“How did you go through life with that name…?” Malcolm’s eyes flashed with happiness. “I mean, if I wrote it, people would crucify me. What were your parents thinking?” Summer froze. “I mean, do they love you at all?” Malcolm chuckled. Summer’s feet refused to move, and her arms lay limp at her side. “Summer?” Malcolm’s smile faded. “Sum?” The sound of her nickname spoken by Malcolm did her in. She desperately fought the mounting tears. Malcolm stared at her. “It’s not your name you’re upset about, is it?” Summer clenched her jaw and shook her head. “I’m sorry.” His voice was low and modulated. She nodded, looking at Malcolm, and wanting, for the first time ever, to have someone make it all okay. To have him make it all okay. Malcolm grew quiet. They stood there for whole minutes.“I’m sorry if I touched on a sore subject. Really.” Summer stared at him—this man who had everything except the answer she needed. How could he be so closed off? How could he care so little about the pain of another living creature? He stepped forward then, as if reading her mind, took her hand gently, and leaned over, speaking quietly into her ear. “It’s not that I don’t care.” Those few words found a place deep in Summer’s soul. Malcolm stood tall, and Summer’s eyes followed him. He reached out and stroked her cheek. “But I’ve got nothing more to give than today.”
He reached out and placed his hand on her cheek, stroking it gently. His gaze danced across hers. “I, uh…” Her tummy rumbled with excitement. “Thank you, Jenna. For all of it.” He pulled back, letting his hand drop to his side. He walked to the clothing rack in the back of the room, dropped the sauerkraut, and dug a small pink box from his leather bag. “Here. I wanted it to be so much more but this just felt right.” Jenna took the box with trembling hands. She gave it a slight shake, listening to it rattle. “What is it?” “Open it.” Jenna’s heart raced as she tugged at the ribbon and lifted the top off the box. Inside were a hundred pink candy turtles—all stamped with the word “Dream.” She looked up at him, her eyes aching from tears. “How did you?” “I know you’d want your father here tonight. And I know he’d want you to dream big, because that’s what I want for you.” “Trevor, I…” Jenna threw her arms around his neck and held him, tightly, her gown bunching between them. When she broke away, she was inches from him. “Perchance to dream, Jenna.” She smiled, biting the corner of her lip, exactly where his fingers had been only moments before. He reached up to touch her hair. “Careful of the wig,” she joked. “And with that sugar addiction of yours, I figured Valentine’s Day candy was a given.” “Oh, you know me so well, Mr. Hughes.” Jenna fanned herself coquettishly. He smiled. Trevor tossed the container aside and scooped Jenna into his arms. He held her tight. “It feels like the nunnery scene.” Jenna’s voice was soft and breathy. “Yes, but does this happen in the nunnery scene?” Trevor pulled her closer to him, and his lips nearly brushed against hers. “Maybe it should?” “Are you telling me…?” Trevor studied her, his gaze locked on hers. “You want me to—?” The stage manager stuck his head through the door. “Hamlet? Ophelia? Places, please.” Her body ached as he released her. “Damn it.” Trevor shook his head, jumping up and down in place. He stopped and smiled at Jenna, taking her hand and kissing it, before letting go. “Here we go.” “Break a leg, Trevor.” She smiled at him, adrenaline rushing through her. “You too, Jenna.” She made her way to the door and turned back. “Trevor? Here’s to not sucking and having to do dinner theatre in the middle of nowhere.” Chuckling, Trevor tossed his head back and Jenna scooted out the door.
For Mature Young Adults/New Adults:
“What if the Devil doesn’t know he’s the Devil?” I ask. Phoenix shakes his head, confused. “What?” “Why? Why does the bad I’ve done have to define me?” “Because you’re a murdering sadist,” he snaps back at me. “No, I am not.” I clench my teeth, standing my ground. I am tired of these labels I am suddenly wearing. “I never, I mean never knew what happened to those girls I led to the Lettings. I am so very sorry I played any role in this vile enterprise in which we exist, but I was clueless. Maybe I’m ignorant, or downright stupid, but I would rather have been dead than be responsible for hurting anyone. And before you go throwing malicious names around, maybe it’s time you consider maybe you’re wrong...? What if you kidnapped and tortured me in the name of a revolution that is wrong?” “It’s not,” he argues.
“But I didn’t think I was wrong, either.” I am exasperated. “Don’t you get it?” He takes a step back away from me, but I go on. “We are completely turned around. The only information we’re fed is from a corrupt enterprise. What makes you think your information is any more accurate than mine?” For the first time ever, he looks terrified. I let a moment go by before I gesture for Raven to come over, and she hurries to my side. “This is Raven,” I say, slowly, talking to Phoenix. “She’s your sister.”
He abandons my button to run his fingers across my lips once more. I try to remember to breathe. As he reaches down for the next button, my breathing becomes shallow and rapid. His eyes are locked on mine as he works my shirt. His hands are level with my breasts, and he moves his head to the side, questioning me with his glance, as if he’s waiting for me to stop him. I don’t. He moves to the next button, and I close my eyes. I feel dizzy and unsteady on my feet—but in a whole different way than before. He has me unbuttoned almost to my bellybutton, although I’m still covered. Still staring into my eyes, he finishes unbuttoning my shirt. He begins to open it slowly. “Phoenix…” I reach out and grab his hands, instinctually.
He stops. I am both terrified and enthralled. He raises his eyebrows. “No?” I don’t answer. The heartbeat pulsing in my head drowns out my thoughts. “Ron?” I let his hands go and breathe deeply. I close my eyes for a moment and then open them. I smile nervously, biting the inside of my cheek. I take another breath and manage to nod slightly. He smiles at me and reaches out for my shirt again. He opens it gently. “Phoenix…” I am sweating and my breathing is shallow, as my body waits for his touch. His eyes dart down from my eyes to my opened shirt. “You are so incredibly beautiful—”