1. Crashing down
Marcy was looking forward to the perfect, uncomplicated senior year... but Fate had other plans.
Right now life seemed like a dream: the hottest boyfriend, the best girlfriend and her parents had just bought her the coolest car. Okay, so it was fifteen years old and a little battered and rusty in places, but was hers. It represented freedom. The chance to go wherever she wanted, whenever she wanted.
So long as she respected curfew, of course.
And got good grades.
And visited her Great Aunt Esme every Sunday afternoon.
There were quite a few conditions on this freedom, all things considered. Otherwise the keys got confiscated and it was back to being driven around by her parents again.
But still, nothing could dampen Marcy’s spirits. It was the last week of summer break and she should have felt sad about the vacation ending. Instead she was excited about her final year of high school. It was the last year she would get to spend with all her friends before many of them moved away to college in different parts of the country.
Marcy had been working at a local coffee shop over the summer, and she was driving there now. Katy Perry was playing on the radio and she sang along, feeling her life was absolutely, flawlessly perfect.
Except that everything was about to come crashing down around her.
Her shift started off OK. Ben, the cute gay guy who managed the café, was in a good mood. Things were busy enough for the time to pass quickly, but there wasn’t such an overwhelming rush that customers got rude and demanding.
"You’ll have to let me know what hours you’re available for when term starts. You’re a good worker, Marcy, I’d hate to lose you," Ben said.
Coming from Ben this was high praise. He was usually very flippant and fake-critical about her work.
"I’ll have a lot of study, but maybe a couple of shifts a week?" she suggested, and went to serve a super-hot customer who had just come up to the counter. Marcy wasn’t looking at guys for herself, but her best friend Addy was single, and it never hurt to play matchmaker.
He had black hair and green eyes. Definitely a college guy, maybe even a graduate. Probably not Addy’s kind of guy unfortunately, as she preferred blond surfer types.
"What can I get you today?" she asked him. He ordered a coffee and went off to a table.
"He’s new around here," Ben said when the customer had gone. "He’s not a face I’d forget. Or a butt," he added, eyeing the customer from the back.
"No looking and no touching!" Marcy joked. "You’re as hitched as I am." Ben lived with his boyfriend Jason and the two of them were rock solid, despite Ben’s flirtatiousness.
When Marcy had her break she phoned Josh, her boyfriend. They had been going out since Valentine’s Day. He had been on a trip with his parents the last two weeks, so they were belatedly celebrating their six months anniversary that evening.
"Hey, how was the trip? We still on for tonight?"
Marcy was expecting a "yes" and a "missed you" and a "can’t wait to see you". She wasn’t expecting an awkward pause, and what followed.
"Marcy, there’s something I need to tell you…"
After she got off the phone she was too numb to cry. Too shocked to even react. Ben could tell something was up but he didn’t press her.
Josh had met someone else. In just two weeks. Her Josh. Her perfect, wonderful, loving boyfriend. How could he do this to her? The only slight, saving grace, the only thing that made this bearable at all, was that the girl didn’t go to their high school.
Marcy finished her shift in a blur, hardly noticing or caring that the cute customer left her a great tip or caught her eye and smiled at her. She was The Rejected. She was unloved and unwanted and discarded. The sun had gone out of the sky. That was the day’s first disaster.
As planned, Addy came to meet her at the end of her shift. They were heading to the mall to pick out an outfit for Marcy’s supposed anniversary dinner that night. Except that clearly wasn’t going to happen now.
"Oh no, you’ve had bad news haven’t you?" Addy didn’t need to be psychic, Marcy looked as miserable as hell.
"It’s Josh." Marcy told her what had happened.
"Oh God, that makes me feel even worse," Addy said.
"Worse? Don’t tell me you have bad news too?"
"Mom got a job. In New York. It was all really last minute, a position suddenly came up. I know she’s wanted this promotion for ages, I just never thought it would happen now. Or be in New York."
"But what about school?"
"I’ll have to transfer to a high school there. I wanted to ask her to let me stay here and board with your family, but you know she needs me. Since Dad died…"
Addy didn’t need to say any more. Marcy understood.
"It’s ok. I’ll miss you like crazy though. More than that asshole Josh anyway." Marcy’s grief was already turning into anger. Addy’s leaving was such an awful prospect that it even overshadowed Josh’s betrayal. Marcy had known Addy since she was five, she was her oldest and best friend.
"I’ll miss you too. You’ll have to come and visit. Fly up for some Christmas shopping," Addy said. December seemed like a century away, but it was something.
"You’ll be all Gossip Girl by then with brand new friends. All New York sophisticated."
"Never." They hugged, half laughing, half crying. "So do you still want to go to the mall?" Addy asked.
"No. If it’s okay with you I think I’ll go home and cry. Lick my wounds a little."
"And take down all of that jerk Josh’s photos. You know I never liked him," Addy said. "Let me know if you want to do something later tonight."
So that was strike two. Bye bye boyfriend, bye bye best friend, within just a couple of hours.
Despite it all, Marcy felt strangely calm as she drove out of the parking lot. Either calm or numb, it didn’t matter, but at least she was in a fit state to drive.
Unfortunately the truck driver behind her wasn’t. As she waited at the intersection, he rear ended her car, forcing it to collide with the vehicle in front.
This was undeniably The Worst Day of Marcy’s life. Ever.
Sick and shaken from the jolt - thank God for seat belts or her head would be through the smashed up windscreen - she managed to get out of her car.
"Are you okay?" It was the driver of the car in front. He looked familiar.
"Yes, I think so. I’m so sorry… your car…" Marcy stared at the dented metal, crumpled by her car. Her beloved car. She hadn’t even looked at the damage to her own vehicle.
"It’s okay, it wasn’t your fault."
It was a busy road and Marcy could already hear the sirens of a police car that had been travelling the other way and turned around to investigate.
She looked again at the driver. Oh God! It was him, the dark haired customer from the café. She hadn’t noticed how tall he was from behind the counter. Or how incredibly good looking.
After the police had left, all the necessary details had been taken and the tow truck company called, Marcy was left wondering how to get home. Her windscreen was completely smashed in, her car was undriveable.
"Can I give you a lift somewhere? I should still be able to drive my car, the windscreen and headlights are intact."
Normally she wouldn’t accept lifts from strange guys, but surely bad things only come in threes? Marcy simply couldn’t imagine how Fate could throw her any more rocks that day.
"Sure, that would be really nice of you."
Marcy slid into the front passenger seat as he got back into the driver’s seat. She found herself noticing how long and muscular his thighs seemed beneath his jeans. I’m as bad as Ben, she thought, and I’m supposed to be practically bereaved.
"I’m Gray by the way."
"Marcy." She looked at his profile, he really was spectacularly good looking. Definitely older than the average guys she and Addy hung out with.
"So have you always lived here?" he asked.
"I was born here, never lived anywhere else. And you?"
"I’m new in town as they say," he told her. "Just got a job here, I arrived yesterday. I don’t know a soul. Except you." He looked over at her as he said this, his green eyes meeting hers. She felt her stomach give a jolt.
"Well if you need a tour guide…" She didn’t want to sound like she was super keen. But he was so hot, so well-defined. Those clear cut features, that angular jaw, his broad, muscular shoulders. He made even Josh, whom Marcy had always considered good looking, seem kind of soft and indistinct.
He smiled at her. It was devastating. "I might take you up on that."
They swapped numbers when he dropped her home. She went inside, not sure if her heart should be singing or shattered.