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Dinner

The next morning, I was exhausted from tossing and turning all night. I couldn’t fall asleep or stay asleep. Once I had finally gone to sleep again, my alarmed rang out its happy tune. At least today was Friday. I felt my depression creeping in slowly, like clouds forming before a thunderstorm. I didn’t understand why. Usually it came from an event, something that caused it. Nothing happened to cause it this time and it was dreadful.

I crept into the bathroom, still half asleep and turned on the light, big mistake. The light glared at me, preventing my eyes from opening, shutting it off, I turned on the mini light above the bathtub. Rubbing my eyes, I opened them slowly and turned on the water to spray my face. The cool water woke me up a bit and I grabbed my toothbrush, applying a little toothpaste before bringing it to my mouth.

I tried focusing on mindfulness, like my therapist suggested. It was supposed to help me control my thoughts, the thoughts I didn’t want. How am I going to make it through today? Wouldn’t it make it easier to just cut myself, just once? I tried stopping the thought. No, I’m not doing that. I hadn’t ever hurt myself and I didn’t want to. It was getting harder to resist and push the thoughts away, though. I had to stay focused on something else.

I drummed my fingers on the cool countertop, focusing on how it felt until I finished brushing my teeth. Putting my hair into a half up half down I walked back into my room and grabbed my phone to check the weather. As per usual, before I checked the weather, I checked Snapchat and my texts. I had Goodnight texts on a group chat and some streaks on snap. I opened up Luke’s last. It was a picture of his charming face in a neutral expression with the caption, “sorry about your wrist, sleep well”.

It was going to be about 75 degrees today, so I decided on some black jeggings and a beige crop t-shirt that landed tightly about my belly button. I struggled to re-tie the bandage after I unwrapped it and still felt pain. It was looser than when Luke tied it but it would have to do. Standing in front of my full body mirror I showed my bandage in front of my shirt as I snapped a picture and wrote “don’t sweat it, I found a matching outfit!” with a smiley face. As I sent the message I noticed it was already 5:30, the bus came at 5:50.

I padded down the stairs quietly, careful not to wake Danielle. I crept into the kitchen after putting on some simple black flats. The lights were already on and I spotted mom sitting on the porch with a mug of coffee in her hands. She was staring at the hummingbird feeder on the corner of the porch. She looked exhausted as per usual. She worked a lot of night shifts and then went to work for the day.

I quickly made a coffee and toast, noting the time: 5:35. My mom noticed me juggling the plate and mug while trying to open the door and helped me get it open.

“Good morning,” my mom mumbled.

“Morning,” I sat down on the other side of the table, looking in the same direction my mom was except I wasn’t staring at the hummingbirds. I was staring at the window, eliciting last night’s memory. Smiling like I was in on a dirty secret, which I guess I kind of was, I took a bite of my toast.

“Oh no, already at the sneaking boys through the window phase? I knew that window would be trouble,” my mom groaned.

My eyes widened, “What? N-no.” I shook my head.

“Don’t like to me Em, I don’t care, just be safe.” She said, waving it off.

“Mom! I’m not having sex!” I whisper yelled. “I promise, mom, I swear.”

“It doesn’t matter, honey. It’s okay,” she told me, her tone uninterested.

“Oh Lord, I’m going to go now. Have a great day,” I stood up and finished my toast.

“Why don’t you invite him over for dinner tonight?” My mom asked innocently.

“Mom, we’re just friends, we met yesterday,” I reasoned.

“Nonsense, have him come over. You guys must’ve been doing something very serious for your wrist to be wrapped,” she pointed down to my arm.

“Think what you will, we didn’t do anything, I’m going to school. Bye,” I shut the door before she could say anything else. She wouldn’t let it go until I invited him so I decided I would cave once I got on the bus.

The walk to the bus stop wasn’t long. I walked down a short hill and across one street and that’s where my bus stop was. There was one other high schooler here this early, Nick. Except Nick went to the local high school, Hopewell, so he got on a different bus.

“What’s up?” He greeted me with a yawn. He stretched his long, dark arms above his head, shaking them.

“The sky,” I pulled out my phone as I felt the vibration in my back pocket.

Just got on the bus-Emma

She always texted me because I was the next stop a few minutes away. Emma was my best friend and my rock, to say the least. It was impossible to keep a straight face with her.

“Doing anything fun this weekend?” I asked.

“Don’t think so, you?” Nick replied.

“There’s some party on the next street over I might go to,” I trailed off.

“Jabob’s party? Didn’t really seem like your type of scene.”

“Yeah, I figured I’d try something new,” I explained.

“I’m guessing your parents won’t know?” He guessed.

“Yeah, don’t get me in trouble.” I told him.

