James is three months younger than Kimberly, but he has a car, even though Kimberly does not. It’s an old, 5-speed Firebird, but despite its age, it still runs well. James likes his car, even though it’s not new like a lot of the other kids’ cars. Those kids have rich parents, and James doesn’t. They’re not poor, but they can’t afford to buy James a new Mustang like two people in his grade have recently received.
Unfortunately though, James cannot afford to put gas into his car more than once a month. He had a job about nine months ago, but the down economy caused the small shop he was working for to go out of business. It’s okay though, because James can just walk to Kimberly’s house since its not too far, and that’s really the only place he regularly goes besides school, and he catches the bus to get there.
Kimberly feels bad asking James to go to the lake, because it means he’ll have to drive, but it’s the weekend, and she thinks he will probably want to go. A lot of kids from school usually go down to the lake on Saturdays, and though Kimberly doesn’t have a car, she does have a boat. None of the other kids have a boat, so when she brings out the boat, they can go water skiing and kneeboarding.
Well, okay, it’s not actually her boat. It’s really her dad’s, but her dad always let her drive it, so she’s known how to use it since she was 10. It’s a 16 foot aluminum skiff with a 40 horsepower outboard motor.
It’s docked at her grandpa’s house, because docking there is free and her dad doesn’t have a truck anymore to launch the boat. Her grandpa is lucky enough to own property on the lake because he bought it long, long ago when it wasn’t worth a whole lot. If he sold it now, he’d be a millionaire, but he loves living on the lake, and so does Kimberly’s grandma.
“You really want to go to the lake? I thought you said you were never going back after that raft incident a while back,” James says. Kimberly recalls saying those words, but she didn’t really mean them. She had hoped he would’ve forgotten by now.
“If you will drive, then yeah.”
“Sure,” he says. “It’s not like the lake is far or anything.”
Kimberly gleefully goes into the bathroom and changes into her bikini, then puts a shirt and shorts on over it. It’s a new bikini that she kind of wants to show off, and she hates to cover it up, but she has to until they get to the lake.
James and Kimberly technically live on the same road, but it curves around in a big U. Kimberly lives on one side of the U and James on the other. Their houses face each other, but they can’t walk straight through the middle of the U because that land is developed with houses and fences and whatnot. Instead, they have to travel along the road, which is about a 15 minute walk at a relaxing pace. If they were to speed up to a jog like James regularly does, it only takes about seven or eight minutes, but they’re not in a hurry.
Many of the small roads around town are gravel, but this road is paved. Kimberly can still remember when they paved it nine years ago. James’ family had moved into their current house eight years ago, so James has no memory of their street being gravel.
James quickly changes into his swim trunks and grabs his car keys. His parents aren’t around, so he leaves them a note. “Going to the lake with Kimberly,” it says. He would’ve called them, but writing a note is easier.
James doesn’t have a cell phone. He wants one, but he can’t afford it. The phone itself he could save up for, but the monthly charge for texting is too much. His parents have told him that they’ll pay for the voice plan, but if he wants to text, he needs to pay for it himself. He doesn’t see the point of having a cell phone that can’t text, so he doesn’t bother trying to save up for one.
Kimberly has a cell phone. She just got it a couple months ago for her 17th birthday. Her parents pay the bill for it under the guise that they feel safer being able to check up on their daughter when she’s out, but really, she’s an only child and they can afford to spoil her a little if they want, so sometimes they do.
They hop in James’ Firebird. He presses the clutch down and starts the car. It roars to life, and James grins because he loves the raw sound his old car makes. He shifts into 1st and takes off, rowing through gears as he gains speed.
James actually hasn’t driven his car in a while. He was grounded from it for a month after the incident in the Redwoods. He recently got his privileges back, but he’d only used it since then to drive his mom to the grocery store (she gives him a few bucks for gas when he does this). She’d have probably made him do that anyway though, grounded or not. James doesn’t really care; he’s just glad that his punishment wasn’t so severe that it prevented him from seeing Kimberly.
