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Hi there. This is my first time posting stories on Valent Chamber, but I have been writing interracial novels for the past five years now. If any of you visit Literotica, you may have come across some of my stories. I go by the name VIRGOFEMME on Literotica as well, in case you want to check out the collection of stories I have posted there.

A bit of information about Lost Girl:

It features young adults (seniors in high school). For this reason, this story will not feature sex scenes. It will, however, include heavy intimacy ((kissing/touching...that type of thing). Just thought I would let you know not to expect scenes of a graphic nature, because since they are underage, that would go against the rules of this website.

*I welcome comments and Constructive criticism. Hope you enjoy this first installment.

***************





Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.


Fate was a funny thing. Not a matter of choice, but one of chance, and something that turned up when you least expected it. During her seventeen years of existence, Claudia Strauss had not only learned to never put her trust in fate, but also resent it. After all, had it not cruelly taken the one person she’d most treasured in life? Yet now, as she glanced out of the passenger window of her deceased father’s wood-paneled station wagon, she was coming to the conclusion that she might have to rethink her stance on the forces of the universe. After seventeen insufferable years of living in a dead-end Michigan town, she was finally getting out. But like all good things, a little bitter came along with the sweet.

After living in Fenway, Michigan for nearly two decades, Claudia would have loved relocating to somewhere exciting, like New York or Los Angeles, or even Chicago or Boston. But her mother, who was freshly widowed and desperately in need of a fresh start, had ultimately decided that their new place of residence would be Browning, Montana. With a population of just over 1,000, Browning was an isolated, edge-of-the-prairie town that many passerbys looked at through their rearview mirror.

Yet despite its smallness, Claudia did find herself intrigued by the fact that Browning was a town that bordered the Blackfeet Reservation. According to what she’d found on the internet, the reservation was situated along the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains on the Canadian border, but that had done nothing to quell the nervousness that she felt.

Even now, as she looked out at the endlessly sprawling fields that stretched beyond the road she and her mother were traveling on, Claudia couldn’t help but contemplate what kind of a life she would have in Browning. Most of all, she found herself wondering if it would be possible to find acceptance on an Indian reservation, where she wouldn’t just stick out, but be glaringly different from all of the Native people whom she would live among.

*Fantastic, she thought. *As if I don’t already feel incredibly self-conscious every day of my totally boring life.*

With skin that was as brown and richly colored as fresh ground cinnamon, there wasn’t a doubt in Claudia’s mind that she would be looked at as an outsider. Her nose, which was narrow and tilted upward just slightly at the tip, was nearly a replica of her mother's. But her hair, which was a mass of thick, tight curls that brushed her armpit, couldn't have been any different from that of the woman who had carried her in the womb for nine months.

Having always preferred to wear her hair in a short, soft haircut that was tapered in the back, Claudia’s mother had honey toned skin and slim, sharp features that were balanced by the side swept bangs that grazed her green eyes. The offspring of devoutly hippie parents, she’d been raised to embrace a number of unconventional values, and as such, had chosen to live the majority of her life with a rather carefree, noncommittal attitude. Inevitably, her approach to life had rubbed off on her daughter. But as the scenery beyond the passenger window became increasingly rural and rustic looking, Claudia couldn’t help but feel a twinge of uncertainty at how deep they were traveling into such a remote looking place.

Browning, Montana.

The sound of it alone was enough to make her feel like yawning, and wondering why they were moving to a town that was just as dull as the one they were currently escaping, she turned her head to look at her mother.

“I still don’t understand why you had to choose Browning,” Claudia said while resting her tilted, cat-like eyes on her mother.

“We’re not staying in Browning,” Mona said. “We’ll be living in Three Rivers, a small town located just on the edge of the reservation.”

“But why there?” Her brows furrowed in puzzlement.

“You really don’t listen to me, do you?” She shook her head and blew out a soft breath before pulling onto the shoulder of the country road. “I have a good friend named Winona that lives on the Blackfoot Reservation. She works as a nurse for the community hospital and is setting me up with a good job.”

Claudia watched as her mother retrieved a map from the glove box, unfolded it on her lap, and traced a finger along a route that had been clearly outlined.

“Are we lost?” Claudia asked.

“No, sugarplum. I just thought it’d be nice to pull over and relax for a few minutes. “Reading maps always did put me at ease.”

