We pulled up to the big, two-story home and my mom could hardly contain her comments.
“Well, aren’t they fancy?”
“Mom, please. They’re people just like we are. Who cares how big their house is?”
“I suppose you’re right. You’ve got such a good sense of character. I’m happy you’ve got a friend. Keep her close, you’ll need her for the rest of high school.” She smiled at me and leaned over, giving me a kiss on the cheek.
“Love you sweetie, text me before you go to bed and text me when you get to school in the morning. And you better go!!” She gave me a stern look so I gave her a salute in return, grinning as I got out of the car.
“Smart-ass.” My mom said under her breath.
“Love you too! See ya!” I yelled back sarcastically.
My mom pulled away as I made my way to the porch. I stood in front of the door for about ten seconds. My nerves were playing with me and I knew I had to knock before someone caught me just standing here like a freak in front of someone’s house.
I slowly lifted my arm and gently knocked on the door. I waited about two minutes and when no one answered, I texted Layla letting her know I was here.
After a couple minutes, the front door swung open and Layla was standing there with a big smile on her face.
“Listen, this is a big house, you gotta knock a little louder if you ever want to be heard.” She laughed and my face instantly turned red. I tried to laugh it off as best as I could as I walked inside behind her.
“Let’s go put your bag in my room and then we can come back down and make some movie snacks!”
You could tell she was just as excited to have me over, as I was to be here.
“Sweet. I’m starving!” I said, looking down at my stomach that was now yelling at me to feed it.
“Oh yeah, you said you hadn’t had dinner. Let me make you a plate of what we had! My mom made her famous chicken and yellow rice. It’s one of my favorites.”
We went into the kitchen and I sat at one of the stools while Layla fixed me a plate.
Suddenly, a tall man walked into the kitchen. He had a light grey suit and matching tie on with car keys in his right hand. He looked over at Layla and then over at me.
“You must be Cecilia. It’s very nice to meet you! I’m Larry, Layla’s step-father.” He reached out and shook my hand. I nodded with a smile.
“It’s very nice to meet you as well. Layla has told me wonderful things about you.” He looked over at Layla and smiled. She shot him a grin right back and you could tell that the bond they shared was beautiful. Despite her heartache about her father, she opened herself up to him because she knew that he made her mom happy. You could tell that they have grown close over the years.
“Oh has she? Well, that’s so great to hear!” He laughed and I chuckled myself.
“Going to the office?” Layla asked him.
“Yes mam. I told them I didn’t like working this late, but they insist that it’s urgent. I’ll be back in a couple hours.” He gave us both a goodbye and left.
Larry works at a top-dollar lawyer’s firm from what Layla told me. He only has a few people above him. Layla said he’s really important and that’s how they have such a big house. She even said her mom technically didn’t even need to work, but she kept her job anyway because she claims she can’t sit at home all day with nothing to do. I, for one, would love to be a stay-at-home wife. I guess I have my social anxiety to blame for that.
We stayed in the kitchen making small talk while I awkwardly ate my food. I heard a door open and close from upstairs, and at first, I didn’t even think that it could possibly be Eric. I was a little nervous for him to see me, since earlier that day I ran away from him like a mad person without any explanation.
To my disappointment, is wasn’t him. Layla’s mother walked into the kitchen and immediately walked over to me pulling me in for a hug. My eyes widened at bit at her sudden affection.
“Cecilia! It’s so nice to meet you! Layla told me so much about you. You two have really hit it off huh?” She ended the hug and I looked over at Layla who was smirking with an eye roll.
“Mom, do you have to be so overbearing?”
“I’m just being friendly Layla, calm down.” She laughed and looked back over at me.
“It’s nice to meet you too Mrs. Daines.” I said with a big smile.
“Oh please, call me Rachel! Mrs. Daines makes me feel old.” She laughed some more as she walked over to the pot of food, fixing herself a plate.
