The low-lying redwood and glass buildings of Miwok High stood on the opposite side of the creek. As Lee Reynolds, news anchor on a national cable television network, pulled into the parking lot she saw that the school was empty, the gates shut. She hadn't been back here since she'd left town during the summer following her high school graduation, seventeen years earlier.
She got out of the car. The door slamming shut was like a rifle crack in the quiet. A wooden, Japanese-style, arced footbridge crossed over the creek to the school buildings, and along its banks, weeping willows bowed their branches.
Lee stepped toward the bridge, then stopped. A part of her wanted to hurry away, warned her that being here was playing Russian roulette with her memories. But another, stronger feeling, pushed her closer to the school, and she crossed over the rippling waters of the creek.
The air was unnaturally still as if, could she but listen hard enough, she'd hear the bustling and laughter of students past and present, hear whispers of secrets shared and promises broken.
A lone bicycle rider cut in front of her, dropped his blue bike off at the bicycle rack, climbed over the cyclone fence surrounding the school and disappeared between the buildings. Amused, Lee watched his every movement, wondering what could possibly cause a teen age boy to break into his school grounds on a Saturday afternoon. Thoughts of burglary and vandalism came to mind because of stories she heard every day living in Manhattan, but she quickly dismissed them. This was Miwok, California, after all, a small rural town forty miles north of San Francisco. The boy had probably forgotten a homework assignment.
She wasn’t about to hop a fence. As she turned to leave, her gaze caught the blue bicycle.
Tony Santos had a bike that color....
She shuddered, then slid her hands into the pockets of her linen jacket and began to stroll along the dirt path that circled the outside perimeter of the school.
She glanced back at the bike once more, wistful yet surprised at how sharply her memories had returned. The first time she'd ever seen Tony he was standing beside his bike, right about where the boy left his. Lee had been waiting for her best friend, Cheryl McConnell. She was fifteen, a sophomore, and Tony was the same. He'd been bending over the bicycle rack working the combination lock. As he yanked the lock and chain off his bike, he noticed her watching him and straightened, allowing the chain to hang against his long legs. Then he smiled.
She shook her head slightly at the memory. He'd burst into her quiet world with all the charged energy and motion of a sonic boom. He had charm. She'd never forget his charm. 0r his independence. Or his knowledge of the world beyond Miwok. She'd envied that knowledge with all her heart, and had ached to see that world, away from Miwok, away from her widowed mother, and to become a part of it.
She'd heard about Tony since the first day he showed up in class, which wasn't surprising in a school of only three hundred students. He was Mexican and no other Mexican kids went to Miwok High. Most lived on the other side of the valley and went to Drake, an older, far larger school. But Tony Santos' father worked and lived out at the Circle Z Ranch, so he was in Miwok's school district.
The other kids said he was quiet. Maybe he didn't know English, they snickered, and he didn't seem to have any money. They decided his father probably cleaned the stables and that Tony Santos was, in short, a nobody.
How pompous those kids were. And she was one of the worst. How rudely she'd stared at him there, at the school's entrance.
Thin and lanky, he seemed to be all arms, legs and feet. His black hair was straight and shiny, and the forelock that fell as he bent over the bike, reached past his eyes. A high, narrow nose flared slightly at the nostrils; deep set brown eyes peered under arched brows; and a finely shaped mouth curved upward. His skin was a light olive tone, yet shades darker than her own. As her stare continued, his smile faded, and he stared back, his chin lifting arrogantly.
He took a step toward her. The bicycle chain still hung from his fingers. She stiffened. She'd heard Mexican kids were always fighting and getting into trouble with the law. At his next step she jumped back, ready to run.
He froze, then turned his back to her as he lifted his book bag onto his shoulders. Sliding the bike off the rack, he swung one leg over it in a smooth, graceful motion, then, standing as he pedaled, he rode right past her through the open gate, never meeting her gaze. He reached the street and sped down it.
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