When I got home, Dad's car was in the driveway. I instantly felt a little brighter. Dad was rarely home anymore. Ever since Mom left, he'd become a workaholic. He was always working, always had meetings, and usually if he was at home, he worked on his computer.
My dad was the CEO of some big shot technology company, so the money came in good. Though I don't think he's taken a vacation since Mom left us here when I was thirteen. I missed my old Dad, but I loved him both ways.
I walked into the little foyer. The fireplace was lit up, like it usually was when Dad was home. He claimed that he liked the smell of the wood as it warmed up the living room. I smiled and walked farther into the house.
"Dad, I'm home," I called out. Something flickered in the corner of my eye, but I took a deep breath and ignored it. I was glad that my condition wasn't that bad. I was grateful because I knew that it could be a billion times worse, but I would be even more grateful if I didn't have the problem at all.
The door to Dad's study was open just a crack and I lightly tapped on it, knowing he would be inside. "Come in princess," he called out cheerfully. I timidly opened the door wider and saw that he was sitting at his desk, a big smile on his face. He stood up and walked over, giving me a hug and a peck on the cheek. "Hey princess. How was school," he asked me.
I shrugged and said, "Same old, same old, I guess." He smiled and I asked "What are you doing?" I was expecting the same old answer, which was work of course.
"Just some work stuff. I'm about to leave tonight though. I have somewhere to be at seven. You'll be okay by yourself tonight," he asked. I nodded. He nodded and kissed my forehead. "Alright kiddo. I need to get ready so I can meet Scotty beforehand. If you need anything, call me." I nodded again and walked out.
At five, there was a brisk knock at my door and Dad cracked it open, cautiously peeping his head through. He smiled when he saw me sitting cross legged on my full size bed. "Hey. I'm heading out. I left a twenty on the counter for pizza, in case you got hungry. I'll be home late so don't wait up for me," he said hastily.
"Okay. Love you Dad," I said. He blew me a kiss and closed the door and I could hear his footsteps pounding down the stairs. Once I heard the front door close, I looked back down at the blank sheet of sketch paper in front of me.
I had no idea what I wanted to create. I didn't know how long I had been thinking about it, but I had come up with nothing. I wasn't sure what or who inspired me. I was inspirationless, if that was even a word. I sighed and put the sketch pad aside, replacing it with my phone. I went to my reading app and read several chapters of the story that I had been hooked on.
The time passed quickly and I felt surprised at how lomg it had been when I heard my stomach protest in hunger. I glanced at the window to see that it was already dark outside. I went downstairs, flicking the lights on as I went. The dark only sparked my dangerously vivid imagination and I didn't want to deal with that right now.
I found the money on the counter and pulled out my phone, my fingers quickly flying across the screen as I called for Dante's Pizza. It would take them a little while to get there so I decided to have a quick shower.
Fifteen minutes later, I stepped out and wrapped the towel around me before putting on some sweatpants, and a tank top. I brushed my hair out and pulled it up into a messy bun on top of my head. I heard the doorbell ring soon after and went downstairs to open the door for the pizza deliverer.
After thanking and paying him, I flopped down on the couch, taking a bite out of the warm, cheesy goodness when my phone rang. I picked up and swiped over to answer the call without checking the caller ID.
"Hey Jazz. It's Jessie. Wanna hang out tonight?"
I was so surprised, I tried to suck in a sharp breath but only ended up choking on my pizza. I coughed and hacked, trying to get the pepperoni that was stuck in my throat. "Are you okay," Jessie asked through the phone. I nodded but realized she couldn't see it so instead whispered a hoarse "Yes" with tears burning in my eyes.
"So," she began tentatively when I had stopped choking and assured her that I was okay. "Do you wanna hang or what? You could come to my place and we could just have a sleepover or whatever." I thought it over for a moment.
"I'd have to ask my dad. Can I call you right back?" She said yes and I hung up. I wasn't sure if I wanted to go over there or not. Jessie used to be my best friend and even though she's still nice, she's changed from the girl I knew, which is what caused us to grow apart.
I finally made up my mind and hit the call button. "Hello," they answered. "Hey Dad. I know you're busy but Jessie invited me over to spend the night. Is that okay," I asked. I could even hear the smile in his voice when he spoke again.
"Of course. Just make sure you go to school tomorrow," he said. I told him not to worry and then hung up. Then I pressed the call button again and she answered on the third ring.
"He said I could. As long as I get to school tomorrow."
"Thats awesome. I've been super bored and I've been wanting to hang out and talk to you. Do you need a ride?" I told her no and said that I'd be there in about fifteen minutes then hung up once again.
