Girl Next Door? Phf.

Claire was so migraine inducing excited when I met with her. She suffocated me, scolded me, then proceeded to give a lengthy explanation about where and what we would be doing. It felt like a very long boring lecture where the teacher drones on and the words slip right by. My little tiff with Jerry, or big tiff, could not help but stick on the inner corners of my very brain. When I tried to function properly and at least attempt to act like myself, flashbacks would come out of nowhere and thwart my attempts. Most of my night was a blur of people and colors.

The only part I did vividly remember was going to a bon fire at East Park Beach held by someone who I was not familiar with. There were the usual dumb habits and risky behaviors teenagers are expected to do when they are not accompanied by authority figures. There was a lot of people from school that I recognized but did not approach or talk to. Hell, I did not even talk to the Claire, Shannon or Jay.

Claire decided that it was one of those ultra rare nights where she would not pry and pull at my teeth for answers. No nagging, no nothing. Instead, she ran off with the guy who hosted the bon fire into the edges of the beach. Automatically I assumed Shannon would be the next one to try and question be but Shannon was busy the whole night with two blonde guys. From their body language, they seemed to have alternative intentions that did not register Shannon's brain. It surprised me that Shannon also chose to leave me alone to be honest. Thankfully that night, Jay's girl was nowhere to be found. This meant other girls could openly flirt with him without feeling endangered. Jay did not say anything to me at all after the time he picked me up from my house. I spent my time beside the cooler, playing with the sand at my feet while others drank, danced, hooked up, and smoked whatever they managed to find.

After the first hour and a half, I left. I could not wait to go home and back to solitude. A party did not seem like it was going to cheer me up at all. The walk was not that long and besides, I was used to walking a lot after the long years of being unable to drive.

When I got home it was around 10:00 pm which was pretty early by my standards. The house seemed empty but I could make out two people on the couch. There was no need to have a second thought about who the mystery lumps were. I chose not to venture and further but to try and cheer up a bit.

"Hey Trevor! The crème for your rectal itch came in the mail today. The doctor said,' apply twice a day to make the pain go away.'" A stupid grin was imprinted on my face as I made my way up the stairs. Not my best but at least it would mess with Trevor.

"What? Ew! Get your hands off me!"

"Wait, that's not true! Dammit Reigh!"

If it was one thing that could help me cheer up in a jiffy, it was torturing my brother. But another thing that came in close second was relaxing by myself. I changed into my sleeping clothes and let the TV blare a random news channel. When it came down to it, my room was my sanctuary out of all the places in the house (the kitchen coming in a extremely close second). My walls were a newly painted deep purple with white borders along the edges. The bed was queen sized with a mountain of pillows and a thick blanket despite it being mid summer. I draped myself across my bed face down and then abruptly turned over. The Jerry complication started to lessen it's grip on my thoughts and my friends were nowhere to be seen to pry and ask endlessly. Usually I would be bothered if they did that but I could not help but admit I was feeling a bit lonely. I did not want to talk about that but I did want to be distracted. The night was pretty dull until an extremely loud tap answered my call and distracted me, I'm surprised the window did not crack. When I made my way over to my bay window in my light cotton shorts and tank top, I was bemused by the sight. Jay was standing in my front yard with rocks in his hand and a dumb smirk on his face. It was my very first Romeo and Juliet moment.

I leaned out of the window and tilted my head to the side and sighed dreamingly, "Wow, this is really romantic."

Jay's smirk became wider and goofier looking. "Really?"

I straightened my back and hardened my gaze, "Hell no! This is a bay window, if you broke it, your arm would be broken right now." They are not cheap you know!

Jay chuckled but I only continued. "Are the rocks really necessary? I have a cell phone you know."

"I wanted to be different."

"Neanderthal," I muttered to myself.

"Well a bunch of us are going out to Claire's and she told me to pick you up."

This was my chance, my gateway to distraction. I could stop moping and go. Endless distractions was my destination if I went but something did not feel right. I looked down again to Jay, wide eyed and still awake. It was around 11:00pm and the night was still young. If I just stuck by Jay all night, it would be a mix of amusement and frustration to occupy my mind but then again I did not want to be around so many people I knew. Claire and Shannon would without a doubt be approached by guys and Jay, oh jeez, flocks of girls fighting for his attention. I did not want to be the dead weight holding them back from a good time.

"I can't. You guys go have fun." I said starting to close my window.

"Wait but--"

The windows swung open again. "If you throw more rocks, I swear I'll call the cops."

Then with that, I closed my window shut.


The next two days I kept my phone off again. I pretty much spent those days bumming around the houses and cleaning. The history channel and food network were both great contributors to keeping me entertained. I learned more about the prehistoric era and Pangaea than I have ever knew in my life. My mother actually welcomed my cleaning and bumming and suggested I do outdoor chores too.

"Can you go water my sunflowers? They must be parched, poor things."

I never saw those type of flowers appealing at all. It would not hurt the yard if those things died.

"Sure," I idly said as I made my way outside.