Sarcasm. That was an aspect of her mother’s personality that had gone on hiatus since her father’s death six months ago, and for the first time in weeks, she cracked a smile. Mona’s tortoiseshell bangles jangled lightly as she ran her pinkie across the map, brows gently knitting together as she leaned in to closely study the geographical chart. It took a few minutes for her to finally locate the spot that she had been searching for, and as she did, a sound of gratification fell from her coral colored lips.

“We’re back on track, Claud. Only five miles until we arrive at the rez.”

“The rez?” She gave her mother a funny look.

“Rez is short for reservation,” Mona said in a voice that held a note of amusement.

“Oh, right,” she dryly said. “I guess I was supposed to know that.”

“Gotta learn the lingo if you wanna fit in.”

“Right.” She let out a dry chuckle. “Like learning a few slang words will help me blend in.”

“Can’t hurt.” Mona handed the map to her daughter, then retrieved a small pack of tissues from the glove compartment before opening her door to get out.

“Where are you going?” Claudia asked.

“To answer the call of nature.”

“Seriously?” She gazed out of the passenger window to look at the fields of grass that stretched out in all directions. “But we’re out in the open. Anybody could see us.”

“Take a look around, kiddo. Nothing but a bunch of cattle and a couple of abandoned buildings.”

“What if somebody passes by?”

“Then they pass by,” Mona simply said before grabbing a large scarf from the backseat. “But if you’re there to shield me, they won’t see a thing.”

Naturally, it was the last thing in the world that Claudia wanted to do. But she knew that her mother wouldn’t accept anything less than an affirmative answer, so she unbuckled her seatbelt and got out of the car.

With only a blanket to shield her from passing motorists, Mona had no choice but to cop a squat in the flat, open field. Luckily for her, she was wearing a skirt, so it took little effort to get her panties down so that she could relieve herself. Claudia barely had time to position the blanket in front of her mother before the flow started to happen, and with eyes peeled for any approaching motorists, she waited for the sound of her mother’s peeing to stop.

“Oh, crap,” Mona suddenly said.

“What happened?” Certain that even the slightest glimpse would be forever burned into her memory, Claudia kept her eyes shut.

“Aunt Flo just arrived.”

“*What*?”

“Aunt Flo. My *period*.”

“I already know what Aunt Flo is, mom. I just can’t believe you’re seriously starting your period right now.”

“Sorry to say, but I *seriously* am.”

“So what do you want me to do?”

“Tampons.” Her mother spoke the word firmly, and with a hint of sternness. “They’re in the glove compartment beneath the registration papers.”

Claudia handed the blanket to her mother so that she could shield her lower half, then hurried over to the car where she hastily rooted through the contents of the glove box. Gum, chapstick, a couple of pieces of hard candy and even a mini bottle of mouthwash were stuffed into the glove compartment, but there wasn’t a tampon in sight.

“Checked the glove box and didn’t find any tampons,” Claudia said when she returned to the spot where her mother was currently standing.

“You must be joking.” Mona let out a huff before asking, “Did you check your travel bags? You must have brought a few along.”

“Sorry, I didn’t.”

“Damn it.”

Mona handed the blanket back to Claudia, then took a few moments to clean herself up before letting her daughter know that she was finished.

“We need to find a gas station quick before I start bleeding through these Kleenex,” she said while making hasty steps towards the car.

Claudia nodded, then folded up the blanket that she had been using to shield her mother from passing drivers. Once they were both in the car, Mona pumped a few squirts of antibacterial foam onto her palms. Then she turned the key in the ignition and took off. Seven minutes later they passed a sign that read WELCOME TO BLACKFEET INDIAN COUNTRY, and a few moments later they were pulling up in front of a convenience store named AJ’s Qwik Stop & Gas. After pulling into a space located at the side of the store, Monica put the car in park and retrieved a ten dollar bill from her wallet.

“I need you to go inside and get me a box of tampons. The biggest size they have.”

“Great.” Claudia’s voice was rife with sarcasm. “As if I won’t already attract enough attention as it is.”

“Get to it, Claud. I really couldn’t care less about you being embarrassed right now.”

Mona wasn’t the type to get stern very often, so when she did it became undeniably clear that she meant business. Without a moment of hesitation, Claudia got out of the car. She headed through the parking lot and towards the door which led inside, and upon entering, was greeted by the sound of a sappy seventies ballad. She was not, however, welcomed by the owner of the store, who was a bearded Caucasian man dressed in a faded denim jacket and a wide brim western style hat.