I went back upstairs and grabbed my overnight bag. I hadn't used this thing since middle school but I was glad I went with a basic black so I didn't have to rummage around for a less embarrassing one. I grabbed a couple changes of clothes, the essentials, and my keys then left after locking up.
I pulled up to the familiar house a few moments later, noticing that there wasn't much that had changed. I grabbed my bag and walked up the drive, timidly knocking on the door. Mrs. McCarthy, Jessie's mom, stood at the door. Her face held surprise and shock but it quickly changed into a warm smile.
"Jasmine, it's been years since I've seen you here. Come on in sweetie." I stepped in, just as she had told me to do. The furniture was rearranged since the last time I was here, but that wasn't a surprise. Mrs. McCarthy was one of those women who rearranged every two weeks.
Jessie came down the stairs and smiled at me. She jerked her head towards the stairs, signalling for me to follow, just like she used to.
I walked upstairs after her and wound up in her bedroom. This was different just like she was. Her walls were no longer lavender purple, but instead a plain beige color with pictures of her and her friends and family tacked to the walls.
"You can set your bag over there in the corner if you want," she advised me. I put it in the corner like she said and then turned to her. I felt kind of awkward but comfortable at the same time. It was a strange feeling.
Something flickered in the corner of my eyes again and I took a deep breath and squeezed my eyes shut. Please don't do this here, I pleaded. When I opened my eyes again, Jessie was looking at me with concern written on her face.
"Are you okay," she asked. I nodded. "Yeah. It's just a dizzy spell I guess," I lied. She glanced away then back at me. "So what do you want to do? We can watch movies or binge on a series, or get to know each other again," she suggested. I shrugged my shoulders.
I looked up at her. "Why did you invite me here? Don't you have other friends. Not that I'm ungrateful or anything, but we haven't spoken in years so… I guess what I'm trying to ask is: why now?" I didn't know where this sudden boldness was coming from and I wasn't completely sure if I liked it or not. Maybe it was just the familiarity of her.
She pushed her loose blonde hair back and looked at me with her big, baby blue eyes. "I just missed you. I've been thinking about you a lot. Like the days we used to spend together, playing dress up, or acting like we were the coolest middle schoolers ever, even though we knew it wasn't true. I didn't like the fact that we stopped hanging out. I wanted to do it again because in reality, you're the best and realest friend I've ever had," she admitted. It shocked me though. I wasn't expecting that answer, nor was I expecting the genuine sincerity in her voice.
She smiled, which made me smile, and I felt something shift. Maybe this was the beginning of something new. Or the continuation of something old.
We spent the rest of the night talking, exchanging stories and jokes, watching Netflix, and eating ice cream. It turns out that she wasn't as different as I had thought. She was still the girl who loved photography and ate cereal with a fork to "conserve milk" for more cereal. She still listened to the same radio station every time she got in her car and still had all the same stuffed animals on a shelf.
I was glad she had called me over so that we could mend our friendship, but how long will it last? If she finds out about me, she won't even want to look at me the same anymore, let alone be my friend. I knew that I should stop and leave now before it's too late, but I was relishing the feeling of normalcy for once.
I woke up to my alarm going off. I dismissed it then slowly got up. I yawned and blinked the sleep from my eyes. Jess and I had stayed up until one this morning, making me feel tired.
I went to the bathroom and started getting ready, wondering where Jessie was, since her bed was empty. After brushing out my hair and throwing on my regular hoodie, I went downstairs to see that Jessie was already in the kitchen with Mrs. McCarthy. I walked in and Jessie gave me friendly smile, which I kindly returned.
"Why didn't you wake me up," I asked Jessie. She just shrugged and said, "You were tired. You still seem tired. Want some pancakes," she offered. I sat beside her and nodded, thanking Mrs. Carter when she set a plate of pancakes in front of me. I quickly devoured the delicious breakfast and by then, it was time for us to go to school. I went upstairs and grabbed all of stuff and walked downstairs.
"I'll follow you," Jessie said as we went out to our cars. I nodded and threw my bag in the backseat. I pulled out of the drive, Jessie following in her blood red Audi. We arrived at the school in under ten minutes. She lived closer than I did and we still had minutes to spare before class started.
Jessie caught up to me when I was walking towards my usual picnic table by the door. "Hey. I'm gonna go catch up with Tori and Lana. You can come if you want," she offered. I politely shook my head and she shrugged her shoulders. "Okay. I'll see you around Jazz." With that, she turned and walked towards her friends.
