Cherry Cokes

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Joey's birthday was Sunday, so after church Natalie and I, with our narrow budget, decided to treat him to a cherry coke at Main Street Drug Store. It was one of the few remaining businesses still standing in downtown Crossville from a time long before mine. It carried that old-timey environment of the old man working the back pharmacy and the younger man working the front counter selling milkshakes and sodas. It was there I discovered the awarding efforts of actually adding cherry syrup to the coke as opposed to buying it premade in a can.

As I changed out of my church clothes into something more comfortable, the gentle afternoon wind whipped through my room from the dormer window beside my bed. My eyes drifted to the small window on the other side of my bedroom facing the woods separating our property from the Cooper property. My mind immediately wandered to Broderick.

The sensation that Broderick had an ulterior motive for befriending me was unshakable. Still, the draw to him was absolutely tenacious in every sense. But after what I just endured with Gavin, and now Erik, I could never trust Broderick.

Closing my eyes in resolution, my eyelids became a painted canvas. A perfect depiction of Broderick Cooper. In my mind's eye, I saw his strong and tight jaw, flawlessly sculpted, and his perfectly shaped lips. The endearing dimples he always seemed to subconsciously try to hide as he kept his beautiful, smooth lips together when he smiled. I was irresistibly enthralled with the steady thoughts dashing behind his brown eyes, emphasized by the thick brows that furrowed during his deepest thoughts. Broderick Cooper—the popular boy who didn't quite replicate the in-crowd. A flawless creature to me, and yet somehow he didn't appear comfortable in his own skin.

By the time I got to my car Natalie and Joey were already sitting in the front bench seat waiting for me.

"Just think, Joey, maybe after a few more landscaping jobs you'll be able to fix up that truck of yours and take us out to get cherry cokes," Natalie said cheerfully.

He grinned, his blue eyes beaming at the thought. "I'm actually thinking about taking the driver's test tomorrow—finally. Hope I pass," he thought aloud.

Unlike the friends he ran with, Joey's family didn't have a lot of money. His dad was town sheriff and his mom was a homemaker, so Joey resigned himself to rebuilding an old truck for transportation. He'd been working on it since before his sixteenth birthday, starting a landscaping business with Jackson and Broderick to pay for the parts he needed.

"Jules sucks at driving and she passed with flying colors," Natalie chimed as she unbuckled her seatbelt so she could lean closer to the mirror and apply lip gloss. I narrowed my eyes and stuck out my tongue.

We just entered city limits when I became distracted by the very familiar musical intro to a song on the radio as the DJ announced it, "... peeked at number two on the charts in the spring of 1987: Don't Dream it's Over by Crowded House..."

I love this song! I thought quietly to myself and instantly remembered the other person who claimed this song as their favorite as well.

As I looked down and reached for the volume knob, I felt a tire drop off the shoulder of the road and in a panicked split-second decision, I jerked the wheel back onto the road. Suddenly, a high pitched screech ripped through the walls of my head and pierced my ears. As I tried to make sense of the noise, I saw in slow motion the straight road before me slide to the left and around to my side window replaced by a small white house and large oak tree. I felt the odd sensation of swinging as I involuntarily leaned to the left—the warm window pressing against my head. Joey leaned hard on my right side, as well. The picture screen in front of me became a blurred image again of the road and then an even larger view of the white house with the tree.

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