Authors: Dorothy E Gravelle
Dorothy E. Gravelle
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Copyright © 2014 Diego Beach Publishing
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You were right
Somewhere out there is a shelter dog waiting to save you
Luke was untouchable. It was old news. Hardly came up anymore, except when a new girl started at Cardinal High. And the new girls never believed it. Almost without fail, they’d give it a shot, despite what the whole school seemed to know, despite sincere advice that they were wasting their time. It was just too tempting.
was too tempting.
Many had tried and all had failed, shooed away very politely, but with a potency that was no less a heartbreak than if he’d laid them flat with insults. And then those girls would be counted among the rest of the school population, counseling the next new girl not to waste her time.
And so it was, every year since seventh grade. And now, junior year, that vault was still shut tight. Even so, there was an occasional desperate act, that overt lean, affording an observant guy a peek under a skirt too short.
He could have been smug. Nobody would have judged him for it. But these flirtations never produced a smirk or a smile or a word or a wave. He never belittled them for it. For Luke, the only way to go, the only way to spare them the embarrassment, was to be perpetually, unyieldingly oblivious. And he was so good at it.
Girls went through various stages of emotion in their pursuit of him. Intrigue, curiosity, lust, excitement, determination, action, disbelief, dejection, disappointment, heartbreak, and then a slow burning form of “Why not me?” depression.
And then there was Grace. If you traveled among the packs of girls with perfect skin and impeccable blowouts, you’d call Grace unremarkable. You’d be among the girls who pretty much meditated on the perplexing mantra, “
I just don’t get it
.” And they meant it. They really did. They didn’t even try to hide the insulting nature of it. And by that, they missed the point completely.
You could not quantify the traits that made Grace attractive. Not unless you had a keen sense of the underlying chemistry between the two of them. For example, Luke might be basking in the joy of a barrage of high-fives for his latest interception as the varsity team’s stellar cornerback. And in the midst of this ego parade, Grace was well known to walk directly up to him and say, “You think I didn’t see that? How the ref missed that pass interference, I have no idea. You realize how lucky you are?”
And he knew she was right. Nobody else cared how he did it. But
knew. And she called him on it. That’s the sort of stuff that made him smile. That’s the sort of stuff that caused the groupie chasers to roll an eye in exasperation. How could she talk to him like that?
Then Grace would turn and walk down the hallway. Luke would abandon his fans and jog up to her side, placing an arm around her waist and breaking out into the most adorable, guilty, endearing, devilish smile. And she’d smile back. That smile of hers. That face. That look in her eyes pierced within him the deepest place of knowing. Grace was it. Grace was it.
Here he was, judged by all to be the one, the catch, the guy a girl would lay down her virginity for without the slightest hint of regret. And yet, beneath the glow of that invisible trophy he’d been granted in his life, was a deep and abiding ache for only her.
And if he allowed himself to go deep enough, he also knew without a doubt that he was not good enough for Grace. So despite what others saw as a gifted life, a life prized by those whose goal it was to put their hands on the hottest girls in school, Luke considered himself only and ever lucky that Grace was his girl.
For her part, Grace knew who Luke was. She knew he was gorgeous, not only to her but to everybody else. But she knew him differently, too. She knew him as the kid that grew up down the street. The kid who was shorter than her for a really, really long time. The kid who’d cried over his parents fighting, which went on pretty much all the time. The kid who’d been devastated when they finally divorced, even though it meant the house would finally be quiet.
She knew the kid who’d sat on her front steps for hours when she was seven years old and too ill to come out and play. Luke was the boy that even at ten years old, would walk behind her from the bus stop to home. And if anybody dared make the slightest attempt to bother her, he was there, making space between the idiot and her.
And she knew him now. She’d never admit it to him, but those eyes cut so deep. Deep enough to hurt. It was crazy, but loving Luke so much did make her heart hurt sometimes, because it was almost too much.
It was almost too much that she’d gotten so lucky so young in life. Too much because she could already see every bit of their entire lives together. She saw a wedding and careers, traveling and a place of their own. She saw babies and pets and parties. She saw it all. She saw them someday old and a little tired, but only because of all the fun they’d had. All the crazy, love-dosed moments of life. She saw it all and her heart hurt sometimes. The future was beautiful, but the magnitude of it all was terrifying, because this stuff just wasn’t supposed to happen.
And it wasn’t suffocating. They both had their interests. They didn’t spend every waking hour together. There was sort of this unspoken understanding between them. They had so much time. And with that realization, they’d already gotten over the hurdles that plagued so many of their friends.
They’d conquered the myth of the high school reality. Everybody’s been there. Everybody’s felt it. Some people swear it flies by like it never happened, and others wish to God it would have moved a little faster. But while you’re in it, while you’re in high school, it’s like living an abbreviated version of your entire life. And there are all these self-imposed expectations, ranging by degree depending on what kind of person you are.
Some kids need the boyfriend, like desperately. Some kids just need to make out. Some kids need to achieve. Some kids need to be the school hero. And everybody, no matter what it is, knows they only have those four years to get it. It’s a pressure cooker of anxiety and expectation, compounded with a million other factors, all conspiring to keep you from getting that one thing that you absolutely want while you’re in high school.
Every single one of the those girls who’d flirted and flashed and outright asked Luke to get with them in whatever way he wanted to, every single one of them was in the midst of that four year fever.
