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Hearts Will Bind You

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Avery made a face as she stood in the kitchen that morning helping her mom do the breakfast dishes. Usually it was Jessica's duty to help but Jessica was off taking summer morning courses at the local community college and so that left Avery to be the one to help even if she'd much rather be like her baby sister Zoe and get to be lazy.

Avery half swore Zoe had it easy as the baby child of Rhett and Ellie Winston whereas both of them were harder on Avery and Jessica, probably because they were older and were more responsible and also maybe because her parents themselves were older and a bit tired. It had been no secret Zoe had been the surprise baby, the baby who had came a bit later in their lives.

Jessica had been their first baby, the one they had planned for a bit and of course she tended to maybe get by with a bit more as well too and Avery well she was the middle child. The one who hadn't really been planned but she wasn't a surprise either. She had just came along when she came along.

"Who's the new guy?" Avery asked finally as she came out of her thoughts and looked at the man who was helping her dad load hay bales onto the back of the little run down pickup truck. It was a truck Avery swore predated even Jessica's birth but their dad refused to sell it or get rid of it and well it did help haul things around on their farm land.

Ellie let her gaze drift out the window as a smile formed on her lips at the scene outside, "His name is Zachary." she answered as she turned to look back at her daughter. "He's in town for the summer and he needed a summer job. Saw your dad's ad in the paper about needing an extra farm hand and he took it."

"Oh," Avery spoke as she turned away from the window. "I was wondering about that ad," she muttered more just to talk than anything else. "Didn't know someone had already answered it," she said and to be honest she was surprised that it was a new person who had answered it. She had half expected it to be someone from town and well maybe she had hoped it would be Easton Corbin because she had been crushing on him for awhile and she had wanted an excuse to see more of him now that school was out for the summer.

"You sound disappointed Avie," Ellie laughed softly and Avery could feel her mother's gaze on her knowingly, like she knew what Avery had wanted.

Avery shook her head though she refused to look at her mother, "I'm not disappointed," she lied as she finished up rinsing the dishes, wiping her hand on a dish towel that was close by.

"You can't lie to me baby girl," Ellie mused which made Avery finally look up at her mom. "I heard you and Jessie talking a few days ago. You wanted that Easton boy to take the job," she laughed softly as she shook her head. "He did apply if you must know. But your dad felt that Zachary was better for the job. Apparently he's done farm work before. He grew up in Oklahoma, said he used to get by in high school by working on neighbors farms."

Blushing at her mom's words Avery looked down again, "Daddy probably told Easton no because he knows I like him," she said as she rolled her eyes. She had remembered how her dad was when Jessica had first started dating Joe. She was sure he had even once threatened Joe with a gun but Jessica was known to be over dramatic so maybe she had made that up.

"Or he did that too," Ellie nodded her head and when Avery just looked at her with a raised eyebrow she saw her mom crack a smile before laughing. "He did no such thing by the way," she said as she walked a bit closer to Avery, leaning in to kiss her forehead and as she did so Avery closed her eyes to inhale the lilac of her mom's perfume. It was always a smell she loved, though Avery knew she herself could never wear lilac.

"Now, go get your sister off of whatever video game she is playing," Ellie spoke as she pulled away. "She needs to get out more and be active."

Avery laughed at that and as she turned around she knew she was going to have a time getting Zoe to do what their mom wanted. She always did when it came to getting Zoe away from her video games.

"Oh mom, I forgot," Avery said as she stopped in the kitchen entry way. "I told Presley I'd meet her at the coffee shop in town today for lunch if that's okay?" she asked as she raised an eyebrow knowing her mom would have to drive her mainly because Avery hadn't yet got her learner's or even her driver's license.

Ellie paused slightly as she took in Avery's words, "I may be gone by then baby girl," she said as she chewed on her lip. "I have to go help at the vet's today but I'm sure your father and I will figure something out," she smiled softly.

Returning the smile Avery turned around again to go on her mission to get Zoe off her video games, hoping that her mom was right and that she and her dad would figure out something so she could meet up with Presley. Presley was one of Avery's closest girlfriends and she swore she really couldn't go longer than a week without seeing her though since school had been out it seemed like it had been longer than a week by now. Maybe two.
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Sitting in the the old little truck as it drove down the back roads of the small Georgia town that Avery lived in, Avery couldn't help but look over at Zachary, who had been saddled with driving her into town to meet Presley. Her dad had said it would be perfect as Zachary had some errands he needed to run for him anyway and since they were going in the same direction then Zachary could just take Avery.

