Ride Steady
Author:Kristen Ashley

“I’ll get through,” Carson declared and the teacher opened his eyes. “Got neighbors who look out for me, so it isn’t as bad as you think. Means a lot, you give a shit, but I got it under control.”

 

“Then if you take nothing from this, take from it that you have a teacher who cares and will look out for you, too. More than just me, we all believe in you, Carson. So if you take nothing from this but that, it won’t make me happy, but it’ll be something.”

 

“That means a lot too,” Carson returned, his voice weird, like thick and gruff, a sound that echoed what he felt in his gut.

 

While Carson was feeling that and, not getting it, before he got a lock on it, Mr. Robinson swooped in for the kill.

 

“One day, Carson Steele, you’re going to be a magnificent man. I don’t know how that will be. You could be president. You could eradicate disease. Or you could be a master mechanic who builds amazing cars. But whatever it is, it will happen. I believe it. And one day, you’ll see past what you’ve been taught and you’ll believe it too.”

 

Carson didn’t share that he probably shouldn’t hold his breath about that either.

 

Then again he couldn’t. The thick in his gut was growing, filling him up like he ate way too much, but not in a way that made him need to hurl. In a way that made him want to take a load off, sit back, and just feel the goodness.

 

Since it was all he had in him, he just again muttered, “Thanks.”

 

“My pleasure,” Mr. Robinson muttered back.

 

Carson moved to the door.

 

“Carson?” Mr. Robinson called when he was almost out of the room.

 

Taking in a deep breath, he turned back.

 

“Don’t forget this conversation,” the teacher ordered. “Any of it.”

 

Like he ever would.

 

“Got it,” he confirmed.

 

Then, fast as he could, he took off.

 

*

 

Carson stood with his back to the pole at the bottom of the bleachers at the high school football field. He did this listening to the posse of girls sitting above him.

 

They had no clue he was there.

 

Freshman football game. One of Carissa’s stupid, bitch, up-her-own-ass girlfriends had a brother who played.

 

But they weren’t there to watch the brother play. They were there to say mean crap about the freshman cheerleaders.

 

All but Carissa. She didn’t talk much. She smiled a lot. She cheered and kicked and flipped around better than any of the others. But she wasn’t a talker.

 

But now, her friends had stopped saying bitchy things about the cheerleaders.

 

Now they were talking about him.

 

“I’m so gonna go there. Jenessa said he rocked her world,” Brittney spouted.

 

“I would go there just ’cause he’s hot,” Theresa declared. “God, he wears jeans better than any guy in school.”

 

“You guys are gross. He’s a total loser,” Marley stated. “He barely says anything. Just wanders around school, brooding. Doesn’t have any friends. He doesn’t even hang with the stoners or hoods. And he totally knows how hot he is and uses it to get into girls’ pants. It’s lame.”

 

“I’m not gonna date him, just get laid by him,” Brittney replied. “My dad would have a conniption if I brought someone like Carson Steele home. He’d get me, like… a chastity belt or something.”

 

Peels of giggles.

 

Carson tipped back his head and looked up through the bleachers.

 

The girls were all turned to each other, not paying a lick of attention to the game, but Carissa was leaned forward, elbows on her knees, eyes to the field, mouth shut.

 

She wasn’t even smiling. Definitely not giggling. And the graceful line of her jaw was kind of hard.

 

Fuck, but she was pretty.

 

“Jenessa said he,” Theresa’s voice lowered, but not by much, “went down on her. Like, put his mouth right between her legs and everything!”

 

“Totally gross,” Marley murmured.

 

“Hard… lee,” Brittney returned. “God, I’d pay him to go down on me.”

 

“He’d take your money, seeing as he could probably use it,” Marley told her. “Can the guy wear anything other than jeans and T-shirts?”

 

“I’ll give him money if he gives it and gives it good and then goes on his way,” Brittney shot back.

 

“I think I already weighed in on the jeans, but Marl, seriously, it would be a crime to put anything on that hot bod but one of his skintight tees. Lush.” The last word out of Theresa’s mouth was like a breath.

 

“You do know, he’s a person,” Carissa put in.

 

“What?” Theresa asked.

 

“Carson Steele. He’s a person,” Carissa announced.