My mother poked her head from the kitchen and tilted her head to the side.

"Really? No fuss? Just like that?" It was almost insulting how sincerely surprised she seemed.

"Yeah," I shrugged.

"You hate those flowers."

"I know," I said vehemently.


Before another word left her mouth, I had blocked out her voice from my mind and left. Immediately a wave of heat surrounded me mixed in with one swift breeze. How could she think I wouldn't do such a trivial task? Because you probably wouldn't. I blocked out my stupid conscious and silently fumed. She did not have to make a big deal out of it.

The day was one of those perfect summer days where the grass seemed unnaturally green, probably because it wasn't, and the sky seemed the lightest and most delicate blue. Flowers on other people's lawns were blooming a variety of colors, purples, reds, and blues. Then I looked to our lawn's flowers, bright yellow bunches with ugly brown middles. I went out back and grabbed the hose and then proceeded to give life to the hideous things. I concentrated on one area of flowers for too long and realized I over watered them but figured them since they did look like the emancipated version of Tom Hanks from Cast Away in flower form. I took one step to the side and continued on my watering mission. As I looked at the shriveled flowers, I realized they were supposed to smell good. I never understood how flowers were assumed to have a smell but to me they only smelled like plants. I took another step to the side and made sure I got all of their petals soaked. Another breeze passed by, this time it had a distinct scent. It smelled of musk, or cologne. I stared at the flowers again confused.

"Did you hear me?" I pointed accusingly at the plants with the hose.

"Are you talking to inanimate objects now Reigh?"

A recognizable voice caused me to turn around.

"Who are you and why are you on my property?" I said as I crossed my arms.

"Don't act like I'm a stranger now," he pouted.

"You are a stranger all right, one of the strangest people I have ever met."

"Said the girl who was talking to flowers," he laughed, "Don't confuse me with Jay now."

"How could I? I have extremely good vision," I huffed indignantly.

"Well then you should get your eyes checked since those sunflowers right there are not people," Jarrod playfully nodded to the drenched flowers.

He walked over to the flowers and grabbed a petal softly and shook. "Nice to meet you, I'm sorry this crazy girl drowned all of you. You all would become very healthy if she was more careful and responsible. She is a bad lady."

"Okay, I said one sentence to them and you are starting a conversation with them," I held back a laugh, "how am I the crazy one?"

"You just are," Jarrod smiled.

My lip twitched a bit to the right. I did not want to smile back or else it would mean I agreed with the fool. The hose was still dripping and started to form a little mud pool by my feet.

"Well do you have anything important to say or will I just leave you alone with the flowers?"

"No there is importance," Jarrod said as he reached into his pocket.

He pulled out a random flyer with a zebra imprinted on it. The lettering said "Visits to Marmalade Zoo now free on Wednesdays!"

The Marmalade Zoo was the best zoo in the state. It had a huge range of animals from the most domestic like dogs to wild ones like lions. Plus they sold kick ass merchandise. I caught on very quickly to what Jarrod implied.

"I'm in," I said in a sincerely excited tone.

"Score! I saw it and I thought 'too good to be true.'" Jarrod's eyes displayed all the pent up excitement that was ready to spill over.

"I want to see the rhinos!"

"I want to see the dingo's!"

"Let's go!" We said in unison.

I dropped the hose and ran into the house. I quickly told my mom about where I was going where she only waved and I followed Jarrod to his car and left. Throughout the span of the car ride, which was about 45 minutes, we sang along to A7X songs to the newest hit by Rihanna. I could not help but laugh at his poor singing ability that sounded a lot like a drunken foreign man singing karaoke. He would stumble over words and be two seconds behind the lyrics of the song. I would not realize until the fifth song through that I actually agreed to go somewhere with ease. I did not think much of it and was happy that I did but seriously, who would pass up a visit to the zoo?

It was pretty sad about how much energy and enthusiasm gushed from the both of us. For some reason, whenever I was with Jarrod, I would become very silly and eager like a kid and I think Jarrod would unleash his inner immaturity from the usual calmness and stability of his demeanor. Well needless to say, we stuck out from the kids with their families strolling along the paths. We would ricochet from each animal to another. We pushed our faces near the glass and over the gates to get closer looks and try and get the animals to come over. It was not like I had never seen those animals before at other zoos and probably this zoo too but for some reason the animals were a lot closer to where the people looked on from. Unnaturally close actually. They would stroll and relax near the looking glass or be close to borders. It was odd but only added to my enjoyment.

Jarrod would regularly make me laugh with dumb animal impressions or baby voices to get the animals to come over. I learned his unreasonable fear of goats when we visited the petting zoo which caused me to collapse into the hay with laughter. He learned of my affinity for tigers when I was reverently looking for the section.

"Where the hell are they?" I said frustrated looking at the map.

I think we were lost because we were near the camels who were no way supposed to be near the tigers.

"We might as well eat first," Jarrod said pointing at the stands selling food.