Now that I was once again in a public place, I threw my walls back up, becoming guarded, quiet, and distant as usual. I heard someone's footsteps coming closer on the crunching of the fallen, dead leaves and when I looked up, Shane was walking towards me.
He didn't look at me, nor did he speak, as he sat down on the other end of the table from me. I glanced at him then looked back down at my phone. We sat there in a comfortable silence until the bell rang.
I walked down the hallway towards Mr. Tyler's class, and surprisingly, Shane walked beside me the whole time. He fixed his long stride to match mine, though I had no idea why. He could have walked past me and would've been to the classroom by now, so I saw no point in him staying with me.
We walked inside, him stopping so I could enter first. There were only three other people in the room, a majority of them still dawdling around in the hallway, talking to friends or doing stuff in the bathroom that they're probably not supposed to.
I sat in my normal seat in the very far corner, but today, Shane moved one seat closer to mine. I found myself continually glancing at him from the corner of my eye but we never said a word. Mr. Tyler walked in and began the lesson for today and I jotted down notes as he spoke.
When the bell rang, I looked up from my book to see Shane already staring at me. He didn't look away so I took the liberty of breaking the eye contact, but he still didn't look away. I gathered my things and shoved them in my bag before heading to my next period. I could feel Shane's gaze following me as I walked out of the classroom.
The next couple classes dragged on as the day went by. Lunch came and I sat at the usual table, Cooper and Shane sitting across the table. I was reading my story when I felt a light tap on my shoulder and noticed that Cooper and Shane abruptly cut off the conversation they were having.
I turned and saw Jessie smiling down at me. I looked at her, wondering what she was doing here. "Hey Jazz. I was wondering if you wanted to come sit with me and my friends," she offered. I dragged my gaze to where she usually sat.
A few of the girls were looking at me with disdain wriiten all over their faces. The guys at the table looked inviting and welcoming but I didn't want to sit there and be crowded by a bunch of people who will undoubtedly ask questions and judge me. They probably did it anyways, but I didn't want to face it.
I slowly looked back up at Jessie and shook my head. Her face fell a little and I felt kind of bad, but I pushed the guilt away. I wasn't going to be a pushover this time. "Oh," she said. "Okay then that's fine. I'll see you later or text you, or whatever." I turned back to look at my phone when she started to walk away. Shane was staring at me again while Cooper was watching Jessie as she walked away.
Then Shane spoke to me for the first time all day. "Why didn't you go sit with her?" Cooper spoke up before I did.
"She would much rather hang out with us, man." I looked up and a smile pulled on my lips, but it faded as quickly as it had appeared. I hummed in agreement and looked back down at my phone.
The bell rang and like first period, Shane was walking beside me to the class. He moved in front of me before I could walk inside and blocked the way, looking down at me. I quirked an eyebrow in question. "You're gonna have to work on the project alone today Bambi. I have some place to be," he said.
I almost asked where he was going but realized that I shouldn't care where he was going. After I just nodded in understanding, he gave me a two finger salute then sauntered down the emptying hallway.
I rushed into the room, not wanting to be late for class, and claimed my desk once again in the back corner. Mrs. Carter said that we could work with our partners the whole class period. Since my partner wasn't here, for whatever reason, I spent the class thinking about what inspired me, but like any other time, I didn't come up with much.
After class, I sat outside for my free period, at the same table that I sit at, by the door, enjoying the sunshine. I put in my earbuds and turned the volume up on my phone before clicking on my playlist. I crossed my legs waiting for the music to begin as I looked around the courtyard. One of my favorite songs came on and I couldn't help but sing along to it.
"Beauty queen of only eighteen
She had some trouble with herself
He was always there to help her
She always belonged to someone else
I drove for miles and miles and wound up at your door
I've had you so many times but somehow I want more
I don't mind spending everyday
Out on your corner in the pouring rain
Look for the girl with the broken smile
Ask her if she wants to stay awhile
And she will be loved
And she will be loved"
She will be loved by Maroon 5 has always been one of my favorites. I continued to listen to the song, waiting for the next verse to begin. I almost jumped out of my skin when someone started singing the next verse, as if on cue.
"Tap on my window knock on my door I
Wanna make you feel beautiful
I know I tend to get so insecure
It doesn't matter anymore
It's not always rainbows and butterflies
It's compromise that moves us along
My heart is full and my doors always open
You come anytime you want
I know where you hide, alone in your car
Know all of the things that make you who you are
I know that goodbye means nothing at all
Comes back and makes me catch her everytime she falls"
Shane sang softly, and surprisingly well. He sat down on the table beside me, just as he did this morning. I paused my music and pulled out the earbuds. I could feel my cheeks heat, and it felt like they were on fire.
