Chapter Three

Mary Ann arrived at the park just a few minutes before two o'clock. Looking around at all the unfamiliar faces, she began to worry she'd never find any of her friends. Opening her bag, she slipped on her mother's pink sweater while searching for her cell phone. Pulling it out, she dialed Jay's number and waited in anticipation. Several rings passed before he finally picked up.

"Mary Ann! Where are you?" He asked in a somewhat irritated voice. She could have taken offense multiple times by the way Jay bluntly asked things and was up front with his feelings. She soon learned that Jay didn't mean anything by it; it was just the type of person he was.

"I'm at the park but I don't know where you all are." She said beginning to take a few steps forward, searching around.

"Well do you see the baseball diamond?" He asked.

Mary Ann looked around again. The park was enormous, probably five times larger than the park she usually went to. She finally spotted the baseball diamond at the far end of the park.

'Oh my heavens, why are they way out there!' she wondered, discouraged by the long walk she'd have to take. Tons of eyes would fall upon her and she walked across the field alone.

"Yes, I see it. Gosh, Jay why are you way out there! Can't you meet me park way or something?" She sighed.

Jay let out a friendly laugh as he replied, "Why, is little Mary Ann too scared to cross the field by herself? I'll walk out a little ways."

About ten minutes later she finally made it to the baseball diamond. Her heart skipped a beat when she saw Aden standing only a few feet away; casually leaning against the fence. He looked somewhat bored, but would occasionally stifle out a laugh for Melissa's sake as she kept throwing out what Mary Ann knew were stupid jokes.

"Hey guys, thanks for meeting me out half way!" She blurted sarcastically. Not surprisingly, none of them bothered to comment on her statement. They seemed to always ignore Mary Ann's comments. In a way she felt invisible, but soon got over it as she decided it's better to be in a crowd and overlooked rather than be by yourself and be practically non-existent.

She tried to hold her excitement as she bounced over to where Melissa and Aden were standing. Luckily Melissa noticed her presence as she called out in a bubbly voice,

"Hey Mary Ann! I thought you'd be a no show! It sure took you a while to take your brother to a birthday party. You probably were too busy fighting those boys off. After all, you do seem to attract the younger men," She laughed in spite of herself. Mary Ann was teased a lot because she was so small. Melissa seemed to love reminding her of this the most.

She gave a brief smile to satisfy Melissa as she turned to Aden and said,

"Why didn't you answer your phone yesterday?" She bit her lip as she wondered how he would take it. He didn't voice his feelings often. In a way he was a closed book; very welcoming and inviting from the outside, but mysterious beneath.

Aden glanced over at her and softened his gaze.

"Sorry, I left my phone at home. I was pretty busy so I didn't have time to call you back."

His response made Mary Ann a bit sad as she realized she wasn't very high on his priority list, but as she looked back at those hazel eyes of his, she seemed to forget any frustrating feelings that once lingered in her mind. She knew that it was becoming a bad habit, giving in all the time, but she couldn't bear to stay angry at Aden.

"Oh, don't worry about it. It's no big deal, really. I was just curious, that's all." She said gently, refusing to break eye contact.

"Well, I'm gonna go talk to Addie and Rach. No offense guys." Melissa suddenly piped in while bouncing off.

There was an awkward silence for a few brief seconds as Aden and Mary Ann were left alone. She looked down at the ground, kicking the dirt with her feet as she feebly asked,

"Uh, so how's it going?"

Aden continued to wear the bored expression on his faced as he answered,
"Pretty good."
Mary Ann had a burning sensation inside her that wanted to just grab his hand and see how he reacted. She decided against it though. She always decided against it. Frantically thinking of something to talk about, her eyes started searching the ground for a question. Suddenly out of the corner of her eye, she caught Aden looking at her. A silly little grin crept across her face as her eyes met his. It was as if a bolt of electricity surged through her body. The intensity of his gaze beat upon her like hail, but she couldn't look away. Finally Aden smiled back, shook his head and looked away.
"What was that about?" She asked as he let out a quiet laugh.
"Nothing," He replied, beginning to walk away.
Mary Ann stood there, not knowing what to do. Had she embarrassed him? Was he uncomfortable? She watched as he took a few more steps, relieved when he turned around and said,
"Well, are you coming or what?" His friendly tone of voice reassured her there was nothing wrong and she took off running toward his as she called,
"Think fast, 'cause I don't want to walk!"
Aden stopped a second, trying to understand what that meant as Mary Ann jumped on his back piggy-back style. She could feel his body tense up as he prepared himself to carry her. He wrapped his arms around her legs as she held gently but firmly around his neck. His soft, warm skin sent a tingling sensation through her body, but it was so wonderful and so relaxing that she didn't want it to stop. She closed her eyes and rested her head lightly against the side of his. Fortunately he tilted his head against hers as well.

