I was jogging through a nearby neighborhood when I heard the sound of metal on metal and glass shattering. Someone was taking their rage out a car around there. Picking up my speed, I followed the sounds to the next street over.
Four football players – Panther football players – slammed metal bats down on a familiar black Chevy Silverado sitting in the Riggins' driveway. I guessed the rumors going around town about Tim Riggins and Jason Street's girlfriend, Lyla, finally reached destructive heights. Sometimes the people of Dillon, Texas were a bunch of pricks.
"Hey!" I shouted. The ferocity in my voice shocked me but wasn't loud enough for the boys to hear me over their bats. "Cut it out!" I managed to grab one of the bats as a guy pulled back for another swing. I ripped it from his hands and started swinging.
He jumped back and ducked. His buddies stopped at the sight of me coming at them with a bat, a few chuckling at me. One came at me, so I swung and knocked him to his knees.
"Get out of here! I ain't afraid to beat the shit out of you and ruin the rest of your season." I swung again, one guy taking off. "I won't hesitate to call the cops here, either. Go home and leave Riggins alone!" I ran at them, bat cutting through the air, and they retreated. I threw the bat toward them as they went. It clattered loudly on the driveway.
The inappropriate shouts from the football players fell on deaf ears when I heard the truck door open. I turned around to find Tim Riggins stepping out of his truck. My anger at my fellow students was set aside for a moment.
"You were in there?" I balled my fists. "Fuckin' assholes!" I didn't think they'd hear me, but I wanted to shout their way anyway. I took a few breaths and made a motion to chase after them, but Tim grabbed my arm.
"You'll end up like my truck if you go after them, Barton."
"Yeah, but if someone doesn't try to beat some sense into them they'll come back. It lucky your truck was the only thing damaged."
"Just let 'em go."
I stared at his face seeing the utter defeat in his eyes. I glanced at his shattered windows. "You okay?"
The corner of his mouth turned up and he said a quiet yeah. "My truck's seen better days."
"Tell Coach Taylor. He'll do something about them since they're on the team."
He shook his head and took in the damage on his truck. "Why are you out here so late?"
"Runnin'. I was a street over when I heard 'em, so I went to check it out. I'm surprised no one else heard it."
"You know, there could be football players with baseball bats out at night."
I laughed. "I think I can manage. Thanks for carin' Riggins." My hand rested on the hood of his truck and I frowned at it. "If you need any help with this, you know where to find me. Sorry, this happened."
"Wasn't your fault."
"Still doesn't mean it should have happened. For a Christian town, Dillon sure isn't forgivin'." I patted his arm. "Be careful, okay? They might be back."
"You sure it's safe to be runnin' back home by yourself?" Tim glanced down the side of the house where the guys disappeared.
I reached down and picked up the bat I chucked. "I can use this if I need to. It worked well once already tonight."
Tim ran his hand through his hair as he chuckled softly. "Let me walk ya home, Catherine. I owe you for earlier."
"I'll be okay." I smiled. "You get inside and start workin' out how you're gonna fix your truck."
"I'm not lettin' you walk away from here alone. Worried people will see us together?"
I scoffed. "Absolutely not. People can think whatever they want about me. They already do. Walkin' with you won't hurt my reputation any more than not walkin' with you."
"Then let me walk you home." Tim stuffed his hands in his front pockets.
"All right. I'll only let you walk me home if you promise to have Billy pick you up."
A smile grew on his face. "If Bill kills me, it's on you."
"I think he'll understand if we tell him what happened." I waved Tim toward me. "If you're insisting on this then we better start walkin'."
Tim stayed quiet as he walked beside me. Something was on his mind and I had a feeling I knew what it was.
I took his hand and squeezed once before releasing it. "I don't know what's goin' on with you, Jason, and Lyla – and I don't need to know. But I know that things will get better one of these days. Things can only stay so bad for so long."
"My life has been pretty bad for a long time, Barton."
I nudged his side with my shoulder. "Only because you let it."
He was quiet again and I let the peace stay.
Tim and I were never close growing up. We knew of each other because everyone knew everyone in Dillon. We also had our fair share of interactions – all short – but it never amounted to much more than that. He was a jock and I was an art geek. He was a nice jock who didn't make fun of me like some of the other football players and he would nod my way at football games when Billy invited me along a few times. It was how we were and neither of us seemed to mind either way.
"You think J is gonna forgive me?"
I wasn't expecting him to mention any part of what was going on with his friend. "I don't know, Tim," I said. "I know less about Jason than I do you. You two were best friends though, right?" He nodded. "It's hard to really mess up good friendships. Even if a girl comes in between them.
"Everyone makes mistakes and if Jason is half the guy he was on the football field, I think he'll forgive you. Don't force it and it'll work out."
Tim sighed and stuffed his hands into his pockets again. "Thank you, by the way."
I heard something in the distance and looked over. Tim paused with me, watching. When nothing happened, I relaxed and we continued walking.
"So, uh, what are ya thinkin' of doing after high school?" I hated small talk, but I hated missing opportunities to get to know people.
He shrugged and muttered something about not caring.
"You're a smart guy. You'll figure somethin' out." I sent him another smile.
"Last I checked I'm failing most of my classes," he said.
"Doesn't mean you're dumb. You're lazy and have other things you want to put your focus into. There's a lot of other students like you. I bet if you applied yourself like you do in football, you'd do really well."
