Why am I doing this? Leana thought as she slid into her car and started it, taking only a single glance at the clock before she pulled out of the driveway and started driving aimlessly. What am I running from?

She was only a few miles down the street before she unconsciously clicked on her turn signal and slid into the lane merging on the freeway. It was there that she knew exactly where she was headed. She tightened her hands on the steering wheel as she let out a long sigh.

The city was small enough that she could reach nearly anywhere she wanted to go within fifteen minutes, but those fifteen minutes often felt as if they were the longest minutes of her life when she was in this state. Everything was more stilted. Everyone around her seemed to drive more smoothly, as if they didn’t want to distract her from the thoughts she was going to be forced into having.

Three days. There were three days left before her eighteenth birthday. After that, she promised herself that she would work on those college applications. She’d finish them and send them in and just leave it be. She’d get into every college she applied to and everyone would be happy. Heck, she might even get to go to school with Rebecca or Janie. It wouldn’t be bad, not at all.

Then why won’t you just do it?

Leana reached down with a scowl and turned on her CD player, immediately becoming immersed in Handel’s Messiah. Music always calmed her thoughts, she realized. Most of the time, it even brought her mind to a complete standstill and let her run solely on autopilot, completely uncaring about whatever was going on in the world around her. Today was not one of those days. As she pulled into the parking lot of Fly’s Java Hut she stared at the building, her heart thudding so hard against her ribs that she was afraid one of them might break.

“Don’t think,” she whispered, closing her eyes for a moment and conjuring up an image of Strong Leana who was clothed in leather and wielded an epic sword. “Don’t worry about what people think.” Leana exhaled slowly and brought her head back against the headrest with a low hum in her throat. “Just do it.”

She turned off the car and found herself at odds with silence again. Well. Either she could go inside the warm building or she could freeze to death. As horrifying as the next few months of her life seemed, she decided to choose life.

The instant that she walked into the building, each step slow and frozen, she was bathed in easy listening music and the smell of coffee grinds. “Hey, welcome to Fly’s Ja…the hell you doing here, Keane?”

Leana smiled weakly at Andrew, who stood stationed behind the counter in a white button-down shirt and a brown apron. “Can’t a girl get some coffee every once and a while?”

He laughed and looked to the side, shaking his head a little, before he waved her over. “C’mon, I’ll hook you up. What’re you feeling today, girl?”

As she carefully unwound her scarf from her neck, she studied the menu. Admitting she had never actually drank any coffee that she liked didn’t seem like the best thing to do. “…I don’t really-”

“Don’t worry about it.” Andrew immediately grabbed a cup and began moving so quickly that Leana couldn’t help but pronounce him a beast at that very moment in time. His movements were so fluid, so elegant, that there was no doubt he’d been doing this for quite some time now. The full tip jar right in front of his register suggested the same.

Leana took advantage of the quiet to remove her winter garb while investigating the building itself. It seemed built for young adults and teenagers like herself, being full of comfy chairs and cozy couches and only a few tables and chairs. A pair of hipsters sat in one of the little nooks, both clad in skinny jeans and vests and glasses without any lenses in them. She wondered vaguely if the two guys would ever be able to have kids in their life when they wore pants like that. She took in the rest of the décor curiously, noting the warm colors and the low lighting. It gave her such a sense of comfort that she immediately felt herself relaxing.

“You like marshmallows?”

She blinked and looked back at Andrew, giving a nod to his questioning glance, and he plopped a handful into her cup before he stirred it all up and offered it to her. Hot chocolate. A nice, if not predictable, treat. “Thanks. How much?”

He shrugged again, waving her off. “I got this. You stickin’ around for a little while?”

Admitting that he was the sole reason she came here didn’t seem like the right idea either. “Yeah, sure, why not?”

He grinned and pointed toward another little nook. “Head over there. I’ll be there in a sec.” She apparently didn’t even have a choice in the matter, as he disappeared around the corner a second later and started yelling to someone about going on break.

As she made her way to the corner, juggling about thirty pounds of wool and a drink, Leana felt her cheeks begin to flame. Well. She was here now. He was coming to hang with her and she hadn’t even had to ask. So what in the world was she going to talk to him about? She nestled herself into one of the chairs, curling her legs up beneath her. That’s the million dollar question, isn’t it?

