I sit on the tailgate of an old Ford F150, its paint peeling in multiple places, drinking cheap beer out of a red Solo cup. I start scanning the crowd and stop at a girl in skinny jeans and a tattered hoodie, huddled over a full cup. She’s small, almost boyishly thin, but that just makes things easier. I grin and walk over, adrenaline pumping through my veins.“Hey, I’m Matt,” I say in greeting. She looks up, startled. She has to be fourteen or barely fifteen. She’s got doe eyes and a ton of blue eye shadow on. Perfect.

“H-hi,” she replies and sloshes some beer on her jacket, staining her white undershirt and making it relatively see-through. She doesn’t notice. She thrusts out her hand and adds, “I’m Jeanie.” I take her hand and shake, then interlock my fingers with hers and start to pull her over to some hay bales. I’m thrilled by how easy it is to coax her. “Come on, let’s have a seat and talk.” We sit down and I can tell she’s flattered by my attention.

“So, are you on the team?” she asks.

“No, but I used to be. I graduated a few years ago,” I lie.

“Oh. Cool,” she says. I can tell she’s a little put off by my age, a little nervous now.

“I’m Josh’s older brother,” I say—another lie. Her shoulders visibly relax.

Some jock rushes by her, head down in an attempt to ram his buddy, and knocks her in the arm on the way. She gasps and rubs the sore spot. I couldn’t have planned it better myself. “Oh, geez. Are you okay? Do you want to get out of here? We could go someplace quieter and less…rowdy,” I say, rolling my eyes at the jock, who is now pumping his fist while his buddy rolls on the ground, groaning.

She looks around, seeming to search for someone. Probably the friend she came with. Her eyes stop moving, settling on a cheerleader wrapped around an especially brawny jock, lips practically glued together. “You know what? Sure. Let’s go.”


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