No matter how many times I pinch myself, I keep remaining here….with her.
It was near the end of the school year, my last school year, and my jerk of a science teacher decided it would be best to have an end of the year project.
Now I normally excel in this field of study and the reason why is because I always work alone.
I'm been using the solitude method for 8 years however my science teacher, who is not a psychiatrist, thought it would be fit for me to learn to "mingle" with my classmates and assigned me a partner.
I don't have a problem talking to people and I was never considered a shy kind of guy, quiet but not shy.
However, Mr. Schroeder thought otherwise.
When my project partner was first introduced to me, I was a little unsettled. Not by her gender, but by who she was and the reputation she had at school.
Maxine Harris. Her friends called her "Maxi".
She was a rather flamboyant girl and possibly one of the loudest.
She sat in the back of the class, about four seats away, surrounded by friends and was notorious for interrupting class with a not so brief story about something irrelevant.
Yet no matter what she said everyone laughed or smiled.
She was a pretty girl though. I'll give her that.
With tightly braided black hair, cheerful eyes, and standing at about my height perhaps two or three inches shorter, Maxine was one of the taller girls and a fellow minority with she being black and I, Asian-American.
We had spoken before, the two of us, however the conversations always turned into a "one-sided" pleasure.
Maxine would always end up saying something stupid or asked me questions that I personally thought were uncalled for.
If there was anything that I admired about Maxine Harris it would definitely be her spirit. No matter what anyone said, no matter what rumor came up she would never lose her cool.Plus, I never saw her frown. She was always either smiling or laughing and that; I have to admit, made me feel a sort of respect for her.
But all goodness aside, Maxine was still quite annoying.
We were assigned to do a visual report on plant growth. (The last choice thanks to Maxine's diarrhea of the mouth).
While I wanted to plan the entire project out by myself, Maxine suggested we work on the planning together at her house and since it was Friday and I really didn't want to go home to my family (personal reasons) I agreed.
Maxine's house was located in the older part of the neighborhood…my neighborhood.
She made some comment on how ironic it was that we lived so close but I failed to answer.
It was a two-story Tuscan-styled home with two adult oak trees providing shade to the front lawn and small porch. The driveway made a horseshoe-shaped curve and was occupied by a sleek black sports car.
As we approached the front door, I slid my hand over its hood. I must of looked like I was about to drool.
Maxine stopped at the porch and turned smiling at me. "You like it? It belongs to my sister. I don't get why she gets one but I don't." She remarked in her usual chirpy voice. Her voice was very different from average.
"Sister?" I asked slightly surprised.
To think Maxine had a sister was like hearing of a cow that gave birth to a giraffe; disturbing and hard to imagine.
Maxine grinned at my questionable expression and took hold of my hand leading me into the house.
Inside was just as eloquent as I thought it would be; a spiral staircase, expensive-looking paintings and such an excellent style décor that it definitely kicked the crap out of my old house.
"My parents aren't here so it's okay to work in my room." Maxine commented heading for the stairs.
Before I have a chance to decline from her suggestion, we both jumped hearing an immense rumble coming from outside.
Maxine pursed her lips together hopping over to the front door and looked out the window.
"Oh darnit.Looks like it's going to rain." She commented gazing up into a slowly darkening sky.
Just what I needed. To be stuck in a stupid house with the last person on Earth that I wanted to be stuck with.
"So I guess we stay down here then." I quietly remarked. I really really didn't want to go into Maxine's bedroom.
The grinning girl swung in my direction and shook her head. "It's really a nice room, Westley but since you're being such a hard ass, I guess we can work in the study."
I thanked the ceiling and followed her down the hall.
Judging by the various vases and such, I presumed her parents were art collectors.
"Before we start working-oh, by the way did you bring your science book?"
I nodded allowing my backpack to slide off my shoulder.
"Good because I forgot mine." Said the girl that only held a folder. "Do you want something to eat or drink before we start?"
I heard another rumble outside. Man, it was going to suck when I had to go home.
"I can have something to drink I guess."
"Alrighty!" Maxine chirped as she hopped on while I strolled behind her.
It was hard to believe we were the same age. It was like maturity never hit this girl.