"What are you doing here," I asked harsher than I had intended. He lifted an eyebrow. "Do you want me to leave," he asked. A little voice in the back of my mind was saying "Yes. Leave me alone" but instead I ended up saying "No, its fine, but I was just wondering… how long were you listening to me," I asked, feeling shy and embarrassed.
The corner of his lip twitched up. "The whole time. I was sitting in my car listening to music and when I saw you walk out, I decided to join you. Didn't know that I would be getting a whole performance though. You sing really well," he complimented, making my cheeks grow darker in color.
"No, I'm not," I said quickly. I didn't like that this conversation was focused on me right now. He smirked, giving him this sexy, irresistible look. I felt something twist inside me but restrained it the best I could.
"Whatever helps you sleep at night Bambi," he said smugly. My cheeks wouldn't stop burning. I wanted to crawl into a hole and pull the dirt back in over me. I pulled my earbuds out of my phone and coiled it up around my hand.
"You don't have to stop. I enjoyed hearing you sing. It's relaxing," he said. I avoided looking at him as I put my earbuds into the side pocket of my bag.
"Did you come up with anything for the project," he asked. I silently shook my head. "Yeah. Me neither," he stated. Instead of the comfortable silence that we sat in this morning, it now felt awkward to me. He didn't try to make small talk and neither did I, but finally, I asked a question.
"Why were you in the parking lot if you were supposed to be ditching school?" He looked at me, a corner of his mouth twitching up like it usually did when he "smiled".
"I wasn't necessarily ditching school," he clarified. "I was just ditching the class. Besides, I needed a break. You know, let loose and relax a little." I didn't say anything to that. If thats what he chose to do then that was his business, I guess.
I was once again grateful when the bell rang. I got up and went to class after a quick nod of farewell as I left Shane behind.
When my classes were over, I headed out to my car. I had to make it to my appointment on time, so I had to rush if I was to make it there by four thirty.
I got to my car and closed the door as I got in. When I turned the key in the ignition, it started but then died. I tried it again and got the same results. I tried over and over but the key wasn't switching over. I growled in frustration and popped the hood. I didn't know much about cars, but I felt like I would be able to tell if something was out of place.
Not being able to see any change, I pulled out my phone and called my dad. Before he could even finish his greeting, I cut in. "My car won't start. The key won't turn and I have no idea what's wrong with it," I informed him.
"Well, honey I have a very important business meeting that I need to get to in ten minutes and if I'm not there I could lose my job. Maybe you could hang out there until I get out. It should only take half an hour or so."
I groaned and shook my head in disbelief at my bad luck. "Dad, I can't. I have an appointment with Dr. Keyes today." He sighed and I could picture him running his fingers through his dark hair in frustration.
"Having car trouble Bambi," rumbled a familiar voice behind me. "Who is that," Dad asked instantly. I turned and looked up at Shane.
"It's a uh… friend," I said to Dad. Shane smiled down at me. Before he could say anything or make the wrong notion about my hesitation, I quickly said, "Listen, I'll call you back if I have any more problems Dad. Go get to your meeting. Love you, miss you, bye." I hung up before he said anything.
"I could help you with your car. What's wrong with it," Shane asked. I quietly told him that it wouldn't crank and he looked under the hood, just like I had earlier. He shrugged out of his leather jacket and I tried not to stare at the flexing muscles on his arm and couldn't help but notice that he had tattoos on his arm, snaking up into the tight, gray Henley that he wore. The shirt stretched across his broad, muscled chest and I reluctantly turned away as I felt my stomach twist.
I had almost forgotten he had asked me a question as I swallowed loudly. "Earth to Bambi," he said, waving a hand in front of my face. I shook my head as if to clear it and looked back up at him.
"Uh… sorry. I don't know what's wrong with it. It just won't crank." He nodded once and then sat in the driver's side, turning the key. He tried it again and let out a soft chuckle and I looked at him in curiosity.
"Bambi, when is the last time you filled up the gas tank?" I literally face palmed my self. I felt so stupid at that moment and I felt my cheeks warm up. He was still chuckling as he stood up.
"I'll go grab you some gas from the station real quick. You wanna come," he asked. I nodded and followed him to a hulking shiny black Roadster. I instantly froze and looked at him, my eyes as wide as saucers. He smirked when he looked at me. "What's wrong Bambi? Never been on a motorcycle before?"