Kimberly didn’t receive a punishment. Well, she technically did, but it was just that her phone got taken away for a week. No big deal for her. Maybe for most 17 year olds, but she could live without it.
They turn off of the paved road onto another paved road. It curves and twists alongside a fence in a northerly direction for a couple of miles until the lake comes into sight. Take a right when the road forks, and the group hangout spot at the lake is right there.
At least half the kids in their grade are at the lake. It’s a small town, so it’s a small school. Their grade is comprised of a single class, and the class is only 25 students.
The other kids see James’ old Firebird pulling up, and a few of the girls wave. The guys are too busy fooling around with an inflatable raft to wave. James sees this from the car and says, “12 high school kids and an inflatable raft. Sounds like a great idea.” James has learned his lesson about rafts already, but his classmates apparently hadn’t.
James and Kimberly have an interesting history with their classmates. They like most of them, but there is a group of five of them that they just plain don’t get along with. One of them is Revo, the guy that started the rumor about Kimberly that ended in him sprawled out on the floor, courtesy of James’ fist. They still don’t know why Revo decided to start the rumor, but questioning the motives of high school kids is often frivolous, and even high school kids know this, because sometimes even they don’t know why they do what they do.
James is a very straightforward person, though. So is Kimberly. Maybe that’s why they’ve always gotten along so well. James doesn’t take any shit from anyone. He will respect someone that calls him a dick to his face, because anyone can call him a dick behind his back. That group of five – James doesn’t respect them. Kimberly obviously doesn’t either.
That’s why they’re a little disappointed when they see Scotty and Heather with the others at the lake. Scotty isn’t the one that started the rumor, but he did help spread it. He’s dating Heather, who is a pretty girl, but lacks any hint of common sense. James almost feels bad for Heather, because she needs someone like Scotty, who has plenty enough common sense to share, but instead of using it, often falls victim to his baser instincts.
It’s odd to see these two without the other three. Kimberly immediately notes this by saying, “Where’s the rest of the Fabulous Five?”
Oh yeah, one other thing about their classmates: the animosity between the “Fabulous Five” and James and Kimberly is well known, and pretty much everyone else has sided with James and Kimberly. The five in that group aren’t exactly well-liked, but they don’t seem to care much, as is apparent by two of them showing up here like everyone else wants them around.
They don’t immediately go to Kimberly’s grandparents’ house to get the boat as they had planned. Kimberly has certain reservations about letting Scotty and Heather go anywhere near it. Instead, they go down to the shore with the other kids. Some of them – a small group that James and Kimberly aren’t very close to – are hanging around drinking beer that they swiped from their parents’ fridge. The kids think no one can tell what they’re drinking because the cans are in cozies, but it’s apparent even to Kimberly, who doesn’t have much exposure to beer cans because her parents don’t really drink beer.
“Hey Kimberly!” a girl shouts. The girl’s name is Sarah-Beth. A somewhat redneck name for a hardly redneck girl. Sarah-Beth is Kimberly’s best female friend.
“Hi Sarah,” Kimberly says. Sarah-Beth doesn’t like her full name – quite the opposite of Kimberly.
The girls hug, and the rest of them exchange greetings. James hadn’t immediately noticed that Tim is there because Tim had been swimming in the lake with a few others. James and Tim aren’t really friends, but James respects Tim, because Tim always smiles and tells both Kimberly and him hello when he sees them in school or around town. James respects this quality. Friendly people are good people, James thinks. Not always, but most of the time.
Tim is a bit of a gentle giant. He’s strong, but righteous. The type of person that will curse in front of a lady, but never at one.
Like clockwork, Tim says, “Hi James. Where’s Kimberly?” James hadn’t noticed, but Kimberly had disappeared somewhere with Sarah-Beth. James doesn’t pay any attention to the fact that Tim assumes that Kimberly is always around him, because it’s usually true.
Even though James greeted Scotty and Heather, he still sees them giving him the stink eye every once in a while when he looks in their direction. He shrugs it off and decides to ignore them for now.
