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Junebug


(Catch up, here)

“Uh, June?” Barrett clears his throat. “Don’t you think you should…slow down a little?” I glare at the speedometer. It reads 55. “No,” I growl, but I ease up on the gas. “What was that about?” “Nothing.” “Bull. Tell me. Now.” “Barrett—” “And it’d better be the truth. I’ll know if you’re lying.” I sigh. “Growing up, I thought Grampy cradled the moon and hung the stars. I wanted to be just like him. As I got older, I figured out he didn’t like me as much as I liked him.” “That’s not true—” “Oh, yeah? Take my nickname: Junebug, after the beetle. He gave it to me.” “Cute.” I bark out a cynical laugh. “Have you ever encountered one?” “Nooo,” he draws out the word. “They’re large, and invasive, and always in your face. Obnoxious. Just. Like. Me.” “I’m sure he didn’t—” “I overheard him talking to a coworker once, when Grampy gave him my nickname, the guy laughed. ‘Like the beetle” he asked. ‘Exactly like the beetle,’ Grampy said. I didn’t know what it meant then, but I found out. I’ve been trying to prove my whole life I’m worth something. That I’m worth investing in.” I swallow back the lump that’s grown in my throat. I don’t know why I’ve told Barrett any of this. “I’d invest in you. What you did back there, that lets me know I’d get a pretty good ROI,” he says softly. “You don’t know what you’re talking about.” “Yes I do.” “My own grandfather doesn’t even believe in me.” “That’s not true.” I stare straight ahead. “He kept his life from us because he thought he was protecting us. He didn’t want us to be a part of it. But did he ever ask if maybe we wanted to be a part of the organization?” “What? You want to be working with people like that guy who attacked you back there?” “Used to, yeah. And they’re not all like that. Only when people threaten to mess things up. To expose them.” “That’s ridiculous. How do you even know that?” “Grampy was a member, remember?” “Yeah, but that doesn’t make sense. You said he kept it secret, and I doubt he had a training manual lying around. which means…” “Which means nothing,” I say. He twists his body in my direction, eyes wide.” You’re a memb—” “You say the words, you can’t take them back. Please don’t make that decision for me.” There’s a silence so loud in the car, it’s pressing into my eardrums. I stop the car in front of a tall brick building. I check the address on the scrap of paper. “We’re here.”


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