d argued a lot, and often about me. Mom thought he was too lenient with me, that I was just lazy, and if I just made an effort school wouldn't be such a problem. She said Dad just kept blaming it all on my 'diagnosis.' You could always clearly hear the quotation marks, like it was the alleged diagnosis; it somehow made me feel like 'the artist formally known as Prince.' She could go on forever about all the ways he was treating me wrong. And Dad defended me—always. Most of their fights started with me, or at least ended up being about me. I hated it.

Dad swore it wasn’t my fault, that there was a lot of shit going on that didn't have anything to do with me. I knew about some of those other things, too. Staying out of the way, trying to not be noticed, meant people eventually did stop noticing me, and they talked as if I wasn't there. Which meant I knew a lot of things I wasn't supposed to know—things I would've preferred to not know. Like the fact that Dad roamed on Mom at times, and his reason, besides probably not liking Mom all that much the last few years of their marriage.

I also knew what kind of business the club was in, but I kept quiet about it; it didn't matter to me. I liked the club, I liked the guys, and what they did or didn't do wasn't my business or my concern.

Either way, it still felt like it was my fault—the divorce. There hadn’t been much discussion about who I should live with, and about three months after the separation Mom moved out to California to be closer to Lisa. I didn’t mind. Things were easier when she wasn't around. She still called and nagged, but her nagging over the phone was a lot easier to ignore than her nagging to my face. Mainly since it meant I didn't have to see her expressions of contempt while she did it.

Once I'd found my phone, I grabbed my keys from the bowl in the hallway, ran outside, got on my bike, and took off to the compound. I was a bit late; I’d promised to be there early to help Mel and the other women fix the food. I’d gotten really good at cooking since Mom moved out. Dad couldn’t cook for shit, and he'd lured me into learning by making some rather farfetched comparisons about art and cooking. But it was okay, since it turned out I liked to cook, and I was quite good at it now. That's why Mel'd asked me to help her with the pre-Christmas dinner.

The weekend before Christmas Day, the club had a combined party for Christmas and Brick's birthday. It was the biggest party of the year, and a few of the kids had complained they weren't allowed to it, which was why they now had the pre-Christmas dinner for members and their family the day before the big party.

Mel had been great; even if Mom was her best friend she’d taken my side. Dad simply explained that Mom leaving him meant she left the club, and Mel was with the club. It didn’t feel that simple to me. Mel had really backed me, just like Edie'd always done. It could be because they were sisters, but my guess was that Mel wasn't too fond of how Mom had treated me.

Once Mom was gone, I realized a lot of people had noticed Mom being pretty shitty with me. I didn't understand why they didn't do more about it while she was around, but I guessed you didn't butt in on how other people raised their kids as long as they weren't, like, hitting them.

I walked into the clubhouse and was heading towards the kitchen when someone grabbed my arm. Not hard, just to stop me.

“Vi? What the fuck!

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