Chapter Five

"Well," Allie said, sitting with me in the food court of the mall later that Saturday, "it looks like your dreams finally came true."

I shrugged. "Sam's pissed as Hell at me. I really don't understand why it bothers him so much. So I'm hot for his friend, so what?"

"Ask him."

"Ask him? He looks like he'd kill me if I ever stepped within ten feet of him."

Allie shrugged. "You two were always really tight. If something's that wrong, it's obviously worth it to figure out."

"Maybe he's just shocked."

"You really are a dreamer, Rach. And a stupid one with it. How can you value your own fragile happiness over a boy more than the voice of your brother in your life?"

"Not all of us are in love with him, Allie."

She looked like I had hit her, and I felt my cheeks reddening as I looked at the floor. "I'm really sorry, I just."

"It's OK. I really shouldn't have said what I said either."

"Allie, you're smart. You're level headed. And you're right. I just want to enjoy what I have for the time being, OK?"

"It's your life, Rachel. Don't let me dictate it."

We sat in silence for a while, then she saw something behind me and attempted a smile in my direction, but a hand clasped itself over my eyes and a familiar voice whispered in my ear, "Surprise." I felt myself grinning from ear to ear and I stood up, turning around to face Colin, who was smiling as widely as I was.

We hugged, then he grabbed something from his pocket and handed it to me. It was a jewelry box, and I opened it up to find a small, sterling silver pinky ring that had a small, delicate ivy design through its middle, interrupted only by a tiny gold inscription reading, "RD & CG". "Rachel O'Dell and Colin Greevy." I heard myself say, then I looked back at him. "What is this?"

He looked at the floor, his cheeks bright pink. "It's a promise ring."

"And if I accept it, what am I promising?"

"That last night wasn't a spur of the moment thing. That it was real, and you really feel about me the way I feel about you."

"It would be easier to promise that if I knew exactly how you felt about me."

He smiled crookedly. "I'm sick for you. I can't sleep sometimes because all I can think about is you, and what I would do if I found out you didn't want me. Whenever I see you, I feel the weirdest, strongest pangs of both joy and pain. I think I'm falling in love with you."

"Love is for fools." But I was smiling, and I closed the already minute distance between us, wrapping my arms around his neck, smashing my mouth into his. He smiled at me when we let go, and I said quietly, putting on the ring, "I promise."

Later, as we were walking hand and hand through the mall, a girl named Tracy, the photographer for the yearbook, walked up to us and held up her camera, smiling. "How about a picture for the Cutest Couple category?" We looked at each other, then at her, and she laughed. "We've already voted you in, though we can't really be sure you consider yourselves a couple. It will require that you go to events and pose for pictures throughout the year."

Colin held out his hand, and I followed suit. "Agreed."

So we smiled and cuddled together as she circled us taking pictures, and later when he was driving me home, we laughed about it, but secretly I was happy it had happened. At least now I could be sure he would be with me until the end of this year, and that this wasn't a silly little fluke. But that didn't change what happened next.