His harsh, beady eyes stared questioningly at her, as if trying to work out the reason behind her sudden presence, but before he could stare too hard and long, Claudia disappeared into one of the aisles. Besides a group of teenagers that were parked in front of a magazine rack, she was the only customer in the store and impatiently scanned the shelves for feminine hygiene products. She had to walk down several aisles before finally spotting the area where they were located, and lowered herself to a squatting position so she could mentally rattle off the different types that were available for purchase. Scented, cordless, ultra compact, Sport, Pearl….

*What the hell*, she thought while searching for the brand that her mother preferred. *Can I just get a normal box of tampons without all the bells and whistles*?

Her eyes finally came to land on a pack of unscented tampons, but noting that they were marked ‘travel size,’ she decided to grab half a dozen packs just to make sure that her mother would have enough to carry her through the rest of her cycle.

“Anything else?” Asked the cashier after she’d dumped the numerous packs of tampons onto the counter.

Noting the faint smirk on his face, she defiantly grabbed a couple of Slim Jim’s from the counter display and placed them next to the tampons.

“Just these.”

“That’ll be $7.67.”

She handed over the ten dollar bill and after receiving her change, grabbed her bag of items and headed out of the door. As soon as Claudia made it to the car, Mona retrieved a tampon from one of the boxes, then quickly headed for the bathroom that was a part of the attached gas station. While she was gone, Claudia munched on a Slim Jim and watched customers go in and out of the convenience store. But by the time she’d consumed the entire beef jerky stick, thirst had kicked in and she found herself craving something cold to drink.

Recalling that she still had a bit of change in her pocket, she got out of the car and headed for the convenience store. She only made it a few steps across the parking lot before a well aged Chevy pickup began slowly following behind her. Claudia could hear the sound of its engine as it continued creeping alongside her, and thoroughly annoyed at the fact that it was trailing behind her, she turned her head to find out who was seated behind the wheel.

The driver of the car, who was a young Native American male with broad shoulders and a long ponytail, stared right back at her. Sitting beside him was a woman of the same ethnicity, and as her gaze came to land on Claudia, she gave her a look that was thoroughly inquisitive. Clearly just as intrigued as their fellow passengers, the three teenage boys that were sitting in the flatbed gave Claudia a long, steady gaze. Glances were traded for a few more moments before Claudia looked away and continued towards the door of the convenience store.

Hey, you….”

Averting her gaze back to the Chevy, she saw that the driver of the car was staring right at her.

“Hey, what you doing out here in Indian Country, girl? You lost?”

Peals of laughter came from the flatbed of the truck where the teenage boys were sitting, and as Claudia averted her gaze to the young woman seated next to the driver, she noticed there was a shit eating grin on her face.

“No, I’m not lost,” Claudia firmly said.

“What you doing out here, then?”

“I live here.”

“Oh yeah?” His tone was rife with curiosity. “First time I ever saw a black girl out on the rez. Where you stay at?”

“It’s my first day out here,” she said. “So I’m not exactly sure where we’ll be living just yet.”

“Okay.”

Expecting him to say something else, she continued to gaze at him. But after another few moments of silently appraising her, the driver of the car hit the gas and peeled out of the parking lot. Claudia watched as the old Chevy continued down the road, kicking up dust with its large tires. Once it was no longer in sight, she went into the convenience store to get herself a soda.

* * * *

“Here we are,” Mona said while maneuvering the station wagon into a driveway that was bordered by overgrown weeds.

“This is where we’re staying?” As Claudia’s eyes came to land on the box style home, she noticed it was plain and simple looking, with a wooden clapboard frame.

“That’s right.” She put the car in park, then grabbed her purse before getting out of the car. “What did you expect?”

“I don’t know,” Claudia said as she gazed up at the old tin roof. “Maybe something a little less country looking.”

“It may not be fancy but it’s safe and it’s cheap,” Mona said as she retrieved their suitcases from the back of the station wagon. “And right now, that’s all we need to be concerned with.”

Claudia grabbed the handle of the suitcase from her mother, and with eyes fixed on the homey looking porch, made her way across the patches of overgrown weeds that were interspersed by low grass. The boards creaked beneath their weight as they made their way up the short flight of steps, but before they could reach the porch door it suddenly swung open to reveal a tall, slim woman who was wearing a broad smile.

