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Kansas Roberts wiped her forearm across her forehead, grimacing at the wetness that gathered. Running a hand through short, blonde hair, the 17 year old continued to push the mower through the thick, lush grass of her mother's front lawn. The teen hated yard work. She hated much of any kind of work, at all, to be honest. Alas, yard work had become her lot in life since her paying job shut down a week ago. Her mother had a focus on the whole "responsibility" thing for some reason.
"Kansas?" called Marina Fawkes, Kansas' mother. The blonde kept mowing, her iPod in place, blonde head bobbing to Pat Benatar. She stepped off the front porch, canvas shoes leaving footprints in the newly mowed rows. The petit woman dodged her daughter's waving arm as the girl got into the music.
Kansas nearly jumped out of her skin as she was tapped on the shoulder. She whirled, tugging one side of her earphones from her ears. "What?" the girl asked, irritated at being disturbed, as well as from the embarrassment of her surprise.
"You have a call. Your dad is on the phone."
"So?" Kansas shrugged, about to put her headphones back on, but was stopped by a hand on her arm.
"Honey, talk to him. This is the fourth time he's called for you this weekend."
The blonde sighed heavily, cutting the engine of the mower. "Fine." She took her time getting to the house, not looking forward to the call. Brad Roberts had divorced Marina and left his family the year before. There had been problems in the marriage for years, but it had been kept from the Roberts' only child. Kansas had been close to her father, but when she found out he'd been cheating on her mother, and left them for another woman, she'd wanted nothing to do with him.
The phone lay on the counter where Marina had left it. The blonde picked it up, immediately taking on an air of boredom. "Hello?"
"Hey, kiddo. I was beginning to wonder if you're avoiding me," Brad Roberts said, slight hurt in his voice.
"Look, I'm mowing the lawn, so can this wait?"
"Oh. Okay." Brad paused for a moment. "Kansas?"
"Yeah?" The blonde toyed with a pen next to the pad her mother always kept near the phone for messages. Her stomach was doing flip flops, her emotions in turmoil. She missed him desperately, but would never, could never admit it. She felt it would be a betrayal to her mother.
"I really want to see you. Please have dinner with me?"
"I'll think about it," Kansas said, non-committal. "Look, I gotta go."
"Okay. I understand. Kansas?"
"I love you."
"Yeah." Without another word, the teen slammed down the phone, her green eyes stinging with unshed emotion. She shoved her headphones into her ears and cranked the volume up on her iPod. "I'm sure you do," she muttered, bursting through the front door. As she walked over to the mower, she saw her mother standing at the chain-link fence, talking to a man who looked to be in his 30s. He was standing in the yard that used to belong to Paul Panzer, who had moved out last fall. She saw her mother turn, indicating with her hand that Kansas should join them, but the teen ignored her, pretending she didn't see the motion. After a moment, Marina turned back to the man, continuing their conversation.
Marina sat across from her daughter, watching the girl play with her dinner, mostly piling it at one end of her plate or the other. "Don't you like chicken anymore?" she asked, amusement in her voice. The teen shrugged. "How did it go with your dad on the phone today? You didn't say much about it."
"Not much to tell. He wants to do dinner or some shit like that."
"Watch your mouth."
"I told him maybe. But," the blonde shrugged again, "I doubt I'll go."
"Because he's an ass-. . . sorry. He's a jerk."
Marina hid her smile behind her glass of iced tea. What she was about to tell her child was difficult, as she wanted to agree with the girl, and tell her that, yes, her father is a prick of the lowest order. Instead, she tried to do the right thing. "Kansas, he's your dad. You shouldn't turn your back on him because of what happened between us."
Green eyes glanced up at Marina. "You're not the only one he left." Kansas' chair screeched across the tile floor as she shoved back from the table. "I'm done." She scraped her leftover dinner into the trash and put her dish in the dishwasher. Marina watched with sad eyes as her only child shoved through the front door of the small house she was able to buy after the divorce. Her daughter's statement was profound, and Marina was disgusted with herself that she had always seen Brad's betrayal solely against her. That couldn't have been further from the truth. She sighed, resting her cheek against her closed fist.
