Rock and a Hard Place - By Angie Stanton

Chapter 1

Libby watched the cars zip by on the highway, longing for her dad’s SUV with out-of-state plates to take the exit and put her life back together. From her spot under an ancient oak she spied a red minivan exit the interstate and turn the opposite direction.

She tried to refocus on the sketch pad in her lap and the wild flowers she’d stuffed in a soda can, but instead traced the scars on her palm with the tip of her drawing pencil. If only she could wash the marks away along with the memories of that tragic day. She wiped her palm against her jeans, but only the pencil marks disappeared. She focused on her drawing and rubbed the side of her pencil on the page and shaded the side of a leaf. A rumble caught her attention and she glanced up; a large gleaming bus turned off the exit and onto the county road toward her. The shiny silver and black exterior and darkened windows of the vehicle made it look like some sort of VIP ride or maybe a tour bus.

The bus approached Libby’s nature preserve and turned in.

In al the months she’d come to Parfrey’s Glen cars rarely puled in.

She liked it that way. She thought of Parfrey’s Glen as her own secret place where she could get lost in her thoughts.

The rumble grew louder as the enormous bus turned and puled to a stop in the gravel parking lot on the far side of the clearing. She waited for the door to open and reveal the famous person within. Maybe it would be someone mega-famous like Celine Dion. Her mom loved Celine and always dreamed of seeing her in concert. But it never happened.

A moment later the door opened and Libby’s hopes were dashed. Her quiet nature preserve had been invaded. By boys.

A trio of noisy guys poured out. The first leapt from the top step and landed several feet out on the dirt, folowed closely by another. The last twirled a Frisbee on his finger as he descended.

Her spot under the tree provided a sense of privacy, so she observed them undetected, a voyeur on this group of loud, young strangers.

The Frisbee sailed through the warm September air as one of the guys raced to catch it. A man and woman exited the bus, her arms loaded with picnic supplies. The woman walked to a sunny spot of grass, set down her load and spread out a couple colorful blankets.

They were just a family. No one famous. Okay, a rich family.

Libby enjoyed a perfect view of the group. It made her homesick. She propped her sketch pad higher to hide from view.

The family appeared to be on vacation and just happened to ride in a huge tour bus, but they didn’t look wealthy. They wore blue jeans and t-shirts and argued. Their banter reminded her of her family. Her drawing forgotten, she soaked in their every move.

One of the boys turned around providing her a perfect view.

He tilted his head to the side and pushed away a lock of sun-kissed hair. A tiny thril flipped in her stomach. He held a portable sound system and loud music filed the air.

“Peter, turn it down.”

“Dad, come on, you never let me play it loud,” he grinned. He adjusted the volume and set the system down.

“Real funny kid. Now get out of here before I put you to work.”

Peter darted through the long grass toward his brothers, his movements swift and athletic. Libby’s eyes trailed his every move.

“Garrett, over here,” he yeled.

The Frisbee flew smoothly through the air. Peter leapt high and caught it. “Oh yeah, baby,” he bragged, dancing as if it was a touchdown.

He flung it back, his body grace in motion, this time, to the boy first out of the bus. This one appeared younger. His hair was a mop of loose dark curls and he wore a constant grin. They continued to torpedo the disk at each other and trash talk in the hot sun of early fal. Occasionaly, Peter would do some crazy moves to the music playing in the background. Libby stifled a giggle.

Peter glanced up at her.

Uh oh.

“Heads up,” the grinning brother yeled, as the Frisbee sped towards the unsuspecting Peter.

Peter ducked as it whistled by, and landed not far from Libby. He looked straight at her. Every emotion she wore on her thin skin felt exposed. He jogged over and grabbed the Frisbee from the grass.

He wasn’t supposed to notice