“Hey, you two. Glad to see you finally made it.” Her waist length hair blew in the wind as she stepped out onto the porch.

“It’s great to see you, Winona,” Mona said as she pulled her friend into a warm hug. “It’s been too long since we last saw one another.”

“What’s it been? Nearly three years?” She asked before pulling back to give Mona an admiring look. “Your hair looks great. When did you cut it?”

“A few weeks ago. I thought it would be nice to change things up for a bit.”

“It really suits you.” Winona gave Mona a smile before turning her attention on Claudia, who stood in silence as the two women caught up with one another. “I see you’ve changed your hair as well, Claudia. Looks like you’ve added some highlights.”

“Just put the color in yesterday.” She twirled a finger around one of her curls before allowing it to spring free. “It’s always looked so big and blocky, so I figured highlights would add some dimension.”

“The golden brown color goes well with your skin tone,” she said with a smile before gesturing for them to enter the house.

With Winona leading the way, Claudia and Mona walked past the threshold and made their way to the living room, which was outfitted with comfy looking furniture that was spread tastefully about the hardwood floor.

“As you can see, the house is pretty basic,” Winona said while leading them down a short hallway and into a rustic looking bathroom with a clawfoot tub shower combination. “Everything is simply designed, but it’s all very clean.”

“Simple is good,” Mona said while following Winona to the end of the hall where the bedrooms were located. “Never been a fancy type of girl myself, so I think it’ll do us just fine.”

“As you can see, the bedrooms are located directly across from each other.” A smile crossed Winona’s lips as she added, “Not sure if that’s good or bad for you, Claudia. But the doors do have a lock.”

“Good to know,” Claudia said while entering the smaller bedroom that was located on the right. “My mom has a habit of walking in on me without knocking, so a bedroom lock is definitely a huge plus.”

A gentle smile tugged at Mona’s lips as she traded a look with Winona. “I’ll never understand why she needs so much privacy. If she’s not listening to mopey rock music, then she’s got her head in a book.”

“My Tristan is the same,” Winona said. “The only time he’s not holed up in his room is when he’s at school or hanging out at his special place.”

“Special place?” A quizzical look crossed Mona’s face.

“I’ll tell you later,” Winona said.

Mona gave a quick nod of the head before stepping into the larger bedroom, which had a polished oak dresser, queen sized bed, and small nightstand table with a blue lamp. “Where is Tristan, by the way?”

“Picking up some groceries.” A quick glance at her watch preceded the long sigh that she pushed out. “I don’t know what’s taking him so long. He’s been gone for nearly an hour now.”

“He probably met up with some friends,” Mona said while glancing out of the window that overlooked the back yard.

“Tristan is a loner. He doesn’t believe in socializing and aside from a few people at school that he occasionally talks too, he spends all of his free time on his own.”

“So he’s still just as painfully shy as ever.”

Winona nodded. “I’ve tried everything I can to get him out of his shell, but he’s built up this wall that I just can’t seem to knock down.”

“It’s probably just a phase. You know, a teenager thing.”

“It’s not.” She said it with such finality that no rebuttal could be made.

As if on cue, the screen door that led out onto the porch emitted a squeaky noise, followed by the sound of heavy boots walking across the hardwood floor. “I got the groceries you wanted,” a male voice loudly called out. “Can I go home now?”

“We have company, Tristan,” Winona replied. “Come back and say hello.”

“Yeah, alright. Just give me a minute.”

“Is that actually Tristan?” Surprise was evident on Mona’s face. “My goodness, he sounds just like a man.”

“He almost is,” Winona said with a smile. “Give him another year and he’ll officially be an adult.”

Claudia, who was standing just inside the threshold of her mother’s room, found herself thoroughly curious to put a face with the deep voice, and anxiously waited for this faceless individual to drift into her line of sight. Several seconds passed and then nearly a minute, before the clomp clomp of boots resonated off the walls of the narrow hallway. Then, with a palpable hesitancy that Claudia immediately picked up on, a lanky figure came to a stop just outside of the threshold.

“Come closer, Tristan. They won’t bite,” Winona said before adding, “You remember Mona, don’t you?”

“Yes.” He crossed the threshold while offering a nod of acknowledgment. “Nice to see you again.”

