Rian O’Malley considered himself pretty hardcore.
He didn’t have a tattoo. That would have been too much of a geek thing to do. He went to a burn aesthetician and had artistically arranged burn marks seared into his skin.
He deliberately gave off an aloof vibe. He didn’t care about anyone and he never would.
But that wasn’t true.
There was one someone. Someone who had mattered to him. Someone who he had loved, but never told.
Hardcore aloof guys weren’t supposed to go admitting their feelings left and right. That was the emo kid thing to do. And Rian O’Malley was no emo kid.
Yet, he thought of her often and wished that he had spoken his mind. Maybe she would have accepted him. She was a pretty tough chick herself, even if she never fully crossed over into full hardcoredom.
He had loved talking to her and watching her emerald tongue stud sparkle with every movement of her tongue. It was entrancing.
Her name was Kailey MacGregor and she was gone.
He had always expected her to go out with a full-fledged bang. She was just that kind of girl.
She went out with a shrieking crash instead.
It took him a long time to get up the courage to go to the crash site.
It took him eleven months’ worth of days to finally go. He only went because he was pretty sure that it was a hardcore thing to do — go to a crash site and poke around. Maybe get some dirt under his fingernails.
Yeah. Sounded very hardcore to him.
He drove his Danger Machine motorcycle to the site. His shaggy red hair blew straight back, making him feel powerful and awesome. He felt like a renegade spy, speeding away from the enemy’s base. He felt like a character from an obscure dystopian anime.
He felt wonderfully alive.
He reached the spot.
He slowed to a halt and sat astride his vehicle.
There was nothing to see.
Her car was gone. Obviously. There would be no reason why they’d just leave a smashed up car along the side of the road for eleven months.
Rian tapped his right foot on the ground as he debated about what to do. He got off his bike and carefully set it down.
The air was cold. It was probably going to snow.
He looked up at the heavy gray clouds.
Yeah. It was definitely going to snow.
There was really nothing to see. This side of the road looked just like that side of the road and that side of the road and that side and that side.
Rian rubbed his hands up and down his arms. He was wearing a jacket. He may have been hardcore, but he wasn’t stupid. He knew better than to not wear a jacket when going for a bike ride this time of the year.
He looked up at the sky again.
Especially when it looked like it was going to snow.
Rian sighed and gave up on his stalling technique. He walked about in careful circles, searching for something, anything that he could hold on to. Something that he would definitely remember as Kailey’s.
He had a small hope that he’d find her tongue ring, but he worried about what that would mean if he did find it. How would it get out of her tongue? How would it get out of her mouth?
He did not like this train of thought. So, he knocked it off a high wire bridge.
There was nothing conspicuous on the road. Not even a rearview mirror.
He scuffled the toes of his black boots in the gravel along the side of the road.
He kicked extra hard.
Something flew out of the gravel and landed next to his motorcycle.
He went over to it.
Snow fell in dismally small flakes.
He knelt and picked it up.
It was a cheap necklace. Nothing to get all that excited about. Just a black shoelace cord with a plastic wine jug charm. The whole thing looked like something from a junky 25¢ machine.
But he didn’t drop it to the ground.
He didn’t throw it away.
Rian knew this necklace. He knew that it held a small secret. He twisted the top off the wine jug and looked inside.
The snow flakes grew larger.
He gasped softly.
Kailey’s spare emerald stud lay inside the jug.
Rian O’Malley considered himself hardcore. He didn’t care about anyone. He was cool and aloof. He was as tough as they got.
But the sight of that tongue ring sparkling in the day’s dimming light caught him off guard and off balance.
He thought of her.
He thought of Kailey MacGregor.
He broke down and cried.