“You’re starting to make me regret pulling over and picking you up.”
Mia frowned at him through a lank cloud of hair. Ash waggled the empty milk carton he’d been holding before her eyes as he finally captured her attention. “Come on, kid. I suck badly enough at the grown up business. Don’t make it harder on me – buy more shit when we run out of it.”
She yanked a handful of hair out of her mouth and rolled her eyes. “Did somebody break your kneecaps while I was asleep? Because it looks like you can still walk.”
He snorted. “Wiseass. Come on, it’s time to get on your feet anyway,” Ash said. “We need to get down to the range and start you off with a gun. Takes effort to learn how to balance a stock against your shoulder.”
Her eyes widened. “Did we agree on Tuesday?”
“Nope. Thursday morning, one hour before work. That was the deal.”
She rolled out of bed and started pulling on the sneakers she’d discarded before flopping into bed the evening before. “Nooo,” she said. “No way. I’ve got things to do.”
“Deadites don’t wait for Sundays.” She faked a snore. “Don’t make me sound like my mother.”
“Seriously dude, just please go back to bed. I’ll catch up with you after work for practice. Promise.” She’d scooped her purse up and was already making for the door.
“Fine! But don’t come whinin’ to me if you end up with some big, tall and uglies on your tail!” The front door slammed. “Fuckin’ teenagers,” Ash grunted, shuffling his barely-awake behind back to bed.
She was, for once, actually on time for their lunch meeting at the shooting gallery. And she only sported one visible scrape on her face, so she figured it would be worth doing a little bragging.
He said nothing while she shouldered her rifle and squinted down the sights, getting off another round before she could shoot her first. She missed two targets before Ash signaled for her attention.
“What the hell is this?”
“I was fine,” she glowered.
“You’re all the way off base,” he said.
She frowned as he helped her shoulder the gun. “You have to take the impact with your core.” Ash shouldered the butt against his own, and then pressed the trigger. Her body jerked against his, matching the shudder of the barrel as it delivered its payload straight into the chest of the dummy.
Mia seemed fairly pleased with his delivery, but couldn’t resist a touch of sarcasm as she tried again. “You know I’m a little tiny girl and you’re a big sweaty hairy man, right?”
“It’s not the size, kid – it’s how you use it.”
“Eww,” she got off a round that speared a bullet through the target’s upper right shoulder. “Quit it with the TMI.”
“Right.” Ash emptied his gun into the chest of his own target. “So. Ready to tell me where you were sneaking off to?”
Mia paused. “I’m gonna plead the fifth while I use the first,” she said. She returned the gun to the counter before her and reached into her pocket for her cigarettes and a lighter.
“Fat chance. People like us don’t get to have the luxury of keeping secrets,” he said. “So spill.”
“Are you not big on secrets? We were big on secrets in my family,” Mia said, puffing on her cigarette, staring straight ahead.
“Well, you’re in a new tribe, kid.” He tilted his head thoughtfully. “Is it that serious?”
“It’s…no. I just don’t want to tell you.” Mia said.
“Is it about you being queerer than a stack of glitter pancakes?” She choked. “You ain’t good at hiding shit,” Ash said. “And the lock on your diary was way too easy to pick.”
“And you don’t give a damn?” she asked.
“Nope. Hell, I don’t give a damn if you go digging for clams in the middle of Times Square,” he said, yanking hard on the trigger. “Long as you stand up for me, you’re family. Got it?”
She felt a tear roll down her cheek, then reached up and rubbed it away. “Yeah. I’m cool, man,” she declared.
A shriek came from the clubhouse, and he pushed her slightly behind him. “Follow me.”
Mia’s jaw firmed, and she ducked her head. It was time to watch, observe, learn and try to emulate his actions as best she could. Soon it would be natural to behave as toughly as Ash did, but until then she’d try to learn how to lean on his willingness to listen to her.