Authors: Mindy Hayes
“DON’T FORGET TO
cover these.” I point to the freckles on my nose and cheeks.
Harper has placed me on the stool in front of my vanity to do my makeup. “We’ll, get there,” she teases, “Has Tyler proposed to you yet?”
“Will you say yes when he does?”
She sits back. “Peyton-Parker, I thought you liked him. Are you having second thoughts?”
She sighs. “If you say ‘nope’ one more time, I’m gonna smack you.”
I laugh. “I’m sorry. Being obnoxious felt necessary in that moment.”
She pauses, pulling back the eye shadow brush. “Seriously. I want to hear about your morning with him.”
“It was good. We surfed and chatted.”
“Thanks, Captain Obvious.”
I laugh again. “What more do you want?”
“Did he kiss you?”
“I never kiss and tell.”
“Why are you being so difficult?!”
I don’t know. I should want to talk about Tyler and excitedly squeal over his kisses and affection and our possible future. Instead, all I want to do is talk about Brodee.
After applying mascara, she leans back with a satisfied smile. “Done.” She holds up a mirror.
I’ve worn makeup before. I wear mascara and lip gloss every day, but I don’t do blush and eye shadow and eyeliner and all that junk. So when I see myself in the mirror, I gasp.
“You hate it.”
“No.” I shake my head, taking it in. “It’s just different.” She’s done the whole smoky eyes and dark eyeliner. I look exotic.
“You look beautiful! Okay. Now for the wig.”
She pins a black blunt cut wig on me. It’s such a contrast from my natural blonde hair; I look like a completely different person.
“Va-va-va-voom.” Harper smiles with her hands on her hips. “I done good. You’re like an undercover cop. Or a pin up model!”
THAT NIGHT WE
all gather for dinner. My mom cooked up some shrimp boil and spreads it across newspaper covering the kitchen table. Brodee keeps giving me funny looks that I shoot right back like I’m five years old. There comes a point where I almost stick my tongue out at him.
“What’s up with all the makeup?” he finally asks.
I took off the wig because it made my scalp feel like there were a million ants crawling all over my head, but I kept on the makeup. I figured I’d wash it off when I showered before bed.
“Oh.” I laugh. “Harper and I had a fashion show today. You missed out.”
“Looks like it.” Brodee closely examines my face. I immediately want to run upstairs and wash it off, but I also don’t want him to know that I care so much about what he thinks. Then he turns back to the food on his plate.
“Doesn’t she look so pretty?” Harper says, beaming proudly from across the table. “That would be my handy work, thank you very much.”
“Peyton’s always pretty, but she knows that.” Brodee looks at his plate as he says that. He starts shoveling food in his mouth, like he just commented on what the waves are going to be like tomorrow.
No. No, I didn’t.
I mean…No, I didn’t know Brodee thought I was pretty. Not that I think I’m pretty. I mean…I know I’m not ugly. Okay. It doesn’t matter. Brodee Fisher thinks I’m pretty.
“I think it looks like nice, Peyton,” Tatum says. “But I think you’re a natural beauty. You don’t need all of that to be beautiful.”
“It was just for fun,” I mutter and take a bite of my dinner. I don’t know why I feel like I have to defend our girl time. Or why everyone is making such a big deal out of it. It’s just some eye shadow and lipstick. “Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t do all this. I don’t know the first thing about makeup.”
“She looks hot,” Carter comments casually as he eats.
Everyone else stops and shoots him a look, then we bust out laughing. Except Brodee.
“Carter,” he says, stunned. Brodee looks like he wants to say more, but doesn’t. If I didn’t know any better, it almost looks like he wants to punch Carter.
He looks at Brodee and shrugs. “What? She does.”
Gotta hand it to the kid. He’s not afraid to say what he thinks. I chuckle, feeling my cheeks heat up from the attention. “You’re sweet, Carter.”
He lifts a crooked smile and adds more shrimp and potatoes to his plate.
“You wear whatever makes you most comfortable, Peyton,” Tatum says.
I will. “Thanks.” I don’t like that the attention is all on me, so I keep my mouth shut for the rest of dinner and let our moms carry the conversation.
I’VE BEEN CATCHING
some five-footers behind our beach house while Brodee and Harper have been playing in the waves. The surf hasn’t been great, but it’s better than being the third wheel. I realize I’m not actually a
wheel, but for some reason today it feels like it.
