How To Live Without Dying

Tinsley was always loped in with the popular crowd in one way or another. It was just what her mother wanted. But, Tinsley couldn't stand it.

Ian was an indie skater kid with an undeserved bad reputation.

Sparks fly when they meet, but things quickly turn dangerous.

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Sort of happened by chance, and I just kept on with it, but all of the chapter titles are taken from songs by Land of Talk.

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7. Better and Closer

A week later, Ian drove into town to visit his parents. Him being Mandy's brother made it easy enough to give a reason to my dad for going over to their house, but I was not looking forward to having to tag along with her and Jack all the time, nor did I want to force Jack to have to come with me anytime I wanted to see Ian.

When Jack and I got to their house, Mrs. Reese answered the door. It felt strange that I already knew Ian's parents.

"Hi Jack, and Tinsley," Mrs. Reese said my name like it was a secret. "Come on in. The kids are on the porch out back."

We walked through the house and I started feeling nervous the closer I got to the door. And then I saw him. And his eyes me mine. And he gave me the biggest, toothiest grin I'd ever seen.

"Hi," he said in a nearly reverent tone and took me into a warm hug.

"Hi yourself," I replied and breathed in his scent.

He was driving back in two days, so I was trying to soak up as much of him as I could.

"How have you been?" he asked as if we hadn't been talking on the phone every chance we got.

"Good," I said. "How about you?"

"I've missed you," he said. "Spending entire days with you spoiled me. I feel like I'm going through withdrawals sometimes. Like, I keep seeing things and wanting to show you right then, but you're not there."

I couldn't say anything to that. It was too perfect, and anything my brain came up with sounded pitiably daft in comparison. So, I buried my face into his chest and he tightened his arms around me.

"Ian," Mr. Reese came outside, all brazen confidence and a brass kind of condescendance that you eventually found to be his sense of humor and what he thought was straight talk.

If he spoke with you directly and without beating around the bush, it meant he thought you were important enough to be honest with. And he thought everyone was important in some manor, so he treated everyone the same. He sometimes got on my nerves, but I always had respect for him and I knew that he respected me.

As I thought about Mr. Reese's personality, my first conversation with Ian flashed into my head. I squeezed Ian's waist.

"Dad," Ian replied in a mock serious tone.

"Introduce your girlfriend to your mother and I," he smiled as Mrs. Reese came out behind him and he put his arm around her.

"You've already met her," Ian said as if the redundancy bothered him.

"Yes, son," Mr. Reese said in an equally irritated tone, as if Ian was being thickheaded. "But, we have not met her as your girlfriend."

Ian rolled his eyes, but his smile betrayed his excitement and pride.

"Mom, Dad," he said. "This is my girlfriend, Tinsley."

Hearing him call me his girlfriend sent shivers up my spine.

"Tinsley, these are my parents," he continued. "David and Margot Reese."

"It's a pleasure to officially meet you," Mr. Reese teased.

"Likewise," I said quietly, unable to shake my nerves for some reason.

"Alright, you've had your fun," Mandy said. "Dad, you're late to starting the barbecue. Where are those ribs?"

"Oh!" Margot exclaimed like she'd forgotten something. "I'll go grab them. I'll be right back."

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Dinner was pleasant and conversation flowed steadily. Ian kept tapping on my toe with his, so I'd knock knees with him under the table every now and then. We managed to pull away from everyone a little while after dessert, not long before sunset, and I found myself sitting on his childhood rope swing while he pushed me at a slow speed. He didn't trust the ropes because he knew how old they were.

"What are you looking at?" he asked after a little while.

"The stars," I told him.

"Which ones?"

"I don't know," I huffed. "The pretty ones? I never took the time to learn constellations."

"You see that bright one near the sun?"

I squinted my eyes, and, yes, I saw it. So I nodded my head.

"What star is that?"

"I told you, I don't know any of this," I laughed.

"It was a trick question, anyway," he said. "It's venus."

"Oh wow," I said trying to peer at it a little bit longer, but then it disappeared as the sun began to drop slowly below the horizon.

He grabbed the ropes on the swing and brought it to a stop, then kissed my cheek.

"I wish you could stay in town forever," I whined. "At least for longer periods of time."

"I can't stay in this town," he said. "Everyone hates me here."

"I'm here and I don't hate you," I argued.

"I want to take you out to dinner tomorrow," he said. "And I want to pick you up the way a boyfriend is supposed to pick his girlfriend up for a date. Is there somewhere you can go and get ready, like a friend's house?"

I pondered this for a few minutes.

"I could call Krystin," I shrugged.

We weren't close and she wouldn't understand why I needed to get ready outside of my house because she didn't know about my dad. But, I guess I could say that I needed her advice on what to wear, or something...

"Okay," he sounded so excited it was adorable. "Give me her address and I'll be there at six o'clock."

"Where will we go?" I asked, concerned about being seen in town together either a) by my father or b) by someone who knows my father.

"Don't worry about that," he said and kissed my cheek again. "I want it to be a surprise."

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He picked me up right at six, and I'm glad he made a point of actually picking me up. Knowing he was waiting for me at the foot of Krystin's stairs made my heart race as I exited her room and approached the banister. He smiled up at me appreciatively, with the eyes of someone viewing a painting.

I took the steps carefully in a pair of high heel shoes that I never wore, and never wore for good reason. I was clumsy. But, I managed not to fall. He kissed my cheek when I made it to him and we left in his car.

Ian drove a ridiculous teal Chevy Woody. It was not an inconspicuous car, and part of me felt like we would get caught just because of the car. He promised me that he bought the car only a month ago, so we should be safe from recognition.

After thirty minutes, we made it to Fort Worth. The only parking we could find was at the top of a garage near Bass Hall. I was completely regretting my shoe choice when we made it to the elevator.

We walked several blocks before we made it to our destination, which was a Thai restaurant aptly named Tie.

It was a nice, intimate little restaurant that didn't feel too stuffy, nor did it make me feel out of place for wearing a dress and heels. We ordered the pad thai and tom kha to share, as well as two delicious thai iced teas.

After dinner, Ian took me to what he said was his favorite spot in the city. We made it to an ancient apartment building that only stood about twenty stories tall. We waited for a resident to use their fob to unlock the doors and snuck in behind them, making it all the way to the elevators. We waited to get out own elevator, then he took me up to the very top floor. When we landed, we took the stairs up to the roof exit and snuck through the door.

It was incredible.

Fort Worth, Texas is a beautiful city at night. I don't know who originated the rule that every building and tree downtown must either be outlined or wrapped in string lights, but he or she is a genius. The buildings I always thought were boring during the day looked remarkably geometric when outlined in golden light.

A breeze blew across the roof and I shivered. He took his coat off and draped it over my shoulders, then wrapped his arm around me and rested his cheek against my hair.

"Worth the spy work, right?" he asked.

"Absolutely," I breathed.

"Tinsley," he said quietly. "Tinsley, I think I'm falling in love with you. Is that insane?"

"Maybe," I smiled, my heart swelling. "But it's okay. Because, I think I'm falling in love with you, too."

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