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I feel a sudden parallel to my high school self in Colton's presence. When I was young, naive and confused. But wasn't everyone confused in high school?

Because, surely, my sudden awareness of Colton can't be because I find him attractive, can it? Or perhaps, this was high school all over again. Colton was Mr O'Connor, my English teacher, and I was seventeen year old Ian who couldn't figure out why he looked so good, why he smelled so good and desperately looked for any excuse to see him after class.

Or perhaps he was more of a Thomas Black, the guy I got dared to kiss at my brothers 16th birthday party. But that was a dare, it wasn't like, real. And neither was the sweat that lined the insides of my palms when his lips meet mine. Or how I couldn't be in his presence for an entire month afterwards without getting backlash.

"What are you thinking about?" Colton asks, his eyes quickly bouncing over to me in the car. We're on the road again and I can see the dark sky slowly turn into a lighter shade of blue and the once twinkling stars fade into the background slightly.

"Uh, nothing," I tell him, "why?"

"I don't know," Colton says. "You've been staring at me for the past five minutes." Suddeny there's a deep heat that radiates through my face and I have to turn to the passenger side window to hide it. But I know Colton's already seen it.

"How much further?" I ask, changing the subject.

"Not long," he says. "I think I can see it up ahead." He nods towards another glowing sign, it's the gas station. The one I'd brutally sliced my arm open at, just seeing the double doors makes my arm radiate pain.

"Yeah," I nod. "That's the one."

Colton pulls the car towards the station, we park close to one of the gas pumping sections before placing the car into gear. He's the first to slip out of the car with his cellphone in one hand and I quickly scramble out towards him.

As soon as we walk inside, we see the store clerk leaning against the front counter, face down probably fast a sleep judging by the way his back is rising and falling steadily. Colton looks over at me, suddenly nervous.

"Should we wake him?" I ask. Colton shrugs, but he walks over to him anyway. He walks fluidly, like he knows exactly what he's doing. But I can tell that his shoulders are stiff, indicating that he's nervous, even though he's trying not to show it.

"Excuse me, sir," Colton clears his throat loudly as he speaks. The man stirs a little, his head lifting up from the counter, his hair on one side is a curly mess and there's an imprint on one side of his face from the markings on the counter top.

"Shit, sorry," he says, quickly straightening up and smoothing out the crumples in his shirt. "It's been a really long day. And this is really embarrassing, but uh, what can I help you with?" Although I have a sudden urge to laugh at sight of the guy's face, Colton remains stoic as he speaks with him. Not even a lip twitch.

I move up closer to the front, my shoulder bumping against Colton's shoulder. Again, why am I so aware of his scent? Of his body heat? And how dangerously close our hands are as they lay at our sides?

"We were wondering if we could use one of your charging ports," Colton says. "We're on our way to Yellow Bay, the one near the camping grounds, but we kind of got lost."

The mans face lights up in understanding before he quickly looks around. He pauses in front of the shelf behind him, the one that holds all of the car wax bottles, before bending down on all fours and nodding.

"There's one here," he says. "But I'm not sure if I'm allowed to just let you use it—"

"We'll buy something," I tell him. "We'll even fill up our car."

"And we'll pretend we didn't just find you asleep on the job," Colton finishes, a barely there smile lining his lips, which, in all honesty, makes my heart rate spike up slightly. The man, whose name is Dylan judging by his name tag, sighs before nodding and sticking his hand out.

"Alright, fine." He says somply.

Colton passes him both of our phones and a charging cable. While the man fidgets behind the desk, Colton nods his head towards the drinks stand.

"Do you want anything?" he asks.

"Uh..." I eye up the energy drinks and grab a couple of red bulls. "We'll need this if we want to make it back before sun rise." Colton nods but takes the drinks from my hands.

"It's fine," he says. "I'll get them."

"What?" I scoff. "We can half it—"

"No," he says quickly. "It's my fault we're here so its fine, I'll get these." Then he walks back towards the counter before I have a chance to reply and all I can think is: So Colton, when did you become so nice?


just a quick change: Ian is now black :) it just makes sense to have a black lead. hope you don't mind! if you do 👈🏽 there's the door.

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