Some of the Hatteras gang is hanging out on the shore near our beach house. Unfortunately, Tyler had to work, so while most of them are playing in the water or lying out on the beach, I distance myself. I just want to surf, but the pitiful waves don’t make me feel very fulfilled, and I don’t feel like driving anywhere.
Eventually, I give up and head inland. I set down my surfboard and curl my toes in the sand. Rather than going inside, I watch Brodee and Harper dunking and splashing each other. It’s not like I couldn’t go out there and join in. I’m sulking, and I know it. I’m only the third wheel because I’m acting like it.
“It must suck.”
I turn to see Rylie sitting down beside me.
What does she want?
Sighing, I ask, “What must?”
“Watching the boy you love fall in love with your best friend.”
I nearly tell her the truth, but it’ll be kind of fun to watch her confusion when everything comes to light. With Skylar coming later today, the truth will come out eventually.
“I mean…it sucked for me last year when I figured it out, but at least you and I were never close. You have to sit by and suck it up because you love them both. Brutal.” She shakes her head with an almost laugh.
Nothing I say will help this situation. “You’re delusional, Rylie.”
“Oh please. From one lovesick fool to another, it’s so obvious it’s painful.”
I glare at her. I’m not lovesick. And I haven’t been acting any differently than I normally do around Brodee.
“Don’t worry,” she says sardonically, looking out at Harper and Brodee in the waves. “Your secret’s safe with me. If I hated you, I could make your life hell, but you’re in luck.”
I purse my lips, unconvinced. “Since when do you not hate me?”
She laughs like I’m an idiot. “I’ve never hated you, Peyton. Have I been jealous? Yeah. Resentful. Of course. Intimidated. Heck yes.”
I laugh. “Oh, c’mon. I’m not intimidating.”
“Yes, you are. You try getting the best friend of the boy you like—who’s beautiful and cool and funny, who you know he has a history with—to like you. Then come back, and tell me that’s not intimidating.”
I’m not all of those things. I’m just me. “Brodee and I have always only been friends, Rylie. I was never your competition.”
“Au contraire…” She gets to her feet, dusting the sand off her butt. “You’re the worst kind of competition.” Rylie pauses, peering down at me. “You’re the one.” She says it so matter-of-fact I nearly laugh, but she doesn’t give me the opportunity before she turns and walks back up the beach.
I glance at Brodee and Harper bobbing in the water, diving under and over the waves. Harper sees me and motions me in, but I shake my head and hold up my hand to say no thanks. I’m just going to lie back on my towel and breathe in the sun. Pretend I’m the only one on this beach. Because Rylie is crazy. And I’m certainly not “the one.”
I SHOWER THE
beach off after our long day and settle in next to Brodee on the couch. He’s plucking out notes on his guitar; I tell him not to stop. I love hearing him play. There’s something comforting about watching his quiet concentration on the music and hearing him occasionally hum along. It doesn’t matter what he plays, I could listen for hours, but he tells me he’s done playing anyway as he sets down his guitar and grabs the TV remote.
Harper is taking her turn in the bathroom before Skylar gets here. He should be here soon. I snag the remote from Brodee and flip through channels, finding nothing eye-catching.
“Do you teach lessons?” Brodee’s voice is uncharacteristically sultry.
I look at him in confused anticipation. “Lessons?”
His eyes are doing funky things to my stomach. Before, when I looked at him, it was simply looking into the eyes of a friend, but now there’s a…spark. It feels like the longer I look at him the more he’ll be able to read my mind. But I can’t look away. I love the warmth and ease in his eyes when our gaze is locked.
“Please tell me you do, because you have to teach me how to steal your heart as fast as you stole mine.”
For a split second I think he’s serious. My breath catches. Then I realize it’s only a cheesy pick-up line. But it feels so real. I give him an approving nod and force a laugh. “Clever.”
“Came up with that one all on my own.” He folds his arms across his chest and nuzzles further into the couch with feigned smugness lining his face.
“You’re so full of it. No, you didn’t,” I call his bluff, nudging him with my shoulder.
“So quick to doubt me?”
“I might be blonde, but I’m not an idiot.”
He chuckles. “Okay, so I overheard Robby use it at Sam Hardy’s party a few weekends back.”