"We have Coke, Sprite and Lemonade I think, which one do you want?" Maxine glanced back at me as we took a sharp left into the kitchen.
"Uh,Lemon-" I was stopped mid-sentence and it wasn't because of the sight of the enormous and dimly-lit kitchen.
Before the two of us stood a tall, slender girl who looked around our age. She stood with one leg slightly bend near the sink and appeared to be washing dishes.
Hearing our voices earlier, she turned with an innocent look on her face before giving us a warm smile.
Something inside my stomach quivered.
Maxine chewed her lip. "Oh! That's right, you two haven't met." She slipped behind me and gently pushed me forward only I didn't go that far.
I found I couldn't move.
"This is my sister, Josephine." Maxine introduced her looking at me. "Josephine, this is Westley from Schroeder's class."
At this time Josephine had stopped washing the dishes and fully turned around to face us. As she leaned against the kitchen counter, she crossed her long legs looking directly at me. She had such a phlegmatic air about her. It was inviting.
"Westley." Her voice was impressive.
It was incredibly rich and sultry and matched her overall appearance. Her hair was bushy looking more like a puff of browns and reds than an afro.
She wore a light green tank top and black cargo pants that were daring to slide off her narrow hips.
Never in all my teenaged life have I felt so entranced by one single girl, especially by a relative of Maxine's.
I continued to watch her as she tilted her head to the side. Maxine scurried over to the fridge not saying a word but smiling nonetheless.
"So Westley, is that your real name?"
The question caught me off-guard and confused me a bit. "What? Oh, like is it an alternative name?"
"Yeah. It is. Why do you ask?"
"She's just curious Westley, geez!" Maxine butted in bumping the refrigerator door close.
Josephine shook her head and grinned showing off her perfect teeth. "No, I'm just asking because I once knew an Asian guy who had two names; His real one and an English one."
"So what's yours?" Maxine asked pouring the lemonade.
Why was she talking?
"Tomo." Josephine repeated. It sounded authentic when she said it. "You're Japanese then, aren't you?" Her almond-shaped eyes seemed to look me over.
I could only nod causing my bangs to shift into my eyes. I really needed to cut them.
"That's so cute!" Maxine exclaimed handing me my requested drink. She automatically began pulling on me yet again towards the kitchen. "Come on, I want you to tell me all about it in the study. Bye Jojo!"
I heard her older sister humbly laugh. "Bye. Nice meeting you Westley." She called.
"The same." I blurted out while Maxine had me by the shirt. If I wasn't careful I could have lost both my balance and my shirt.
As the rest of the rainy day dwelled on Maxine and I were only able to get 40 percent of our project done thanks to Maxine's constant questions and what I perceived to be flirting.
Even though I always considered myself a strong persistently excellent worker, I couldn't help but think back to my moment with Josephine.
I could hear the dishes clinking and water running down the hall and wanted so badly to go back and talk with her.
She seemed so interesting and maybe that was just because of her calm nature. But whatever it was, it was far better than Maxine.
"So are you having a graduation party?" She asked swaying side to side in a rolling chair.
This was getting nowhere.
I sighed standing up and gathering my things. I had been sitting on the floor.
"Hey, where are you going?"
"I think I'm going to start heading home. My parents are probably worried."
"Wha-" Maxine trailed after me like a child as we exited the study. "But our project."
"I can finish it at home. I'm much more productive when I'm alone." I swung my backpack over my shoulder almost hitting her in the face.
That's what she gets for being so close to me.
"But it's raining outside!" Maxine hurried in front of me and blocked the way.
Her eyebrows knitted together and her eyes narrowed. "Why do you want to leave my house so badly?"
"Because I need to get home to my parents?" I answered sarcastically.
Just then, Josephine entered the hallway supposedly having just finished the chores of the kitchen.
I watched her mindlessly stretch exposing new curves and skin that were hidden before in the dimness of the kitchen. I also noticed the exact height of Josephine. She was a few inches taller than Maxine making her and me the same height.
She turned her head catching me in the act and paused before dropping her arms. "What are you doing in the hallway?" She asked us more out of curiosity.
Maxine approached her sister. "He's trying to leave."
"No! I mean it's raining outside. I don't want him to get sick."
