• His heart thumped wildly against his ribs. Sweat beaded on his forehead, dripping down his temple into his shirt collar. His hands were shaking and he thought he might throw up. A sudden searing pain shot through his whole body, pulsing against each nerve with a vengeance. He counted backwards from ten and the pain subsided. It was over. As quickly as it began the sensation was gone, all but the metallic taste of blood lingering in his mouth.
    "All set kid." the gruff voice in front of him grumbled. A stout, tattooed, bald man staggered away from him grunting with each step, clanging around miscellaneous drawers and objects.
    "Dude you handled that like a champ!" A familiar voice rang in, Jacoby Gareth rolled his chocolate eyes to the left inhaling deep and letting it out slowly. He forced a grin and nodded at the wily young man standing next to him.
    "How's it feel?" a feminine voice chimed in walking up behind the boy, a blond pixie cut seated above feral green eyes bobbed into view. Jacoby smiled at the two and stuck his tongue out, revealing a swollen, bloody mess with a shiny silver stud punched through the center.
    "Looks good dude!" Exclaimed the young man next to him. Jacoby pushed himself out of the tattered old barber's chair and steadied himself. He stood for a minute letting his swirling head clear before heading to the door and slipping out into the bright sun.
    "So, now what? Slushies?" Morgan Monroe clamped his hand down on his best friends shoulder and squeezed tightly.
    "You're gonna want something for the swelling Jack." Morgan's other half Carly said linking her arm through her boyfriend's.
    Jacoby merely nodded scanning the parking lot for his blazer. His eyes fell upon four wheels, minimal green paint and a rusted out body. Jacoby's blazer was his life, if it weren't for parents and school he'd live in it and travel. In two more years... he thought, unlocking the doors and sliding into the driver's seat.
    "So can you talk?" asked Carly leaning in from the back poking her head between the front seats.
    "I guess stho." Jacoby slurred, a steady string of drool sliding down his chin. "Oh sthit." he grumbled wiping at it with the sleeve of his hoodie. Morgan and Carly erupted with laughter as Jacoby's mouth ran like an open dam. Frustrated he tilted his head and swallowed as much spit as he could while cranking the engine. With a heavy sigh he backed out of the space and pointed the blazer towards the quick stop. The blazer came to a stop in front of the little convenience store and the kids piled out. Jacoby headed straight for the slushie machine filling the largest cup he could find full to the brim, mixing every flavor offered.
    "Ew. How can you drink a suicide?" Carly asked making herself a strawberry slush. Jacoby merely shrugged his mouth too sore to speak. He followed Carly to the counter and paid for their drinks while Morgan dawdled in the back. Jacoby watched him close from the front of the store as he stalked off into the men's room. He gave Carly a sideways glance and shrugged heading out to the blazer with her directly on his heels.
    "What are you doing tonight?" Carly asked, lighting two cigarettes and handing him one. Jacoby took a long drag off of the cigarette and winced as the menthol burned his fresh piercing.
    "I don't know, probably hanging out with ya'll or something. I have nothing planned, you?" He said, relieved he could speak again, the iced drinking taking the swelling down considerably.
    Carly looked at him for a long moment before speaking.
    "I'm not hanging out with Morgan, if that's what you mean. He has plans with his dad this weekend and my cousin in town, since Morgan is going to be gone I thought maybe you and I could show my cousin the town, she's from some little town upstate. What'cha say?" She said, her green eyes sparkling at him. Jacoby pressed into his seat and stared out the windshield wishing Morgan would stop shoplifting and get in the truck already.
    "Yeah sure, I guess it'll be cool. Wanna meet up or are we taking the blazer?" He asked, not looking into Carly's eyes. The way she was staring at him, the way she was turned in her seat and the way she was speaking in that soft tone made Jacoby incredibly uncomfortable.
    "We can meet you, unless you want to pick us up. It's really no problem my car is fixed now." She said turning her eyes towards the store as Morgan came out, rolling his hand at his side, motioning for Jacoby to start the truck and get moving. Jacoby rolled his eyes and cranked the engine backing out quickly and merging into traffic as the store clerk came out waving his fist in the air. Carly laughed and flipped him off as Jacoby sped down the street.
    "Dude, you're going to get arrested one of these times and I'm not going down with you." Jacoby scolded his friend, glaring at him in the rear view mirror. Morgan looked back at him cross eyed and blew smoke at the mirror.
    "Oh come on, I haven't been caught yet, have I?" Morgan chided handing his girlfriend a hunny-bun.
    "No, but if one of those middle-eastern clerks gets a camel-flea up his a** and gets my plates I'M the one screwed, not you." Jacboy growled, merging onto the on-ramp for the highway. He swerved onto the shoulder of the road for a moment as a packet of donut gems pelted him in the back of the head.
    "Morgan knock it off I'll give Carly the wheel and kick your a**." He growled thrusting his middle finger up at Morgan. His friend howled in the backseat causing Carly to erupt in snorting giggles. A smile stretched across Jacoby's face and he cranked the radio. They drove the rest of the way letting the sound of the radio be the noise in the vehicle, each kid looking out in a different direction, lost in their own thoughts.
    Jacoby caught Carly stealing sideways glances at him, and her hand nervously inching closer to his leg. He coughed loudly and glared at her, the cough making Morgan look forward and poke his head between them.
    "So what are we doing next Friday, guys? Oh Jack, did Carz tell you that I'm going with my dad this weekend?" He asked, laying his head against his girlfriend's shoulder. Carly forced a meek smile and glared out the passenger's window. Jacoby stole a glance at her and caught his friend's eyes in the mirror.
    "Yeah, she told me. Are ya'll going hunting again?" He asked, knowing how important it was to Morgan to be going with his father.
    "I don't know what we're doing but we probably will end up hunting." Morgan said, a wide grin stretching across his face. The sheer joy in Morgan's eyes made Jacoby's heart warm a little bit. He knew how important these visits were to Morgan, and he was happy when his friend got them. Jacoby switched lanes as the exit to go towards Morgan's house was nearing, he could feel Carly brighten next to him and he sighed. Carly lived three houses away from him on the east side of town, which meant he would have the next fifteen to twenty minutes alone with her in the truck. The thought of her hitting on him made his stomach lurch.
    "Oh s**t dude I didn't know we were this close..." Morgan groaned from the back.