“Got it,” he nodded. My bus came around the corner and stopped almost directly in front of me, opening its squeaky doors. I never really wore crop tops to school, the one I had on was new and I usually wore them with high waisted jeans, not low waisted like the ones I have on. As I walked towards Emma’s seat, closer to the seniors I heard whistles from all over.

“Damn, Moore. You look good,” one junior commented as I passed him. I rolled my eyes as I sat down next to Emma.

“Assholes,” I rolled my eyes. “Hey, what’s new?” I asked Emma, ignoring the few lingering stares and comments.

“Nothing with me, I heard you have something new,” she raised her eyebrow in a suggestive manner. I groaned.

“How many people is she going to tell?” Emma shrugged. “We’re friends, nothing more. Just friends, do you hear me?” I asked. She nodded her head. “He invited me to a party on the next street from my house. You’re coming, it’s on Saturday,” I told her.

“Yay! I’ll meet you at your house. We‘ll say you’re sleeping over my place,” she planned quickly.

“Whatever, I don’t really care what we do,” I told her, crossing my arms over my chest. She looked down and noticed the bandage.

“What happened?” She seemed concerned, too concerned. Her eyes flashed with worry. I was confused for a second before I realized what she assumed.

“No, no, it’s not what you think. Definitely, not what you think.” She seemed to have calmed down. “Just don’t freak out, okay?” She nodded her head slowly as I let out a breath. “Luke snuck into my room to return a bracelet I lost on the trail and then we were sitting on my bed and he tried reading my stuff, so I tackled him and I fell on my arm and then he wrapped it. End of story,” I said in one breath.

She squealed and stomped her feet. Some people gave us weird looks but I told them it was none of their business and no big deal. “Oh my God! That is so exciting! Is he cute?” She smiled.

“Yes..which reminds me. I need to invite him over for dinner.” I rolled my eyes.

“What? Why?”

“Somehow, my mom found out and she thinks we’re having sex even though I told her we’re not. So, now she wants him over for dinner,” I explained as I opened Snapchat. I made a fish face and snapped the picture.

My mom wanted me to invite you over for dinner tonight. I’ll explain why later. I captioned.

He responded a minute later with a fish face also, saying he could come. “Damn,” Emma gaped, “Is that him? Aw, he copied your face!”

“I told you he was cute already.” I rolled my eyes at her overreaction.

“Unwrap your arm, I want to make sure you didn’t,” Emma instructed. To comfort her, I did as told and showed her. She twisted my arm around, not leaving a single piece of skin unchecked. “Thank God,” she sighed as she wrapped it back up.

The rest of the way was more of a relaxing topic: what we were going to wear tomorrow night. Emma suggested I wear my black shorts with the swamp green halter top that she thinks looks amazing on me, since that would be easy to simply cover up with a hoodie. She decided on a red, strapless,knee length dress I had that she would just wear bike shorts under for herself.

The school day was long and boring. A lot of people asked about my arm and all I said was, “I fell.” I was sitting in math class, towards the back of the room when my phone screen lit up. Checking to make sure the teacher wasn’t watching, I unlocked the phone. The message was from Luke.

What ya doin?-Luke

Sitting in math. Are you not in school?-Me

We ended early today, I’m heading home now-Luke

Lucky, we never end early :( -Me

What are you doing after school today? -Luke

I looked up at the teacher, who still was not paying attention. My eyes trailed towards the clock on the wall. 2:44. The bell should bring in 3...2...1. And so it rang. I gathered my books up, stuffing them into my bag before putting my phone in my back pocket.

“Have a good weekend,” I farewelled to the teacher. She either didn’t hear me or care to respond. I was one of the last to leave the classroom due to the extra time I took to pack my bag with my one arm.

Emma was waiting outside for me and we walked to our bus together. She talked on and on about some new kid in our class. As we sat down in our usual spot on the bus, I remembered that I had to text Luke back. I pulled out my phone after Emma and I’s conversation died down.

I’m going to be lecturing my family on not embarrassing me when you come over. -Mes

He responded a few minutes later with: haha lmao. What time should I be there?

Um...six. Does that work? -Me

Yup. See you then. -Luke

I locked my phone, laying it in my lap as I bit my lip, trying to suppress a smile. Watching the passing houses as the bus sped off to the next stop, I noticed Emma had finished her conversation with some sophomore she had a crush on.

“What are you smiling about?” She furrowed her brows as she turned to me. “Oh! Oh! Let me guess, please?” She exclaimed, jumping in her seat as I was about to respond. “You were texting Luke, weren’t you?” She smirked.

I sighed, “We’re just friends and yes!”

“You’re just friends now, sure. But I predict that y’all will be a couple by…” she paused, tapping her chin. “Christmas.” She concluded.

“Oh, Lord. Not another one of Emma Campbell’s infamous predictions,” I let out a breath.

“What is that supposed to mean? My predictions have been pretty accurate thus far,” she stated in all seriousness.

