I’ll be releasing Just for Kicks by the end of the month. I’ve found writing a novel is much like having a child. All sorts of unexpected surprises and delights come along. The biggest difference, though, I couldn’t put off having my kid. I can put off releasing Just for Kicks indefinitely.
So, without further ado, here is the first chapter of Just for Kicks
“Hey, nice kicks.”
She looked in the angled floor mirror at the tall, skinny guy testing the same pair of cobalt blue Converse All Stars around the store.
“Those are pretty nice too.” She turned to face him. He was much taller than her usual type, but his eyes sparkled at her. Nice brown eyes, though, she thought. Until he smiled and she decided his smile was his best feature. She walked back to her purse and pulled her shoes on, then went up to the counter to check out. She stood in line, looking back through the store for him, then fiddled with her phone and shifted the box back and forth.
“So, what are you going to get up to in yours?” he asked, sliding behind her in line.
She startled, then laughed. “Just walking around up on campus.”
“You up at the university?”
“No, I’ve been taking classes at the community college off and on. What you studying?”
He grinned sheepishly. “About a freshman, I guess.” Her brain was telling her to stop. He was too old to be taking on and off classes at the community college. But that sheepish grin was too much to bear.
“You-” The clerk motioned for her to come forward and checked her out. He was cute in his torn jeans, Misfits t shirt and hat. The hat barely kept his hair under control. Once Talulah had the bag in her hand, she turned back and said, “Maybe I’ll see you around?”
He stepped forward to the counter and stopped right in front of her. “I hope so.”
She sat down in her car and sent a couple texts. Once she was finished, she checked herself in the mirror, grinned at how cute she was looking, blond hair shiny and pulled back, green eyes sparkling. She turned up the music on the radio and pulled out. A loud “Hey!” and crunch startled her. She slammed on the brake and looked around. It was him! She turned the car off, pulled the parking brake and popped out.
“Oh my God, I’m so sorry! Are you ok?”
He was holding the two halves of his skateboard. “I should have guessed it would be you, Kicks,” he said, laughing.
“Are you ok? You’re ok, right?” She ran her hands up and down his arms to make sure. She couldn’t help but notice the lean muscle on his arms and shoulders. She stopped herself from running a hand down his chest.
“I’m fine. My board, not so much.”
“Can I replace it? I can’t believe this happened! I’m so sorry!” She finally let go of his arms and took a step back, looking up at his face.
“You can if you want. That’s ok with me,” he laughed. “It was about time anyway.”
“Where do you go for a new one?”
“The skate shop where I work.”
She looked at her watch. “Do you have time now? I feel so terrible. I could have really hurt you.”
He shook his head. “But you didn’t. It’s just a quick trip.”
She stuck out her hand. “Talulah Reese. We should be introduced if we’re going on skateboard buying adventures.”
“Sass? Like, that’s a sassy mouth you have?” She had to stop looking at and thinking about his mouth.
He grinned. “No, Sas, like Hungarian name Sas.” She turned away and started moving to the drivers seat. She wasn’t going to get infatuated with a scruffy skateboarder. It wasn’t going to happen.
“You’re not dangerous, right? I mean…”
“Far as I know. Can’t vouch for you though. You’re a menace behind the wheel,” he scoffed.
She snorted. “At least I take an interest in my personal safety, unlike you, getting hit by a car.”
She started the car once he had sat down. The radio blared on, Billie Holiday singing, “Let’s do it, let’s fall in love.” A deep blush colored her cheeks as she quickly switched it off.
He smiled, looking at her sidewise, then navigated to the bland, beige strip mall. The skate shop was tucked between a pho shop called Das NudelHaus and a Mexican bakery called Panaderia Zapata. PayDay Loans and a Southeast Asian market filled the other store fronts.
A man leaned over the counter, head in his hand. He stood up straight and to Talulah’s surprise, was only a couple inches taller than she was. He called out, “Hey LazyLow.”
“Who’s your friend?”
“This is Kicks. She moved up replacing my board.” He held up the pieces of the skateboard, the bottom half dangling by a worn, blue sticker.
“Atta girl, Kicks!” Paulie laughed, blue eyes sparkling under sparse light brown eyebrows. “That board needed to be replaced for way too long!”
She laughed, then said, “Kicks?”
“Sure. Why not?” Laszlo said, then grinned at her. That grin! She was much too busy to entertain the idea of Laszlo, so it didn’t matter how much she liked his grin or how infatuated she was.