Kimberly and Sarah-Beth return from wherever they have been. Kimberly has shimmied out of her shorts, but still has her shirt on. She’s carrying her shorts in her left hand, and she opens James’ car and throws them inside. While standing there, she takes off her shirt and throws it inside too. James notices this, and, of course, every other male notices this.
As soon as Kimberly starts walking back toward him, James sees Heather glaring fiercely at her, as though Kimberly had walked up to Heather’s mother’s grave and spit on it.
Kimberly is an attractive girl. James knows this. Every guy in their class knows this. Even Heather knows this, and James suspects that right now, Heather is jealous because she just caught Scotty checking Kimberly out as she was taking her shirt off.
This would upset many girls, but it goes far beyond that in this case and infuriates Heather. James doesn’t say anything, but he finds it hilarious.
“Wanna go for a swim?” Kimberly asks.
“Sure,” James says. He adds, “I like your bikini.” He isn’t hitting on her or anything. He just knows that it’s new, and girls like it when you compliment them on their clothes.
Kimberly smiles, but doesn’t thank him. Instead, she grabs him by the arm and drags him into the water. Sarah-Beth is watching them from back on the shore and is cracking up with laughter.
“You better stop laughing,” Kimberly yells out, “because you’re next, Sarah!”
Sarah-Beth giggles and says, “Those two are so cute.” No one hears her say this though. She has purposely said it just loud enough for only herself to hear.
The water is a comfortable temperature, which surprises James, because it rained last night, and rain always cools the lake off. He splashes some of the water at Kimberly and Sarah-Beth, who joined them only moments ago, and is still standing there only halfway submerged in the water.
“Hey, that’s cold! At least let me get used to the water first!” Sarah-Beth protests.
James laughs and says, “Oh come on you big baby, it’s not cold.”
The three of them swim for 30 minutes or so, though their “swimming” mostly consists of water splashing fights and cracking stupid jokes about the legendary monster that lives in the lake. There is, of course, no monster in the lake, but it is a fun myth that some of the townspeople have been spreading around for years.
As they’re about to get out of the water, they hear shouting back on the shore. One of the voices is definitely Tim’s, but neither James nor Kimberly nor Sarah-Beth can figure out who the other voice belongs to. They quickly wade back to shore and run over to where the others are.
Tim is face to face with Scotty. Scotty should be terrified, but he doesn’t look it. Tim is a big guy. He could be a football player. He should be a football player. Their school isn’t big enough to have a football team, though. Regardless of this, Tim is the closest thing they have to a jock, and like everyone else, Tim sides with James and Kimberly, thusly putting Scotty on the bad end of Tim’s anger.
“It isn’t James’ fault that you can’t keep your eyes off of Kimberly. This is you and Heather’s shit, not Kimberly’s and not James’. Leave them out of this,” Tim says. James, Kimberly, and Sarah-Beth don’t know what’s going on, but while they were swimming, Heather had pitched a hissy fit because she caught Scotty staring at Kimberly yet again. Heather is furious at Scotty, and Scotty is furious because he is in the wrong, and he knows it. Like most boneheads, he has to take out his anger on someone, and since James’ had once knocked out Revo, Scotty decides James should be the recipient of his anger, so Scotty goes over and kicks James’ Firebird while Tim is watching. Tim has also seen everything that’s transpired between Scotty and Heather.
Tim takes it personally when stupid people do stupid things to other people or their property. Tim is one of the lucky kids that got a new Mustang from his parents. He isn’t a brat though. He loves his car, and he takes care of it. No one touches his car, and when he sees Scotty kick James’ old Firebird, Tim is infuriated. It may be an old car, but Scotty has no right to kick it, even if he only leaves a small dent that is easily taken out later with a suction cup.
Scotty is raging mad. He wants to hit Tim, but hitting Tim would be idiotic. Not only could Tim beat him into a pulp, but two of Tim’s closest friends are there to back him up, as well as all of these other people. Scotty may be stupid, but he’s not that stupid.
Scotty sees that James and Kimberly are standing there, dumbfounded at the whole situation. James heard his name mentioned, and Kimberly heard hers mentioned, but they’ve been swimming this entire time. What could they have done to be involved in this?
