Title: GARAGE BOY
Genre: YA Contemporary Romance
Word Count: 60,000
When sixteen-year-old Hanley Helton discovers a complete stranger living in her garage, she knows she should kick him out. But Nate is too charming to be dangerous.He just needs a place to get away, which Hanley understands; she’s been trying to get away from her past ever since her best friend committed suicide. True, her own escape methods — vodka, black hair dye, and pretending it never happened — are more traditional, but who is she to judge?
A flawless system develops. Nate spends his days roaming and his nights sleeping next to a tarp-covered 1977 Trans Am. When Hanley sneaks out, she gives Nate blankets and food. When she drunkenly sneaks back in, he assists her with complicated concepts such as walking and using door handles. Their system includes an unspoken pact: he doesn't tell her why he's there. She doesn't tell him what she's running from. Soon, Hanley's late-night escapades don't take her much further than her own garage.
The relationship works until Hanley does the one thing sure to send this delicate balance off-kilter. She tells the truth. Nate is understanding about Hanley's past, but unwilling to open up about his own. Instead of two secrets, now there's only one. Hanley gives him an ultimatum: tell her why he's in her garage, or lose her. So Nate shares the reason he's on the run. He killed his twin brother, and it wasn't an accident. When Nate is discovered and recognized as the missing teen from the news, Hanley isn't sure which is more of a problem: that she's harboring a fugitive or that she's in love with one.
The third step down holds my fate in its hands. There, the padding beneath the beige carpet is non-existent. The supporting boards and beams creak with age. I learned these facts the hard way back in 8th grade, after my parents discovered the word “curfew,” and once again earlier this year when I was too excited, too drunk, too something to remember the Third Step Rule.
Tonight I don’t forget. I clutch the wooden banister and pass over Third Step in favor of its silent neighbor, Fourth Step. I pause and listen. It takes a long second, but the familiar chainsaw of my dad’s snoring sounds again.
I tiptoe down the remaining stairs. The front door is before me, freedom within reach, but that door creaks too much for my needs. I inch through the foyer in the direction of the well-oiled garage door.
I pause to pick up my black knee-high boots. My sister Heather calls them “stripper boots” and steps on them every chance she gets. My parents nag me to keep them in the closet, but I need my shoes available for times like this.
I’m nearing escape when I feel it. A tickle in my nose. Shit. If I had a petite, polite sneeze like most girls, this might not be a problem. However, my sneezes measure on the Richter Scale. I obeyed the Third Step Rule and had my shoes ready to go, but now I’m going to ruin it all with a sneeze.