Run - Kody Keplinger Page 0,1

wider. It’s been open a good minute before I shift the car into gear, and Agnes’s hand reaches out to cover mine.

“Love you, Bo,” she says.

“Love you, too.”

Every small town has that family. You hear their last name and you just shake your head because you know the whole lot of them are trouble. Not one will make it to their twenty-first birthday without being arrested at least once. Maybe it’s in their blood, or maybe it’s just how they’re raised. It’s hard to say. All you can do is steer clear because nothing good can come of getting mixed up with that bunch.

In Mursey, that family was the Dickinsons.

“They’re no good,” I grew up hearing my grandmother say every time we’d pass the double-wide where a few of them lived, on our way to church. “They’re dirty drunks and thieves. And godless, too. None of them have stepped foot in a church in generations. Probably get struck by lightning if they did.”

“Mama, please,” Daddy would say. “Don’t fill Agnes’s head with all that. There’s a Dickinson girl in her class.”

“That’s why she ought to find out now,” Grandma said. “Don’t want her getting too friendly with that girl. She’ll grow up just like the rest of them, and I don’t want Agnes to be dragged down with her.”

My parents did their best to teach me the Golden Rule—treating others the way you want to be treated and all—but it was hard to argue with Grandma when the whole town seemed to agree. The Dickinsons were a bad lot; it was a reputation they’d earned nearly a hundred years back, if town legend was correct, and it was a reputation they wouldn’t be shaking anytime soon.

You couldn’t miss a Dickinson, either. They all had lots of wavy strawberry-blond hair and eyes the color of sweet tea. At least, that’s what I’d been told. I wasn’t able to make out the color of their eyes or anybody else’s. Those little details escaped my vision. I’d been told most of the family had freckles, too, but that was something else I’d just have to take everyone’s word for.

Bo Dickinson looked just like the rest of the family. Her hair—the one feature I could really notice—was a wavy mane of gold with hints of red. Sometimes she wore it in a sloppy ponytail, but most of the time it was loose and unkempt, a mess of tangled curls and unbrushed waves. Seemed fitting, really. Her hair was as wild as she was.

Assuming the stories were right, that is. We were in the same grade, though I’d never spoken more than two words to her. But if even half the gossip was true, Bo Dickinson was wild.

“She’s a slut, that’s what she is.”

“Christy,” I hissed.

We were standing on the front steps of the Mursey Baptist Church, where we met every week before Sunday school. The minute I’d arrived this morning, Christy had grabbed my arm, pulled me aside, and said, “You won’t believe what Bo Dickinson did.” But five minutes had passed, and Christy still hadn’t gotten to whatever Bo had done. Instead, she’d spent the time recapping a whole bunch of old gossip, just in case I’d forgotten.

Bo Dickinson’s life was like a novel the whole town was working on. A collaboration that had been going on for sixteen years. You couldn’t start a new chapter without looking back on what had been written before.

“It just feels wrong,” I said. “Saying the word slut in church.”

“Why? God thinks she’s a slut, too. And besides, we’re not in the church yet. And I haven’t even gotten to what she did Friday night.”

“All right, well, what?”

Christy gripped my arm and squeezed. It was a thing she always did when she was excited about something. Or mad about something. “Sarah told me she heard Perry Schaffer telling his friends that Bo”—she leaned in closer and lowered her voice—“that Bo went down on him in the hayloft at Andrew’s party Friday night.”

“Doesn’t Perry have a girlfriend?”

“Yeah. Layla Masters. And she was at the party, too. I saw her.”

“Wait … You went to Andrew’s party Friday?”

Andrew was her on-and-off-again boyfriend. And as of Friday morning, at school, they’d been off.

Christy took a step back and adjusted her short auburn ponytail. “Yeah. Sorry, Agnes. I would have taken you with me, but Andrew wanted to talk, and I knew it would be too dark in his barn for you to see real well. I didn’t want to be guiding