Cinderella Steals Home (10 page)

BOOK: Cinderella Steals Home
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Doan doesn't acknowledge my comment as he hits his ball toward the hole, but it goes well right of the cup and he lets out a frustrated sigh, and I can't keep the scowl off my face. I'm not sure what happened to upset him so much but I do know that I don't like it.
 

And that's almost as weird to me as his shift in attitude is.
 

He tosses his ball down onto the green and whacks at it. I'm not surprised when it doesn't end up anywhere near the hole.
 

I carefully place mine down and hit it with just as much precision as last time. It rolls around the lip of the cup once, then drops in for a hole-in-one. I smile and look at him, but he isn't meeting my eye.

"Okay," I say at last, any teasing gone from my voice. "What's your deal?"
 

"Nothing. Let's just play."
 

I roll my eyes. "Obviously it isn't nothing."
 

He sighs. "No one ever taught you how to be a gracious winner, huh?"
 

I snap my head up. "What?"

"Nothing. I just don't like sore winners."
 

"Uh, well, good," I say with a shrug. "Because I don't see any of those here."
 

He raises his eyebrows. "Oh, really?"
 

"Doan, what are you talking about? Sorry that I'm playing competitively, but that's just who I am."
 

"It isn't that," he says. "But the whole gloating thing when I botched the first shot? Come on, Holly."
 

"Are you kidding?"

There's a funny faraway look on his face -- one that I've never seen him wear before -- like he's standing here with me but he isn't really
with me
, if you know what I mean.
 

Doan shakes his head quickly. "Sorry," he says, furrowing his brow. "Sorry. I just -- you reminded me a lot of my brother then. Sorry."
 

"The solider?" I ask.
 

He nods.

"You miss him?"
 

Doan gives me a funny look. "Yeah," he says, his voice quiet but clear and unlike anything I've heard from him yet. "Yeah. Everyday."
 

"I guess you guys're close then."
 

Doan walks over and finishes out the hole before he goes on to the next one. I follow him in silence.
 

"You could say that," he finally says.

I line up my shot and send it in toward the hole, but I'm suddenly less focused on the game. There's something about the way Doan's talking now, the way he's carrying himself. I want to give him all of my attention.
 

What he's saying somehow just seems...important. Like I need to hear this. I don't know what it is.
 

"How long has it been?" I ask, my voice quiet.
 

"About six months."
 

"That's not that bad," I say.
 

He gives me a funny look. "I don't know," he says. "I think any time at all is too much."
 

I'm surprised by the bite in his voice.
 

"Yeah, of course," I say quickly. "Sorry. I guess it's different for me and Justin."
 

"Yeah. I'd say so."

Doan whacks his ball toward the sixth hole and finishes it out in two strokes. I line up for my turn.
 

"I hadn't seen my brother in five years," I tell him. "Until I came back here last week. And even then, the one time I did see him was just to go to my dad's wedding. We haven't spent more than a week together in the last decade."
 

"Like you didn't even have a brother at all," he says.

I nod. "Exactly. And Justin and I were close before my mom and I moved. I mean, we all were. Baseball kept us together until it was what tore us apart."
 

I'm surprised to find tears prickling at the corners of my eyes as I hit the ball, but I'm hardly paying attention to golf right now. I haven't bothered to line up my shot and the ball goes shooting into the brick wall lining the course and bounces into a mini sand trap.
 

But I couldn't care less about that right now.
 

Doan's eyes are boring into me, and I feel the heat seeping into my skin underneath the intensity of his gaze.

"How?" he asks.

I shake my head. "It's so cliche. Happens to so many kids."
 

He stares at me. "Maybe, but it still happened to you, right?"
 

"Yeah."
 

"Then how?"

"My dad was sent from Arizona to Colorado at the trade deadline," I say in a rush. It's a story I don't usually tell, and if I'm going to talk about it, I want it to be over quickly. "He said he'd go for a couple of months, then come back when the season ended. He did all of that."
 

I hit my ball toward the cup at the next hole and sigh. Doan waits quietly for me to continue.
 

"Thing is, he came back with someone else," I say, keeping my eyes trained down on the green. "He didn't come back for us. Or all of us, anyway." I shake my head and brush at the tears clinging to the inner corners of my eyes. "Sorry. I don't know why I'm telling you all of this. You don't care."
 

Doan rolls his eyes. "I asked, didn't I? I think it's pretty obvious at this point that I care."
 

"Why?"
 

He shrugs. "I told you from the beginning, I just like getting to know other people's stories."
 

"But you won't share yours."
 

He shakes his head. "No."

I offer him a small smile. "Maybe we'll talk about this some other time."
 

"You can tell me, Holly."
 

I search his face, and it's friendly and warm, and I believe him that he'll listen and maybe even understand, and it'd probably be good to talk about all of this after so long.
 

But I don't think I'm ready.
 

"I know I can," I tell him, and I mean it. "But not today."
 

I realize we've been standing at the start of the next hole without either of us making a move to play it. Doan must have come to the same conclusion because he reaches over and gently takes the club and ball out of my hands, and silently leads me off the course.
 

We walk over to a small pond with a fountain in the middle. Doan drops onto the grassy slope next to the water, and I sit down next to him.
 

Neither of us says anything for a few beats.

"You know," I say after a minute. "It's weird being here like this. With you."
 

He looks over at me with a small smile. "Why's that?"
 

"I couldn't stand you from the moment I met you."
 

He lets out a long laugh. "You don't waste words, do you?"

"Never have."
 

I lay down on the grass so I'm staring up at the clear night sky. He leans back so he's propping himself up on his elbow and looks over at me.
 

"What's your family like?" I ask him.

 
He looks over at me, eyebrows raised. "What?"

"We've spent all this time talking about why I should spend more time with mine. Maybe I want to know more about yours."

