Covering All My Bases

It's kind of all personal today. I'm giving you the first chapter of the novel, Silver. No stealing, because I'm not sweet enough not to sue you for it.

“If I speak in the tongues of men and angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal.
And if I have prophecy and know all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.”

1 Corinthians 13:1-2, NIV

“Hey baby, I don't wanna be your Superman.I just wanna be your man and I'll be super, baby.You'll be standin' in the sunshine,I'll be standin' right here in the rain.You save me and I will save the day.”

“Save the Day” by Train.

Chapter One: Dead Boy Stalking

The stench has a real mosh pit quality going for it, as if Body Odor has gotten bored hanging out by himself, called up his buddies, Stale Beer and Cigarettes, and the three of them have leeched onto the skeeze now standing way too close to my best friend and me.

The source of the smell hovers close, his dirty jeans near our faces. “Did it hurt?” he asks, leering at Jules through shanks of muddy brown hair.

Jules looks up at him from her seat on a root of our favorite tree in Garrett Park and stares him down in a way only someone as classically beautiful as she can.

“Don’t bother finishing that tired line,” she warns. “First, no it didn’t hurt when I ‘fell from heaven’, though my mother may have a different answer for you. Secondly, you’ll think the consequences excruciating if you don’t leave before I get my bag open.”

He throws his hands up, warding her off. “Hey-hey, babe, I just wanta talk,” he says, and then aims his yellowed grin at me. “What about this itty-bitty friend of yours? Whadda ya say, cutie? You up for some action?”

I edge closer to Jules, my stomach souring. Jules raises one arm, a small canister dangling from her finger. “What Jocelyn is up for is watching me spray about two ounces of cayenne into your eyes.”

The creep sneers at her like a cartoon vampire threatened with garlic. “Baby, you don’t know what you’re missin’. I could show you a coupla things.”

“All the same, I prefer my world left unrocked, thanks.”

He leanes in, deciding to risk the macing, but a pair of long, black slacks blocks him out before the creep gets within range of the spray.

The new guy has circled around from behind the trunk of our tree, facing away, and the smooth motion hasn’t allowed us to see his face, but he isn’t anyone I recognize from my vantage point.
“If you attempt to show either of them anything--and let’s be clear I mean ever--I will take immeasurable pleasure in breaking several of your bones,” he warns.

My ears perk up at the silky, confident sound of his voice. He has just a touch of some kind of accent.

“You could try, pretty boy, but I bet you couldn’t break an egg,” the creep laughs. The grating sound reminds me of anti-smoking ads.

The boy cocks his head at an inquisitive angle, and for a second the air feels electric, a fission waving through the atmosphere. “Au contraire, my grimy friend, I make an omelet to-die-for, but that’s neither here nor there,” he says, then flicks his gloved hand in a dismissive gesture. “Run along.”

Something about our rescuer must freak McGreasy out, because his eyes bulge, the wheels in his brain visibly spinning as he backpedals. “Yeah, well good luck with these two. They don’t know how to have fun, anyway,” he growls before taking off down the hill at an anxious lope.

Without waiting for us to thank him, the mystery man turns his head slightly, just short of letting us see his face. “Ladies, let’s not make a habit of this, shall we?”

His long strides take him out of earshot in seconds, leaving us staring after him.

“Wow,” I breathe, somewhere between amused and perplexed. “Who was that masked man, anyway?”

“No idea,” Jules answers. “But did you see the color of his hair? Hi-oh, Silver, away! ”

I nod, but don’t mention how the stranger’s only direct remark to us had sounded more condescending than heroic to me.

I make it in just as my mother checks on something delicious-smelling in the oven, the scrape of the door clasheing with the wistful hum coming from the kitchen. I don’t recognize the song, but don’t question it. Mom and Dad like lots of stuff from what they consider “far away, simpler times”. Of course, they’re only in their mid forties, so, really how much different does that make?

