A smaller picket fence surrounded the house, probably to keep all their children within viewing distance on their hundred plus acres of property. Lake not included.
As we got closer, people started to appear from what seemed like everywhere. One. Two. Three… I stopped counting at four. Four had my breath catching and my fingers fidgeting with my top and the only thing that went through my mind was that I should’ve worn a pretty dress.
Dad wasn’t kidding when he said that his boss was tall. He was also wide. Not overweight, just large… and extremely intimidating, though I doubt he meant to be. He just had this deep voice that seemed to echo around him. Tom introduced my dad as Brian—his new foreman—and myself to his family while we stood in their front yard. There were a lot of names and a lot of head nods mumbled between those names. Honestly, though, the only names I caught were Kathy, his wife; Lucy, their daughter; and Lucas, aka Four.
He was the last to be introduced.
“Luke’s the same age as you, Lois,” his mother said. The sun beamed down on her, making her white dress pop and her dark hair glow. Kathy looked like an angel, and my chest tightened as I tried not to miss my mother. She added, “You’ll be going to the same school and you’ll be in the same class together once the summer’s over.”
“Isn’t that great?” Dad said, nodding in my direction.
“Great,” I repeated, pushing my glasses higher on my nose.
Lucas did the same thing with his black, thick-rimmed glasses. They suited his dark hair and bright blue eyes, and then he smiled, revealing the gap between his two front teeth, and crap, he was cute.
I was eleven and he was cute.
He was cute and he was looking at me.
“I’ll introduce you to my friends so you have people to chill with,” he said, shaking his baseball mitt from his hand. I watched it fall to the perfectly green grass beneath our feet, then looked up at him. He was still smiling. Still cute.
“Thank you.” Swear, I’d never felt lamer in my entire life.
“I brought cookies,” Dad said, lifting the store-bought plastic container in his hand. A sudden commotion occurred at his words. Lucy said, “I’m going to read,” then flew up the porch steps, one of her brothers following after her. The twins, identical, went off in the other direction and started throwing a ball. Another of the brothers mumbled something under his breath and disappeared, and the phone rang. “I’ll get it,” Kathy said, excusing herself.
Tom motioned to his house. “I’ll get started on the grill out back.”
“Sounds great.” Dad squeezed my shoulder and followed after him.
I started to go with him, but a hand landed on my arm, and I turned to Lucas who was smiling wider, looking cuter. “You want to see something cool?” he asked.
He took me to his secret hideout; somewhere far away from the picket fence, but not far enough that we couldn’t see the house. Why he showed it to me when it was supposed to be a secret, I had no idea. But I didn’t care. It was a space between two trees and an old blanket hung between the trunks, hidden beneath a bunch of leafy branches. “This is cool,” I said.
“Just wait.” He cleared the branches and pointed to a tin box in the corner of the space.
“What is it?”
“A secret stash,” he whispered, looking around him. I did the same. Honestly, I had no idea what I was doing. Did I mention he was cute?
He got down on his knees, dirt flying up from the impact. “Come on,” he said, waving a hand at me while picking up the box with the other.
I got down on my knees next to him, our arms touching while he lifted the lid. “Dammit!” he spat.
“Logan,” he said simply.
He sighed. “My brother.”
“Okay. So it’s Lucy, then me,”—he pointed to himself—“Lucas. And then there’s Leo, Logan, and the twins, Lincoln and Liam.”
“Oh.” I nodded, trying to remember not just their names, but the order. “What about Logan?”
He shook his head as he pulled out a single Snickers bar. “He must’ve stolen the others. There’s only one here.” He held it out to me. “You have it.”
I shook my head. “No, it’s yours.”
“But you’re my guest. My friend.”
Hiding my smile, I grabbed the chocolate from him, unwrapped it, broke it in half and pulled it apart. Then I handed him his half. “Friends share,” I told him.
We ate in silence.
“My brother’s so dumb,” Lucas said after a while. “The only things in here were Snickers, and he’s allergic to nuts.”
A giggle burst out of me. “Then why would he take them?”
Lucas rolled his eyes. “Because he’s Logan.”
Later, I’d learn that the simple word “Logan,” said in the tone he’d used then, would be explanation enough in the Preston household.
His mother called for us a minute later, and Lucas stood quickly, wiping his chocolate-and-dirt-covered hands across his Superman logo t-shirt. Then he held his hand out for me. “Ready?”
I took Lucas’s hand; the first boy I’d ever been nervous to hold hands with. He released it as soon as I was on my feet. “Race to the fence?” he asked.
After looking down at my clothes, I shrugged. “Okay.”
“Ready?” He had the sprinter pose down, even back then.
I copied his stance and ignored the fact that he was in sneakers and I was in flip-flops. “Ready.”
Lucas puffed out a breath as he took the paper plate from his mom. “She left you in the dust, son,” Kathy teased.
Lucas said, “That’ll be the last time.” And it was.
His mom laughed and ruffled his hair before handing me my plate. Then she looked between Lucas and me a long moment before she called out, “Tom! Brian! Come look at this!”
Lucas and I stayed side by side, catching our breaths as we waited for our dads to join us. They all stared at the two of us, Kathy’s smile growing wider with every second. She pointed to Lucas’s shirt. “Clark Kent,” she said, then shifted her gaze to me. “And Lois Lane.”