Chapter Fifteen - Afternoon Surprise
The next two weeks passed fairly uneventfully. I saw Cole about another five times, but he still seemed hell-bent on not learning anything. When he did do a little bit of work, it seemed like he didn’t really need it. In fact, he seemed to be kind of… intelligent.
Weird, I know.
He also didn’t pull any pranks on me, which mystified me. In fact, we seemed to actually be growing closer. Don’t get me wrong, he annoyed me beyond belief, and several times I longed to hit him over the head with a particularly heavy English volume (thank God for my amazing self-restraint), but sometimes I actually seemed to get along with him.
We still bickered like an old married couple, and he still teased me, finding something new to tease me about every single day, but I found that we had some stuff in common, like our mutual dislike for each other.
It wasn’t much, but it’s a start.
Today was my day off, since Cole had cancelled our tutoring session last minute—for some reason some part of me was disappointed by that. I kinda liked our playful bickering sessions. But I had decided to spend some quality time with Annie and Matt, since I seemed to be sorely lacking in the friend area as of late.
Our SATs and the end of high school was drawing closer, meaning that everyone was studying their asses off in an attempt to ace these SATs and get into their dream colleges—myself included. Not that Cole was really inclined to learn anything during our sessions.
But Matt, Annie and I had decided to just have a day away from studying and just hang out at my place. Matt was in charge of bringing the drinks, Annie the food, and I was bringing the location and movie selection.
It was a Friday afternoon, and my mother was working the overnight shift, meaning that Matt and Annie were staying overnight at my place to keep me company, while Angel stayed at Miranda and Stacy’s.
Tomorrow afternoon Cole had rescheduled our tutoring session. Great.
After Matt and Annie arrived, and we set things up, we all curled up on our own chaises and watched the movies.
It felt good being able to lay back, without work or tutoring Cole. It felt like forever since I had been able to have a good time with just my friends.
I should’ve known that wouldn’t last for long.
The movie was halfway through an intense fight scene when my cellphone started ringing. My friends looked at me with raised eyebrows, but I waved it away. “It’s okay. Just ignore it.’
If it were anyone important, they would’ve called my home phone.
My phone rang again, and I grunted, standing up. This person was persistent, I’d give them that. I went into the kitchen and picked up my cell off the bench, sliding across the screen and bringing the phone to my ear.
“It’s Grace,” I said, not bothering to look at the Caller ID.
“Grace, you answered.” The voice sounded vaguely surprised.
“Who is this?” I asked, fiddling with a bag of popcorn on the bench and shoving a buttery kernel into my mouth.
“I’m hurt you didn’t recognise my heavenly voice.” I realised who the voice was as soon as I heard the distinguishable amusement and arrogantness.
“Something told me I shouldn’t have picked up,” I said to no one in particular, checking the time on the microwave and biting my nails.
“Oh, I know you missed me,” he told me.
“Like a pain in the ass,” I answered, crossing my arms over my chest. “Now, seriously, what do you want?”
“To tell you that my date was cancelled. I’m coming over so we can do more tutoring.”
My jaw dropped. “I’m busy, Cole. You can’t come over. I have company.”
Just then there was a knock on my front door, and I sighed. Boy, I sure was popular today. “How do you know?” I asked, making my way through the living room and to the front door.
I flung it open, phone still pressed to my ear, and standing on my doorstep was none other than the annoying….
“I saw the cars out the front,” he answered, closing the phone and stepping past me into the foyer. I made a sound of protest, ended the call and followed in after him.
“Did I tell you that you could come in?” I asked, bemused.
He gave me a rueful smile. “You were never going to ask me in, Grace.”
I fisted my hands at my sides just as Matt poked his head in, probably checking to see what the commotion we were making in the foyer was.
He looked surprised. “Cole, what’re you doing here, man?” He walked over to Cole, and they did that weird fist-bump guy thing that boys seem to find so awesome to do upon greeting other people.
“Grace and I had tutoring today,’ he said, walking into the lounge room and plonking himself down on the vacated chaise.
“Which you cancelled,” I felt the need to remind him. “And I don’t remember giving you permission to come barging in and sitting on my couch.”
“Come on, Grace. Don’t you want a little extra company?”
“Not from you,” I said tightly.
He put a hand over his heart in mock hurt. “You really know how to break a guy’s heart, don’t you, Gracie?”
“Get out,” I said, my voice raising several octaves in anger. My cheeks flushed, embarrassed.
“Why?” he whined, mocking my high voice, which only made me turn even redder. “Come on, I’ll only stay a couple hours. Plus, I brought snacks.”
He pulled a grocery bag out of his satchel and put it down on the coffee table. Annie leant forward and started pulling stuff out. There was chocolates, candy, cookies and chips.
Well, that won my two traitorous best friends over. Annie threw me a pleading look, not wanting to part with these new goods, and Matt piped up, saying, “Come on, Grace. What can it hurt? It’s only one more person to add to the mix. And he brought good food. Come on.”
