Beth stood, waiting for him at the break in the hedgerow between the houses, along the long dirt and gravel path that served as something of a driveway and roadway leading up to the two houses.
“Hey,” she said, as Jack ambled up, hitching her bookbag higher on her slender shoulder.
“Hey,” Jack said, kicking a rock down the road, towards the highway. “So did I miss anything?”
Beth shrugged. “Like you said, nothing much to miss. It was just class. Kyle sends his love.”
“Please tell me you didn’t mess with him.”
“He looked so smug, sitting there behind your empty desk.”
“Please tell me you didn’t mess with him.” Jack said again, leaning a bit more on the ‘please.’
Beth blinked her bright green eyes. Tried to keep a straight face, but the corners of her mouth twitched.
“You did, didn’t you?”
“You messed with him, didn’t you?”
“Not… that he could prove,” she said, rocking back on her heels.
“He’s not dumb,” Jack said.
“Oh, I know,” she said, the smile still in place. “Thats what makes it fun.”
“You only look innocent,” Jack said. “My mom warned me about people like you.”
The quirk at the corners of her lips turned, and she smiled. Jack thought perhaps it was a trick of timing and maybe the weather, a cloud drifting past the sun, but the day brightened when she did that. It brightened further when she laughed.
“What’s so funny?” Jack took a step sideways.
“Its nothing,” she said, the brightness seeping away from the day. It seemed to Jack that her eyes drank it all in and held it. “Come on.” She turned on her heel and started towards the hedgerow.
Jack had turned to race down the long path to the meadow and the forest’s edge like they normally did, and kept turning, stumbling a bit to close the distance between them, his steps hesitant as he followed her through the gap.
They were crossing the wide, overgrown yard in front of the old farmhouse.
“Wait, we’re not going to our spot?” Jack asked.
“Not today,” she said. “I don’t really feel like running much today.”
“Are you sick? You don’t look sick.”
“I also don’t look Evil, remember?” The way she said it, and the smile she flashed just made the word sound like maybe every letter should have been capitalized.
Jack paused at the bottom of the porch step.
“You know, nobody lived here for so long, my sisters and I, we used to pretend that this place was haunted or something. You know, to scare each other at night and stuff.”
Beth laughed. “‘Pretend’ its haunted?” she said. “I guess I could see why you would think like that.” She laughed again, beckoning Jack up the steps, then holding the front door open for him. When he hesitated again, she grabbed his arm and escorted him in. The old doorway was wide enough that they could both walk through without crowding.
Her hand was warm on his lower arm, and her grip tightened as he stood, letting his eyes adjust to the dimmness inside the house.
“Of course a place like this is haunted,” Beth whispered with a giggle. “Thats what makes it so interesting!”