“Come on Cecil, let’s go up to my room.” Layla grabbed me by the wrist and pulled me away with her.
“You two have fun, oh, and set your alarms! Both of you will still be up at six in the morning to get ready for school!” Rachel yelled from inside the kitchen and we both said okay while walking up the stairs.
When we reached the top of the stairs, I looked over at Eric’s door. It was shut, but I could still hear the muffled sound of music playing. My heartbeat increased when I noticed what song he was listening to.
...And I lay my head back down...
...Lift my hands, and pray...
He was listening to Only Hope by Switchfoot. The same song that we both listened to earlier that day when he sat with me at the tracks. I couldn’t help but smile as a million questions started entering my brain. Why was he listening to this song in particular? Was he thinking about me too? Did I hurt his feelings when I ran off? I wish I could talk to him.
“You coming?” I heard Layla say, pulling me away from the questions I was trying to answer to myself.
I quickly walked into her room as she shut the door behind us.
“Sorry, it’s just... I like that song he was listening to.” I tried to play it off.
“Yeah he’s been listening to it on repeat ever since he got home. I’ve never heard him listen to it before. I have no clue what his deal is.” She laughed as she walked over to her bookshelf that was neatly stacked with quite a large collection of DVD’s.
My heart was doing flips inside of my shirt and I couldn’t help but wonder why he was listening to a song on repeat that he never really listened to before. Was it because of me? He did say he loved Switchfoot though. I had to stop. Over-analyzing this would make me crazy. I pushed the thoughts aside and picked up my bag.
“Hey, before we start some sort of movie marathon, can I go take a shower?” I asked.
“Oh, sure! Let me show you to the bathroom. We use the one downstairs because the one up here is currently being renovated. The process started today and it’s a huge mess right now.”
We walked outside of Layla’s room and just as we did, he walked out. He had on basketball shorts and no shirt. I tried my best not to stare at his bare chest, but I couldn’t help but sneak one peak. He looked amazing and he wasn’t even trying. His hair was messy like he had been napping. He took one look at me and turned right back around, slamming his door shut behind him. The sound of the slam made me jump a little, and Layla looked at me confused.
“What was that all about?” She asked.
I couldn’t tell her why her step-brother was mad at me. If I did, she would know that I really didn’t have any chores to do today and that I lied to her.
“I have no clue.” Was all I could say, and we continued walking down the stairs.
Layla showed me to the downstairs bathroom, and showed me how to work the shower. I’m glad she did because it was a standing shower and the nob was nothing like the one at my house. It’s always awkward using someone else’s shower for the first time. I nodded at her instructions and she left the bathroom, closing the door behind her. I locked the door and began undressing.
I let the steaming hot water hit my bare body as I thought about Eric. It was clear to me that he was not too fond of me right now. I hated that he was mad at me. It gave me a horrible, sick feeling. I’ve only known this guy for a couple of days, and I already screwed everything up. I needed to talk to him at some point tonight. I needed to apologize for running away and for making him think that I wasn’t interested. God was I interested. Forty-eight hours and he was all I could think about.
I finished with my shower and got dressed. I had my grey sweatpants on and my blue tank top. I left my hair down, but brushed it out so it could dry.
I walked out of the bathroom and headed towards the stairs when I saw Eric sitting at the kitchen counter by himself.
Now is my chance.
I slowly walked up beside him and sat down next to him.
He didn’t even look up from his plate.
“May I help you, Layla’s friend?” He asked with no emotion at all.
“Please, don’t talk to me like that. I’m... sorry.” I replied.
“For what?” I knew he was just trying to play it off. He spoke to me as if we didn’t share the afternoon together listening to music. He spoke as if he had no interest in me at all.
It kind of hurt.
“You know exactly what I’m talking about, Eric.” Saying his first name and not his last name finally got a rise out of him. He pushed his plate away and looked up at me. We were now sitting face to face, with our knees almost touching.
“Please, enlighten me Cecilia.” His words burned, and I knew he was just as serious as I was.
