Leap
puffing.
    He laughed. “Need to add a little cardio to the routine, hey?” He leaned forward—moving in for a kiss? I gasped. He pressed two fingers against my throat and held them still as I gulped air. “Your pulse is dangerously fast! I’m serious.”
    At least it was too dark for him to see me blush.
    He let his hand fall. “Maybe we should do that again some time. Get you in shape. I could be your personal trainer.”
    I was gaining control of my breath. “Get real! Have you seen what I’m riding? Look at how fat these tires are. Let’s just switch bikes next time. I’ll kick your ass.”
    He dropped his chin to his neck and grinned at the ground. “That sounds like fun.” He mounted his bike. “So long, Natalie.”
    He rounded the corner and vanished. I didn’t know where he was staying or when I might see him again. I stood in the driveway long enough for my heart to slow down, then stowed my bike and headed for the shower.
    Sunday, July 18th
    This morning I woke up to the sound of a softball landing in a glove, mixed with Paige’s chatter. The soft noises drifted through my bedroom window, much more pleasant than the squawk of an alarm clock. Sunday: nowhere to go. I stretched and resettled, then remembered: this kind of movement was Petra’s raw material. As I rolled and flopped, I paid attention in a new way.
    A deeper voice rumbled in response to Paige’s. I flung off the covers and pried the blinds apart. Paige was playing catch on the front lawn with a man I’d never seen before. I pulled on shorts and ran outside. “Paige!”
    â€œHi, Nat. You’re finally up. Mom says teenagers need more sleep than anybody else, but I don’t see why.”
    The man chuckled and looked at Paige like she was the most adorable thing he’d ever seen.
    â€œWho are you?”
    He shifted the ball to his left hand and stuck out his arm. I ignored it until he let it fall to his side. “Phil Ainslie. My parents live across the street; you must have met them?”
    I looked at this Phil person more closely: salt and pepper hair, receding hairline, a paunch forming over the waistband of his Bermuda shorts. “There’s an old couple across the street,” I said.
    â€œThat’s right, they’re my parents. They moved out here to retire. I’m just visiting. from Ontario. Got here last night. They’re having a rest right now, and I was just heading out for a walk when your sister here,” he winked at Paige, “asked me to play catch with her.”
    I put my hand on Paige’s shoulder. “Ontario. Isn’t that a little far? What happens when there’s an emergency? You’re not much good to them way out there. We had snow this winter, you know. I saw your dad out there shoveling and I was a little worried about him. He could have keeled over from a heart attack.” I was getting off topic. “Do you always play with little girls?”
    Phil’s expression hardened. He set the ball down on the grass and backed away. “I’m sorry I intruded. I wouldn’t have done this back home, but it seems so small town here, I thought a person could be neighborly without—”
    Paige whined. “He was playing with me!”
    â€œ I’ll play with you.” I picked up the ball and let it smack against my palm several times, as if it might come in handy as a weapon to bean Phil’s head. He kept retreating until he reached the pavement, then he turned and strode back to his parents’ house. Apparently, he’d changed his mind about the walk.
    Paige placed her fists on her hips. “Why were you so mean to him?”
    â€œI’ll get Mom to explain it. Come around to the back.”
    â€œHey! You said you’d play with me.”
    â€œI will, I will, just let me eat breakfast first. Mom!” I sprinted to the back porch with Paige in tow. Mom was

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