Mary Ann couldn't help but smile as she and Aden sat in the sandbox together, soaking up the time they had alone. The rest of the 'group' was deeply engaged in a game of tennis, but Mary Ann and Aden had managed to escape and find their own little secluded place. 'The Sandbox' was a cute little pin designed in the shape of a castle and although it protected the tiny little grains as much as it possibly could, hundreds of the tenants were sprinkled outside the castle.

"So Aden, what are you thinking about at this very moment?" Mary Ann asked looking up into his eyes, not believing that her dreams were unfolding into a reality.

He glanced around the sandbox before he let the words slide carefully and boldly from his lips, "Well, I for one am honored to be in such a magnificent castle and am astonished that I have the great opportunity to be in the presence of the unfathomably remarkable princess."

"Those are some pretty big words you got there," She teased, raising an eyebrow.

"What can I say, I'm gifted. And thanks for ruining the moment, by the way." He shot back playfully.

"I'm sorry. So who is this 'unfathomably remarkable princess' that you speak of?" She asked saying the description of the princess with a much dramatic tone to her voice.

Aden softened his tone as he reached out and took her hand gently in his. Mary Ann's heart raced as the butterflies wrestled each other in the pit of her stomach. She began breathing quickly and feared Aden could tell, as well as see her heart beating through her chest.

"Well, her name is Mary Ann and she is the most beautiful thing I've ever seen in my life." The words danced through the air and tickled her cheeks a soft shade of pink.

"Then maybe you should open your eyes more often," She stuttered, using her free hand to scoop some sand onto Aden.

As soon as the words left her mouth, she desperately wished they would come back. How could she be so stupid? It was the perfect moment for her to kiss him, or for him to kiss her. She had to spoil the moment by letting out a comment that could have ruined the night altogether. It had come out so involuntarily though; in a way she couldn't help it.

He quickly let go of her hand, obviously confused as to what had just happened, but being a quick thinker he shoved some sand on her and said, "I am shocked that the Princess speaks such blasphemy! She should be punished at once!"

Mary Ann bit her lower lip and looked up at him skeptically.

"And how do you intend to do that?" She questioned.

"Well, I happen to know her weakness." He gave a confident grin as began leaning closer toward her.

"Her weakness, eh? And what is it exactly?"

"Oh, you'll find out." He laughed back, pulling her down to the ground as he started to tickle her.

She began squealing as she rolled around in the sand, unable to escape his hands. Finally she found herself on her back, free from the pleasant torture as she looked up and saw him hovering over her- his hands on either side of her resting in the sand and his face only inches from her own. His soft and steady breathing softly caressed her cheeks as she felt the hormones raging within her again.

'Maybe the night isn't ruined after all,' she thought as Aden's face slowly magnetized toward her own.

The next thing she knew his warm, delicate lips were resting on hers. She closed her eyes as she lifted her hand to his head and ran gentle fingers through his silky hair. Her fingers moved to his face as he cautiously pulled his head slightly apart from hers and gave another one of his million-dollar grins. She returned the silly grin as she placed her lips back on his for a few brief seconds. They drew apart and returned to sitting in the sand, this time with Mary Ann leaning into him while he wrapped his arm around her and set his head against hers.

It was at that exact moment Mary Ann believed fairy tales could come true. In fact, she realized they are more realistic than she could have ever imagined. She was in the safe, comforting arms of her prince and had gone from a 'nobody' to a princess- just by the way Aden looked at her. It was her chance to live out Cinderella's dream. Nothing could stop her. This time there was no magical fairy godmother to urge her to get home or else there would be serious consequences. It was the second that thought crossed her mind that Mary Ann remembered Carson's birthday party. It ended at four o'clock.

"Oh no," she whispered out while turning to Aden in panic.

"What's the matter?"

"Aden, what time is it?" She asked eagerly.

"Why does it matter?"

"Aden, please!"

He let out a sigh as he pulled out his cell phone and replied,

"It's a quarter past five."

The words sliced through the air and sent Mary Ann to shock.

"I have to go!" She blurted, running out of the castle without a simple goodbye.

"Wait, Mary Ann. At least tell me why!"

She stopped and looked back at Aden, her eyes filling with tears.

"I'm sorry Aden. If I don't go now, I may never see you again."

"That won't happen though," He reassured her, getting up and reaching for her hand again.

She looked down at his hand, then up to his eyes. Apologetically she whispered,

"I'm sorry, Aden."