Casey couldn’t believe the day he was having. His night had had him so hopefully, but after speaking to Ruby in school that morning, everything was right back to crap.
As he headed down to the beach, he hoped he wouldn’t run into anyone he knew. The last thing that Casey wanted was to have to explain his absence from school.
But when he spotted Romeo coming out of the water, he slowed down his jog and headed over. He stood, silent, watching as Romeo glanced over his cell phone and grabbed a towel.
“What are you doing here?” Romeo asked when he finally spotted him.
“Cutting school, same as you,” Casey replied.
“Yeah? How come?”
“Ruby mostly,” Casey answered honestly.
He watched as Romeo’s face seemed to go from sad and thoughtful to gloom and dreadful.
“Yeah,” Casey replied, curious over the reaction. “Look, you don’t have to worry about us seeing each other,” he continued. “She knocked me back this morning, so.”
“Right,” Romeo nodded slowly, the dread look still on his face. “Did she say why?”
“No, she said she was kind of seeing someone else,” Casey offered back. “Whatever that means.”
Romeo’s eyes widened slightly.
“I didn’t even know she was interested in anyone, to be honest. Did you?”
“No?” Casey muttered to himself. Curious indeed. Romeo’s face was saying one thing, and he was saying another.
From the bits of things Casey had heard that day, he couldn’t help but think that Romeo was the one that Ruby had been talking about. Unless Romeo really was that clueless. Perhaps he was. They were best friends, after all, as far as Casey could tell. Maybe Ruby felt their friendship was stronger than what Romeo thought they were.
Or maybe Romeo was lying.
Casey shrugged and turned towards the water again, walking away.
There were no river boys that morning. Few people were in the water, let alone surfing. If he didn’t have to go to school, he would be able to enjoy more perfect moments like these.
If only Ruby wasn’t weighing on his mind.
Jagger and Nash watched out the window as Heath pulled away.
“I thought he was never going to leave,” Nash groaned, turning away and leaning his head back against the glass.
“Brax should be home in two hours, and Casey’s off surfing. Finally, some time to ourselves!”
Jagger turned and dashed over to the hall closet.
“You really think this is the time?” Nash cringed as he watched her pull out a duffle bag from the back.
“When else do you think we’re going to have a moment alone like this?” She shook her head at him.
“We’re on a seemingly endless cycle of being grounded and getting our arse burned up for it.”
“Relax, we’ll say we went over to Cody’s or Ryan’s or someone’s.”
“And who are Cody and Ryan?” Nash crossed his arms. “Imaginary mates?”
“Brax wants us to make friends,” Jagger shrugged. “So, we made friends.”
“Fake friends. To have fake alibis and fake playdates!” Nash rubbed at his face. “I really should stop you. Brax keeps telling me to stand up for myself.”
“You’re welcome to stay behind,” Jagger rolled her eyes. “No one is making up come along.”
Nash thought about it for a few seconds. It really would be the best for him to say behind. They were supposed to be at home, waiting for Brax or Heath to return and behaving themselves.
“No,” he shook his head. “Let’s be serious, I’d be too curious and bored at home.”
“So? Are we hitting up Yabbie Creek, or what?”
Nash groaned. “We’re going to need shoes.”
As the twins got off the bus at Yabbie Creek Mall, they shared a look, and bumped fists before splitting up.
Nash headed for the door first, he walked over to the food court and ordered himself a jumbo smoothie. He took a table, pulling out a burner cell phone that they had acquired a few weeks back. Nash sat there, slowly sipping at his drink as he looked down at the floor below, taking careful notice of the progression of people.
Jagger stayed outside for a few minutes. She made like she was talking and texting, but what she was really doing was watching and listening to the two guards that were about.
When she finally entered the mall, she headed slowly over to her destination. Entering it, she made center to walk around the edges of the place, where she knew the security camera angels were the worst.
Every now and then, Jagger would pull out her cell phone to read a new text. It would consist of numbers, and a few symbols. Complete jibber jabber, but she read it as intently as she would microwaving instructions.
Jagger reached up to items high and crouched down to items low. She read the back of things and laughed or muttered about them. Finally, her eyes settled on a discounted video game that she wouldn’t mind playing that was probably a year old. She took it, glancing at her watch, and went over to the counter.
“That’s twelve fifty,” the guy behind the counter said, talking the two tens from her. He gave her back her change and her purchase in a bag.
