By the time Natalie and Jordyn pulled up at the lake, the bonfire was going strong, smoke drifting from the tall wooden structure into the dark sky. It was after nine already, so the place was actually packed.
“The boys said they’re by the dock,” Natalie said, checking her cell phone after she found a park. “Come on.”
Jordyn wouldn’t admit that she was excited out loud, but she was really excited. Her old high school didn’t get too into homecoming like Cedarwood did. Not that she would have gone to a bonfire if they’d had one. With dance running late at night or starting early mornings, she didn’t really have time for real teenage things. Here in Cedarwood, she was already making memories, and loving every second of it.
“There they are,” Jordyn said, spotting Ty and Cole in a sea of football players, all in their letterman jackets—they’d both ‘borrowed’ theirs back from Jordyn and Natalie for tonight.
Natalie snuck up behind Ty, putting her hands on his shoulders and hoisting herself on his back. He caught her just in time, then turned his head for a kiss.
“Hey, baby,” she said, kissing him again.
“Oh my God,” Cole said. “Get a room!”
Jordyn chuckled, slipping up next to him, and kissing his cheek. He returned that with a kiss on the lips.
“Yeah, you get a room, Anderson,” Jenner laughed.
Ty whipped around. “Hell no.”
They all laughed just as Drake’s HYFR started to play.
“My shit!” Davis shouted, jumping up onto the dock and pulling his date, a senior cheerleader, up with him. She was laughing in that I’m-so-embarrassed-but-boy-do-I-love-this-attention kind of way as they started grinding to the music.
“He’s lit up,” Cole explained, unnecessarily.
“They have beer here?” Jordyn asked, incredulous. She’d thought the bonfire was a school-sponsored event.
“Hell no,” Jenner said. “He has beer at his house. He got drunk before he got here.”
“Gonna get us all in trouble,” Ty said, shaking his head as he watched Davis and his cheerleader dancing.
Cole squeezed Jordyn’s hand, looking down and smiling at her. “You cold?”
She chuckled and shook her head, motioning toward her jacket. “No. I’m OK.”
Leaning into him, she inhaled the subtle sandalwood scent of his cologne, mixed nicely with that of his laundry detergent, easy to notice with her nose so close to his chest.
Jordyn clutched her purse. She could feel the condoms burning through it, like somehow, everyone could tell they were there. Or maybe it was just because she knew.
Either way, she wished that antsy feeling would go away so she could relax with Cole and her friends around the bonfire. She didn’t drink, but if she ever needed a shot, she figured it was right now. And with the way the crisp night hair was whipping against her cheeks, without a doubt leaving them rosily blistered, she needed a warm up.
Cole rubbed the tops of her arms. “You want to go sit by the fire?”
She nodded, her teeth beginning to chatter. So he took her hand, his cotton-glove-covered fingers laced with her numbing, bare ones, then lead her to the fire.
“I can’t believe you came out here without gloves,” he chuckled as they sat side-by-side on a log, one of many surrounding the fire. He reached into his pockets and pulled out an extra pair of gloves. “I don’t know why, but I had this feeling.”
She laughed, a little embarrassed at being so predictable, but grateful nonetheless, as she took the gloves. “You’re awesome!”
“How about some roasted marshmallows?” Cole asked, standing up.
Jordyn nodded. “That sounds great.”
She warmed her fingers until Cole returned with the marshmallows and two long roasting forks. He put her marshmallow on the end, then gave her the stick, repeating the same with his own.
Jordyn watched as flames surrounded her marshmallow, turning it darker and darker, until finally the marshmallow was fully engulfed.
Cole laughed. “Babe, your marshmallow is on fire.”
Jordyn just grinned. “I like it like that.” She blew the marshmallow.
“Oh, I get it. My girl’s hardcore.”
“You know it. Got a Harley in my backyard.”
“I think I love you,” he teased.
Jordyn laughed. “I don’t blame you.” Then she nervously cleared her throat. “Uhm, so I was wondering. After the dance tomorrow night. Where exactly are we going?”
Cole grinned. “Well, I was going to surprise you, but, we’re going to my aunt and uncle’s cabin. In the mountains.”
Jordyn’s eyes widened. “We’re going all the way to the mountains?!”
Cole raised his eyebrows and nodded toward the horizon behind the lake. “Jor, they’re right there.”
“Those are mountains? I thought they were just, like, little hills.”
“Jordyn, Cedarwood is part of Appalachia.”
Jordyn glanced around her. “Really?”
Cole laughed. “The foothills. The mountains are right over there. Wow. You really were, uhm, absent, moving here, weren’t you?”
Jordyn nodded. “Good choice of words.”
“The cabin is like, in the mountains. My dad and uncle go there all the time. It’s on this huge lake, much bigger than Lake Cedar, and they fish and hunt, and, well, I have a key. Courtesy of my cousin, Michael. It’s like, a 45 minute drive.”
“So, we got this all planned out then,” she said.
“You don’t sound happy about that.”