Doan shakes his head. "Holly."

"Seriously?" I throw up my hands. "This is off-limits, too? Come on. You asked me to be friends and I'm trying here but if you can't give me an answer even one time when I have a question, this is pointless."

"He studies me for a long moment, then digs into his pants pocket and pulls out a pack of cigarettes and a red lighter. I watch as he carefully pries open the container and slides one cigarette out.

I wrinkle my nose but don't say anything. It's his turn to talk.

"You're asking a lot, you know that, right?" He brings the cigarette to his lips.

    "I don't think I am. And if anything, this is really your fault."

    He breathes in, looks over at me and smiles. "Oh, is that so?"

    I nod. "You keep talking about how important family is. It's not my fault I want to know more about yours now."

    "You're a real pain in the butt sometimes, you know that, Holls?" he says, then he sighs. "I had a really normal family growing up. Mom, Dad, two brothers. I'm the middle kid."

    
He stops, looks at me and waits as if he expects me to make some kind of snarky remark here, but I don't want to interrupt.

    "We did normal family stuff," he goes on. "Still do. Vacations and holidays and sports." He shrugs. "But my brother's deployment kind of changed all that. Especially in my mom."

    I nod. "I can imagine," I say quietly.

    "Yeah. We didn't even have Christmas the first year he was gone," he says. "He couldn't celebrate with a tree and stockings and fire and hot chocolate, well, neither would we."

   Doan takes a deep breath and I can see he's starting to get uncomfortable.

   "It's been hard," he says. "Getting used to all of it. It's like waking up from a really vivid dream. You're in the middle of this crazy life and it feels so real and then you open your eyes and that's gone and you're somewhere else entirely. Sometimes even someone else, you know? That's what it's been like."

    I think about my mom meeting the count and my move out here, and I nod and before I even realize what I'm doing, I'm reaching out and gently stroking his shoulder.

    I don't mean it as anything more than support, but he puts his hand over mine and squeezes once before letting go.

    "And it's hard because I don't want to make it worse for my parents but it's like they're expecting so much more from me and I can't always come through," he blurts out, and I suck in a breath, sure there's a deeper story behind these words.

    "Don't I know how that goes," I mutter.

    He looks over at me. "Oh, yeah? How?"

    I wave a hand dismissively. "The whole college thing. My parents are still horrified that I'm not sure I want to go in the fall."

    "Why don't you?"

    "I don't know. Not sure it's right. We talked about this."

    "I know," he says. "But if this isn't right, then what is?"

    "I don't know that, either," I tell him, and he smiles.

    "Maybe that's the problem. I bet your parents would be way better with this if you actually had a plan or something."

    "Maybe. Or maybe it's just because I'm not doing what they think I should be. It wouldn't be the first time."

    "I guess I don't know about that," he concedes. "But my advice, even if it means nothing to you?"

    I nod.

    "Go to college," he says. "You told me you got into ASU. Go for a semester. There's only one way to know if something's really right for you. You've gotta try it."

    I don't say anything.

    "Besides," he tells me. "If you don't do something, you can only miss out. If you try it and hate it, well, at least you know, right? That's gotta be better than sitting around and wondering."

    "That...actually makes sense," I tell him, and he laughs.

    "Don't sound so surprised. I'm not an idiot all the time."

    "Only when you drive, right?" I tease.

    He holds up the pack of cigarettes in his hand. "And smoke. But that's a different story."

    I let that comment go and Doan gets to his feet and holds out his hand to me, and this time I put mine in his and he helps me up.

    "It's late," he says. "I should get you home."

    I search his face for a few seconds, surprised to realize I'm disappointed the night's coming to an end.

    "Yeah," I say, dropping his hand. "You're probably right."

CHAPTER TWELVE

I'm not excited to suit up for my first baseball game as a member of Dad's team, but there isn't much I can do about that as Saturday afternoon rolls around and we're just half an hour away from the opening pitch of the summer season.
 

I haven't seen Doan since the night at the batting cages, and I'm not sure what to think about that.
 

He hadn't seemed particularly bothered by the depth our conversation, but it's been eating at me since it happened. I can't get it out of my head, and I definitely can't figure out how to align that Doan with the Doan I thought I knew since I got here.
 

His sweetness and his sincerity after mini golf are nothing like the guy I remember from my first day in town.

And definitely nothing like the guy I saw in the hallway the other day coming out of the bathroom. I can't get that out of my head, either -- the look on his face as he scanned me from head to toe in my towel, the glimmer of heat in his golden brown eyes, the cocky tone of his voice.

That's all classic Doan Riley, exactly what I've come to expect from him since I first met him.
 

But it isn't that simple this time, because now I know him better.
 

And I guess maybe it's about learning to take the bad with the good and all that nonsense. No one likes everything about anyone. It's just deciding whether you're willing to put up with all the crap because the good stuff makes you happy enough to get through anything else.
 

Maybe I'm just not sure it does yet with Doan.
 

Justin's words keep rattling around in my head and mixing with what I felt sitting next to Doan after mini golf the other night.

My brother called me blind, said I can't see Doan. I'm not sure what, exactly, he means by that, but I can't get it off my mind, and I don't know why. It shouldn't matter to me this much.

And the worst part about it?

I'm not mad about Doan's comments in the hallway yesterday, not even a little bit. The blush in my cheeks pretty much gives it away that there's something about Doan, something I don't quite understand.

Maybe it's more that I'm mad at myself for not being able to figure out what's going on here. I'm not used to this, being so rattled around someone all the time. And I'm definitely not used to having to revise my first impression of people. Doan, I'd been convinced, was a jerk, an asshole of the highest order, and now I have no idea what to make of him.

BOOK: Cinderella Steals Home
10.88Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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