    "Whats up?" Jacoby asked eying his friend in the mirror.
    "I was going to have you take Carz home first so I could talk to you, but too late now!" Morgan laughed.
    "Oh I can turn around if you want, it's really no problem." Jacoby said a little too fast. He caught the vicious glare from Carly out of the corner of his eye and ignored her, beaming at Morgan.
    "If you don't mind, I mean I hate to ask... That's a lot of gas, I'll give you a fiver when you drop me off." Morgan said smiling back.
    Jacoby nodded and got off an exit before Morgan's and turned the blazer back in the direction of Carly's house. Jacoby couldn't help but be amused by Carly's reaction, she was stiff in her seat, arms crossed over her chest and glaring out the window, her jaw set like chiseled stone. The fifteen minute drive to Carly's was silent, all but the radio which played a steady stream of rock songs. Jacoby's tongue was starting to swell again and he was out of his drink with no aspirin in sight. He winced when the stud clacked against his teeth. The blazer roared to a stop in front of a small two story peeling white house. Jacoby eyed Carly waiting for her to get out or crumble, she was so tense in her seat he imagined flicking her shoulder with a pencil and watching her shatter. Finally she got out with a grumble, glaring back at Jacoby though the windshield. He smiled and waved as Morgan slid out of the back seat to walk her to the door. He watched uncomfortably as they hugged and kissed their goodbyes. Jacoby reached over and opened the passenger door and Morgan slid in.
    "Thanks dude I really didn't want to talk to you in front of Carz." Morgan said, lighting a cigarette and offering it to Jacoby. Jacoby looked long at the cigarette in Morgan's hand and sighed.
    "It's a red dude, it wont burn like Carly's death sticks." Morgan laughed poking the smoldering cigarette at him. Jacoby took it and drew hard on it, relieved as the smoke slid over his tongue without the searing pain.
    "Whats up?" Jacoby asked, blowing smoke out the window and getting back on the interstate for the third time that day.
    "I need you to take care of Carly while I'm with my dad." Morgan said, eying Jacoby intently.
    Jacoby arched a brow at his friend. The last thing he wanted was to be around her while he was gone, much less be with her all the time.
    "Why? Whats going on?" Jacoby asked, hoping Carly was doing something devious, other than hitting on Jacoby left and right.
    Morgan sighed and fixed his blue eyes on Jacoby. He chewed his lip for a moment, letting the silver ring pop in and out of his mouth.
    "She doesn't have her cousin in town." Morgan finally blurted. Jacoby furrowed his brows and turned to Morgan.
    "She just told me her cousin was in town." Jacoby said, his confusion evidant in his voice. Morgan sighed and looked out the window. His shoulders were drawn in and he was letting his cigarette burn down to ash.
    "Whats going on dude?" Jacoby pressed, watching his friend's back.
    "She wants me to think it's her cousin, but I know better. I've been with her for three years and I've known her since we were six, she can't think I'm that stupid she doesn't have a cousin named Chloe." Morgan growled chucking the but out the window and lighting another cigarette.
    Jacoby watched him for a minute and turned his eyes back to the road. He inhaled deep, wincing as the air rushed over his tongue.
    Jacoby's mind was racing and he could feel Morgans eyes on him, searching for an answer. The memory hit Jacoby like a tractor-trailer had just slammed the blazer.
    "Chloe's her ex-girlfriend's name." Jacoby said slowly. He could see Morgan nodding out of the corner of his eye.
    "Yep. I wasn't here when they dated, remember? I was still a foster then but you were here. If you see her do you think you'll remember?" Morgan pleaded. Jacoby didn't know what to say, he could barely remember the girl's name let alone her face but he agreed anyway. He just couldn't wrap his mind around what Carly was thinking and if she had her ex-girlfriend staying with her why was she hitting on him? He growled at himself for letting his thought carry him away and stole a glance at Morgan, he thought he saw tears in his eyes.
    "So. How's your dad's back after that fall he took at work?" Jacoby asked, stealing Morgan's thoughts away from his girlfriend to a subject he could still enjoy.
    "He's doing alright, walking a lot better now but still having problems sleeping. He went to that chiropractor your dad told me about, said he felt a lot better." Morgan said, the grin he usually wore stretching back across his features.
    Jacoby smiled at Morgan. "That's good to hear man, I'm glad he's doing better." Jacoby said, hoping to push the thoughts of Carly from both their minds. The rest of the ride back to Morgan's house was silent. About two blocks away Morgan looked over at Jacoby with a serious look masking his face.
    "Dude, can I tell you something that you promise you wont freak out about?" Morgan asked, again chewing on his lip ring; a sure sign he was nervous. Jacoby swallowed, his tongue swollen and sore saliva was building up in his mouth again but his throat felt like sand paper.
    "Sure man, whats up?" He asked meeting Morgan's stare for a moment before turning his gaze back to the road.
    "I'm going to leave Carly." Morgan said, his eyes fixed on his friend's face.
    Jacoby's mouth turned sour. Surely this was an impulsive decision.
    "What made you decide this?" Jacoby asked, turning his eyes back at Morgan who was staring hard out his window with no real point of interest. The silence between them grew, slowly pushing against them like an ugly beast looming out of a nightmare. The minutes passed and Morgan continued to stare out of his window, even as the blazer coasted to a stop in front of his house. Jacoby searched the front of the house for answers to his friend's problems and his eyes fell on a white pick up in the drive.
    "Dude your dad's already here." Jacoby said, snapping Morgan back to the land of the living.
    "What?" Morgan's mouth hung slack as he stared at the pick up in his driveway. "Wow, he's early." Morgan said, grasping the door handle about to slide out of the truck and leave Jacoby with unanswered questions.
    "So, I'll see you Monday I guess?" Morgan said looking at Jacoby with pleading eyes.
    Jacoby understood, Morgan wasn't ready to talk about Carly and was eager to go inside to see his dad. Jacoby nodded and smiled at his friend as he closed the door he called "See ya man!" as the door slammed. He shifted into drive as Morgan bounded up the drive. He looked at his cellphone it was already five in the evening. Jacoby shook his head in disbelief and turned the truck in the direction of home, again. He exited onto K-15, letting the roar of the engine and the sounds of Seether wash over him and push Carly and Morgan away from his thoughts.
    Jacoby's peaceful nothingness was broken by his cellphone buzzing in his pocket, probably his dad. He switched steering hands and reached in his pocket for the phone.