“It’s great to see you, too,” Mona said. “You’ve grown quite a bit since the last time I saw you.”

“Yep.” He stuffed his hands into the pockets of his well worn jeans before awkwardly shifting his weight.

“And this is her daughter, Claudia.” With a nod of her head, Winona encouraged Tristan to look her way. “You probably don’t remember, but you two met as toddlers.”

As Tristan looked at Claudia, she looked right back at him, and for the first time since he’d entered the room, she got a good, hard look at his face.

“Hello,” he flatly said.

“Hi.” Her lips curled into a faint, yet friendly smile.

In the silence that followed, Claudia found herself checking out not only his deep brown eyes, but also his lashes, which were thicker and longer than any other man she’d ever seen. The next thing that stood out to her was his hair. Worn in a punky hairstyle that was short around the sides and left long enough on top to flop over his forehead, he had the type of haircut that drew attention to his square face and strong jawline. His lightly tan skin was a color that was an identical match to his mother’s, and his chocolate brown eyes possessed an inner calmness and depth that suggested he was an old soul.

“Don’t look so glum, Tristan,” Winona said before speaking a few words in Blackfeet. “Ii kii tam mi ksis tsi ko.”

Broken from their steady gaze, both Tristan and Claudia diverted their attention to Winona, who stood beside Mona with a pleasant smile on her face.

“A happy day for you, maybe,” Tristan moodily replied. “I have nothing to celebrate.”

“Please, Tristan. I know you’re disappointed about earlier today, but now isn’t the time for you to lash out at me, alright?”

“I’m not lashing out at you,” he said. “But I can’t stand here and pretend to be happy when I’m really pissed off.”

“You think that’s what I’m asking you to do?” A brief pause followed her question before she fired off a string of words that were laced with sternness. “An nat, Tristan, before I tell your father you were acting rude.”

At the sound of these words, Tristan’s mouth drew into a thin, straight line. A tenseness came into his body as he stared at his mother, and for a moment it seemed as if he was going to offer a rebuttal. But as suddenly as discontentment had set in, Tristan grudgingly
turned on his heel and with a barely audible, “whatever,” walked out of the room and headed back to the front of the house.

“Sorry about that.” The expression on Winona’s face more than hinted at her embarrassment. “His father took his car keys away this morning, and ever since then he’s been in a really sour mood.”

“No problem,” Mona said. “I’ve got a teenager of my own, remember?”

The two women shared a smile, then headed out of the bedroom and down the hallway with Claudia trailing behind.

“I had Tristan pick up a few groceries to tide you over for a few days, “Winona said as they reached the living room. “If you need anything extra, there’s a convenience store five minutes from here, but the nearest supermarket is twenty minutes away.”

“We brought plenty of food along with us, so we should be good until the end of the week,” Mona said.

“What about places to hang out?” Claudia asked. “Are there any movie theatres or fast food restaurants nearby?”

“I’m afraid I don’t know much about hang out spots, but aside from the Qwik Stop out on Highway 2, there really isn’t a whole lot out here on the reservation. In order to find restaurants and movie theatres, you’ll have to drive into town.”

“You can always catch a ride with me,” Mona said before adding, “If you’re not too embarrassed to be seen with your old mom.”

“Yeah, maybe.” Claudia managed a weak smile before casting a glance through the living room window, which looked out on a gray sky that was packed with billowing clouds.

“Well, you two make yourself at home, okay?” Winona said. “And if you need anything at all, you know where to find me.”

“Thanks again for letting us stay here, Winona,” Mona said as she walked her friend to the front door. “Ever since Claudia’s father passed away, things have been pretty rough for us, so we really needed this fresh start.”

“No need to thank me, that’s what friends are for.” As they stepped out onto the porch, Winona turned to face Mona and gave her a big hug before adding, “I really am sorry about Reuben. You ever need to talk, I’m always here for you.”

Mona nodded and gave her a faint smile.

“It was great to see you again, Claudia, and I hope you’ll enjoy your stay here in Three Rivers.”

“Thanks.” As Winona pulled her into her a hug, she warmly returned it.

“I’ll give you a call later this evening so we can catch up, Mona,” Winona said before turning and making her way down the creaky porch steps.

Tristan, who was leaning against a gray Toyota that was parked in the yard, had been watching the three women with a faint scowl on his face. This didn’t seem to deter Mona in the slightest, however, because she offered a wave, followed by some friendly words in parting.