I hang my coat on the rack and squat to wrestle with my sneaks. The shuffling tips off Mom to my presence; she calls for me to get ready for dinner, ducking her head around the doorframe. “Would you mind setting the table? I’ll be up to my elbows in greens in a minute, and Gracie is due to wake up.”

I nod, grinning because Mom hasn’t asked me to help with the food. Her few attempts at teaching me to cook failed so miserably no one lets me do anything more culinary that nuke stuff.

My little sister’s giggles erupt from her room as I come back from washing my hands. I tiptoe to her door, turning the knob slowly so I can lumber in, sniffing everywhere in an impression of her favorite kiddie show character.

Gracie’s laughter gets louder the closer I get to her until I ask, “What smells like . . . sunflowers?” and sniff at the edge of her toddler bed. “Why, it’s you!” I exclaim, and swing her up onto my hip, snuffling at her neck.

Back in the kitchen, I belt her into her booster seat so she can watch while I lay out the flatware and Mom trades out a juicy pot roast for a tray of dinner rolls. Mom smiles softly at us over her shoulder and resumes humming.

“Catchy tune,” I say. “What is it?”
Mom’s smile takes on a dreamy note. “An old Gershwin number called ‘Someone to Watch over Me’. Your father played Jimmy Winters in the play, you know.”

The father in question walks into the room as if on cue, slides his briefcase onto the bar, and bends to kiss Mom’s cheek.

I stare at him. “Really? You sang in something?”

“Is your mother telling on me, again? I assume you refer to my singular foray into musical theatre. Don’t look so flabbergasted, Joss. We’re braver about a lot of things when we’re young. Unfortunately, I expect you’ll learn that for yourself as time passes. Take your chances now, while you’re still young enough to believe in them.


The next morning Gracie’s asleep in bed beside me. I slide myself out as quietly as possible, uncurling her tiny fingers from the end of my braid. She’s already up and downstairs before I get back from my shower.

I round the corner at the bottom floor to see her studying the strawberry swirls in her oatmeal. Mom’s standing near Dad, sliding bacon onto his plate while he writes last-minute notes on a legal pad for his teaching assistan. Dad teaches my nemesis subject, math, at the tiny liberal arts college here in Staunton.

Bending to kiss her oatmeal-streaked face, I ask Gracie, “How are you this morning, sweetie?”
Mouth stuffed with breakfast she grins and points to her lips.

I compliment her. “Oh, forgive me. I see Miss Manners has done well with you.”

Dad already has the coffee going, so I make a full-on advance toward my morning I.Q.-booster, taking a travel mug from the cabinet. Mom shoots me a disapproving look, but I shake my head at her. “Mom, I’m sixteen. I don’t think you can blame coffee for stunting my growth at this point. Besides, I’m two inches taller than you,” I tease.

Dad, ever the diplomat, clears his throat. “You’re both beautiful. All my pixie ladies are. Joss honey, you better get going if you don’t want to make Jules wait.”

“Good point,” I say. “Mom, you don’t need any help this afternoon, do you? I thought I’d have Jules drop me at Garrett after school, knock out my homework before break starts.”

“That’s fine, sweetheart, but make sure you stay in the shade. You know how easily you burn,” she cautions.

“And I’d like you back before dark,” Dad adds.
“Dinnertime at the latest,” I promise as I pluck a muffin from the bowl on the table. Blueberry. Yum.

“Duly noted. Call if something changes.”

“Roger that.”


It takes a kind of performance art to navigate the clogged arteries of Lee High’s hallways, dodging limbs and squeezing through spaces not normally reserved for the human body. The kissing couples, sneaking smokers, and furtive freaks I wind my way around don’t have a prayer of seeing a Master of Stealth Mode like me. Finally, I hold my breath, sprint like a kid playing tag for the safety of my homeroom desk, and drop gratefully into my seat, exhaling, “Base!”

