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Chapter 6

Cassie

“Why wasn’t he mine?” I asked myself. I asked myself that question a lot. I thought he was awesome and I wanted my best friend to think he was awesome so they could be together, but she wasn’t interested.

“Why did I want them to be together?” I asked myself. Was it so I could have both of them in my life. That was strange we just met, but it already seemed like Joe was a mainstay. I needed his companionship and strength.

Cindy was right. I could tell that she wasn’t interested in Joe that way, and she was happy talking about Mark all the way home in the cab. She was already smitten, but even if it didn’t work out between them she made it perfectly clear shew wasn’t interested in Joe.

So now what? My plan backfired and it seemed like Joe was a little upset about something when he left but I wasn’t sure what. Maybe his trip didn’t go as well as he said, and that was bothering him. I would have to find out. I mean he was there for me when I was having a hard time so I could return the favor, that’s what friends did.

Joe

The doorbell rang so I threw the rag I was dusting with in the sink and went over and answered it. Cassie was standing there in a jogging outfit that would make you pant. It hugged her generous curves in all the right places and I wanted to just stare at her for hours and then I remembered she was standing there.

“Sorry Cassie, I didn’t expect you, come in. Would you like anything?” I asked letting her glide past me as she headed for the fridge. She took out a lemonade and took a big drink. She wiped her arm across her mouth when she was done and I just stood there openmouthed like an idiot.

“Needed a drink.” She said taking another. “I just finished my workout and forgot I didn’t have anything to drink. I have got to get to the store and restock. What are you doing?” She asked looking around.

“Dusting,” I answered.

“Geez Joe, you clean more than I do. What, you have a date or something?” She asked then her eyes got hard for a second. “Crap, you do don’t you. I’m interrupting. I should go.”

I shut the door closing it on her. “I don’t have a date. I just hate the fact that you see it dirty when you come over. Besides, who would I have a date with?”

“I don’t know. It just seemed weird you were cleaning again. I mean I know I have been coming over for dinner a lot this past week, but you don’t have to go out of your way for me.” She said.

How could I not? She was Cassie. The girl I had loved from the moment I talked to her and could separate the fantasy from the reality. She was perfect, and I didn’t want any excuse for her to stop coming over. But I couldn’t tell her that, because, well, she didn’t like me that way. To her I was a friend and I always would be.

“I appreciate the thought. It’s just good to have a clean apartment. What are you up to today?” I asked wanting to know every detail.

“I am meeting Cindy at the salon for a girls’ day. Then we are having dinner tonight at Overlook.” She said.

“Wow, fancy place.” I didn’t want to know. I didn’t want to ask. I couldn’t ask. “Just the two of you.” Shit, I asked. I didn’t want to hear the answer. It would kill me to hear the answer.

“Nope, Cindy is bringing her new man Mark.” She said.

Don’t do it dummy. Don’t ask her. You know you don’t want to hear the answer. “So the three of you then?” Why couldn’t I stop myself?

“Nope four,” She said and my heart sank.

I knew it was coming. I knew I didn’t have a hold of her in that way. Why was it hurting so much? Be a man Joe. She made it clear you were just friends, say the right thing and get her out of here before she sees you cry.

“Well I am sure the four of you will have a great time.” I said heading toward the door to open it for her so she could leave. I figured this was her way of telling me goodbye. It’s not like the first time this has happened, so I should be used to it by now.

“We better. Cindy is all about this guy, so I have to be on my best behavior. DO you want to drive or do you want me to?

“What?” I asked thinking I heard her wrong.

“I can’t go alone Joe, not to Overlook. Besides I need my best guy friend to keep me from saying anything stupid. Crap, unless you already have plans. I should have asked you sooner.”

“I am just going to see Rhapsody this afternoon and get that all worked out.” I said still trying to understand what was said earlier.

“Oh, after that you will definitely need a night out. I’ll drive. Stop by my apartment at five and we will head out and meet them there. Oh I am wearing my blue dress that you helped me pick out at the mall.” She said heading out and back to her apartment.

She left. I closed the door and fell on my couch. Friend, she called me her best guy friend. Cindy was right, this was tearing me apart. She would never feel the way about me that I do about her. Could I live with that? Did I want to live without her?

Rhapsody sat beside me watching the juniors play hockey. I picked her up and brought her with me because I need to tell her and I needed a place we both felt comfortable. She had been going to games since she was a little girl and I wanted to see how my latest sponsors were getting on.

“You know you haven’t talked to me since we sat down?” Rhapsody said.

“I’m sorry kiddo. I just have a lot on my mind.” I did. I was still thinking about everything Cassie had said that morning.

“Is it that girl you brought to the restaurant that night?” She asked.

I could have lied. But I never lie and I wouldn’t start now. “Yeah,” I said.

“I see. You know she isn’t good enough for you.” Rhapsody said.

I snorted, me snorting, that was knew. “I’m afraid that it’s me that’s not good enough for her. I’ve been put in the friend zone, and it’s not the zone that I want to be in.”

“I understand,” she said sounding sad. Then it hit me. What I had been saying and how she must feel.

“I’m sorry Rhapsody. I know at your age you probably have someone that you care about but they don’t think of you that way, and then you hear me going on about it, and realize that it can still be that way even when you are as old as me. I guess that sucks huh.”

