It was so quiet. Sometimes she just withdrew into herself and stopped talking (typically when she was thinking or felt as though she might be hurt in some way). But it seemed like she did this a lot whenever he drove her home. Maybe there was something about his presence that simply evoked distance. That was insulting to think about.
"You know, there's no one quite like you." Out of nowhere.
"Is that a compliment, insult, or statement?" He threw her an amused look.
"All three," she replied with a cheeky grin.
"Of course! That's just the way it is with women! Never a straight answer!"
She laughed. He smirked. They drove on.
"Where did that come from?"
She shrugged. "We're graduating, you know?" Quiet again.
"Yes, that's typically what one does after 13 (or 14 if you count Pre-K) years of mundane, tedious education. Unless you're stupid, but then we don't want you in the world, now do we?"
"Not that you're stupid. Definitely not stupid," he amended quickly.
Big smile, followed by a breath of laughter. "Sure, sure…"
"No, really. Brightest girl I know."
She rolled her eyes. "Whatever."
"Dude, what is with you and compliments?"
She laughed, blushing slightly. "I don't know…" she squirmed uncomfortably. "I never feel like I can believe them." Shrug.
He looked at her briefly (after all, he had to keep his eyes on the road) "Believe me. You kick ass in every way."
Another breath of laughter. "Surely, not every way."
"And where could you possibly be lacking?"
"Looks, intelligence, dating, and… all that jazz," she finished lamely.
He pulled over sharply. She gave him a bewildered look.
"I'm only doing this because you need to hear this, and we may, and probably will, die if I try to look at you and drive at the same time."
Rolling eyes was his response.
"Right. Listen and
believe me. Please."
Her attention focused as soon as she heard the serious tone. He rarely got serious with her.
"You are amazing. You are not ugly in any way shape or form; in fact I think you are VERY attractive, if in your own way. Also, you are, literally, one of THE smartest people in Ohio; I wouldn't be surprised if in the nation. Okay, so you have your moments, but we all do. And the only reason boys aren't lining up to date you is because we're stupid. We're idiots! Well, except me, of course."
"Hmm… I don't see you rushing for my courtship."
"Courtship? Did you just say courtship?"
"Shut up! That's not the point!" Blush. Grins.
"I'm dating, you know that. We've been going for almost three years now."
"Yeah, I know. I'm just trying to deflate your ego."
"Sure, sure…" Still he felt uneasy. He'd never really considered the repercussions of spending so much time with her, playing with her hair, drawing patterns on her back. Maybe he'd sent her the wrong message… or maybe the right one…
"No. Stop right there." She apparently knew what he was thinking. "I'm not asking you for a marriage proposal or even a date. So stop it with that. Besides, goodness knows your ego's big enough already." She joked feebly.
"Oh, so this is the thanks I get for driving you home and making you feel better, eh?" He pulled back onto the road. "Psh. Thanks a lot."
"Oh, it's no problem, rest assured."
When they finally reached her house, he said quite suddenly, "You know, there's no one quite like you, either."
Halfway out of his car, she looked back at him. She smiled and said slyly, "I know." After she closed the car door, she leaned in the open window and said, "I promise you this, you are unforgettable." She walked away, leaving the meaning of the words dangling between them.
He watched her enter the house, with that graceless elegance she had. He couldn't stop the thoughts that came, and he muttered sourly to himself, "I AM an idiot."