I shove my mittens into my bag and something whooshes by my ear, making me jump and look up. Across the room Drew Christian, AKA Drew the Adorable, smiles shyly at me and calls an apology. He nods at the floor by my feet where a rainbow-striped hacky sack rests against my left Sketcher.

I toss the ball back, blushing when his dimples sink deeper into his cheeks as he thanks me. The bell rings, and Drew slides into his own desk, tapping a pencil against his thigh in his own internal rhythm.

I sigh, wishing at least one of us had more guts. It’s been a ‘crush at first sight’ situation for me, and I’m pretty sure it is for Drew too, but I can’t seem to make a move. Any time he tries to talk to me, I practically go mute, like there’s an invisible hand smacking over my mouth.
Kids trickle into the room, getting settled while our homeroom teacher, Mrs. Meyer calls roll. I’m too busy trying to make sense of the messy stack of papers I need for my first class to look up when she says, “Oliviero, Jocelyn,” but I give her a little wave to let her know I’m here. Meyer continues down her list, ticking off names.

The room’s rustling murmur stills when she calls “Solis”. Bodies swivel to stare at a new kid sprawled in the center desk. I’m not sure how we missed him before. He isn’t the kind of person you overlook. Still, one second nobody’s there and the next the guy who’d played savior for Jules and me yesterday sits in the middle of the room. He lifts one black-gloved finger in acknowledgement.

Meyer looks lost for a second, but apparently finds his name on the roster, checks it, and picks up where she left off.

I—along with the rest of the class--study this teenage ninja, able to sneak into high school classrooms undetected. Almost white hair spills back from a beautiful, compelling face, pale features cutting a sharp fineness around eyes blazing a degree too brightly, like storm clouds lit from behind. For a moment they trap mine, and something in my core recoils. He watches me with an awful clarity, like he knows all my dirty little secrets, maybe even ones I don’t know about.

I drop my gaze to his chest and notice how his silvery-grey sweater outlines his wide shoulders and smooth abdomen. Darker corduroy pants wrap around his legs as if made for him. Monochrome doesn’t work on most guys. It does on him.

Lee’s typical “It” girl, Chrissy Anderson, gapes at him, her mouth working open and closed like a goldfish. I silently bet even money she’ll have his phone number before the day’s out.

Mrs. Meyer finishes doing her thing and releases us back into the wilds of higher education. At the end of the day I hurry outside to find sanctuary in a BMW parked in the student lot.

Jules sits behind the wheel, laughing at my rush. “Honestly Jocelyn, you’ve lived in Virginia for all sixteen years of your life; you’d think you’d have adapted by now. Are you purposefully fighting it off?”

“It’s an under-appreciated talent, not giving in to Staunton’s schizo weather. I think I should get a little plaque or something.”

Jules laughs again, this time with me, instead of at me. “I’ll get on that as soon as I’m back from Aspen.”

“What time’s your flight leaving?”
“Six, or I’d invite you over to defrost, but you know how Gram and Gramps feel about punctuality. Better not risk being late to the airport.”

I shrug. “It’s no big. You still have all your cool points for giving me a ride. And speaking of cool, you’ll never guess who showed up in homeroom this morning. The Blonde Avenger himself. I missed his first name because I couldn’t find my stupid history homework, but his last name’s Solis.”

Jules face lights up with mischief. “I can do better than that. I think he must be a twin, because we had a new boy in Trig today, except he’s the first one’s polar opposite. Named Tristan, has gold-blond hair, kind of curly, and enough muscles to win a grudge match against a garbage truck. You talk to yours?”

“Um, no.” I grimace.
She settles into her seat, hand on the gear shift. “Of course not. I don’t know what I was thinking.” She gives me a dirty look. “At least promise me you’ll attempt to have fun—and by ‘fun’ I mean ‘talk to Drew’--during the break, okay? Oh, and don’t forget it’s your turn to drive when we get back. I can’t always have a toasty Beamer ready at your beck and call, no matter how impressive you meteorological denial skills.”