Needless to say Avery wasn't too thrilled about it, mainly because she didn't know the guy and she'd be stuck in a small truck with him during a thirty minute drive into town. Avery was sure she would have preferred just walking if she could. Anything had to beat this, being stuck in a truck with a guy who was blasting some 90s Alt station and smoking a cigarette with the window rolled down.

"You know those things can kill you," Avery spoke making her voice louder than the voice on the radio singing about Barely Breathing. "They cause cancer."

Zachary turned his head to look at Avery after she had spoken, some of his long hair being blown down into his eyes thanks to the window he had rolled down so that he could flick his cigarette ashes out of them. "You actually speak," he muttered out a bit sarcastically which made Avery blush a bit as she rolled her eyes. "We were going on a good fifteen minutes and I was afraid you might be mute or something," he continued before looking away from her as he took another drag off his cigarette. "Kind of wishing you had stayed quiet though because I don't need a lecture on my bad habits."

"Not a lecture, just a warning," Avery told him as she shook her head. "But if you want to die then go ahead and be my guest Zachary," she spoke her voice coming out a bit harsh and yep walking was looking like it would have been the easier option.

"A lot of things could kill me," Zachary shrugged as he reached his hand out the window, flicking a few ashes out. "Smoking, drinking, car accidents, snake bites, guns...can't be afraid of everything just because they may cause death," he mused as he looked back at her briefly. "And it's Zac not Zachary. Only my mom calls me that and it's usually when she wants something so I hate it."

Again Avery rolled her eyes, "Whatever you say.." she muttered under her breath. "Zachary," she added on a bit louder just to annoy him and when she heard him make a tiny grunt she knew it was wrong but she felt a bit gleeful by it.

When the truck eventually pulled into a parking space near the coffee shop and the other small stores in the downtown area Avery unbuckled and got out, not even saying goodbye to Zac. To be honest she was sure after that thirty minute ride a break would be the best thing that could happen to either of them.

Going into the coffee shop Avery didn't have to look around for long, instant spotting Presley's red hair immediately and she walked over to the table where her friend sat, two cups of coffee placed in front of her.

"I hope you don't mind but I ordered for you," Presley stated as she looked up when Avery sat down. "I figured I know your order well enough by now. An iced coffee and one of those to die for pecan muffins."

Smiling Avery shook her head, "I don't mind," she said as she reached for the coffee as well as the muffin that Presley had ordered. "So what was so urgent that we had to meet today?" she asked curiously knowing Presley had sounded a bit urgent on the phone last night when asking if they could meet up.

"Donnie popped the question," Presley grinned as she held up the hand that she had been hiding under the table. A class ring that Avery knew belonged to Presley's boyfriend who had graduated last year, clearly on her finger. "He doesn't have the money to buy an engagement ring yet so his class ring is the stand in."

"Oh wow," Avery said feeling a bit stunned by this news. "Don't you think you're a bit young Pres?" she asked trying to sound as nice as possible though in truth they were young. Avery was already eighteen and Presley was still just seventeen going on eighteen in a few months. In her opinion neither of them were really ready to be getting married or settling down, especially not when they had one more year of high school left.

Presley moved her hand down as she sighed at Avery's words, "I was hoping you wouldn't bitch like my folks did," she said as she shook her head. "I know Donnie and I are young but we want to get married. I'm sure you'd understand if you had, had boyfriend who you've dated since freshman year."

Biting her lip at Presley's words Avery tried to the ignore the sting they caused by taking a few bites of her muffin and washing them down with her iced coffee. It wasn't that Presley's words hurt that deep but they did hurt because they were a reminder that most of Avery's boyfriends she had well they hadn't stuck around. The longest she had dated anyone was probably Barry and that had been for seven months in the tenth grade.

She had even been convinced she'd lose her virginity to him but yet here she sat still a virgin at eighteen.

"I'm not bitching," Avery clarified as she tried to ease the situation. "I guess I just don't want to see you making a mistake is all. I mean what happened to moving to California and following your dreams of being an actress?"

Presley sighed loudly, obviously still pissed that Avery wasn't as enthusiastic as she'd had hoped. "Donnie's dreams come before mine," she replied which made Avery scrunch up her nose. "He wants to run his dad's garage one day and I'd gladly be his stay at home wife so he could do that."

This time when Avery bit her lip it was to keep from being harsh. She wasn't sure why but she didn't like that Presley seemed to just be willing to get married young and put her dreams on hold for a man who just wanted to run a fucking garage. But then again Donnie had probably talked her into it. Avery was sure he could talk Presley into anything if he batted his eyelashes just right.