“Nice seeing you again, Tristan.”

He offered what could barely be considered a wave in return, then got into the car and slammed it shut behind him.

“Friendly guy,” Claudia said as she stared at Tristan from her spot on the porch.

“He’s a good kid. Just needs a bit of coaxing to get him out of that shell.”

“I think he needs more than coaxing.”

As Winona honked the horn, both Claudia and Mona waved goodbye, then watched as she pulled out of the yard and took off down the street.

“Looks like it’s just me and you, kiddo.” A soft smile crossed Mona’s face, and with optimism in her voice, she added, “This’ll be good for us, Claud. You’ll see.”

“Will it?” Uncertainty laced her voice, and with eyes full of unconcealed sadness, she opened the screen door and disappeared into the house.

* * * *

“Have a good day, sugarplum,” Mona said as she put the car in park and waited for Claudia to gather her bookbag.

“I’ll try.” The nervousness in her voice was more than enough for her mother to pick up on.

“It’ll be fine, you’ll see.” A warm smile tugged at her lips. “Just remember, they’re only staring because they’re curious.”

“Of course they’re curious. I’m probably the first black person they’ve seen in a long time.”

“Think of it this way,” Mona said while primping her hair in the rearview mirror. “Would you rather be stared at or completely ignored?”

“I’m not like you, mom,” Claudia said. “Maybe you forgot, but I’m the one who has to begin her senior year in a brand new high school that’s in an unfamiliar town.”

“I thought you hated your old high school. You said yourself that it was full of fake people and you were counting the days until the end of the semester.”

“I did hate it and I definitely couldn’t wait to get out of Fenway High, but I wasn’t expecting to spend my senior year at Browning High School.”

“You don’t know anything about this school. At least give it a chance before you decide you hate it.”

“Why couldn’t we have gone to New York?” She asked. “I’ve always wanted to live there.”

“We’re broke, Claud. Your father left us with debts that will take years to pay off.”

“What if I got a job to help you pay them off? Then could we move to New York?”

“No,” Mona said. “Now get your butt out of this car and into that school. Study hard so you can get a good scholarship.”

Clearly filled with hesitation, Claudia gazed out of the window at the students who were milling around the entrance to the high school.
“Go on, get out of here.” With a gesture of her head, Mona encouraged her to exit the station wagon. “Show them what you’re made of, kiddo.”

Doing her best to fight the growing nervousness in her stomach, Claudia got out of the car, looped the strap of her messenger bag onto her shoulder, and mumbled a goodbye to her mother. She walked slowly so she could study the schedule of classes that was in her hand, and mentally began rattling them off as she approached the steps that led into the school.

AP World History, Biology, AP English Literature, Government, AP Calculus….her eyes drifted lower until they came to land on her electives, which consisted of a fine arts class and a forensic science course. Aside from the fact that there were more AP classes than she had expected, her schedule seemed pretty doable. But she didn’t have long to focus her attention on the slip of paper, because the toes of her shoes bumped against the flight of steps leading up to the double doors of the high school.

A light curse passed her lips as she tripped, but before she could fall she righted herself and continued on her way. As she was climbing the stairs, her eyes scanned the sea of students for Tristan, but as far as she could see, he wasn’t anywhere in sight. Perhaps it was just as well, because he hadn’t been very friendly to her on their first meeting, so attempting to initiate a conversation with him would most likely be painfully awkward.

*A familiar face would still be nice*, she thought while continuing up the steps, and that was when she heard a deep, male voice call out from somewhere in the crowd.

“Hey, lost girl.”

Turning her head in the direction of the voice, she noticed a group of boys who were decked out in baggy jeans and oversized T-shirts, but on noting that they were all huddled in a circle and talking excitedly to one another, she realized that the voice had come from somewhere else.

“Over here, lost girl,” the voice called out once again.

Now certain that this unknown person was indeed calling out to *her*, she averted her attention to the metal railing of the stairs. And that was when her eyes came to land on *him*.

It’s that Chevy truck guy. The one that was following me in the parking lot of the Qwik Stop.

These were the first words that passed through her mind, and recalling that his hair was no longer in a low ponytail, but in two long, narrow braids that reached his hipbone, she found herself drawn toward him like a fish on a hook.