“Emma, predicting once that two people would end up together at our school does not count.” I told her.

“It so does, how many people saw that one coming? Ms. Spool and Mr. Banks? Come on,” she reasoned.

“Whatever helps you sleep at night,” I patted her shoulder in mockery.

“Let’s place a bet. I bet that you will be dating Luke by...I changed my prediction. By Thanksgiving.”

“Emma, have at least a little hope in me,” I feigned being offended.

“I still say Thanksgiving, anyways, if I win, you have to...give me $50.” She smiled.

“Okay, if I win you have to give me $50,” I reached my arm out to confirm the deal and she took it, shaking it.

“Oh, you’re going to hate losing fifty whole dollars,” she shook her head. The bus stopped at my stop and I stood up.

“Bye, Emma.” I laughed.

“Bye, good luck with dinner!” She smirked. I shook my head with a smile as I hopped off the bus, not before wishing the bus driver, Joann a good weekend. The walk home was simple and the peaceful breeze played with my hair the whole way home. I waved to the neighbor who was out getting his mail as I got our own.

“Happy Friday!” I shouted.

“Hi, how was school?” My mother responded as she stood over the stove. I put down my bag on a chair and mail on the table.

“It was okay,” I responded. “Where’s dad?” I asked.

“He won’t be home until after midnight,” my mother told me as she stirred something over the stove. Thank God. At least I didn’t have to worry about that. “What time is your boy coming over?”

“Okay, mom, I wanted to talk about that. Please, please, don’t do anything or say anything embarrassing,” I begged. I know she knew the exact definition of that word, so I gave her a stern look.

“Don’t worry, I won’t do anything. Now, what time is he coming?” She asked again.

“Six,” I popped a kiwi into my mouth from the plate she had set aside.

“What? I barely have any time! Go get changed and help me with dinner!” She gaped.

“Mom you have like 3 hours,” I reminded her as I took my bag upstairs. She started listing off things she had to get done but I didn’t listen, knowing she was talking to herself.

I took a shower and changed into a gray-blue t-shirt that I tied in the front, showing a little skin and black leggings. I straightened my hair and put in a headband. As I walked out of my room, I noticed the light in Dani’s room.

“Please, please, do not embarrass me tonight. I beg you,” I walked into her room, leaning against the wall.

“Don’t worry, I want this to go well, too.” She said, not even looking in my direction.

“If you tell another soul about him, you’ll lose your’s.” I threatened before walking out and down the stairs.

Mom had started some mashed potatoes and a plate of vegetables. She brought out our fancier plates and silverware but didn’t set it up. I started putting them in their places around the island where we normally ate before my mom quickly stopped me.

“No, no, no. We’re using the dining room for this,” she told me, collecting the objects and putting them in my empty hands.

“Oh, Lord.” Everyone is taking this way too far. I brought the things into the dining room and set it up there. Once I finished, I grabbed some glass cups and put them out also.

“Your father said that he was very sorry he couldn’t come to dinner tonight,” my mom told me.

“Oh, trust me it’s okay.” I answered under my breath.

“Emily, make some of that mint-chamomile tea, we’ll put it in the freezer so it cools faster afterward.” My mom instructed. I followed her orders and boiled the water with the mint and chamomile along with some green tea. Daydreaming as the water slowly came to a boil, I almost had it boil over. Quickly turning down the stove, I poured the sugar in it, stirred, and then turned off the stove. My mother rushed me to transfer it into a pitcher and rushed me to the freezer with it. It was 5:58 and she was in full panic mode. She reset the table, even though there was nothing wrong with it. Then, she put out the plate of steak and mashed potatoes. As she finished perfecting it, the doorbell rang, causing me to jump and close my eyes, calming myself.

“Oh he’s here! Go get the door, Emily. Danielle, come down here!” She rushed out. I rolled my eyes but followed her orders again.

Unlocking the door, I swung it open to see Luke standing in a button down shirt and jeans, holding flowers.

“Hey,” I greeted, waving with my wrapped arm.

He was about to say something when my mother pushed in front of me.

“Luke? Hello, I’m Emily’s mom, Natalie. Aren’t you handsome!” She greeted him.

“Hello, Natalie. These are for you,” Luke said as my mom ushered him in.

“Oh, they are beautiful! Thank you, you are so sweet,” my mom gushed. “I’m going to go put these in a vase. Emily, go show him around the house.” She waved us off. I gave Luke a glance before heading upstairs.

“There’s not really much downstairs, I’ll show you up here.” I said, loud enough for my mom to hear before we disappeared out of earshot. “You really didn’t have to get her any flowers.” I told him once we were both upstairs.

“It was no trouble,” he shook his head.

I opened Dani’s door without knocking and noticed how she jumped as we entered. “Dani, here’s your favorite person as of the late. You remember Luke, right?”

“Of course I do, hey.” She greeted him.

