"There's something I need to tell you."
Mason Richards, one of my closest friends, had never looked so nervous in all the eighteen years I'd known him (which had been all my life). I mean, we grew up together. We knew everything about each other. He had no reason to be nervous! We had so many memories together.
For example, our parents made us attend our first high school homecoming together. Granted, this was before the Richards' inherited the company my parents loathed—the one they competed with. "You two already know each other, and you're practically inseparable!" My mom had argued, amidst the emphatic nods of Mason's mom, and we exchanged glances. We decided to go together, because hey, why not? I was comfortable with Mason, and comfort was what I longed for most in awkward social situations.
The night of the dance, my other best friend, Celia, spent hours on my hair. She'd be going to the career center for cosmetology school the next year, and she really knew what she was doing. Even if I was a terrible client to work with.
"Sit still, Paris!" she hissed as she braided my chestnut brown ringlets away from my face. I fought the urge to sigh.
"You're lucky I have thick hair," I replied with a huff. "Otherwise you'd have all of it ripped out by now."
Celia snorted. "Not possible." she declared, lifting her chin, brown eyes sparkling in defiance. "I've dealt with hair that's way thicker than yours. And those people were easier to work with—you can't stop fidgeting!"
"I can't help it!" I protested.
"Excuses." Celia retorted, then shoved my arm playfully. She stepped back and scrutinized my appearance. "You look amazing, girl. Mason is going to—..." She closed her mouth abruptly.
"He's going to...?" I raised an eyebrow curiously. Why would Mason care about how I look? Was that what Celia was implying?
"Never mind," she said quickly, practically shoving me out of my bedroom and into the hallway. "Get down there. And don't slouch!"
Squaring my shoulders, I started to descend the carpeted steps, my heart in my throat. Why was I suddenly nervous? It was Mason, for Heaven's sake! I shoved all the invading thoughts from my head and focused on taking one step at a time. One... two... three... four.
I could do this!
When I reached the bottom of the staircase, everyone turned. Mason looked positively gorgeous in his tuxedo, with his tie that matched the deep pink of my dress. Our eyes met and held. He looked as if he wanted to speak but wasn't quite sure how. I decided to take the initiative.
"You look great!" Giving him a bright smile, I crossed the room to stand in front of him. Mason still seemed at a loss. Should I make him laugh? What do I do? Say something, Paris! "That's a very nice color." I managed, to my absolute horror. I. Am. So. Lame.
He laughed, offering me his arm. "Yeah, you did well when you picked out a dress. You look beautiful, Paris." Mason's gray eyes were intense as he gazed into mine, and it made my heart beat faster. It was the first time he'd ever called me beautiful to my face.
Presently, I felt my heart begin to race in triple-time. Was there something to be nervous about? What was Mason keeping from me? I swallowed hard before answering.
"Sure. What's up?"
Mason hesitated before gesturing towards a bench in the courtyard of our high school. As we sat, his expression seemed to relax, and I silently marveled at the transformation. He had always been handsome, but I'd chosen to ignore the fact out of necessity. I wasn't one of those girls who thought stealing another girl's boyfriend was perfectly okay, no matter how much I didn't like said girl.
I blinked, forcing myself to focus. "What a perfect day for a perfect senior class." I mused playfully with a little smile, the gentle breeze stirring my hair off my neck. We were in September now, a little over a month since school had started back up. I liked Ohio's late-summer weather: usually overcast and in the lower seventies, though sometimes it was hotter than that. Mason chuckled.
"Yeah. This kind of weather reminds me of the day we first met. In kindergarten, remember?"
I did remember. I remembered every moment we'd spent together. Except... when he was with her. His ex-girlfriend, the black-haired, blue-eyed, breathtakingly stunning Alexis Matthews. Two years earlier, the girl batted her fake eyelashes all the way into Mason's heart.
I couldn't pretend like it didn't kill me inside. I couldn't be happy for them. The truth was, I wanted to grab Alexis by the shoulders and toss her over a stone wall. Especially when she cornered me last year, a couple months before she and Mason broke up that April.