Vale Shumway:

Image above used in accordance with Creative Commons Licensing (Pixabay).


(Excerpt from Chapter 3, Switchback)

With Vale’s auburn hair pulled back into a sensible ponytail and her cheeks flushed with color, she looked younger than sixteen, the spray of freckles over her nose as clear as it had been in kindergarten.

Vale caught his eye. “What are you staring at?”

Ash blinked. “Wait… What?”

“You’re staring, Ash. What’s up?” She wiped a string of hair away from her cheek. “Do I have something on my face?”

“I… no. It’s nothing.”

“If it’s a booger, Ash, just say it.” She rubbed vigorously from chin to forehead. “I can’t hardly feel my nose.”

He snorted happily. “It’s not. I would’ve taken a picture, if it was.”

Vale giggled. “Jerk.”

“Takes one to know one.” He turned back to the muddy trail, his laughter fading. “Just hoping we reach the campground soon.”

“God… Me too.”

With the weather as bad as it was, Ash knew he and Vale wouldn’t arrive until nightfall. There’d be no time for hanging out and telling stories. No time for a campfire. We might not even get supper! Ash’s stomach growled in protest. He hunched his shoulders and walked faster.