Garrett Park is deserted with the surprising exception of the first-nameless Solis kid. If I could will him away all would be right with the world.

Careful not to let him see, I sneak a look at him. He’s leaned against the far lamp post, his body relaxed and careless, arms crossed loosely in front of him, but his gaze doesn’t match. It bores into me, too intense, too focused.

Stop staring at me. Stop staring at me or I’ll march over there and smack you silly.

He doesn’t budge, and luckily for him, I don’t have it in me to actually hit anyone. A shame; some senseless violence might do the trick. I realize that isn’t exactly a Zen outlook, but then violence is a passionate emotion and passion is considered good by most people.
Oh, come on! I just want to sit under my tree and read my book for a while, listen to some tunes in peace. It’s not too much to ask.

I fumble for my handy-dandy Mp3 player, turning it up until it blares a ‘burst your eardrums’ volume, and tell myself to concentrate on my textbook, but immediately a flash of light draws my attention to the fluffy white splotches freckling the sunny sky. The lack of storm clouds doesn’t surprise me, but the silence following it does. Still, lightning means rain, and rain means time to seek shelter. Even Park Boy appears to know this, as he’s disappeared. I wrap up my headphones and tuck my book safely away in my backpack.
My search for a haven from the storm ends in front of Vinyl, the tiny music shop next to the Bookstack. I suck in a much-needed deep breath and walk in on shaky legs. More than likely Drew’s working inside, therefore my ability to use multi-syllable words is about to bail on me.

Sure enough, he stands, behind the counter waiting on another customer. He throws me a distracted grin that should come with its own warning label: Viewer Beware! Direct Contact May Induce a Trance-like State. I duck behind a rack of CDs for safety’s sake, and pick through them until I find one I want to check out.

By the time I’ve scanned most of the new releases Drew’s finished with the other customer and nods me over. His dimples hit me full-force as he says, “Hey, Joss. How’s things?”

I do my best to disengage my “idiot gear” and answer. “Fine, thanks. You?”

“You know, getting in billable hours. I’m saving toward a new camera. My old Nikon’s shot.”

As if I don’t have everything about you memorized already. I nod and pass my CD over, a twenty resting on top.

He holds up the punk album. “Out of everyone who comes in here you are by far the most unpredictable. Last week you bought country, and this week you pick this?”
“That’s me. I like to keep people guessing.”

Another silent flash brightens the air. Drew’s eyes flicker outside. “Unbelievable storm, huh? All the visual effects you could ask for, but they forgot to crank the bass.”

“Yeah, crazy,” I nervously agree.

Drew’s grin widens, and he punches numbers into the register. A shifting image in the mirrored wall behind him catches my eye as he gets out my change. Park Boy is holding up the bricks across the street, watching me again. Drew says something, but I miss it and have to ask him to repeat himself.

“I said break’ll speed by too fast to settle for ‘fine’. Maybe someone could help you slow it down.”
I almost ask if he feels like volunteering, but two things stop me: One, I still make the Cowardly Lion look like Hercules and two, Park Boy has given me a disgusted look, shoved himself from the wall, and taken off down the sidewalk.

That’s done it. I scoop up my sack, mumble something insensible to Drew about him having fun too, and scramble out the door after Sir-Stares-A-Lot. I might not be able let an adorable boy know I dig him, but Heaven help me if I can’t tell some jerk his one-man investigation isn’t appreciated.

Outside I scan both sides of the street but he’s disappeared. A flare of white flashes onto Frederick so I take off after it at top my speed. I’m so breathless by the time I reach the bend my, “Hey! Hold on! ” comes out barely audible. He doesn’t stop. I’ve lost him.


My mother doesn't know it, but she's trying to kill me. I get home only to find my stalker sitting at my kitchen table, and my mother grinning at him like he’s the son she’s always wished she’d had.