Scotty, ever the opportunist, walks away from Tim and up to James. James frowns. He doesn’t like this punk. Scotty looks James up and down and says, “You’re not good enough to have a girl like that.” He nods over to Kimberly.
“Kimberly is my friend,” James says.
“Right,” Scotty replies. Everyone there knows that James and Kimberly are not dating. Of course, when a girl and a guy hang out alone as much as Kimberly and James do, rumors start, but they were gentle rumors, and they were quickly put to rest as soon as the subjects of the rumors were asked about them. However, James and Kimberly – especially Kimberly – like to take advantage of that situation whenever possible.
“What’s the matter?” Kimberly says. “Don’t believe him?” She winds her right arm around James’ left and pulls him close to her. James rolls his eyes.
“Are you making fun of me, bitch?”
No one says a word. There are two reasons why this is very bad. The first is that they all know what James’ did to Revo when Revo had insulted Kimberly’s integrity. The second is that Tim is still standing there, and Tim does not tolerate it when men call women by that slang, especially not a woman that he knows and respects.
Kimberly can tell that James wants to get violent. She still has her arm wrapped around his, so she pulls him back and whispers, “Don’t. Please don’t. I don’t want you to get hurt.”
But James’ teeth are already gritted, and he’s already trying to pull himself out of Kimberly’s grasp. She holds him tightly though. “No, please, dont,” she pleads.
Sensing a possible fight, their classmate, Tina, had already pulled out her smartphone, opened the camera app, and tapped the record button. Tina has Scotty on video calling Kimberly a bitch, but then she stops recording, realizing that if something did go down and there was video evidence, it might get James in trouble rather than Scotty, especially if James throws the first punch. She picks up her phone and goes back to watching, silently hoping that Scotty gets what he deserves.
“Kimberly, let me go,” James says.
“I won’t let go,” Kimberly says. James would never get rough with Kimberly, and she knows it, so if she holds on, he won’t try to push her off, and then he won’t be able to fight Scotty.
“What’s the matter? Your girlfriend won’t let you fight?” Scotty says, accentuating and dragging out the word ‘girlfriend.’
However, James isn’t really the biggest of Scotty’s worries. Or, at least, he shouldn’t be, because at that moment, Tim is walking up behind Scotty.
“Kimberly is a better person that you will ever be,” James fires off, eyes practically ablaze. “If you have a problem with me, then take it out with me, not her.”
Scotty looks James in the eye and says, “Fine.” There is an evil smile on Scotty’s face as the word escapes his lips, and James suddenly realizes that Scotty plans to hit him while he can’t fight back. His mind starts racing. Should he push Kimberly to the side so she doesn’t get hurt? Should he just take the attack like a man and not fight back?
Scotty cocks his fist back, and James, having desultorily decided on his latter idea, braces for impact.
But another hand appears in front of James and catches the attack. It’s a big hand – no doubt belonging to Tim. James is in awe that Tim not only blocked the attack, but did so with a single hand.
Tim wraps his hand around Scotty’s fist. Scotty tries to escape Tim’s grasp, but it’s futile. Tim is a powerhouse, and Scotty is a double A battery. With his other hand, Tim grabs Scotty’s comparatively small bicep, and using his own body as a fulcrum, Tim swings Scotty backward, stops, then heaves all of the power in his body into swinging Scotty forward.
Tim lets go, and Scotty, practically helpless at this point, flies forward, hits the ground, and rolls down the bank into the lake.
Everyone is quiet at first as Scotty gets up, completely humiliated. Then, they all burst out with cheers, laughter, and even applause. Scotty is suddenly painfully aware that he’s lost this fight, and he walks past them, dripping with water, dispirit and dejected.
Even James is cheering as his opponent walks past. His anger is gone now, as Scotty has received what he had coming to him. Tim is proud of himself, because even though he got physical, he didn’t actually cause any harm to Scotty. At least, not to his body. Scotty’s pride might be permanently damaged, though.