But Luke and Grace were free. And the relaxation this freedom gave them was seriously palpable. It made pining for Luke more exasperating and hating on Grace done with an extra measure of spite.
The burden of the worst high school stresses was lifted for Luke and Grace. And they became two of the lucky ones who could actually enjoy the whole thing.
Heading towards their last classes of the day, his arm tucked around her, he leaned in close to her ear.
“Why are you always so hard on me?”
“Because, Luke, if I’m not, who will be?”
He grinned. She was right. They’d arrived at the door to her class. He spun her so that her back was to the wall, his arm still wrapped around her.
He was not one for letting a football slip out his hands
, she mused, as she let him spin her.
He leaned in again, but didn’t press her to the wall. He was dying to be close to her just now, but he wouldn’t have done that to her. He just wanted to get close enough to say the words so that nobody else could hear.
“I love you, Grace. You’ve been asking me lately why my grades suck. Well, my grades suck partly because I don’t have an amazing brain like you do. But mostly they suck, because you’re all I think about.”
Every time he talked like that, she had a tough time thinking straight. With one fell swoop, those words demolished her poise. Her mind raced in a million directions. Mostly she just wanted him to keep repeating that sentence over and over. Everything about the exchange made her feel warm, completely warm. Him being so close, his breath on her cheek, his hands.
“Well, we’ll have to do something about that,” she whispered back. “The last thing I want to do is hold you back, Luke. So let me help you. Let’s blow off the homecoming dance and study.”
“No way. Let’s
blow it off. I know you can help me with some of this stuff, but let’s start next week, after practice on Wednesdays and Thursdays.”
She knew they couldn’t miss homecoming. Of course they couldn’t. How could Luke play his heart out for the team and then not go to the dance? Ridiculous.
He planted a soft kiss on her cheek, as he always did when saying goodbye in school. But she wasn’t having it this time. As he pulled back to leave, she reached for the back of his head and pulled him in. He was caught off guard, but didn’t resist. As long as it was her initiating, there was no way he was saying no.
Those lips of his. How the hell did he learn to kiss like that? Her head spun. A whooshing warmth traveled up her legs. He tightened his hold around her, telling her without speaking that he really, really wanted more, and that someday, maybe not far from now, they’d share that, too.
The final bell rang in rude interruption. He pulled back from her face, this time saying nothing, not with his voice anyways. But she saw it there, the tiniest hint of those beautiful eyes just on the verge of welling.
Damn, he really, really loved her
. As he turned to head off, she placed her hand over her heart without even realizing it. It made her heart hurt, Luke’s love.
* * * * *
Okay, so dresses weren’t her thing really. Sweats were her thing. But it
homecoming and it
a big deal and she did want to look amazing for Luke. So she resolved without a whole lot of internal debate that she
was going to make dresses her thing
. She knew what she wanted and she knew where to go to get it. The biggest selection at the best prices was at this dress warehouse type store downtown.
Rebecca needed a dress too, so they’d go together. Rebecca was another neighborhood kid. Rebecca was refreshingly normal, which made her so easy to hang out with and a natural best friend for someone like Grace. Both kind of no-nonsense girls with a life perspective that seemed to be way ahead of most kids their age. Rebecca had a boyfriend, too. Difference being that it was a new relationship and she still had a lot to learn about him.
Sam was a great guy though. What he lacked in athleticism, he more than made up for with his musical abilities. And there was something pretty attractive about that. His passion for it brought out a moodiness from time to time, however, which was tough for a practical girl like Rebecca. Still, it was new and she really liked him. The relationship was still in that fun expectation stage with lots to look forward to.
The doorbell rang and Grace grabbed her purse and the car keys, calling up the stairs to her mother. “Be back in a couple hours, mom!”
Her mother came into the upstairs hallway and stood at the top of the stairwell.
“Okay honey. You guys have fun. Can’t wait to see what you find. Love you.”
“Love you, mom.”
Rebecca’s face was fresh, made rosier by the chilly air.
“You ready, Grace?”
“Yep. Super excited.” She really did mean it. Well, she
to mean it. And that was almost as good. She pulled her jacket off the hook by the front door and they headed off.
Grace was a great driver. No surprise there. Passed the test with flying colors, learned how to drive defensively and got the best teen driving insurance discount. So her parents didn’t think twice about letting her take the car pretty much whenever she wanted to.
Getting downtown wasn’t bad at all. It was all freeway. And Grace pretty much stayed in the slow lane, letting those in a hurry pass her by and graciously letting in any cars trying to merge onto the freeway.
The Dress Town Warehouse was not a glamorous place, but the girls weren’t really after the whole boutique pampering experience. They just wanted to find a couple cool dresses that wouldn’t break the bank.
Grace heard the notification on her phone of a text message from Luke, but ignored it, as any good driver would, as they cruised along and made their exit. The huge neon store sign was visible from the freeway. Rebecca looked at Grace with a twinge of embarrassment.
“Oh, come on,” Grace responded to the wordless comment. “It’s just a fricken dress. And if anyone asks, you can always tell them you got it from that fancy little overpriced pink place in the mall.”
They pulled in and parked and Grace finally looked at her phone.
“How’s it going?” Luke asked.
She rolled her eyes and answered.