Home > Be the Girl(13)

Be the Girl(13)
Author: K.A. Tucker

“You have a few weeks to figure it out.”

“Yeah.” He pauses. “What are you supposed to get your girlfriend for your one-year anniversary, anyway?”

“I have no idea.” I’ve only had two boyfriends, for a total of four weeks of “dating” experience. The first one treated me to a McDonald’s burger, the other one got me high on weed. My guess is Holly wouldn’t go for either of those gift ideas. “Jewelry, maybe? Like a charm bracelet or necklace?” That’s what my friend Denise got from her boyfriend Dennis—worst name match ever—after they’d been going out for six months.

“Yeah. Maybe.” Emmett bites his bottom lip in thought. “Like a little hockey puck or stick or something, to remind her of me.”

I laugh. “Wow. You really like hockey.”

His deep, shiver-inducing chuckle fills the car.

“Farmer … what’s up!”

“Harty!” The tall blond guy who opened the front door claps hands with Emmett, then backs up to allow us into the impressive two-story brick house, surrounded by corn and hay fields. Apparently Zach’s family owns, like, half the land around the outskirts of town. Some they’ve sold off to developers—and made a killing—while other plots are actively farmed.

Hence Zach’s nickname.

His blue eyes lands on me, a twinkle of curiosity in it. “AJ, right?”

“Aria. But sure. Hey.” I do recognize him from the hallways. He’s hot—with a square jaw and playful grin, and pretty eyes framed by long lashes. He’s the same height as Emmett and solid, though not nearly as fit. If not for my instant infatuation with Emmett, I’d probably be crushing on him.

“I’m Zach.”

“I figured that out.” I blush as I recall Emmett’s cute-neighbor comment on the way here.

He holds up a bottle of beer. “Want one?”

“I’m good for now, thanks.” My eyes flash to Emmett—he shrugs and tugs a can of Coke from the six-pack he brought with him. I guess he didn’t lie to my mom. He’s not drinking.

Where are Zach’s parents, anyway?

Kicking the door shut with his heel, Zach leads us toward the back of the house with a leisurely stroll, the hum of music and laughter growing louder. “Did you hear that Gibby broke his leg?” he says to Emmett.

“Yeah. In like three places. He’s out for most of the year. Sucks bad.”

I tune out what I assume is hockey talk as we step into a double-story living room, my eyes furtively scanning the group of twenty or so teenagers. Most are faces I could pick out of the hallways at school.

Including Holly.

She’s sitting on the far end of the couch, sandwiched between the girl she lunches with and another pretty blonde. The second her eyes land on Emmett, she’s off the couch and skipping over, wasting no time wrapping her arms around his waist, molding her body to his.

“Hey, you. What took you so long?” She mock-pouts, lifting on tiptoes to press her lips against his.

I look away, unintentionally to Zach, who rolls his eyes but then grins.

She finally peels her mouth from his to flash a brilliant, white smile at me. “Hey, Aria! Glad you could make it.”

“Thanks. Yeah. Me too.”

“Now, if you don’t mind, I have to borrow this guy for a sec.” She pushes Emmett, forcing him to step backward toward a hallway, a sly smirk curving her lips as she peers up at him.

Emmett’s hands are in the air in surrender, as if he has no control, but he’s grinning.

“I guess I’ll see you later, bro.” Zach shakes his head. Under his breath, I catch “like rabbits.”

And I feel my body sink with disappointment that he’s leaving me alone out here, that he would invite me out and then abandon me so quickly, with a bunch of people I don’t know.

Zach sucks back a gulp of his beer, then nods toward the couch. “Come on, AJ. Let me introduce you to some people from school.” He points to a guy with a shaved head and sunken cheeks. “Have you met Mower yet?”

7

Dear Julia,

It’s midnight and I can’t sleep, so I figured I’d write to you.

Tonight was fun, even if I spent most of it watching Zach and Mower play PS4 hockey. I’m still not sure what his real name is, or why they call him Mower. I asked Zach and he shook his head and smiled secretively, which tells me I probably don’t want to hear that story.

Which makes me want to hear that story.

If Zach does think I’m cute, either he changed his mind or he’s shy. He didn’t try anything on me, and let me tell you, that’s a relief because I don’t know if I would want him to. Sure, he’s nice, and hot, and funny. But I just didn’t feel that thing. You know that thing … when you meet eyes with a guy you like, and then they smile at you, and you have to remind yourself to breathe?

Like when Emmett looks at me.

Speaking of Emmett, he and Holly were gone FOREVER. And when they came back, Holly’s hair was messed up and Emmett seemed sleepy. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what Holly was “borrowing” him for. I can see how those rumors Jen was talking about got started. It’s because they’re true.

Still, when Emmett finally joined us, he sat down on the other side of me and the first thing he asked was if I was good, if I was having fun. And when everyone was razzing him for leaving so early, instead of telling them he had to get me home by my curfew, he took the fall and said he was tired.

He’s so nice.

And so DAMN gorgeous (I think Uncle Merv is rubbing off on me).

I can’t wait for our run on Monday morning.

~AJ

“How was the movie?” Heather asks as I slide into the back seat, her attention on Cassie.

“It was so good. I ate a lot of junk,” Cassie announces proudly.

“Why am I not surprised.” She waits for Cassie to fasten her seat belt, glancing over her shoulder at me. “Did you enjoy it, Aria?”

“It was okay.” I study the two-screen, 1950s retro movie theater on Eastmonte’s main street, wishing I had done a little more research about the movie before offering to go. At least now I know what Emmett was smiling about in the car. Cassie cannot stay quiet through a movie. Granted, it’s to ask questions about what’s going on, and then to ask follow-up questions on the explanations I gave her. But she also asks questions that make me stop to wonder how much she truly understands. Over and over, I had to reassure her that, yes, these are all actors; yes, the dog is a paid actor; no, he doesn’t have any lines; yes, this is all fake; no, this isn’t a real prom.

Thank God the theater was mostly empty and we were sitting far enough away from people that we didn’t irritate anyone. Still, if it had been a movie I was interested in watching, I’d be annoyed.

Heather pulls out. “What was your favorite part of the movie?”

“The dog.”

I laugh, because Cassie’s so predictable.

She giggles too and says in that slightly stilted, exaggerated way of hers, “I know, AJ. I like dogs. And cats. I like animals.”

Heather reaches out to pat her daughter’s arm. “What about the parts that have nothing to do with animals?”

I can see the reflection of Cassie’s face in the side view mirror. Her face is twisted up like she’s giving this serious thought. “I liked it when the girl went to prom. Prom is a big dance. Have you heard of it?”

Heather smiles. “Yes. I know what prom is. My school had a prom.”

“Does my school have a prom?”

“As far as I know. I think I heard Holly saying something about Emmett’s prom.”

“When is mine?”

“It’ll be the same time, I guess? Spring of your senior year?”

Which will be when, exactly? Emmett said that Cassie would likely be in high school until she’s twenty-one.

“Are you going, AJ?” Cassie asks, catching me off guard, though I should have expected that question.

“Maybe. It’s too far away to plan.”

“I think I’ll go to prom,” Cassie announces with certainty.

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