I reluctantly agreed. He grabbed a plate of nachos and I got myself some French fries and a burger. We sat down on a table with chairs shaped like camels and started to eat. We both seemed to be messy eaters. Halfway through I realized Jarrod had some cheese at the side of his mouth.

"You got some food here." I said pointing to my own mouth.

Jarrod stopped abruptly and pointed in the wrong direction. I pointed at the side of mouth again and he still did not get the right spot. I reached over with a napkin and wiped the cheese off. I laughed at the obliviousness on his face then proceeded to tear up my burger. Jarrod glanced at the prairie dogs and his eyes seemed to get less bright.

"Lisa would have loved to see those, "Jarrod said as he dipped another nacho into the cheese," She loves prairie dogs."

"Really?" I said as I took a couple of fries and stuffed them into my mouth.

"Yeah, she couldn't come here. She's visiting some family who lives close by."


The awkward pause seeped into the air, it was the only awkward moment thus far. He finished eating first and I followed a minute after. We ventured on to appreciate the rhinos and dingo's. The moment of momentary stiffness gone and the air was light again. I suspected we went through every animal and saw every exhibit in the whole zoo except the tigers. We went through the gift shop with a lot of difficulty, I did not know whether to buy a stuffed polar bear or tiger.

"You probably already have a stuffed tiger," Jarrod teased.

I went with the tiger to prove he was not right even though he was. We both got little trinkets for our families and friends. Who knew when the next time would be when we would go to the zoo? We took awhile at the gift shop because by the time we got out the zoo was about to close. I was still frustrated at the fact we were about to leave but have not seen the tigers yet. I was always captivated by tigers, ever since I was little. They were big, strong, and fierce, yet they could be calm, relaxed, and intense. To me they were admirable and majestic creatures. Needless to say, I was a bit down we wouldn't get to see them.

Jarrod was walking and telling me a dumb joke about Bruce Lee and water to attempt to make me laugh. Usually I just laughed at him or at what he was doing but he was trying to make me laugh. He probably sensed I was a bit down. When he delivered the punch line that was so corny I had to laugh, I realized something. Those random and fleeting moments where you can truly say 'I am really having a good time' and 'I am happy' while you are in the moment suddenly hit me like an epiphany. We were both grinning like idiots as passing families gave us looks of amusement, probably along the lines of 'look at those dumb teenagers.' I was looking around for the arrows that pointed to the exits since we lost our map to the wind a few hours back but Jarrod seemed stuck on one place. I eventually spotted the arrow and quickly started to make my way over to it.

Almost just as quickly, Jarrod grabbed my hand firmly. A sudden rush of warmth ran through my hand and up my arm as he pulled and ran me over to a path.

"What the hell?!"

He dragged me up with a lot of effort and a lot of cursing before I realized where we were going. The people were leaving the zoo after an announcement was made over the speakerphones but we did not care. I crouched on my knees and put my face near the plated glass and looked into the yellow eyes of an orange and black tiger who pensively stared back at me. I held my breathe as it yawned and exposed it's teeth and breathed onto to the glass to make it all foggy.

"Dude, how did we miss the turn?" My eyes were still on the animal.

"The gift shop threw us off and the concession stand with the Dippin' Dots."

"I love those." I said quietly.

"Me too."

"I know, I let you borrow three dollars to buy another one."

"I know, I'll pay you back soon."

"You better."

"Or what."

"Or I'll tell my friend here to beat you to a pulp," I said smiling at the tiger who started to lick itself.

"What's a tiger against a rhino?" Jarrod said inquisitively.

Laughter escaped me again in reaction to the dumb question.

"Thanks Jarrod," I said as I took another moment to take in the animal's presence before I stood up.

"Thanks a lot," I said again before looking at him. Before I knew it, I was stuck in someone else's eyes. Gray and blue iris's overtook my dull brown ones with a strange and intense feeling. It was probably a millisecond but felt like too long. It was odd because I had stared into his eyes before but it was not the same this time. I did not like it and quickly looked away.

"No problem at all." Jarrod said. I could feel his smile even though I did not see his expression. I knew it was a light smile, the same one who usually offered to me.

I no longer faced him anymore and decided to make a quick speed walk out of the zoo but a strong hand stopped me.

"Wait a minute Reigh," Jarrod's hand shot at my arm and I stopped.

When I turned I knew what he was going to do. I did not inch closer or cringe away. He lifted my chin up gently and put his face close to mine. The air in my lungs had left, my stomach felt sensitive and gushed, and my heart beat thumped loudly throughout my body. It felt so cliché but my body reacted on its own, it betrayed me. My lips unconsciously pursed, ready to meet a new and foreign visitor but nothing happened. I opened my eyes and he was just there, in position but not moving.

"Well this is awkward." He chuckled.

I could only imagine how red I became. "Don't touch me like that again. If you do I swear I'd probably beat the sh--"

Then without any hesitation, Jarrod McCarthy kissed me.

I am so so so sorry for taking so long to update. I had a extrememly long writer's block and I am not satisfied with this chapter either. I hope you enjoyed it and I will try to update as soon as I can. Thank you for all the comments I appreciate them very much.