Josephine placed a hand on her hip and raised an eyebrow at her sister. "Since when do you care about other people?"
Those mystic eyes of hers fell on me again and I froze. "Westley, you're more than welcome to leave. It's not raining that bad outside right now so feel free to go.Unless, you want me to drive you home?"
I shook my head. "No, I think I can manage." I hurried past Maxine whose mouth lay wide open and quickly exited the house but not before getting one last look at Josephine.
My walk home was a gray and wet.
The summer rain pelted me completely soaking my clothes which stuck to my body.10 minutes had passed since I left the Harris residence and I was already starting to regret the decision I made.
Maxine was right. I was definitely going to get sick.
My backpack felt pounds heavier and I imagined it was probably filled with water.
Though I knew where I was going, my vision through the downpour was hazy and all I could hear was the clapping rain surrounding me.
The neighborhood was motionless, not a car or truck on the street…
I cursed my parents for not buying me an automobile.
My head suddenly jerked hearing what sounded like a car horn coming from behind me. I slowed my walking as a familiar black sports car came into view with bluish-white lights glaring back at me.
I couldn't help but smile as the vehicle pulled up beside me and the window rolled down revealing its owner.
Josephine leaned closer to where I could see her. Some cleavage delightfully exposed. She looked amused as she scanned over my appearance.
My clothes were saggy and wet and my dark hair stuck to my face. I must have looked miserable.
"I figured you couldn't handle it." She mused smiling at me as I climbed into her car gently closing the door.
The seats were made of black leather with a neon green stripes going down the center. I guessed she liked green.
"You probably didn't expect it to get this bad, did you?" She asked turning on the heater and closing the passenger window.
"No." I breathed looking over my soaked attire. I felt bad getting the inside of her car all wet.
"So what made you come get me?"
"Maxine." She replied as she began to drive.
"Oh." I grumbled. I glanced in the rear view mirror to make sure she wasn't hiding in the backseat somewhere.
"She was worried about you." She teased.
"I'm so flattered." I replied sarcastically while I pulled my hair away from my eyes. "Don't you ever get tired of your little sister?"
"Well," Josephine softly inhaled keeping her eyes on the road. "First of all, there's no such thing as a perfect sibling. They're going to get on your nerves no matter what. Secondly, Maxine's not my little sister." She momentary looked at me perhaps wanting to see a surprised expression.
She got it.
"You two are twins?"
"Well not identical, obviously." Josephine explained matter-of-factly.
"But I've never see you at school."
"It's called graduation in advance. I graduated a year early."
Prettier and smarter. I smiled at the observation.
"I certainly hope I don't look older to you. I came out second."
I shook my head. "No, I just thought you were because you seem so much more mature. But you don't look old." I added.
"Good, because I would be pretty depressed if I look older than I actually was."
I watched Josephine laugh. I couldn't see her face due to her hair but I did see that wonderful smile of hers and the tip of her nose.
She was certainly someone worth getting to know.
For the rest of my brief ride home, Josephine and I talked about everything from school to personal interests. There was still so much to be learned about her and I was running out of time.
Before I knew it, my house came into view and I frowned at the sight of it.
We pulled into the driveway and I made a 'huh' sound under my breath.
"What is it?" Josephine turned to me.
"My parents aren't home."
"Party time." Josephine whispered in a sing-songy voice.
I smirked at the joke. "Nah, there's still my cousins."
"You live with your cousins?" She asked unlocking the door for me.
"Yeah, there are three of them. Ages 16, 19 and 26."
"Ooo." Josephine raised her eyebrows.
I couldn't tell if she was kidding or not and although I smiled at her remark, I felt a little disappointed by it.
"They're not that attractive, trust me." I grinned opening the car door.
Before I could slip out, I felt Josephine grip my arm and planted a kiss on my temple.
"Sayonara, Tomo-Kun." She whispered perfectly into my ear.
My cheeks burned as I dragged my soggy backpack up the steps of my front door and I waved goodbye to Josephine.
After entering my house, I felt the need to rid myself of my clingy shirt and pulled it off looking out the side window to see Josephine Harris' car pull out of my driveway and disappear into the rain.
With butterflies in my stomach, I bit my lip and took my rain-soaked body to bed.