Andrew appeared a few moments later, his apron abandoned, and plopped down into the chair perpendicular from hers with a satisfied sigh. “Fuck, standing around like that all day could kill a man.” He leaned back into the chair, nearly sinking into it. For the first time, Leana could really see just how lean he was. He had broad shoulders, but the rest of him tapered off to a slim waist with just a wee amount of bulk to it. Amazing what you could find out about a person when they weren’t covering themselves with clothes that were about five sizes too big for them.

He allowed only a moment of silence before Andrew tilted his head to the side along the back of the chair and looked at her, quirking a brow. “So. What’s up?”

Leana shrugged, blowing across the steaming surface of her hot chocolate as she did so. The marshmallows spun in a rather amusing little dance. “Not much. You?”

He stared at her for a moment before he smirked and sat up again. “Apparently I didn’t ask the right question.” He leaned forward and planted his elbows on his knees. God, had he really seen through her that fast? As he tucked his chin into his palms and quirked a brow, his eyes twinkled with a bit of amusement. “What the hell are you doing at a coffee shop when you hate coffee?”

She still wasn’t completely convinced that he wasn’t a stalker. Leana looked down at the surface of her drink, watching the marshmallows begin to come to a stop. “How’d you know that?”

“You and Danielle hate coffee. Kevin hates hot tea.” Fabric rustled as he shrugged and began tapping his index fingers against his knees. “Think you all talked about it in U.S. History once or twice.”

A little mental mapping was required, but Leana soon remembered that while she and Danielle Fentress and Kevin Bishop sat together in History a year ago, Andrew sat a couple of rows away from them. “That’s kind of creepy that you still remember that.”

Andrew chuckled again, complicating the beat against his knees as he did so. “I remember weird shit. Doesn’t mean you’re getting out of answering my question.”

The door opened and another voice called out in welcome to the coffee shop and Leana glanced up, thankful for the distraction. It wasn’t anyone she knew, but it gave her a moment to formulate her thoughts. That was becoming increasingly more difficult when she swore that Andrew was burning a hole in the side of her face with how intently he was watching her. “Maybe I just wanted some hot chocolate.”

“Uh-uh.” Leana looked up at Andrew. He was grinning at her as if he took some sort of weird pleasure out of making her squirm. She wasn’t exactly surprised. “You didn’t know what to ask for, remember? Hey, you gonna drink that thing or not?”

She took a drink without any more hesitation and immediately blinked when the liquid hit her tongue, furrowing her brow in confusion. “God, that’s good. What’s in this?”

“Secret recipe of yours truly. Gotta have something to do here when it gets slow.” He scooted to the edge of the chair, his knee pressing gently against hers, and dropped his voice a bit in volume. “Leana, we’ve had like…ten classes together in high school and you ain’t never once come lookin’ for me.” She looked up at him again and took in the sheer curiosity in his face. There was something nice about knowing something he didn’t when he seemed so apt at guessing the exact reasons why she hesitated about doing anything these days. “And I’m pretty damn sure you never walked into this place once in your life before today, have you?”

Leana shook her head and cleared her throat, looking down toward the drink again, but she froze when Andrew tapped her knee with his own. “No, I…”

He tapped it again a little harder and stopped the second she looked up at him again. “For God’s sakes, Leana, I can’t tell when you’re lying to me if you don’t look me in the eye.” He was smirking again, quirking a brow, and she felt a sense of frustration well up in the pit of her stomach again. This was just some game to him, wasn’t it? He studied her for a few moments before he opened his mouth as if to say something and rubbed his chin gently. “…oh, damn, I know why you’re here.”

How? Leana wanted to shout. How in the WORLD could you know why I’m here? I haven’t even said anything! But she merely sighed, the frustration leaking out and leaving her with the burn of exhaustion instead, and tightened her hold on her hot chocolate. “Why?”

“You’re runnin’ from something, ain’t you?”

She stared at him blankly for a moment. “…Andrew, why are you working here? Shouldn’t you be working some fortune teller booth or something?”

He smacked his knee with a loud laugh, leaning back in his chair again. “Hot damn, I’m good!”

“No, seriously,” Leana pleaded as she dragged a hand through her hair and set her hot chocolate on the floor before she squeezed it so hard that it exploded. “How in the world did you come up with that?”