“Uh, thanks,” Jagger said taking the bag and heading towards the exit.
“Yeah,” the clerk said.
Jagger walked out of the store, and the security beacons beside the door began to buzz anew. She turned to look at the clerk guy.
The clerk stood up and glanced at her. He spotted a young kid looking bewildered at the machine and back at him.
“Whatever, you’re fine,” the guy said, shrugging as Jagger walked on from the now silent alarms. “Fucking technology,” the clerk scoffed.
Jagger walked out of the store and towards the door. She scratched at the back of her head before she left through the doors. She walked straight over to the bus stop, and a few seconds later, the getaway arrived.
Taking a seat Jagger looked out of the window. She could see the mall a bit far down the slope. Nash would still be in there. She wanted to wait for him, but that would look suspicious.
Soon enough, she was on her way, knowing in fifteen minutes, there would be an identical ride back to Mangrove River and home.
Jagger casually placed the backpack she carried on her lap. It was heavier looking to anyone that actually paid attention. Luckily for her, no one ever did.
Jagger sat up straighter, trying to look taller, and made certain the cap on her head was on slightly tilted in the fashion that the Flannery boys wore. Her hoodie had the Pistons on them, the ones Drummond and his crew liked, and her boots were three sizes too big and tied up tightly so that she wouldn’t fall on her face.
In all, she looked nothing like herself OR a River Boy.
Instead of heading home, Jagger was going to wait for Nash over inside one of the old lifeguard houses in Wilsons. There weren’t very many lifeguards around the far North end of that beach anymore. The waves were just too rough for anyone to seriously enjoy – unless you were crazy enough to surf them.
She took out her key from her necklace, and opened the new lock they had placed on the door months back. From the outside, the place looked completely uninhabitable. Inside, however, Nash and Jagger had worked hard at making it much more livable. They had boarded up the windows from the inside, covering the interior from curious eyes, but they had made a skylight so that enough natural light came in during the day, and most nights too. For any other time, they had a locked chest with batteries, flashlights, blankets, books, cans of fruits, can opener, mosquito spray, and other knickknacks that they had acquired.
Jagger checked behind her and closed the door up tightly.
Dropping her backpack onto some pillows in the corner, Jagger proceeded to take off all of her clothes and stuff in into a large black trash bag, that she then placed into the secret space under the flooring. They had spent a whole month closing off the bottom portion of the house, where they could place their bikes, surfboard, and extra secret storage.
Jagger tossed the bag down the ladder and then followed down it in just her boxer shorts. She grabbed a fresh shirt and shorts from another trunk that had spare clothes from the twins down there and then placed the bag safely away.
By the time that Jagger was down below, Nash was arriving above. He entered the space, and proceeded to do the same as his sister before him.
“All clear?” she asked as he tossed his own fake clothing and went to dress.
“All clear,” he grinned. “And nice touch with the purchase too.”
“It’s for Casey,” Jagger shrugged. “He’s having a pretty lousy week of it.”
Nash nodded. Their youngest older brother wasn’t settling into his new school all that well. And to make matters worse, his old friends were shunning him. It wasn’t Casey’s fault that he had to go to the ‘Posh’ Summer Bay, Brax was making him. But while they wouldn’t say anything to the big guy’s face, his so-called friends weren’t exactly being nice to him.
Casey was spending more and more time at the Bay, and less time at home.
“We can give it to him tomorrow,” Nash said, looking at his watch. “We should head home now.”
“Brax is probably home,” Jagger frowned. “The stupid bus takes forever.”
The twins locked up the space behind them and started to walk home, slowly. Whether they were caught or not, there was just no point in making themselves tired. Besides, they had been coped up inside, grounded, for forever.
“Things are going to be so much easier when I can drive,” Nash said, placing his arm around Jagger.
Jagger turned and frowned at him.
“You mean we,” she jabbed him with her elbow.
“Ouch,” he groaned, smirking nonetheless. “Yeah right Julie,” he rolled his eyes. “We both know, in the next six years, you’re going to find a way to get your license revoked. If Brax doesn’t permanently take it away first!”
“He still lets Heath drive,” she insisted. “Even with a suspended license! He’s not going to care what we do.”
“You’re going to be a sixteen year old girl,” Nash whispered to her. “That’s going to be different.”