My face turned a little red. I’ve never been good with confrontation, but I knew I had to get through this if I ever wanted any type of relationship with this boy.
“As I was saying, I’m sorry that I ran off like that. It’s got nothing to do with you, honest. I’m just messed up I guess. I don’t really know how or what to do in all of these situations, but I’m trying to learn. I’ve never been interested in anyone befor-, I mean, well, you know.”
I looked away and tried to regulate my breathing. I tightened my grip on my sweatpants and Eric could tell something was wrong.
“Are you okay?” He got up and was standing beside me now. He rushed over to the fridge and pulled out a water bottle. He opened it and handed it to me, telling me to drink.
I sipped on the ice cold water and breathed in through my nose slowly but deeply.
I finally caught my breath and placed the cap back onto the water bottle.
“I’m fine. Don’t worry about it. Listen, I’m just really sorry, okay? I’m going to leave you to your dinner now. See ya.”
I quickly got up and ran up the stairs before he could say anything more. I walked into Layla’s room holding the water bottle and she stared at my face because sweat was now coming off my forehead.
“Hey, are you alright?” She looked worried.
“Yes, I’m fine. What movies did you pick out?” I quickly took my place on her bed and placed the water bottle next to me on the nightstand. I wasn’t ready to tell either one of them of my famous anxiety attacks. I just got Layla as a friend, I wasn’t prepared to scare her away now.
She walked over setting up the first movie, that happened to be one of my favorites. It was The Heat with Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy. I loved comedies.
While Layla was putting the DVD into the player, I quickly grabbed one of my pills out of my bag and swallowed it taking another sip from my water. Thankfully, she didn’t see.
I was prescribed with anxiety medication a couple of years ago when I had a really bad anxiety attack. I blacked out and had to be taken to the hospital by ambulance. This was before I made any friends, so no one really noticed that I was gone from school for three days. I knew that I had to eventually tell Layla and her family. I didn’t want them to not know what to do if I ever have an attack in their house. I almost just had one in the kitchen with Eric, and that’s why I decided to go ahead and take one of my pills as a precaution.
We sat on the bed together with a big bowl of popcorn, and waited for the movie to start. That’s when we heard a knock at the door.
“Hey, um, can I come in?” His voice startled me, but inside I was screaming, “yes”.
He slowly opened the door and popped his head inside looking at both of us with a sheepish smile.
“What do you want ass-wipe?” Layla said sarcastically.
I grinned and he shot her a glare.
“I just wanted to see what my two favorite girls were up to.” He teased and let himself in. He walked over to the beanbag chair in the corner of the room and plopped down onto it.
“I did not say that you could come in here. We’re having a girl’s night.” Layla said, matter-of-factly.
“Oh, come on. I just want to watch this movie with you. I’ll leave when it’s over.”
Layla eventually surrendered. She knew he wasn’t going to leave anytime soon.
I looked over at him and wondered why he was in here. He even said we were his favorite girl’s. Did this mean he wasn’t mad at me anymore? I guess time would tell.
He must’ve felt my eyes on him, because he looked up at me and gave me a small grin. I smiled back almost instantly, and the three of us began watching the movie.
Laughter filled the room as each funny part played and we were all on the floor now, sitting side by side, sharing popcorn and soda. I was sitting in the middle of them. Layla was to my left and Eric was to my right. It was such a comfortable feeling and I kept thinking that I didn’t want the night to end.
The movie was halfway over as I felt Eric slowly move his hand next to mine. I looked over at him and he kept his eyes focused on the TV. I nervously bit my lip and reached for his hand without even thinking. He opened his hand almost instantly, interlocking our fingers together. I sat on the floor trying to remain calm. I slowed my breathing down so I wouldn’t explode all over the place. My heart and mind were soaring and I couldn’t help but keep the huge smile that was on my face, for the entire night.
Maybe I could let my guard down.
Just this once.