    Hay. We hangin 2nite?

    Jacoby sighed as he glanced down at the screen a few times, re-reading the sender's name; Carly. He didn't want to, he didn't want to be hit on all night, but at the same time, he wanted answers. If this Chloe girl was the same Chloe she was in love with while Morgan was in foster care he wanted to know, and he wanted to know what she was doing masquerading as Carly's cousin.

    Yea. Not home yet. Dropped off M gotta shower. C U @ 7?

    He clicked back, within seconds his phone was vibrating wildly again.

    Can't wait.

    With a hard sigh he snapped his phone closed and threw it on the passenger's seat. He wanted a cigarette, he wanted a shot of vodka and he wanted his tongue to stop hurting. Silently he cursed himself for letting Morgan and Carly talk him into piercing his tongue, he felt like a drooling idiot. Jacoby whipped the blazer into his drive right behind his dad's truck. Dad's just now getting home, weird... He thought as he and his father got out of the trucks at the same time.

    "Hey dad." Jacoby mumbled, closing the door to the blazer.
    His dad stopped and turned around, a confused expression on his face.
    "Oh. Son, you're home late." Paul Garretson said, looking at his watch. Jacoby's shoulders sank, ready for a chewing.
    "Yeah sorry, had to detour to take Carly home early when I was half way to Morgan's already." Jacoby half-truthfully told. He studied his father's face, waiting for it to turn crimson, waiting for the vein to bulge and his dad to start screaming at him.
    "Oh... Well I hope they gave you gas money, that's pretty wasteful." His dad said, his eyes somewhere else. That made Jacoby remember that Morgan actually had not given him any gas money like he promised. Jacoby cursed under his breath and swallowed the salive collecting around the edges of his rapidly swelling tongue. He needed to get inside to ice water and asprin before his dad noticed any slurring speech.