Authors: Renee Ericson
Tags: #General Fiction
“Tuesday,” my dad says as he and Jas get up and head to the door, “we’re going next door.” He and Jas walk out, leaving me alone in the house.
It’s almost eleven in the morning when I get a text from Lexi, asking me about the movie.
I forgot about that, even though we just talked about it before I left her house. Apparently, thinking about Brent inhibits other parts of my brain from working. Then, I remember that he has yet to call me like he said he would. Not that I really expected him to follow through on his word about the tour—
whatever that meant
—but it seems that I’ve tentatively double-booked myself. Well, there’s no reason to wait around for him to call—
not that he will
—so I text Lexi back, telling her I’ll meet them for the noon show.
I head to my room to grab a hoodie for the air-conditioned theater. As I’m slipping my phone into my back pocket, it rings, displaying an unknown number.
A male chuckles on the other line. “Uh, is Ruby there?” he asks.
“You got her. Who’s this?”
“Brent Cromwell. We spoke last night at Owen’s. Your tour guide.”
I can almost imagine the smirk on his face.
“Ah, yes…Mr. Cromwell.” I grin from ear to ear.
Shit! He really called!
“How are you doing?”
“Good. Did you have fun last night?”
“Yeah, but we left early; we were just beat from the week. How about you?”
“Yeah, I guess. I was hoping I’d get to talk to you a little more though,” he says.
I can hear the silkiness in his voice.
Is he always like this? With everyone?
I clear my throat. “Oh…um, that would have been nice.”
That would have been nice? What is wrong with me?
“So, maybe we could hang out today? Like we talked about last night.”
“Oh crap! Brent, I’m so sorry. I forgot I already made plans to see a movie with some people. I’m actually walking out the door. Maybe a rain check?”
I could kick myself right now. He probably thinks I’m blowing him off.
Who in her right mind would do that though?
At this point, I probably just lost any potential date.
Do I really think he wants to take me out?
He said “hang out,” not take me out. C’mon, I know the difference.
“Oh,” he says, sounding a little defeated. “What about after the movie? Do you have plans later? Tonight maybe?”
Maybe Lexi wasn’t kidding with me.
Why would she?
Although his persistence is unexpected, I have to remind myself about the person I’m talking to. I mean, seriously, it’s
“Well, no, I don’t,” I say, leaving it at that.
“Awesome! Let’s do something later then. I’ll see if Lexi and Owen want to join us.”
“Oh, okay. That sounds good.”
I’m unsure how to read this development.
Wait, who cares?
It’s Saturday night.
Why am I overanalyzing any of it?
“Great. I’ll call Lex and Owen. Wanna plan for around eight?” he asks.
“All right, I’ll text you later,” he says with a rhythmic inflection.
I find myself smiling a little too much. “All right.”
Twenty minutes before the movie starts, I meet Lexi, Autumn, and Casey in the lobby of the theater. We say our hellos, get a few concessions, and then pile into the auditorium. I sit on the end with Lexi next to me, and Autumn and Casey sit on the other side of her.
Casey leans over to look at me. “Hey, Ruby, I saw you talking to Brent last night.” She looks at me with a question in her eye.
“Yeah, um…” I rack my brain for an answer that won’t let her read anything into my conversation with Brent. “He was just asking me about Colorado since that’s where I moved here from.”
Casey gives Autumn and Lexi a knowing look.
Lexi giggles. “Girl, please. He asked you out. Don’t play dumb.”
“No, he didn’t!” I reply defensively.
“Oh, yes, he did,” Lex states. “He texted me about a half hour ago. Although, I was more interested in the text I got from Owen this morning. That boy is mmmhhhmm.”
We all shake our heads at Lexi’s enthusiasm. Her agenda is clear.
Then, Autumn starts in. “Did you guys see Liam last night? He looks different. He didn’t look like that last year, right?”
“No kidding,” Casey chimes in. “Hot.”
“He’s nice, too,” I add. I can tell they don’t really care, but it needs to be said.
“Well…” Autumn smiles with a thought she’s not sharing. “I like what I’m seeing.”
