My Always One - Aleatha Romig


Ten Years Ago

"You're such an ass," Sami blurts out, shaking her head. Her tone sounds angry, but her volume is still low.

I shrug with a smirk as I heave my backpack higher on my shoulder. As we step through the front doors of our high school, I squint my eyes at the onslaught of the warm Michigan sunshine. For a few steps I think about how to answer her, what to say. If Sami were a guy, I'd have the perfect response. I'd say that I wasn't the ass, but Maura Sharpe had a fine one.

The thing is that Sami isn't a guy; she's my best friend. I know that fact without a doubt. I also know she isn’t interested in my thoughts regarding Maura’s nice round...

Even thinking of telling her, I imagine Sami scrunching her cute little nose and after hitting me, halfheartedly saying, Disgusting, TMI.

Trying to avoid her manhandling—something I wouldn't take from anyone else—I start to reply when Sami purposely bumps her shoulder against mine. “I thought we had an understanding.” Her tiny frame nearly bounces me from the sidewalk.

I grin her direction as I walk the balance beam of the curb.

So much for my attempt to avoid her physical aggression.

Steadying my place on the sidewalk, I narrowly miss falling to the pavement and being picked off as a car peels past, no doubt determined to leave the high school parking lot before the line backs up at the stoplight. Flashing my brightest smile, I avoid Sami’s comment and stare down at her and with a gleam in my eyes ask, "Are you trying kill me?"

Sami shakes her head in reply and continues her interrogation. "Maura? Maura?"

Each time she asks, repeating the name belonging to her friend and my latest conquest, her voice gets louder and the name more exaggerated. I avoid answering as we weave through the parking lot until I hit the unlock button on my key fob. With a huff, Sami goes around to the passenger side of my old truck.

Once we're both inside, I start the engine and immediately roll down the windows. Michigan weather needs therapy. I swear it has serious multiple-personality issues—freezing one day and then sweltering the next. It’s as if the weather has as much trouble deciding what it wants as I do.

Sami lifts her long brown hair from her neck and directs the air conditioning vent toward her before glaring my direction.

"What do you want me to say?" I finally ask as I put the truck in reverse and begin backing out of the space, barely missing two girls walking with their heads together, too lost in their conversation to realize they're about to become roadkill.

As my brakes squeal, one of the girls turns and glares my direction, but as soon as she recognizes my truck, her anger morphs to a smile. Her head tilts and her eyes search for mine in the side mirror.

"Hi, Marshal," she calls with the telltale flick of her neck and a finger wave. "Call me."

I wave at the same time I see Sami's head shake in my peripheral vision. As I ease the truck out of the parking space, I say a silent prayer that the girl in the mirror won't try to come up to my open window.

Sami cranes her neck over her shoulder. "Isn't she a freshman?"

"Is she? I think that means she’ll soon be a sophomore."

"Jeez, Marshal. You really are a manwhore. You know that?"

I lift my brows. "No, Sami, I'm not a whore. Those who practice one of the oldest professions do so to be paid. No one pays me. I willingly share my talents with those in need. I think that's called being a humanitarian. Consider it as my service to women everywhere. Maybe I should add that to my college application under the title of community service."

Sami shakes her head. “You’ve already been accepted to Michigan State without that bit of information.” She takes in a deep breath. “You know, if I hadn’t known you since we were five, I don’t think I’d like you.”

“But you have and you do,” I say with a grin.

“I just...”

I finally maneuver the truck out of the parking lot and onto the side streets. Hitting the gas, I pick up speed and bring a nice breeze through the open windows, helping to cool the cab. Admittedly, the acceleration works better than my AC.

One day, I won't be driving a beat-up old truck. One day, I'll have a car that fits with