“Oh, no, I am. I am really excited. I told you, Cole. I want you to be my first and tomorrow night is going to be perfect. And a cabin on the lake? What could be better? More memorable.”
“I just don’t want you to have any doubts. That’s all.”
A Rihanna song came over the speakers.
Jordyn smiled, and she stood up, grabbing his hand. “I don’t. Get up. I kind of want to dance.”
Cole dropped Jordyn off right at her curfew. He kissed her goodnight, and handed over his letterman jacket.
“I’ll meet you after the parade tomorrow,” he told her. “Then we’ll hit the carnival.”
Jordyn grinned. “Great! I can’t wait.”
“Me, neither.” He kissed her again. “See you tomorrow, baby.”
Jordyn climbed out of the car, waving as he headed back down her driveway, then walked into the house.
And from what she could tell, the seventh level of Hell.
Thirteen-year-old boys, everywhere. Sleeping bags spread all across the carpet, snacks of every kind on the coffee table, and some hard core action movie on the TV.
She would have loved to have been warned about a slumber party Logan was having.
Fortunately, the boys were too into the car-chase-gun-shooting scene on the big screen TV to notice Jordyn slipping through the living room and into the kitchen. There, she found her father at the table in a sweatshirt, with his glasses perched at the end of his nose, sifting through bills, while Zara was excitedly going on about an something being “the most amazing spot for it.”
“Hi,” Jordyn said, clutching Cole’s jacket.
Zara beamed. “Well, hello there! How was your first bonfire?”
“It was cold. Frigidly, Alaskan cold.”
Jack sighed and shook his head. “Boy, kid, you are not gonna survive January.”
“I’ll have to spring for a few pair of long johns I guess,” Jordyn said.
Zara reached over, touching Jordyn’s cheek. “Whoo. You are cold.”
“Yeah. But it was fun.” She smiled, nodding. “It was really fun. I can’t wait to get the homecoming festivities started tomorrow.”
Zara put her hand on the back of Jack’s chair, smiling proudly at her daughter. “Jack, can you believe our little girl?”
Jordyn furrowed her eyebrows in confusion. “What?”
Jack smiled. “I sure can’t. It wasn’t long ago that Cedarwood was this horrible, horrible thing, and we were taking you away from your life.”
“Now you’re all excited about homecoming,” Zara said. “You even lettered in football.”
Jordyn looked down at the jacket. “I worked really hard this season,” she deadpanned.
Jack took his glasses off. “I can’t believe my little girl is going to homecoming. With the homecoming king nominee. By the way, your mother showed me your dress.”
“What do you think?” Jordyn asked.
“I think it’s beautiful. And I think that boyfriend of yours is gonna have to plant his butt on my couch tomorrow night when I start cleaning my pistol. You know, just have a talk.”
Jordyn’s eyes widened and Zara laughed. “He won’t take his gun out, Jor. I promise.”
“I won’t load it,” Jack corrected. “But don’t you tell Cole that.”
Zara sighed and rolled her eyes. “Jordyn, Shay called you. She wants you to call her back.”
“Shay?” Jordyn felt horrible. She hadn’t called Shay in two weeks. She had no idea what was going on. She knew nothing about homecoming, and the most she knew about Cole was that they had gone on a couple dates.
Jordyn sighed and nodded. “I’ll go call her.”
Jordyn hurried to her room, grabbing her cell phone off her dresser. It had been charging, otherwise she would have had it with her when Shay had called.
Shay answered on the second ring.
“Thank God you’re alive!” Shay answered. “I thought maybe you’d mauled by a cow!”
Jordyn had to laugh. She was happy to hear Shay’s familiar voice, and happier to know Shay didn’t seem angry she’d been neglected this week.
“Sorry I missed your call,” Jordyn said, plopping down on her bed. “I was—”
“At the bonfire, I know,” Shay said. “Well, Miss Hamilton. I can’t believe it. Never thought it would happen. You’ve conformed. You’re turning into the girl-next-door. What next?
Overalls? Plaid shirts? Am I gonna get on Facebook one day and you’ll have pigtail braids and a piece of straw hanging out of your mouth! Jordyn, you’re not drinking moonshine are you?”
Jordyn laid back on her bed, and scrunched her face in confusion. “Shay, do you remember what state I moved to?”
Shay laughed. “I can’t believe you went to a bonfire. And your mom says you’re going to homecoming?”
Jordyn smiled. “Yeah, I am. I bought a dress and everything. My boyfriend, Cole, he’s nominated for—”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa! Stop right there. Did you just say boyfriend?”
“I did. Can you believe it!”
“No, I can’t. I can’t believe you’re going to homecoming, or that you bought a dress. Or that you haven’t called me for two weeks.”
Well, there that was.
Jordyn sighed. “Shay, I am soo sorry. I’ve just been, well, busy.”
“Yeah, with your new snow bunnies. But hey. I’m not mad. Just glad you called me back, you traitor.”
Shay’s tone was teasing, so Jordyn was relieved. “Of course I called you back. Because, Shay, I have soo much to tell you.”