“So, Ruby…” Casey addresses me again. “What’s up with Brent? He’s cute, huh?”
“Yeah, he’s cute. He seems nice, too. I guess we’re going to do something tonight, but he didn’t say that it’s a date,” I say to all of them, trying to make a point to them and myself that it is not a date.
“I’m pretty sure it’s a date, and he’s definitely interested in you,” Lexi pipes in.
Casey inquires to the group, “So, what happened with Frankie? I heard they broke up, but does anyone know what happened?”
“I guess she wanted time off. Something about getting ready for college and not wanting to be tied down to someone,” Autumn says.
“So, is she dating anyone?” Lexi asks.
“No, I don’t think so. April told me Frankie just wants to have fun this year. No ties and strings.” Autumn looks to the movie screen as the lights dim. Then, she adds, teasingly, “So, I guess that means he’s definitely taking Ruby on a date.” She then looks directly at me. “You better let us know if he’s a good kisser. We’ve all been curious for years.”
As the movie begins, we all lean back in our seats and stare at the screen. Heat rises to my face as I think about Brent kissing me. Adrenaline runs through my body at the thought of him touching and holding my hand. My mind starts to remember all sorts of things about Brent, like the way he smiles and how his eyes light up when he talks. I think about the first time he spoke to me, just yesterday at Camp White Ash, with his noticeable smirk and sidelong glances. Maybe Lexi is right; maybe he is interested, and I’m just not allowing myself to see it. I mean, let’s get real. Dating Brent is like a unicorn for someone like me. The very possibility seems untouchable. Maybe I’m wrong though. Maybe the idea isn’t so far-fetched.
Okay, now I’m obsessing. Pathetic.
I take one last look at Lexi before returning my attention to the screen.
Smirking, she shakes her head. Then, I see her mouth, “He likes you.”
After the movie, I head home to wait for evening to come. The place is empty, but I hear noises coming from Uncle Jas’s house. I assume my dad is next door, but I’m not going to venture over there to find out.
Who knows who else is there right now?
Before heading to my room, I hear scratching on the back door.
I open the door and relent. “Hey, Dragon. Not in the mood for a party either?”
Dragon comes in, and I follow him as he heads toward my room. He lies down with his chin touching the floor, like he’s moping.
“I hear ya,” I tell him exasperated. “They can be a little much.”
I plop on my bed and stare at the ceiling, taking in a deep breath.
I lean over the bed. Putting my nose closer to Dragon, I take another whiff.
There’s definitely a party going on next door, and I think he might have gotten a contact buzz.
“It’s okay, boy,” I say, rubbing his head. “You can stay here with me.”
His eyes dart to me, but I can see he’s starting to relax. Of course, he’s already relaxed because he’s high. When he finally looks like he’s falling asleep, I remove my hand from his head and lie back down on my bed.
Never able to idle well, I start picking through my closet looking for a new “look.” The start of another school year means it’s time for new beginnings. In the past, I’ve stood on the sidelines with few friends and, quite frankly, with no life. I’m sick of it. It decidedly sucks.
Time to get out there a little more.
It’s been a great summer, and I think I might have something to look forward to this year at Howard High.
I’m tired of moping around about my family and my dad. This year, I’m going in strong. At least, that’s what I’m telling myself. It’s time for a new me.
What better way to be renewed than with a great outfit?
After sifting through my clothes for about thirty minutes, I pick up my sketchpad and doodle a passed-out Dragon. Then, with the light coming through my window, I attempt a self-portrait. As I look in the mirror, I start to wonder about what Brent sees when he looks at me. I’ve never been considered exotic-looking. Cute might be a better definition.
Due to my extensive running, my body is long, strong, and lean. I look a lot like my dad. We have similar eyes with the same color hair, and our jawlines are alike. I’m guessing though that I got my mom’s nose and lips since they look nothing like my dad or like anyone from his family.
Then, my mind wanders back to Brent. He gives Greek Gods a run for their money. I stop myself and decide not to dwell on him for too long.
To fill the time as I wait for evening to arrive, I get ready to take a run to the lake to calm my mind.