“Girl, I wasn‘t lying when I said I keep an eye on stuff. Now c‘mon.” Andrew crossed his legs, resting his ankle on one of his knees, and tugged his ponytail holder out of his hair. The dirty blond strands almost immediately obscured half of his face. “You gonna make me guess the rest of it too?”

“I just want to know why the hell you know all this!” She slammed her hands down onto the plush arm rests of the chair and leaned forward, feeling a headache beginning to develop from just how tense her brow was. “Rebecca doesn’t even pick up on that stuff!”

He snorted and looked off to the side. “No offense, Keane, but your friend’s not the brightest crayon in the box.”

“…she’s got a three-point-eight GPA.”

“Not that.” Andrew waved off her words with a roll of his eyes. “She got a brain, but that’s about all that’s up there, you know? She doesn’t have a trace of empathy anywhere in her body.”

“And you do?”

The way he looked at her made her feel tiny and stupid for asking that question all at the same time. He dragged his hand through his hair, shoving the longer bangs to the side of his face, before he leaned forward again, apparently incapable of sitting still. “C’mon, tell me what’s up. I only got like ten minutes left on break and I got a feelin’ you ain’t stickin’ around after that.”

Immediately she felt a choking sensation in her throat, like a giant barrier had just lifted to block off any chance of her talking. No. She couldn’t talk about it. She was an idiot for coming here. She shook her head frantically and stood up, grabbing her coat. “I-I gotta go.”

“Like hell you do.” He was on his feet a second later, cornering her in the nook so suddenly that she fell back into the chair with a little gasp of surprise. She stared at him with huge eyes and felt the faint traces of fear shoot through her veins as he leaned down and planted his hands on either arm of the chair. “Keane, if you don’t fuckin’ get this out now, you ain’t ever getting it out. C’mon. The hell’s so scary about talking to a kid like me anyway?”

Leana looked away stubbornly, clamping her mouth shut as she fought off a shiver. God, this wasn’t fair. This wasn’t fair at all. “Just let me leave,” she whispered.

“I’m not letting you- Keane, will you just look at me?” She complied. “Just say it.”

She gritted her teeth. “Why won’t you let me go?”

“Because someone needs to make you grow up, and I’m damn tired of watchin’ other people walk all over you.”

“Isn’t that what you’re doing right now?” Even as she cowered in her chair, she glared at him and growled out the words easily. As long as he stayed there and didn’t come any closer, he couldn’t hurt her, especially when other people were still in this building. “God knows you’re not letting me make my own choice.”

“So what?” he snapped back, frowning back at her as he tilted his head to the side. “What the hell’re you gonna do about it, Keane?”

A shock shot through her body, from her toes straight to her fingers, and she shoved her hands out the second that they were pricked with the energy. “Get off!” Andrew stumbled away, tripping over her hot chocolate and sending it spilling across the floor and onto his khaki pants. He froze there, staring down at it, and the room was utterly silent, all three of the individuals in the building staring at them in confusion. But when Andrew looked up at her there wasn’t a trace of anger on his face. In fact, he was smirking.

“That’s what I’m talking about,” he murmured, nodding in her direction, and Leana was sure she’d never felt more confused in her life. He walked back toward her, lifting a hand for her to high-five. “That’s what I’m fucking talking about!”

She just stared at him. “What?”

“That’s what you’ve gotta do, Keane.” He compromised and held his hand out to her. She took it this time, and he tugged her out of her chair and onto her feet. “Don’t take shit from us, got it?”

A realization of what just happened spun through her head and she blinked at him a few times. …oh my God. He’s like a freaking wizard or something. “Did you seriously just plan that or something?”

“Pfft.” He waved her words off for the millionth time that day even as he bent down to grab her cup and chuck it in a nearby trashcan. “I don’t plan a damn thing, you know that. Now go on, get out of here. I gotta clean up your mess before someone kicks you out for good or something.” And that was it. No goodbye. No anything. Andrew just grabbed his apron and headed back toward the counter like nothing had happened, like her world wasn’t just completely rocked. Leana stared at his retreating back before wondering if he might have been serious and grabbing all of her stuff. She was in her car less than a minute later.

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