“Jocelyn, I’m so glad you’re home. It’s the most wonderful thing; I’d like you to meet Sebastien Solis. His mother was my best friend in college, before she had to go back to her family in Scotland.”

He must have gotten there just before me, because he’s still wearing his coat and gloves when he rises from his chair and offers me his hand. “Actually, we’ve bumped into one another a couple times already, Mrs. Oliviero, but we’ve not had the opportunity to properly introduce ourselves.”

I can’t refuse with my mom standing there all thrilled and stuff, so I make myself smile at him and shake his hand as if I haven’t understood his inside joke.

“Sebastien tells me he and his siblings have come to the states because Mel wants them to experience a little of what we have to offer before they settle on colleges.”

“It’s a little early for that, isn’t it?” I ask. “I mean, you’re a Junior like me, right?”
“It worked out better for our American relatives for us to come this year.”

My mother beams. “I wish Mel had told me she was sending you, but no matter. You must all stay for dinner. I’m making fried chicken.” Sebastien protests, but my mother won’t listen. “No, I insist. Call your brother and sister, and we can all get to know one another.”

I expect him to refuse again; instead he grins at her and says Tristan and Bronwyn are busy for the evening, but he’d love to stay.

Mom beams some more and tells me to take Sebastien to the living room and keep him company. Thankfully, she doesn’t see the irritated way I jerk my head at him to follow me.

“I’m sorry,” he says as he sits on the sofa, out of earshot of my mother. “Did I do something to offend you?”

“Gee, well you could explain why you’ve been following me, Eddie.”

“I have no idea to what you’re referring.”

“Puh-leeze. You’re everywhere I go today, first the park and now Vinyl. You’re studying me like I’m some kind of science experiment.”

“Begging your pardon, but I haven’t . . .”

“Yes you have,” I huffed. “Explain.”

His eyes harden, and he crosses his ankle over his knee. “Fine, I’m guilty of looking at a pretty girl. Fortunately, finding you interesting isn’t a punishable offense, so you’re out of luck if you want to press charges.”

“What an arrogant thing to say! Look . . .”


I blank. “Huh?”
A conceited grin plays at the corners of his mouth. “My name? It’s Sebastien. If my mother had wanted people to associate me with a vampire, I’m sure she’d have christened me ‘Lestat’, instead.”

I blink at him, surprised he’s caught the vamp reference, and then I frown because of how easily he’s made me feel small and immature. Seriously, something about this guy stirs me up. It isn’t fair. I think. He was rude first.

“You were saying . . .?” He goes on.

“Whatever. You’ve satisfied your curiosity. There’s nothing even remotely interesting about me so you can get on with your own business.”

“Ah,” he murmurs, “I beg to differ. You do all sorts of interesting things. Take for instance how you blush when talking with a boy, or how you read outside this late in the year? Not many people would risk the chill of a fall afternoon in the park, even for a good tale. You want something to create body heat, get the heart rate up.”

He practically purrs the word “heat,” his implication pooling liquid and thick somewhere low in my body. I shift backwards a little.

He leans closer, matching me. “It’s difficult to ignore a lone girl catching up on her library finds, you see. By the way, do you always talk with your hand whirling about like that, or do you only do it when you’re nervous?”

“Do you always interrupt with random commentary?” I counter, and check the urge to shove my hyperactive hand in my pocket. “By all that’s holy, I just love books more than the average bear.”

“Oh, no. Now you’ve done it.”

“Done what?”

“A pretty girl with a brain? Even without considering our mothers’ prior relationship it would be impossible to ignore you after learning of your literary prowess. I’ll have to see how this plays out.”

I grin too sweetly. “Oh, it’s a brilliant beauty you’re looking for? In that case, you should ask my friend Jules to show you around town. She knows all the historically significant spots.”

He laughs again, not the least bit put off. “I think I’d rather have you.”


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