He didn't say anything, clearly pondering my words. Well, I hoped he was mulling them over. It was hard to read Tim Riggins sometimes.
"Someday you won't have those rally girls to help and then you'll be outta luck. I think you're better than that, better than what people think."
"We aren't friends, you know."
"Yeah, I know. That doesn't mean I can't tell you I care or be kind to you or call you out. I'd do the same for anyone else in that school." I chuckled to myself. "Also, I don't expect us to be friends after Billy picks you up tonight. You and I are from different worlds, not that I think we can't be friends because of that. You don't need people thinkin' I'm your friend because I want to make you into someone you're not and I don't need them thinkin' you're my charity case. We each have our friends we can go to and that's all right." I pointed a finger at him. "But us not being friends doesn't mean I'm going to sleep with you. I'm not that kind of gal."
"I wasn't gonna ask." I raised an eyebrow and he rolled his eyes. "I wasn't. I've got two girls mad at me and I don't need a third.
"Thanks for considerin' the well-being of others." A few giggles left my throat.
"This right here is. I saved your ass, you're walking me home, and we're talkin' about not bein' friends. It's amusing."
"You're weird." I poked his arm with a single finger. "But you can be weird and still be a jock. I nice jock, but a jock. I'm shoved over with the outcasts because I'm too weird."
"Why do you want to be what they make you?"
"Because it's not fun getting bullied when I try to be something else. When you're on the bottom, it's easy to see that Dillon High has a hierarchy." I almost tripped over my own feet, snickering at my clumsiness.
The half smile I noticed many times before was back on Tim's face. "Yeah, well, if anyone gives you trouble... I'll help you out."
"I appreciate that, Riggins, but I can handle it." I twist the bat in my hand. "I really do appreciate it. You'll be the first person I look for when I need some backup. As long as it doesn't get you into any trouble, that is. I'd hate to be the reason you're kicked off the team or somethin'."
I saw my house at the top of the hill, an irritating beacon for everyone in Dillon that my family had money. For the first time in Tim's presence, I felt self-conscious and embarrassed. I stopped and faced him.
"Uh, why don't you drop me off here and ask one of the neighbors if you can use their phone?"
He glanced up at the house. "Don't chicken out now, Barton. We all know ya live there."
"Come on." He didn't care at all, which made it worse when he strolled up to my front door. He eyed the columns and ornate door. Tim smirked back at me when I trudged up behind him. "Are your parents home?"
I studied him suspiciously. "No. They're rarely here." I crossed my arms. "I told you I'm not sleepin' with you."
"And I told you I wasn't askin'. Despite popular belief, I don't try gettin' with every girl I see."
"Then why are you asking about my parents?"
"I don't know much about them."
"There's not much to know about them except they travel a lot."
Tim sat down on the front step. "Do you know your parents?"
I shifted my weight before sitting next to him. "I'd like to think I do, but I don't. They're strangers to me. When they're home we don't speak much. They sometimes ask me about school. That's about it."
"Damn. Even rich kids have family problems."
I laughed. "Yeah, we do."
We sat there for a few quiet minutes until Tim glanced at me. "You gonna let me call Billy?"
"I'll call him for ya." I stood and patted his shoulder. "I'll be right back. Stay here, please."
Taking out my key, I let myself in and ran to the phone. My fingers type in Billy's number and he picks up in two rings.
"Can you pick up Tim from my house?"
He sighed. "What did he do now? Please tell me you didn't sleep with him."
"It may come as a surprise but we didn't and Tim didn't do anything. Some guys trashed his truck. I heard 'em and saved the day. Your brother was kind enough to walk me home."
"Little Timmy did that?"
Laughter came from my lungs. "Yeah. Can you get him? I don't want the guys from earlier comin' after him again."
"Yeah. I'll be there in 30."
I hung up and started back to the front door. Tim Riggins stood in the foyer with his eyes glued to the chandelier.
I punched his arm. "I told you to stay out front."
"You left the door open." He smirked. "I figured I'd take a look at Catherine Barton's fancy livin'."
"Well, Billy won't be here for a little while, so I might as well show you around." I walked toward the living room. "Please don't tell anyone about this. I don't care if people think we did something, but I do care if they know I'm livin' alone here... that I live in this giant house as if it's my own. I'd like to avoid the bullies who would come from this."
Tim stood in front of me a little closer than I was comfortable with. I took one step back.
"I'm not tellin' anyone."
I followed Tim outside when Billy pulled up. I heard Billy ask if Tim was okay. Tim mumbled his response right as Billy looked at me.
"I'm here to serve." I saluted with two fingers. "Good luck cleanin' up your truck, Riggins."
"Didn't you say you'd help me?"
I matched the smirk on his face. "Yeah? Should I come by after school tomorrow?"
I waved the boys away, snickering when Billy smacked Tim's side. Billy scolded him for flirting with me. If only he knew that Tim wouldn't win me over with a little flirting – if that was actually flirting. Tim Riggins was the kind of guy a girl like me tried to keep at arm's length.
Billy's truck pulled out of the driveway. An arm came out of both windows, the brothers sending another goodbye. I politely responded and waited for the taillights to disappear down the road before slipping back inside.
I sighed and looked at the empty house. I kind of missed Tim Riggins' company.