Running With Lions by Julian Winters Read Online (FREE)
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“Are you certain you’ve packed everything?”
Sebastian grins at his mom from the bottom step outside their modest two-story house. “Of course, Mom,” he replies. The faded paint on the cedar fence behind her catches his eye. A streak of bright sun gives the fresh dew on the grass a glitter effect. Summer is in full bloom, weaving a heavy blanket of heat around them.
“I just don’t want you to forget anything,” she whispers. Sunlight accentuates the soft wrinkles around her eyes and her graying blonde hair. Lily Hughes’s smile still has a hint of youth when she fixes the zippers of his duffel—for the fifth time this morning.
“Like a toothbrush, or a sweater in case it gets cold.”
The growth spurt Sebastian experienced in freshman year makes him a giant when he’s facing her. Three years later, he has a good six inches on her. She stands on her tiptoes to hug him, for the third time in ten minutes.
Sebastian rolls his pale brown eyes but squeezes her tight.
“Did you pack lots of underwear? I can’t have you going butt naked for a month—”
Sebastian groans, unable to hide how mortified he is.
“I’ve got it all, Mom,” he insists.
“Extra pairs of socks? Your shorts for the lake?”
“We won’t have time—”
“Hush, now,” she says, swatting at his chest. “Every year you swear you won’t have time for fun. But then you come home with a gorgeous tan. You grow all these muscles and recite every lyric from the Dirty Dancing soundtrack.”
“That’s not true.”
Sebastian only knows the words to those songs because of his older sister Carly’s obsession with corny ‘80s movies.
“And you’re at that age where—” Lily pauses with a perceptive expression. “If you need condoms…”
He chokes; his features immediately morph into that mortified look that comes with talks about sex with your parents.
Who invented sex talks with parents, anyway? Sebastian thinks. They should be burned, buried, dug up, and lit on fire again.
“Jesus, Mom.” Sebastian drags the toe of his scuffed Converse on the sidewalk. He’s suffocating from humiliation, his hot neck, and his tight collar.
“Don’t start with me, Bastian.”
Sebastian tenses when she squints accusingly at him. It’s as bad as that time she caught him kissing Julie Hammonds in eighth grade. He won’t win this argument.
Avoid, avoid, avoid.
His fingers comb through his hair; it’s usually a tree-bark-brown, but hours of mowing the lawn in the sun have brightened it to a tawny hue, like a lion’s mane. “Mom,” he says with a sigh. She smirks back. “I’m not going off to the war. It’s just soccer camp. Me and the team and lots of practicing.”
It’s more than that. Ever since Willie dragged him to soccer tryouts their freshman year, it’s been so much more.
Every summer, after making the team, he skipped the teenage glory days promised to him in every punk song since the existence of Blink-182. Year after year, he traveled to the school’s training camp just north of Bloomington. He learned to love the sweet stain of green on everything he owns and a second skin made of pure sweat.