Home > Bad Boy Next Door : A Small Town College Bad Boy Romance

Bad Boy Next Door : A Small Town College Bad Boy Romance
Author: Hunter Rose








I’ve never been one to believe in every moment of my life being planned by another force. I know there’s someone… something… watching over and guiding me, but I’ve never believed that I’m simply a game piece, pushed from predestined point to predetermined future.

But I believe in set moments in time.

These are the moments that shatter everything. The moments that can either set you on the path to your highest potential or send you reeling into nothingness.

That is what he is.

Meeting him was inevitable. A set moment in my life. No matter where I was or what I did, we were going to crash into each other.

All that was left to do was fall.









The entire church smells like the furniture polish they use on the pews. When I was a little girl, I thought they polished the wood to such a high shine so that if you would open your eyes when you were saying your prayers, you would see yourself looking back at you and feel guilty. Now it just feels like they treat the sanctuary the same way we treat ourselves before church. Primped and shined up into our very best. As if God can’t see us any other time.

Right now, the smell of the polish is mixed up with Isaiah’s aftershave. Warm and spicy, expected, and unassuming. Just like Isaiah. It wouldn’t matter who peeked down from Heaven at him. At any given moment, he’s perfect. Always has been. Reliable, responsible, as driven in school as he is in the community. He’s the poster child for what every mother would want their daughter to find in a partner. Which is why she’s been envisioning our wedding day since he asked me to our eighth grade formal when we were thirteen.

Now in our senior year in high school, he sits beside me at church every week and holds my hand through the sermon. Always on the smooth polished wood of the pew, never in my lap or rested on his thigh. That would be too much for the white-haired ladies perched on their usual seat in front of us.

He turns to me with a gentle, peaceful smile when the sermon ends. Just like every week, we get to our feet and shake hands offered to us from all sides. My mother meets us in the vestibule. She always sits on a different pew with my father and uncle. It didn’t start that way. We always sat together as a family, then eventually, Isaiah joined us. Somewhere along the line, they moved to the other side of the aisle and started sitting a few rows behind us. Sometimes I feel like we are in training. This is our official spot and will be after we get married. Someday our children will look down at the polished wood and see their faces during prayers.

A feeling flutters through my belly at that thought. I tell myself it’s hunger.

“That was a beautiful sermon, wasn’t it?” my mother asks, opening her arms to hug me like she hasn’t seen me in days. Like she forgot the pile of pancakes she made me three hours ago.

“It was lovely,” Isaiah agrees. “I was particularly moved by pastor encouraging us to be refreshed and renewed in the new year. That it shouldn’t just be about the calendar or arbitrary resolutions, but about seeing within ourselves and setting our hearts to being better and striving for our highest selves.”

He reaches down and takes my hand again, smiling at me in that warm and knowing way he always does that makes me feel like he sees something behind my eyes no one else does. I smile back at him and reach up to brush a strand of his shaggy brown hair away from his forehead. It’s the one that isn’t streamlined and perfect; it somehow being a little too long and curling.

“Are you joining us for lunch, Isaiah?” my mother asks.

“If you’ll have me,” he says.

She smiles at him. “Don’t I always?”

She does. We have this exchange every week.

We step out into the parking lot, and I shiver at the cold blast of air that bites through my coat and whips my hair to move down the neckline of my dress. Hurrying to Isaiah’s car doesn’t provide much relief. The old blue compact that’s made its rounds through his siblings holds onto the chill like a freezer. The heater has barely thawed my fingers by the time we pull into the driveway of the house I’ve lived in my whole life.

It’s a few days after Christmas, and strands of darkened lights still hang across the front porch. Inside, the Christmas tree looks exactly like it did when we put it up the day after Thanksgiving. It will stay up until tomorrow. By the time we are ushering in the New Year, every ornament will be packed away in its own little bubble-wrapped compartment, and the tree will be nestled in its box with strange little scented sticks to try to convince it to be a real fir. The year has to start anew. It can’t do that with a reminder of the year before right in the picture window of our living room.

But for now, the early afternoon sunlight sparkles on the gold and burgundy ornaments glittering on the branches close to the windowpanes. At night, softly twinkling white lights make the illusion of shimmering ice. Every ornament is perfectly positioned and balanced to catch the light.

Movement in the driveway of our next-door neighbor’s house catches my attention out of the corner of my eye. That house has been sitting empty for years, ever since the people who were there became empty nesters and moved to Florida.

I didn’t realize people actually did that. It was the backdrop of a cheesy holiday movie, not something that actually happened. And then it happened.

Since then, the driveway has sat empty, and the windows of the house stare black at the quiet street. Whoever owns it has a landscaping company come by every few weeks to cut the grass, but in the summers, it’s not enough for my father. Mom always tells him it’s not his responsibility, but more often than not, when he hops on the back of his riding mower, he ends up wandering over into the yard next door to knock the blades down just a little more. The cold temperatures for the last couple of months had made those little ventures unnecessary, but he still peeks over at the grass every time we walk into the house just to make sure it hasn’t spontaneously sprung up while he wasn’t watching.

A person pops up from behind a car, shutting the door I saw open with a pop of her hip before walking around to carry a box toward the side of the house. I watch her until Isaiah’s fingers tug mine.

“Coming inside?” he asks. “It’s cold.”

I nod, and he brushes his lips across mine. We walk up the steps through the front door into the warm smell of chili cooked for long hours in the slow cooker while we lingered before church and held hands in the polished pew. I breathe it in, let it fill my lungs, and chase away the cold. Mom’s in the kitchen, heating my grandmother’s old cast iron skillet for cornbread. It’ll take another forty-five minutes until the sizzling butter and bacon grease turns to a crust on the bottom of the bread, and bowls of chili end up on the table. Enough time to change out of my church clothes and watch the house next door from my bedroom window for a few minutes.

When I make it back downstairs, Isaiah has his jacket folded over the back of a chair in the living room, and his tie loosened as he stands in the kitchen with my parents. He’s completely at ease with them. There’s no discomfort or even cool formality around the edges of their interactions. Conversations and easy silence flow back and forth between them. He reaches a hand out for me when I walk in the room and gives me a squeeze to his side before I step past him to take dishes out of the cabinet.

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