Were they completely forgetting the pranks he had embarrassed me with in last couple months? Did that not count for something? My stupid food-obsessed friends.
Knowing I was outnumbered (and a total push-over,) I mumbled a curse and said, “Fine.”
Then, like a whiny five-year-old, I threw myself into the armchair, crossed my arms over my chest, and stared stonily at the TV, not acknowledging anybody’s presence.
Matt sighed and un-paused the movie, sitting next to me. Cole sat down across from Annie, on the loveseat. I refused to touch any of the food Cole had brought, even though the cookies looked very tempting.
But I managed to keep my resolve, and didn’t reach for food once. I was quite proud of myself. But I still knew that Cole was going to make this a very difficult night.
~ * ~
When Cole left that night at around ten—with a warning that he would be here tomorrow at two for tutoring—I breathed a heavy sigh of relief.
Annie looked at me with amusement in her eyes. “He wasn’t that bad, Grace.”
“Are you kidding me? He tripped me over twice. And stole my food. And then proceeded to tell me about my terrible choice in movies.”
“You didn’t have to kick him, though, Grace,” Matt said.
I smiled at the memory, feeling no remorse whatsoever. The second time he tripped me over; I turned around and kicked him in the shins. My immature side was making a lot of appearances lately.
I shrugged. “He deserved it.”
’Yes, but did you have to do it that hard?” Annie persisted.
“I swear I heard a bone crack.”
“Let’s hope it was an important one,” I muttered under my breath, grabbing some spare comforters out of the linen closet and fluffing up some cushions for Matt and Annie to sleep in. Angel was staying overnight at Miranda and Stacy’s, meaning the house was peaceful and quiet without her obnoxious and insistent chattering.
“Hey, Matt?” I asked quietly, looking over at him from the dim light of the TV screen after we had all set up on separate couches.
“Who’s Mystery Girl?” I asked. “Do you still like her?”
I looked at Annie quickly, but she had already fallen asleep, and her breathing was even and slow, her chest rising and falling rhythmically.
“I can’t tell you who she is, Grace,” he told me. “But, yes, I do still like her.”
“Why won’t you tell me who she is?” I whispered, my eyelids beginning to droop closed. I was going to fall asleep any second now, but I had to ask.
“Because, she’s not just any girl,” he confided. “She’s… different. And, plus, she’d never go out with a guy like me.”
“Are you kidding? Any girl would be crazy not to go out with you.”
“Would you go out with me?” he asked imploringly, and I could feel his gaze on the side of my face, burning holes in my cheek.
For a second I couldn’t answer, I was so taken aback. “I-I don’t know,” I said finally. “It depends. But you never know, this girl may like you.”
“I think she likes someone else. I know he definitely likes her.”
“I still think you should tell her,” I pressed.
“I can’t, Grace. Like I said before, she’s different.”
“Who cares? You should ask her out anyway. If you don’t ask, the answer’s always no. Wouldn’t you rather live in a world where there weren’t any what-if’s? Where you could look back and say “I can’t believe I did that”, rather than, “I wish I had’ve done that.” Just do it, man. You’ll never know if you don’t try.”
“Maybe I should,” he murmured, though I was already floating off into la-la land and barely heard him. “Maybe I should.”
“Will you go out with me?”
I looked up in surprise from the comforter I was folding, to look at Matt, who was running a hand through his hair anxiously. Annie had left an hour ago, needing to go to work as a librarian’s assistant (her parents had scored her the job despite the fact that she hated literature), but Matt had stayed back to cook me breakfast, saying it was his way of thanking me for letting him stay over last night. I had tried to insist it was my idea for him to come over, and that it wasn’t necessary, but he insisted.
And since he cooked the best pancakes in possibly the whole world, I wasn’t really protesting all that much.
“What?” I asked now, staring at Matt.
Other than insisting to cook me breakfast this morning, Matt hadn’t really said much, and he had been running his hands through his hair so much that now it was permanently mussed up. He seemed nervous about something.
’You wanna go out to dinner with me tonight? Just you and me?”
“Uh, sure,” I said, confused. Matt and I had gone out before, but something about the expression on his face told me that this time was going to be different. I couldn’t help the butterflies that swarmed around my stomach.
“Okay, cool,” Matt said. “So, I’ll make the reservations and pick you up around six-thirty?”
“Okay, yeah, sounds good,” I echoed awkwardly. “Hey, Matt, are you okay? You seem kinda…” I noted him running his hands through his hair yet again. “…um, fidgety.”
“Oh,” he said. “No, I’m fine. I just kinda had something to tell you.”
I put the comforter down, giving him my full attention. “What was it?”
He opened his mouth as if to say something, and then shut it again. “Nothing. It’s nothing. I’ll tell you tonight. I gotta go, but six-thirty tonight I’ll pick you up, and then there’s some stuff I need to tell you, and some good news.”
“Oh, okay,” I said, but I don’t know if he heard me, because he quickly grabbed his car keys and ran out of the house faster than I could say a proper sentence.
I turned back to the comforter and sighed.
Well, that was… weird.