An Excerpt from WEEDS AND FLOWERS

My bike leaned against Jeff’s metal building, but I didn’t know he was there until I smelled the smoke. I froze, looking guilty, almost as if I were the one who’d been caught smoking. He looked back at me, removed the white stick from his mouth and blew a smoke ring. “Wanna smoke?”
“No.”
“Didn’t think so.” He turned away from me.
I hesitated for a moment, looking curiously at the cylinder and thinking about Marleen’s remark that Jeff was smoking “something”. Curiosity got the best of me. “What is it?”
His mouth quirked. “Just a little weed.” I must have gasped because he laughed a little. “Cigarette, idiot. You want some or not?”
“No,” I said, but I sat down on the wall next to him. The weeds had died back a little, but the spot still felt secluded. I wasn’t sure why I was sitting there with Marleen’s greasemonkey brother, but I was uncertain about leaving until I knew Marleen had returned from her chat with Brian. And it felt rude to sit somewhere else when I knew Jeff was already sitting here.
Jeff made no comment, but continued to smoke his cigarette and blow smoke rings. I admired his ability in spite of myself. “You’re good at that.”
“Lots of practice.”
“Why do you sit back here all the time?” I looked at the rusted back of the metal building. I couldn’t imagine the draw.
Jeff shrugged and took a long draw off his cigarette before answering. “Because nobody else likes to sit back here.”
“Because of the weeds and bugs.”
“Yeah.”
“You like weeds and bugs?”
“No.”
“So why sit back here with them?”
“I don’t like people either.” Jeff glared at me.
I nodded. “That makes sense. If you don’t like people, the only place to go is where there aren’t any. The only place you can be sure there won’t be any people is where people don’t like to be.”
“You talk a lot,” Jeff said. Our eyes met and I realized for the first time that he had very nice eyes. Blue green with flecks of gold. They reminded me of a description I’d read once about the Mediterranean Sea.

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