Jagger cringed and frowned. She didn’t like thinking that she was going to be different from her brothers. She didn’t like thinking that soon enough, her and Nash were going to be obvious fraternal instead of kind of confusing possible identical.
Turning she jabbed at his shoulder with her right, catching him with a slight smack on the back of his head with the left before Nash was able to retaliate. And even then, Jagger turned and started dashing away faster than Nash was able to keep up with.
She might be a girl, but she was tough.
“Right, thanks,” Brax said, hanging up his cell phone. It was late at night, and thankfully all of the kids were asleep. Heath was even in, sitting in the living room with a beer and watching an old game replay. He could tell his brother was bored, but he was there and quiet, which was more than what he could ask from Heath on most days.
“All in order?” Heath asked, glancing over his shoulder at Brax.
“Mogel’s in,” Brax nodded. The shipments should be ready for the weekend.”
“Great,” Heath grinned. “Finally solving the cash flow problem there Big Guy! Want me to tell the boys?”
Brax shook his head.
“The man’s nuts, you know,” Brax told him, getting up and walking over to sit beside him. “I don’t want all of the Boys involved.”
Heath rolled his eyes. “If you ignore the Boys, most of them will go back to their usual tricks.”
Brax shrugged. “I can’t hold their fucking hand all of the time,” he groaned. “Either they listen to me, or they don’t. That’s it.”
“You know they listen,” Heath told him. “You just got to trust them some.”
Brax spared him a look. Heath wasn’t dumb, though he certainly didn’t go out of his way to be smart either.
“You’re my brother, and I love you,” Brax told him, already causing the younger Braxton to groan. “But if you think for a moment that I’m going to trust the criminal idiots we’ve grown up with, on a job like this, you must be soft in the head!”
“Alright, alright,” Heath shoved at his shoulder. He hated all use of the ‘L’ word, and if it wasn’t so late at night, with the kids asleep – and the fact that Brax would kill him if he woke them, and on a school night – he would have gladly wrestled his brother for using it. “I get it. The Boys are idiots and would no doubt blab their mouths away.”
“Not the lot,” Brax conceded. “You wouldn’t.”
“I don’t need you kicking my ass,” Heath scoffed.
“Righto,” Brax smirked.
“How are things in the Bay?” Heath asked, glancing over his shoulder to make sure none of the kids were somehow suddenly present.
Brax grinned. He slouched down in the couch, taking Heath’s beer for his own.
“Angelo is playing right into my hand,” he told his brother. “He needs that loan so bad, he’s willing to take money from me.”
“And the liquor?” Heath tried tugging his beer back.
“Already selling.” Brax turned away and took a sip from the beer can, letting Heath pull it away after. “Got a pretty decent payout coming from that end too.”
“So we can be done with the stupid couches finally?” groaned Heath.
Brax reached up and rapped his knuckles hard against Heath’s forehead.
“That’s this family’s one legit source of income. Do not go around trying to trash on it. We need the good name, I’ve told you heaps of times already!”
“Fine,” Heath groaned, rubbing at his head. “I just hate having to help old ladies with their stupid armchairs.”
“I’m meeting up with Angelo tomorrow,” Brax continued.
“At the Surf Club?” Heath scoffed. “Want me to go with?”
“Nope,” Brax closed his eyes, sighing. “Friendly chat. And pretty sure Angelo hates your guts.”
“Call me if you need me.”
Brax nodded. His hair was still wet from his shower and pressed down against his head. He could feel Heath’s arm beside him, as he was almost resting on it. Heath somehow had more energy than him, though they had both been up since five that morning. And most mornings, so that they could surf and maybe meet up with some of the Boys that actually did head off to work. The kids of Boys that were providing for their families and had too much to lose with fucking around. The kid of Boys that wouldn’t screw up a shipment.
Heath was thinking about the shipment too. It was one of the riskier things that the River Boys did, the growth and shipment of marijuana. Heath was partial to drugs, liked taking the edge of things and such, and the whole carefree, partying lifestyle suited him. But Brax wasn’t having any of that – having found Heath higher than a kite when he was sixteen, he had flayed into his brother and the younger had never dealt with pills again.
Now, he was glad. He was the ‘crazy Braxton’ he would admit, but he wasn’t going to lose his mind either. At least, not to those kinds of drugs; there were plenty of other opportunities to mess up his life. Though, he would be more inclined to call it having fun and messing around, but try telling that to big brother Brax.