Home > Pricked(10)

Author: Winter Renshaw

Megan gets called away and I head to the office to get a shirt and to sign up for a few time slots for the month. When I’m finished, I sign out of the visitor’s log and head to my car.

Fortunately, my parents were thrilled to hear about my volunteering plans for the summer, though I suspect they just wanted one more thing to brag about to their friends at the Briardale Club.

Regardless, this will give me something to do this summer and ample opportunity to get out of the house with minimal questions asked.

I keep thinking about that talk I had with my brother two Fridays ago at his engagement dinner, and I know he isn’t wrong. I need to follow my heart, chase my own dreams, and figure out a way to take control of my life for once.

I also need to figure out a way to tell my parents I'm not going to medical school this fall …

Driving home, I cut through the middle of Olwine, passing the street where Madd Inkk is tucked into one of the little buildings. My mind drifts to Madden, the way it’s been doing ever since I met him earlier this month.

I go back in a couple of weeks for my follow-up—which I wasn’t going to schedule originally because the tattoo was healing perfectly and it seemed silly, but I wanted an excuse to see him one more time for some insane reason.

I don’t expect anything to come of it.

It’ll likely be a quick, five minutes, in and out kind of thing.

But just being in his presence makes me feel some kind of way that I’ve never felt in my entire life.




It’s the strangest little mix of sensations, one that I would bottle if I could. But I suppose I’ll have to settle for what small doses I can get.

I pull into the gates of the Iron Castle a half hour later and park in my designated spot beside my mother’s Range Rover in the drive behind the house. Killing some time before I have to go inside, I grab my phone and peruse my various apps aimlessly.

A memory pops up from a year ago on one of my social media accounts—a photo of Graeme and I in Mozambique where I tagged along and assisted him at one of the HIV clinics Doctors Without Borders had set up. As a non-MD, my job was to hand out prophylactics and provide community outreach services. I met so many people over there, locals and volunteers from around the world. It was a harrowing, heartbreaking experience at times but I left there knowing I’d helped save lives, and that was all that mattered.

Every summer for the past several years, I’ve looked forward to going overseas, to making a difference.

It’s the strangest thing this summer … having nothing big to look forward to. No impending trip or upcoming life-altering event.

Then again … I’m looking forward to seeing Madden again in a couple weeks.

I suppose that counts for something.



“We’re here.” I kill my engine outside the Boys and Girls Club. Two weeks ago, I’d filled out an application for Devanie to be a part of their mentor program, and earlier this week I got a call that she’d been matched.

“I can’t believe you’re making me do this.” Dev’s nose is buried in her shiny new iPhone. I’m already beginning to regret getting her the stupid thing, but I will admit that it’s come in handy a few recent times. Plus, she doesn’t know it, but I put a location tracking app on her phone. I can see where she is twenty-four seven. “I really don’t want to go in.”

“I know.” I yank the keys from the ignition and climb out. She doesn’t budge. I motion for her to hurry the hell up, and she rolls her eyes before yanking on the handle and stepping out. She slams the door next, which I fully expected, and then she meets me by the hood.

“Do you even have any idea how embarrassing this is for me?” she asks, crocodile tears forming in her blue eyes.

“Well aware,” I say as we walk to the front door. “But someday, Dev? You’re going to thank me.”


We stop in front of the entrance and she digs into her bag, producing a baseball cap and situating it on top of her head, like that’s going to make her any less recognizable.

“I’ll pick you up in two hours,” I say as she heads in.

She doesn’t so much as look back once, and she lets the door fall shut with a hard slam behind her.

There’s a tightness in my chest, the kind of feeling I associate with parents dropping their firstborn children off at kindergarten, but I force it away and head back to my GTO.

I don’t have time for feelings.

I’ve got shit to do.



I’m seated in the social hall of the Boys and Girls Club when Megan appears, her arm around a girl in a baseball cap. Tufts of blonde curls stick out from beneath it and she stares at me with the bluest eyes I’ve ever seen.