“Hey, I got you something, too,” He pulled out a necklace with a D on it.

“Wow! It’s beautiful! Thanks!” She exclaimed, taking it from him and clasping it into place.

“Okay well, we’re having dinner in a few, so go downstairs.” I told her before exiting her room. I showed Luke the bathroom upstairs and the family room. Then, we went into my room.

“How’s your arm?” He asked once he sat down on my bed.

“It’s fine, I don’t think I’ll even need the wrap tomorrow,” I told him, sitting down in my desk chair.

“Oh, I got you something, too.” He mumbled, fishing something out of his pocket. He pulled out a small charm of a baseball bat. “You already had a book on there, so I figured you could put a baseball bat on there, just as a joke,” he grinned.

I laughed, “It’s perfect. Do you mind getting it on?” I slid my bracelet off and handed it to him.

“Sure,” it took him a second to clasp it on and when he finished he slid it back onto my hand, sending a shiver through-uh oh.

I took a step back, putting distance between us, covering it up by simply sitting down and admiring the charm. A moment later, mom called us for dinner and we made our way downstairs.

“Don’t take anything she says too seriously, okay?” I whispered at the bottom of the stairs.

“Got it,” he said with a laugh. We entered the dining room where my mom had taken a seat at the head of the table. Luke sat on one side and I sat on the other, beside Dani.

“Dig in everyone,” my mother smiled. I grabbed a smaller piece of steak and cut it up before scooping some mashed potatoes. Luke had some salad and steak on his plate.

As I was about to put the mashed potatoes down my mother scolded, “Emily Elizabeth, offer Luke some mashed potatoes. I blushed at the mention of my middle name and Luke snorted.

“Luke, would you like some mashed potatoes?” I asked after giving my mom a look. She seemed confused and I just sighed and looked away.

“Sure, thanks.” He responded. I scooped some onto his plate as he looked at me with a teasing look in his eyes and I glared at him. Once I sat down, I kicked him under the table. His look didn’t reshape and I simply shook my head.

“So, Luke, do you also go to CEEC, like Emily?” My mother started.

“No, ma’am. I go to Hough, in Cornelius.” He told her.

“I see, I see. And you’re...how old?” She asked even though she knew the answer.

“Sixteen, I’ll be seventeen in January,” he replied, ever the gentlemen. The questioning continued and I didn’t add much input, just listening. He had an older sister who was seventeen, a dog, and he lived with his mom. My mother had asked him what about his father and he told us he passed away when he was twelve. He said it with such a sad look in his eyes, I found myself wanting to make it disappear. The table went silent after that.

“Oh! We forgot about the tea, I’ll go get it,” I hopped up from my seat. I had put it in the freezer in the garage and as I took it out, I noticed that it didn’t completely freeze, just enough to make it cool. Coming back to the table I poured it in my mother’s glass first, then in Luke’s, flashing him a warm smile, then Dani’s, then mine. I placed the pitcher in the middle of the table and took my seat, taking a sip.

“This is really good, where’d you get it?” Luke asked after having gulped down half the glass.

“Emily made it,” my mom smiled proudly.

“It’s my new favorite drink. Thanks, Em.” He brought the cup back to his lips. I smiled, oddly happy he enjoyed it and finished my own cup.

Once dinner was done and mom had started to clear the table, Luke stood up.

“Thank you for dinner, it was delicious. I better get going,” he said it in a tone that seemed to me that he didn’t want to leave.

“Oh, you’re welcome. You are welcome to stay a little longer if you’d like.” My mother offered.

“Maybe next time, I have some homework to catch up on,” he walked towards the door. I frowned at him not staying but did not say anything.

My mom engulfed him in a hug, “Well, you are always welcome to stay, come back soon.” She let go of him and he handed her a card.

“Can you give this to Mr. Moore? It’s a free pass to the shooting range, he should enjoy it.”

“Oh, of course he’ll love it.” She took the card from him and as she turned her back to him she winked in my direction while mouthing, I like him. I waited for her to walk away before I walked towards him.

“She likes you, a lot,” I informed him.

“I am pretty likable,” he chuckled, “what about you? Do you like me?” I know he meant as a friend, but I couldn't help thinking about if this friendship turned into something more. After he left last night, we texted a lot. I already knew that this friendship was important to me and I couldn’t have it ruined when it’s barely started. It would-I dragged myself away from the “what if” thoughts. Nothing good came from that. I wouldn’t focus on those, I’m going to focus on the here and now.

“Yeah, you’re an okay friend,” I joked. He laughed, too, but not whole heartedly.

“Well, I better get going, I’ll see you tomorrow.” He said, stepping outside.

“Yeah. Goodnight,” I hugged him with one arm, ignoring the feeling the action brought to my stomach. He hugged me back with one arm, the other holding a bottle of the tea I made.

“Night,” he said.

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