Kansas took a deep breath, taking in the hot, summer night air. The neighborhood was abuzz with kids enjoying their last month of freedom before returning to school for another year. Kansas would be a senior this coming year, and she was glad. She was tired of school, tired of the idiots who populated it, and tired of living at home. She couldn't wait to start college in the fall. Granted, she had no clue what she wanted to do with the rest of her life, though knew it would have something to do with art, but she knew she had time to figure that out.
She sat on the porch, glancing over at the Panzer place when she caught a tiny glow out of the corner of her eye. The guy her mother had been talking to earlier sat on the porch, a cigarette dangling between his fingers. He smiled at her, bringing up a hand in greeting.
"Hey," Kansas said. "You move in there?"
The man nodded. "Yep. Just yesterday. It's nice to be able to sit still for a few minutes, you know?"
"Yeah. Moving sucks," the blonde agreed, having to do it all too often as a kid, herself.
"Your mom's a nice lady. Good to know we've got nice neighbors."
"Yeah. The old guy who lived there before was creepy."
The man chuckled, taking a drag from his cigarette. "Well, we're not creepy." He held up the smoke, apparently feeling the need to explain. "My wife won't let me smoke in the house, so. . . "
Kansas nodded. "Yeah. The house smells kinda nasty with that stuff." She remembered it all too well with her father.
The man nodded, smashing the cigarette on the railing of the porch, then tossing it in a coffee can sitting next to him. He stood, wiping the back of his shorts. "See you around."
"Later." Kansas turned back to the night, listening to a dog barking a few streets over. She sighed, running a hand through her hair. Life sucked.
Kansas flicked on her bedroom light, whipping her tank top over her head as she made her way over to her TV, hitting the power button and tossing the shirt to the laundry pile. She walked over to her window, about ready to close the blinds when she noticed a light on in the window across the way. That room had never been used, the window literally boarded over when Panzer had lived there. She brought a hand up, peeling her blinds down a bit to get a better look.
It looked as though the room were being set up as an office- a desk, which looked like it was set against the wall right under the window, with a computer on it, and an office chair. Further in the room, Kansas could barely make out a bookcase, though it looked empty. Then, suddenly, a woman appeared, plopping down in the office chair. She had dark hair, which was pulled back into a ponytail, her tanned shoulders and arms visible from the white tank top she wore. Kansas couldn't see her face as the woman was turned away, bent down. It looked as though she were unloading a box, as she sat up, she sat a stack of papers and files on the desk.
Kansas was about to snap the blinds back into place and close them when the woman looked up. The teen was momentarily stunned at what she saw- even from this distance, Kansas could see the startling blue of the woman's eyes, and the amazing structure of her features. She was mesmerized. The woman smiled and gave her a small wave. Feeling stupid, and realizing she was standing there only wearing a bra and shorts, Kansas quickly closed the blinds.
Nina Bruckner only got a view of the girl across the way for about three point two seconds, but was amused by what she saw. Her husband, Dan had told her that a teenaged girl lived next door, and that he'd spoken with her briefly while out smoking his cigarette. The brunette was a little worried about that, and hoped it wouldn't mean parties or loud music. She and Dan had moved into the neighborhood for a new start, hoping things would be better here. Also, Dan wouldn't be doing long-haul trucking after the first of the year, so in six months, he'd be home more.
In truth, Nina wasn't sure if that was good or bad. In the five years they'd been married, she'd had to learn to only have a husband that was around 133 days a year. The first couple years it had been really hard, as she had been on him all the time to bring his load down, knowing he couldn't. Then, after awhile, she had gotten so used to having her own life, without him, it had almost been more difficult when he was home for long stretches. She had to get used to having someone else in the house again.