Around noon, Mom called to ask about road conditions. I walked out on the front porch to double check, then told her we had snow, but the streets weren’t slick. Naturally, I didn’t mention that I’d had a wreck last night in a car I wasn’t supposed to be driving going to a dance to meet Dugan, a boy she’d told me to stay away from. She asked how I was doing, then before I could answer, began to talk about their meeting and the nice dinner they’d had with Hayley’s parents.
Someone clicked in. A number I didn’t recognize.
“Mom, can you hold that thought for a sec?” I asked, now en route to the kitchen for a soda. I switched to the other call.
Dugan! “Hi. Would you hold on long enough for me to get rid of my mom?”
Click. “Mom, I’ve got to go.”
“Why? Who was that?” She sounded very suspicious, which suddenly made me wonder if I’d inherited my psychic powers from her.
“A new friend who’s asking a favor of me.”
“Oh, okay then. We’ll see you Sunday, honey. Love you.”
“Love you, too.” I clicked her off. “Dugan? Still there?”
My heart leapt into my throat. Oh God. Had I pushed the wrong button? Was Mom still on the line?
Whew. “I’m here.”
“Sorry about that. Bo needed me.”
“No problem.” God, I hated deception. I mean, there’s nothing more stressful in my opinion. You not only have to remember what lie you told, but who you told it to. It can get so confusing, which is why I’m all for honesty if it will possibly work.
Unfortunately, in this case it wouldn’t.
“I’ve been thinking about tomorrow,” Dugan said, “And I believe it might be best if you just met Payton and me at the mall, maybe by that fountain at the south entrance. That way I can pay for everything with my debit card.”
He was going to shop with us?
Now that was a turn of events I had not anticipated.
My heart kicked into high gear, pounding joyfully in my chest. I immediately began to think up ways I could stretch out the afternoon. Why, we could—
“Ren? Are you still there?”
Oops. “I’m here.”
“So does that work for you or not?”
“It totally works.”
In the silence that followed that single syllable, I tried to think of something to say—something that might keep him on the phone a little longer.
“About the dance Friday…”
“What about it?” I asked, hoping he was going tell me he’d had a good time, too.
“I’m sorry I kissed you goodnight.”
“What? Why? Was I bad at it?”
He inhaled sharply. “Don’t talk crazy. You’re a fantastic kisser.”
That was better. “Then why are you sorry you kissed me?”
“Because I think I gave you the wrong impression about us.”
“Meaning there is no us, at least as far as kissing goes.”
“So why’d you do it, then…?”
“I did it because I’m a guy and you’re a girl, and it was late, and we were in a car in the snow, wearing dress-up clothes, and you smelled so damn good—”
My knees turned to Jell-o.
“And your eyes are so blue, and you’d been crying, and I wanted to make it all okay—”
“You kissed me out of pity?”
“No. Hell no. Haven’t you been listening? I got caught up in the moment and lost it.”
“My point is that it won’t happen again. Ever. I swear. I just want you to know that so you’ll feel comfortable around me while we do the whole Cinderella thing.”
“Great. Wonderful. Big whoopee. Bye-bye.”
“Wait! Are you…mad at me?”
“Does it matter?”
“Of course it matters. I want us to be friends.”
“You can’t have everything.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“It means—” I took a deep breath, trying to put my complete and utter frustration with him into small words he could easily understand “—it means….Oh, I don’t know what it means.”
“Then we can still be friends?” he asked.
“Yeah. Sure. I guess.” I made no attempt to hide my disappointment.
I swear I heard him swallow.
“Good. I’m glad we got that straight. Gotta go. See you tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow,” I echoed dully.
He hung up. I went into my cell contacts and added his phone number, bitterly tagging it “Un-boyfriend.”
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