Avalon's Last Knight - Jackson C. Garton
The Beginning of the End
No one expected me to come home this summer.
Hell, I didn’t expect to come home this summer.
Until a week ago, I had been apartment hunting in Lexington, looking for a one-room studio with a balcony and fire escape—maybe next to a park, certainly something close to campus. But rent is so outrageous in this college town that it just wouldn’t be worth it. So when Gwen asked me to come home, to spend my summer vacation in Avalon, it didn’t take much convincing. I was on a bus within hours of our phone call.
On the second day after my arrival, I decided to look for a job. Luckily, my old boss from a summer job I’d had in high school offered me a new position at Camelot Crafts, a little hole-in-the-wall store that sells scrapbooking materials to Sunday school teachers and bored housewives. I accepted the position immediately…but now that I’ve completed an entire shift, I’m not sure it was the right decision.
The boredom might literally kill me.
Gwen isn’t being helpful, either. She was supposed to text me around three to let me know when she would be here to pick me up, but she hasn’t responded to any of my texts.
Because she is a flaky asshole. This is just like her. Classic Gwen.
When it comes time for me to leave, I look down at my phone once more to see if Gwen has texted me. She hasn’t. So I make the decision to walk home instead. I throw on my hoodie, grab my black side bag and make my way to the front door.
I look down at my feet. Wearing Converse to work was a bad idea.
Standing outside next to an old, rusted pickup that’s more rust than actual metal is my best friend from high school, Arthur. Our eyes meet and he dashes over to the door to greet me. I wave once behind the tempered glass. Sometimes my sister can be such an asshole, I swear.
After I lock the door from the outside and turn around, Arthur scoops me into his arms with lightning speed. He’s enormous now, muscles everywhere, a mountain of a man, the boy I once knew wholly lost to long days of manual labor.
“I see that Gwen texted you instead of me,” I say, gently untangling myself from his bear hug. “How very responsible of her. Is this your noble steed?”
Arthur grins and pats the side of the truck. “He is. I call him Percy. Do you wanna lift?”
Of course I have to say yes, because I live like seven miles from the shop, and because Arthur is looking at me with the most beautiful, dreamy brown eyes I have ever seen, knowing full well just how bewitching they are. I shrug.
“Yeah, I guess,” I say. “What’s her excuse this time?”
“No excuse,” Arthur admits. “I just wanted to see you, is all. You look good, by the way. I feel like I haven’t seen you in like a year.”
That’s because it has been a year, but I don’t tell him that. “Yeah,” I reply. “It’s been a while since I came home.” Arthur helps me into the truck, then rushes to his side and opens the door in a frenzy.
“You gonna be all right there?” I ask, pushing a safety helmet onto the floorboard.
Arthur removes his orange protective vest and runs a hand through the top of his blond, sun-bleached hair before starting the truck. “I’m better than all right. I’m great. Goddamn, I can’t believe you’re actually here,” he says. “Queenie told me you were thinking of moving to Lexington.”
“I do live there,” I say, trying to pull the seat belt across my lap, but it snags, and I have trouble getting the strap to release. Arthur slides over real close and takes the belt into his hands.
“You know what I mean,” he says. “Here, let me get that for you. It’s not the best truck in the world, but it gets me from point a to point b. There ya go.”
A whiff of sweat and dirt from a hard day’s work fills my nostrils when he brushes against my stomach, and I have to talk myself out of closing my eyes and savoring the intoxicating scent. Arthur smells so good, so familiar. He hugs me again and tells me how glad he is that I’m here, with him, in his truck. That he hopes we can spend all summer together. I doubt it, because my body