I shook my head. Of course I hadn't. My father would kill me. I didn't have to go with him though. I could say I changed my mind and stay here. I was about to do exactly that when he said "You only live once. Live it to the fullest Bambi."
Those words hardened my resolve and I took a deep breath. I was going to get on this deathtrap of a monster and stop being a wimp. He climbed on and patted the seat in front of him and I stood there and looked at him skeptically.
"Aren't I supposed to sit behind you," I asked quietly. He looked at me.
"Some people sit in the back and hang on, but if I'm to put this bluntly, I don't completely trust you to hold on the whole ride. So just sit up here, that way I can catch you if anything happens." I shook my head slightly, and relented. I sat in front of him like he instructed and sucked in a sharp breath at the close proximity of our bodies as he reached around and put his hands on the handle thingies.
"Please promise me you'll be super careful," I whispered. It shocked me when I felt his soft lips brush my earlobe, causing me to shiver.
"I promise Bambi. Nothing's gonna happen to you," he whispered. Even though he was almost a complete stranger, I believed him. The bike roared to life and we took off. I squeezed my eyes shut. It wasn't until I felt the wind wildly whipping through my ponytail that I realized I wasn't wearing a helmet. God help me, I pleaded silently.
Even with the adrenaline rushing through me from the motorcycle, I was still constantly aware of his hard, lean chest pressing against my back as his arms encircled me. I didn't know how fast we were going and I didn't have the guts to open my eyes and see if this thing had a speedometer. Riding the thing was absolutely terrifying and thrilling at the same time and, unexpectedly, I loved the rush of it.
We turned somewhere along the way and I couldn't stop myself from letting out a shriek as we leaned over with the bike. I felt like we would turn wrong or something and fall off, but true to his word, nothing had happened to me as we stopped at the gas station.
I felt him slide off of the seat from behind me, but yet I couldn't find it in myself to open my eyes. I heard him chuckle, just like he had earlier. "You can open your eyes now. You're safe and not moving," he teased. I slowly wrenched my eyelids apart and threw my leg over the seat to get down.
It wasn't until then that I fully realized the hugeness of the thing. Compared to me, it was monstrous. I was 5'4" and I probably would even be able to reach the go button at the bottom. Yes, I know. I called it a go button, because I wasn't completely sure if it was still called a pedal on a motorcycle.
My eyes widened as I slowly lifted my hand to my hair. I couldn't see it but it was probably a giant mess. Shane smiled and I glared at him, but also, it made me feel… weird. His smile was absolutely breath taking and I appreciated it even more because he rarely smiled. His straight white teeth were gleaming through his full, pink lips.
I didn't realize that I stopped breathing until I felt lightheaded. I patted my hair, remembering the reason my hand was raised. He shook his head slightly, smile still on his face.
"Calm down Bambi. You still look great," he said. With that he turned and walked into the gas station, briefly looking back to make sure I was following. I scurried after him as he held the door open for me to enter.
I paid for the gas and waited for him while he bought a giant bag of Doritos. We walked back out and for the first time, I noticed the compartment on the back of the motorcycle when he opened it. He replaced the chips in his hand with a gas jug and began to fill it up.
I waited as he filled it up and placed it back in the miniature trunk. He closed the top and told me to go ahead and get on, which I obeyed. He climbed on behind me and I tensed when he scooted up against me.
"Come on now Bambi. I gotta be able to reach the handles," he said. My face flushed and I scotted up on the seat while he moved closer. The bike roared to life and we took off again. It felt like I could do this everyday. I loved the feeling it gave me.
About ten minutes later, we arrived back into the empty school parking lot, save for my car. I slid off of the seat and he did too, then he continued to grab the jug and fill up my tank. "I could have done it, you know," I protested quietly.
He shrugged and emptied the jug into my car before placing the empty container back in his "trunk". Then he turned to look a me, his face held no emotion at the moment, but his eyes were extremely expressive.
"So how was it to ride a motorcycle," he asked me. I couldn't help the smile that broke out on my face.
"It was absolutely amazing," I exclaimed. A smile crept up on his lips as well, causing my heart to stutter. He nodded once and he asked "Don't you have somewhere to be?" My eyes widened. Did he know I went to therapy? How? Without asking any questions, I just nodded.
"Thanks Shane. I appreciate it," I said, genuinely grateful. He nodded once and then turned and got on his bike. I turned the ignition in my car and sure enough, it started. I heard his bike engine roar over the quiet of my car and he sped out of the lot, leaving me alone.