Staying silent though Avery just listened to Presley talk on and on about a wedding that wouldn't even take place until she had graduated because though her parents had been pissed they had made her promise to finish high school first and well at least Avery guessed that was one glimmer of hope. If things fell through with Donnie after Presley married him then she'd have a high school diploma and maybe then she could get her life back on track.

Once she had finished her muffin and coffee Avery sighed as she looked at the time on her phone, "I should probably head out Pres," she spoke as she looked up at her friend. "My dad had one of the farm hands bring me into town and he's probably in the truck waiting and I know if we don't get back before dark my dad's going to have a fit," she laughed as she slipped her phone in the pocket of her jeans before standing up.

Presley nodded her head as she offered her a smile, any annoyance she had to Avery's earlier comments and thoughts on her engagement, clearly pushed aside.

"Call me later tonight," Presley said or well demanded. "I meant to say earlier but then I got too busy talking about me and Donnie but Easton came into the ice cream parlor where I worked yesterday and he asked about you. I think he may like you too Avie," she giggled sounding much like the schoolgirl she was and not the wife she'd be eventually.

Feeling her cheeks warm up, Avery almost felt like she had imagined Presley's words but she knew she hadn't and so she nodded her head agreeing to call Presley tonight before she turned and left the coffee shop.

When she made it back to the truck she of course wasn't surprised to find Zac sitting in it nor was she surprised that he was smoking another cigarette.

"You're going to an early grave," Avery told him again as she shut the door and buckled up as he started the car and backed out of the parking space. "And you probably have horrible ashtray breath."

Zac pursed his lips at Avery's words, "No one's ever complained about my ashtray breath before when kissing me," he smirked as he rolled down his window again to help him flick out ashes. "You wanna get real close to me and smell it just in case."

"No thanks," Avery said sarcastically as she shook her head before looking out the window as Zac drove back towards her farmhouse. "So exactly how old are you Zachary?" she asked curiously as she turned back to face him. "My mom said you go to college but you look kind of old for your typical college boy."

Zac laughed at that and Avery was surprised at how hearty it sounded. "I turned thirty in October," he answered as he kept his eyes on the road. "Some things came up that kept me from doing what I wanted for awhile and so I didn't get to apply to college til I was twenty-eight. Now I'm in my third year at a college in Nashville."

Avery gave him a curious look when he mentioned being in a college in Nashville, "Why'd you run off to Georgia this summer then instead of staying in Nashville. I'm sure Nashville, Tennessee is better than Moon River, Georgia."

"My brother lives here," Zac answered plainly as he shrugged his shoulders. "I come here every summer but this summer was the first time I needed a job that paid. Wanted to stay in my own place instead of living with him and his three kids. Gets cramped in a three bedroom trailer."

Nodding her head Avery went silent as she again went to looking out the window and the music from the truck radio filled the car. Another 90's song about Head Over Feet and someone winning someone else over. It was typical and maybe just a bit overdone.

When Zac finally pulled into her long driveway Avery began to unbuckle though before she could get out she felt a hand on her wrist and she turned to look at Zac.

"I think you owe me for giving you a lift," Zac spoke as he eyed her and now Avery raised an eyebrow at him. "I mean you did make me wait a lot longer than I would have had too if it was just me going into town."

Rolling her eyes Avery pulled her wrist away from Zac's grasp, "And just what kind of favor do I owe you?" she asked him waiting to see what ridiculous answer he'd give her.

"You could give me a kiss on the cheek," Zac smirked as he answered her and Avery was surprised by that because it wasn't what she had been expecting. In fact she wasn't really sure what she had been expecting but a kiss on the cheek wasn't it.

Taking a deep breath Avery leaned over and left a quick kiss on his cheek, making a face at the stubble he had. "Happy?" she asked as she reached to open the door.

"Immensely," Zac replied as he cut the truck off. "I'm easy to please like that. Doing favors for kisses on the cheeks from pretty southern girls."

"You're just an annoying asshole who has a death sentence," Avery muttered as she stepped out of the truck. "Have fun finishing your work day with my father," she told him before walking into the house and as she walked away she couldn't help but laugh when she heard Zac yell out something about how she couldn't hurt his feelings with her words and that at least if he died today from smoking he'd die happy because he got a kiss on the cheek from a pretty southern girl.

Avery still thought he was an asshole though and he sure wasn't the guy she wanted calling her pretty. She wanted Easton to call her pretty.