“Brighton, this is Devanie,” Megan says, ushering her closer. “She’s twelve. Almost thirteen. And she’ll be your mentee for the rest of the summer.”

I stand, offering a warm smile that doesn’t seem to do much.

“Devanie, this is Brighton,” Megan says, rubbing her shoulder. “Based on your applications, we think the two of you are going to be a great match. The two of you are free to stick around here, hang out, get to know each other … or you’re free to pal around town for a bit. Just please keep the visit no longer than two hours.”

“Not a problem,” I tell Megan. She leaves and I direct my attention to Devanie. IF she’s twelve going on thirteen, she’s definitely tall for her age. I’d have put her closer to fourteen. And she’s gorgeous. Wild curls. Eyes like the ocean. “It’s so nice to meet you, Devanie.”

She doesn’t respond, just stands there with her hands clasped at her hips and a bag slipping off her narrow shoulder.

“You want to sit?” I motion toward the chairs beside us.

She nods, taking a seat. I follow suit.

“So where are you from?” I ask.

She hesitates before clearing her throat. “Olwine.”

There’s a flutter in my chest. My mind goes to Madden. I’d been doing better recently, not thinking about him so much. Not projecting, I should say. But of course, my mind uses any excuse it can to go right back to inserting him into the littlest moments of my life.

“I’m from Park Terrace,” I volunteer to keep the conversation flowing. “But I went to school at Rothschild.”

None of the names register. I’m sure she’s young enough that she’s not so much as thinking about where she wants to go to college someday, and there are so many suburbs in this area, I doubt she’s even heard of Park Terrace.

“So, you’re going into eighth grade this fall?” I ask.

She nods, glancing around the room. I’m sure she’s terrified of running into someone she knows. I don't take it personally.

“What do you do for fun?” I ask.

Devanie shrugs. “Hang out with friends. Watch TV. Swim.”

“I have a pool at my house,” I say. “Maybe you and your friends can come over sometime and use it?”

Her eyes meet mine, widening. “Seriously?”

Now we’re getting somewhere.

“Yes, seriously.” I chuckle. The thing rarely gets used anyway, save for my parents’ annual Memorial Day and Fourth of July parties. I doubt anyone would mind.

“You want to go get ice cream or something?” I ask. “We can talk over two scoops of mint chocolate chip? Or we could get our nails done? Both if there’s time.”

“Really?” Her natural brows rise.

I’m not sure why she seems so surprised that I’m offering to do fun things with her. I thought that was kind of the whole point of this arrangement. We do fun things, we hang out, and I mentor her along the way.

“Yeah. Let’s go!”

Devanie licks the green ice cream from the back of her spoon before admiring her fresh flamingo-pink manicure. She’s just finished giving me the condensed version of her life story. Her dad’s in prison—she didn’t get into specifics, just that he’s been there since she was a baby and he’s serving a life sentence. Her mom works a ton and is never home. When she is home, she’s sleeping. And her twenty-eight-year-old brother is the one who signed her up for this program because he thinks she has nothing better to do with her summer.

“No offense,” Devanie says. “Because I think you’re really cool.”

“None taken.” I check the time. It’s been almost two hours, and I need to get her back soon. “You want to do this again soon?”

“For sure.” She dabs her mouth with a napkin before crumpling it and tossing it in her empty ice cream cup.

“I was thinking twice a week?” I propose.

She shrugs. “Okay.”

We clean up our table, toss our garbage, and head to my car when we’re done. I’m halfway back to the Boys and Girls Club when I get a text from my mother, asking me if I’ll be home soon and reminding me that Laurel’s dress fitting is in an hour.

Shoot. Almost forgot.

Laurel’s been engaged to my brother barely two weeks now, but wedding planning is moving full speed ahead. It’s like she had everything already in the works, just needed that ring to make it official.

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