They walked through the shop, looking at the safety gear and sunglasses, the skateboard trucks and wheels. Talulah asking questions and Laszlo putting different helmets on her. She looked up at him, his hands still holding the edges of the helmet, elbows almost brushing her shoulders. He blushed suddenly and pulled the helmet off, then lead her through the store.
She followed him through the store, a slight blush still coloring his neck. She bit back a tiny squeal of delight. He had to like her, too.
“Holy Christ. How much is this skateboard going to cost to replace?” she asked suddenly.
“We only need to replace the deck. The trucks and wheels are still good. Fifty bucks.”
“Part of me was wondering if I was going to have to put in a claim to my car insurance.”
“I wouldn’t try to get a whole new set up out of you. That wouldn’t be right.”
“I’m so relieved! It would have been worth it.”
“I’ll keep that in mind, Kicks.”
She smiled and pushed her shoulder into him. He moved back with just enough give that she came half a step closer to him. The muscle along his ribs was solid. The scruffy skater boy thing had never done it for her before, but he entranced her. If someone had almost run her over? No way would she be ok with it. His devil may care attitude was completely foreign to her. It would be annoying if they had a deadline, but for this afternoon’s excursion, it was pleasant. What deadlines would they ever have to meet together? What was she going to have to do with him? This was college- time to explore and make bad dating choices. Was she really giving herself permission to pursue this?
“So, what year are you again?” he asked.
“Two years left?”
“Two and a half. But then, grad school. But that’s a whole other thing.”
“That sounds like a lot. Big time investment.”
“I’m not sure I’m up for it, but so it goes. What about you? Going to finish?”
“I don’t know. I started taking my generals, but I’m not sure what I want to do and I don’t want to waste a bunch of money if I don’t finish. Plus, my parents aren’t real big on schooling, so it’s hard to stay motivated.”
“I’m sorry. My parents always pushed us. They made it a big priority for all of us. I’m really enjoying it so far.”
“Tiny, adorable nerd,” he smiled.
“One quick thing,” she bristled. “I do not take well to comments of that kind. Yes, I know I’m small. Yes, I know I’m short. I do not need to hear cracks about it all the time.”
He put his hands up at chest level, palms out. “I’m sorry. I should have guessed. I won’t do it again.”
“It really bothers me. Even if it is kind of sweet. But still.”
“Is adorable nerd acceptable?”
“Yes,” she laughed. “Just leave the tiny bullshit off.”
“Ok. I can do that.” He nudged her with his elbow, then said, “Hey, you’re an adorable nerd.”
She pushed into him with her shoulder, laughing. “Yeah, yeah, yeah.” She couldn’t fight the irresistible urge to touch him and decided elbows and shoulders were acceptable. They stood in front of the skateboard decks and she said, “Now, what makes this worth eighty bucks?”
He started pointing out what to look for in a skateboard, the flexibility, lengths and widths. Upon choosing a trick deck, they went back up to the front.
“You’ve been thinking about that deck a while, Laze,” Paulie said.
“It only took almost getting hit by a car to get it,” Laszlo laughed.
“You coming out tonight?” Paulie asked.
“I might. When is everyone meeting?”
“11:30 I think. Behind the 7-11.”
“What are you guys up to?” Talulah asked.
“Parkour,” Paulie said. He raised his eyebrows at Laszlo.
Laszlo turned back to her and mumbled, “Would you… maybe… wanna… come out with us?”
“Maybe. I’ve always been a little curious about it.” She wanted to jump up and down and twirl. She was definitely going, but didn’t want to seem too eager.
They checked out and he walked her out to her car. Laszlo shifted from side to side. Was he nervous? “So, tonight?” he asked. He was nervous! She found it very charming.
“We run around like a bunch of dumb kids, then get breakfast after. It’s fun.” He grinned again and she knew there was no way she’d miss tonight.
“I’d like to try, if that’s ok.”
“Sure. The 7-11 on 9th. In the alley behind. Here’s my phone number in case.” He wrote the number on the receipt. “Thanks for the deck.”
“Ok, I have homework to do if I’m going to be out and about tonight.”
“Hope to see you, Kicks.”
“I think you will,” she smiled. “Don’t get hit by any cars in the meantime.”
“Don’t run anyone over in the meantime.”
She got in her car, put the receipt in her wallet and drove back up to campus, intent on getting through her reading and homework.