“Hey, what’s up?” He gave her a wide smile as she reached the metal railing that he was casually leaning against.

She returned his smile and with a question mark in her eyes, she asked, “Lost girl?”

“You looked like you were lost that day I met you, so I figured it was a good nickname.”

“Fair enough.”

Unable to keep from staring, she indulged herself in the sight of his gorgeous face, which had a nose that was high and bridged and cheekbones so sharp they could have cut glass. The pair of jeans, T-shirt, and flannel hooded jacket that covered his six foot two inch frame couldn’t have been more casual, and yet he wore it in such a way that made it impossible for her not to stare at him.

She was careful not to focus too hard or long on him though, because standing directly next to him was a pretty Native girl that Claudia recognized from the day she’d first seen him. Shooting Claudia an expression that clearly conveyed jealousy, the girl that stood beside him gave her a look that was unapologetically cold. In return, Claudia gave her a smile, which she hoped would be perceived as a message that she wanted nothing more than to be friendly. Judging from the scowl that curled the other woman’s lips, however, Claudia’s attempt at camaraderie had been swiftly rejected. As if suddenly remembering the handsome, broad shouldered man that stood before her, Claudia allowed her eyes to drift back to him.

“I go by Claudia, not lost girl,” she softly said while locking her eyes into his deep brown ones.

“You answered to lost girl, though.” His grin stretched so wide, it nearly split his face.

“You’re right, I did,” she said.

For a moment she considered confessing that her nickname for *him* was ‘Chevy truck guy’, but she was worried that it might come across as silly, so she decided instead to just keep it to herself.

“So you really do live on the rez,” he said.

“Actually, I live in Three Rivers.”

“Same difference,” he replied. “Still Blackfoot territory.”

As he studied her, she studied him, allowing her eyes to drift along his smooth face, which was darkly tan with ruddy undertones. It wasn’t that she was *trying* to gaze so intensely at him, because she was trying very hard not to. But it was sort of difficult to look away when the man standing right in front of her was not only ridiculously attractive, but eyeballing her with what seemed to be a fair amount of interest.

“Ai tso po kii ai sto yi,” said the girl who was standing at Lucas’s side, and looping her arm through his, she added, “Take me inside and warm me up.”

Claudia didn’t have a clue as to what the first part of the girl’s statement had meant, but it was obvious by the latter part of her sentence that she and Lucas weren’t just friends, but most likely lovers.

“Yeah, all right. Just give me a minute.” Lucas responded before directing his gaze to the crowd of students that were continuously pouring in from the parking lot. “Just waiting for Kitchi to arrive so I can get that money he owes me.”

Now gazing back at Claudia, the Native girl looked her up and down, as if sizing her up. Yet instead of continuing to give her the evil eye, she instead allowed a faint smile to cross her lips.

“The 90’s are over. You know that, right?”

“What?” A bit surprised to hear her finally speak, Claudia waited for her to elaborate.

“Those clothes you’re wearing. Nobody dresses like that anymore.”

Mortified, Claudia looked down at the outfit she had picked out, which consisted of a velvet babydoll dress, black tights, and a pair of thrifted Doc Martens. Her cheeks grew warm as she realized that several other students who were standing close enough to eavesdrop on the conversation were smirking and whispering to each other, but instead of allowing embarrassment to get the best of her, she decided instead to just brush off the insult and pretend nonchalance.

“Come on, Misty. That’s not right.” The smile on Lucas’s face, however, belied the words that he spoke. “She’s new. Be nice.”

“I’m doing her a favor,” Misty said. “She’ll get torn apart in this school if she keeps dressing like that.”

“She doesn’t look so bad.” His eyes drifted to the hem of her dress, unabashedly focusing on her thighs before coming to rest on her face. “Actually, I think she looks pretty cute.”

A snort preceded Misty’s sarcastic reply of, “*Right*.” Then with an air of unfriendliness that surrounded Claudia like a cloak, she brushed right past her and made her way through the double doors of the high school.

Still wearing his trademark wide grin, Lucas said, “Welcome to the rez, lost girl.” He then turned to follow Misty inside.
With eyes on his retreating form, Claudia was left to stand there all alone. She took a moment to glance around her at the multitude of students that were trudging up the stairs and past the entrance that led into the building. Then with schedule in hand, she disappeared through the double doors and into the halls of Browning High School.












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