When I return, the only car in the driveway is my Gremlin. It looks like everyone decided it was time to move the party elsewhere. Dragon is wandering around in the backyard. When he sees me, he follows me inside as I go in to take a shower.
It’s likely close to six o’clock. I’m anxious to check my phone for any missed calls or texts, but I resist and shower first, trying to convince myself that I’m not being obsessive.
After one of the fastest showers of my life, I wrap myself in a towel and make a beeline to my phone. I’ve lost all self-control, and I need to know if there’s a plan for tonight. Lighting up the screen, I see there are ten new texts and two missed calls. My heart begins to pound as I look through the texts first. There are two separate threads, one from Lexi and the other from Brent. I yip a little—yes, audibly yip—due to my unrestrained excitement. Dragon comes to my room to see what all the commotion is about. Looking down at my phone, I scroll through the thread from Lexi first, hoping I’m saving the best for last. There are six messages from Lexi.
Uh, you there?
Hello? Call me.
Are you canceling?
Reminder: He likes you.
OK, Owen is hot.
I better call her before she loses her mind.
I was only gone for an hour, but I’m guessing she isn’t one for patience. However, I
to see what Brent wrote first. There are four texts from Brent.
Still on for 8? I can pick you up.
Owen and Lexi are coming, too.
Is this the right number? Ruby?
Call me when you get this text—as long as your name is Ruby.
I feel my face grinning from ear to ear as I let out a breathy burst of excitement. I’m falling under his charm. I can feel it happening, and I’m acting like an eleven year old.
First, I text Brent.
Will call you in 10 minutes.
Then, I call Lexi.
“Ruby!” Lexi screams into my ear. “Where have you been? I thought you drowned or something.”
“Oh, please.” Leftover from the excitement of everything I’m feeling, I let out a huge chortle. “I just went for a run. So, what’s up?”
Play it cool, Ruby.
“Well, while you were out getting your run on, I’ve been making plans for a truly eventful evening.”
Is she really talking like this?
“Owen called, and we’re all going out together. Can I just tell you how sexy Owen is? The boy is mmmhhhmmm!”
“That’s okay, Lexi. I’m fully aware of his fineness. You’ve made your views on him crystal clear.”
I can tell I’m controlling myself, but I don’t know how. At this point, I’m so excited that I start pacing the room, fidgeting with the wet hairs on my head. I adjust the towel around my body for no other reason than to keep my hands busy.
“Well, I wasn’t sure if you needed a refresher. I guess we’re all gonna meet up and go bowling. I was going to let Owen pick me up since he asked, but we can go together if you want.”
“Oh no, I don’t mind. I can drive myself. You go with Owen,” I tell her, being completely honest.
“Ruby…” She grunts. “You are not driving yourself to a date! Brent can pick you up. Unless, are you not comfortable with that?”
“I haven’t talked to him yet. Don’t worry about me. What time are we meeting?”
“Eight,” she says, “and call Brent back.
The boy has texted me three times in the last ten minutes.”
“Okay!” I mock yell at her.
After I hang up with Lexi, I take three deep and calming breaths, preparing to call Brent. Suddenly, my towel seems too revealing for a phone call, so I quickly get dressed in a skirt and T-shirt but leave the towel on my head. Taking another breath, I blow out a raspberry, shake out my hands, and finally, sit on my bed. I pick up my phone and find Brent’s number. It rings once.
“Hello?” he answers with a bit of a drawl.
I smile, wondering if he’s playing with me. This conversation is going to be too much for me to handle sitting down, so I jolt up to a standing position and walk toward the window as I begin talking.
“Brent, uh…” I clear my throat. “It’s Ruby, calling you back.”
He chuckles. “I know. So, are we still on for tonight? I hope you don’t mind that I invited Lex and Owen.”
“Ah no, not at all!” I retort in defense. “Sounds fun. I just got off the phone with Lex. Bowling, right?”
“We don’t have to if you don’t want to. I mean, we could go somewhere else.”
“No, bowling sounds great,” I say, happiness warming my face.
“Great. We’re all meeting at eight. Can I pick you up?”