“Oh my gosh, he did not. Did it actually work?”
With a shake of his head he says, “He had Tara Schumacher practically eating out of the palm of his hand.”
,” I exhale. “Lines like that just would not work on me.” I hear the lie and hope Brodee doesn’t. I actually didn’t hate that line. At all.
“No? I think maybe with the right guy and the perfect delivery, you’d be begging for more.” He’s challenging me. A part of me wonders if he’s referring to himself or if he’s just running his mouth. “Maybe if Tyler laid it on thick, you’d melt at his feet.” Brodee raises one eyebrow suggestively, wiggling it a little.
“If Tyler delivered a line like that, I’d laugh,” I retort.
“I thought you liked Tyler.”
“But…” He hears the uncertainty in my voice before I can cover it up. Brodee bites him bottom lip, and I’m suddenly tongue-tied.
He’s not trying to seduce you, Peyton. He’s just chewing on his lip! He’s done this a hundred times before in front of you when he’s waiting anxiously or bored.
I clear my throat and say with a surprisingly steady voice, “There’s no buts. I do. Why did you wait so long to pull that one out if it worked so well for Robby?”
Brodee gives me a look, but doesn’t get a chance to answer.
“He’s here!” Harper comes bounding down the stairs, her wet, pink hair flopping around her. “He’s here!” Her feet tap the wooden floors as she runs straight for the front door. We get up and follow.
When she opens the door, Harper flies down the stairs and into Skylar’s waiting arms. You’d think it’d been years since she last saw him. Not five days.
He kisses her like he’ll never get enough of her before setting her back on the ground. Tucking his long, shaggy hair behind his ear, he shrugs his backpack further up his shoulder. “What’s up, guys?”
Some guys could never pull off long hair, but Skylar has the features for it. Even though it can get unkempt, as if he only washes it in the ocean, it’s dark and thick enough that he makes it work.
“You’re finally here. It’s about time.” Brodee lifts his hand for a high five. “The estrogen levels were getting out of control.”
Skylar chuckles. “‘Sup, P Parker.” And high fives me, too.
“Oh, you like it,” Harper taunts Brodee. “It’s not every day you get to hang out with two pretty girls on a beach for a week.”
Brodee opens his mouth to respond, looking at me, but closes it and laughs. “That is true,” is all he says.
What did he hold back?
“What’s for dinner? I’m
,” Skylar rubs his flat stomach.
“Our parents went to get some pizza. Should be back soon.” Brodee motions us to follow him back inside. “C’mon. You can put your stuff in my room.”
“SO, SKYLAR,” NICK
says as we’re gathered around the dining table, eating the pizza they brought from Rocco’s. “You’re heading to USC with Peyton and Harper?”
“Yes, sir.” Skylar wipes at the corner of his mouth, biting on his lip ring nervously. I can already see where this is headed.
“Have you decided on your major?”
Oh, the dreaded major talk. As soon as we decide to go to college we’re automatically supposed to know what we want to do with the rest of our lives? I plan on changing my major at least three times. Maybe four. Maybe even five just because I can. How am I supposed to know at eighteen years old what career path is the one for me? It’s too much pressure.
“Uh, right now I have it as computer science. I’m pretty tech savvy, so I’ll see where it takes me.”
“Good choice. Maybe you can do some web design for Brodee when he gets his law degree and opens his own firm. He’ll need a tech savvy guy like you to help him out with all his computer issues.” Nick winks at Brodee while chewing his food.
Nick and I get along. I love the guy like family, but sometimes the way he talks about Brodee’s future like it’s his own, or like Brodee doesn’t have a say, rubs me the wrong way. Especially when I look at Brodee and can’t read his expression. Is he agreeing with Nick? Does he resent him ever? Does he even want to be a lawyer? Duke was a bit of a joint decision. How about law? Does he want to follow in Nick’s footsteps? I can’t picture Brodee being a lawyer. He’s too laid back for that. Too much of a peacemaker. I don’t want him to choose a career that will change him.
“All right.” Mom pushes herself away from the table and stands, clapping her hands together. “Enough with the college talk. I’m done thinking about my baby leaving home. Shall we play a game of cards?”
“I’ll go get a few decks, and we can play Hand and Foot,” Tatum says and points to us. “Children, clear the table, please. It’s about to get competitive.”