“Yeah it sucks,” she said.

“What would Momma Jade say if she saw us both crying over something we couldn’t have?” I asked.

“I will tell you exactly what she would say. She would tell me that I’m still too young to be thinking like that, and when I am older it will all work out. That I should stop thinking about a man who doesn’t see me as anything more than a little sister and to concentrate on guys my own age.”

Rhapsody said it just like Mamma Jade would have said it and I laughed. “So what would she say to me?”

Rhapsody looked at me with an understanding that was well past her fifteen years. “She would tell you that you are too nice to people and every once in a while you should be more about you. That if someone didn’t recognize how great you were than they didn’t deserve you.”

“I see,” and I did. “She really is a smart woman isn’t she?” I said smiling at her.

“Too smart and too bossy.” Rhapsody said smiling back.

Just then two of the hockey players hit the glass in front of us and they smiled, not at me, at rhapsody. When they pretended to try kicking a puck that was already back out on the ice while looking at Rhapsody I started laughing.

She smiled at them and they skated away back to the game. I looked at her and bounced my shoulder into hers. She looked at me smiling “Stupid boys.”

“And the worst part is, stupid boys never grow up, or at least I bet Mamma Jade would say we never do.” I said.

Just then two different boys hit the glass without the puck even being around and they both waved and smiled at Rhapsody. She smiled back and waved and they went back to the game. She looked at me and I started laughing.

“Your biggest problem will be getting little “T” to let any of them close enough to you to ask for a date.” I said laughing as two more boys hit the glass.

She was laughing too at this point. “Won’t matter, Mamma already said I can’t date till I’m sixteen.”

“That’s good. These boys need to work on their skills a little. Are we good Rhapsody?” I asked.

She knew what I was asking. She was her Mamma’s daughter. She was a bright girl and picked up on things better than anyone.

“Why did you bring me here with you?” She asked.

“To tell you what I did, and let you see what it was like when your family wasn’t around you scaring every one of these away.” I said as two more boys hit the glass. At least these two were smart enough to hit the puck this way to have a reason to come over.

“Thanks Joe, it still hurts a little, but I guess I always knew. I was just being selfish.” She said waving to the two boys so they could leave and join the game again.

“It’s alright. Maybe I am being selfish to, thinking I can have something that I can’t, as well.” I said feeling terrible.

“Mamma Jade will slap you for that. Especially when I tell her?” She said smiling.

“You wouldn’t do that to me would you?” I said with a pleading note in my voice.

“Well that depends.” She said.

“Depends on what?” I asked feeling like she was maneuvering me like a well-trained specialist.

“If you let me talk to these boys before we go back. A couple are kind of cute.” She said biting her lower lip.

“It just so happens I have to talk to them and their coach’s anyway. So if you want to tag along and get to know some of them, who am I to stop you?” I asked innocently.

She smiled brightly and you could definitely see why the boys kept banging into the glass in front of us, and as on cue, two more did just that.

“Ok Joe, what was the point of that?” Tom Middleston asked before Butch Irons could.

“Easy, they are teenage boys, and a pretty girl will catch their attention. You don’t need to yell at them about it you just have to help them to understand that there will be time after the game to get the young ladies attention. It’s a fact of life guys, and it’s better to be the helping guy in this situation than the jerk that no one wants to play for. I will bring Rhapsody back from time to time, just to see how well that part of the training is going. Of course there is a kicker. She also thinks a couple of them are cute, so I bet sooner or later, you will have other things to talk about as well.” I explained.

“Shit, the girl is a looker Joe. Look at the way they are all falling over her.” Butch said.

“I know Butch, and you know who her family is, so she knows enough about hockey that all these boys will be in love before too long.”

“Crap, what can we do?” Tom asked.

“Easy, just let them know also who her brothers are, and how possessive they are. These are all smart boys, they will continue to flirt, but they will always be looking over their shoulders and that should be enough.”

“Easy for you to say, you deal with the older guys.” Butch said.

“Worse actually, they get sneakier as they get older, and some of the girls are more available to the players. I’ve had more than one long talk with a player who was thinking in the wrong direction. So trust me when I say this is a lesson that needed to be addressed at this level and I’m counting on you guys to help them learn it positively.” I finished.

“Ok Joe, you got it.” They both explained and I turned to find Rhapsody surrounded answering questions from what it was like having a famous big brother to what her phone number was.

I waded into the circle and got everyone’s attention. “Gentlemen, I am glad you have kept Rhapsody company for me, and let me explain a few things. First, she is not allowed to date till her sweet sixteen party in four months, and second, her other brother Tiny, is six five and three hundred and forty pounds of pure muscle. Any questions?”

“No Joe,” was the chorus of answers I got.

I smiled at them all and led her out through the throng of male attention and back to my car.

“Spoilsport, you just scared all of them off.” She pouted.

“I doubt that. When you tell young men no, they work even harder. My guess is you will have a full house of young men at your sweet sixteen and god help me when your family finds out it was all my fault.”

She laughed. “Pappa will have a word with you.”

“Probably more than one.” I replied and pulled out to take her home listening to her giggle for quite a way.

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