Holly was sitting on her bed in her room, several tears having run down her face earlier, when her doorbell rang. "Respect" by Aretha Franklin had been continuously playing several times in the past fifteen minutes in her iPod, which was docked in a miniature speaker system on her dresser. Surprised by the visitor, she quickly wiped the wet stains on her cheeks, turned off the music, and walked from her room down the hall towards the living room and then to the front door, where she saw Rusty waiting for her. She wasn't mad at him, not anymore, anyway. He'd been an asshole to Kent at lunch, but it appears that her anger at Kent's confession had brought those two together, if what she thought she saw when she peeked behind her while walking home thirty minutes earlier was to be believed.
By now, the playing field was level, and the scores were even, but the problem was, the boys still thought the girls were furious at them for their perceived objectification. Holly knew Rusty wasn't one to treat women like that, even though his words might suggest otherwise, and Kent, well, tossing all her chances with him away for confessing to a stupid mistake that he was obviously very sorry for and that, barring an amnesiac blow to the head, could not even be repeated, she'd been in the wrong, not him. It wasn't too late to change things back, but it sure felt that way.
"I'm sorry," she said, "about…earlier."
"Thanks," Rusty said, "but I already knew that, and that's not why I'm here."
"Then why are you here?"
"Well, I was just going to head home, but halfway there, I decided, fuck it, I want to come over and comfort you instead."
"…In what way, exactly?" She closed the door behind him and the two of them sat next to each other on the couch in the living room.
"I told Kent where you live."
Holly's eyes burst wide like blooming flowers. "What?"
"Don't worry," Rusty said, "I didn't say anything specific. I just said you lived on this block, is all."
"Oh," Holly said, now uncertain whether this was a good thing or bad. "But why?"
"To see how he reacted. To see if maybe you're the one he's after."
"No luck. He hides it well." Rusty got up and began walking to the kitchen. "I'm going to get a soda. You want anything?"
Leaning over the side of the sofa to watch him head into the other room, Holly shouted back to her friend, "You're the guest, I'm supposed to be asking you that question."
"Uh-huh," she heard an unseen Rusty say from the kitchen, his voice followed immediately by the sound of a closing refrigerator door and then the pop of a soda can being opened. While walking back to Holly, he said, "So what are you going to do about Kent tomorrow?"
"I wish I knew."
He leaped over the back of the couch and landed in a proper seat beside the one and only lady in the Snow household. "So, I'm curious: how hard would you say you've fallen for Kent?"
"It's only a crush," Holly said, relaxing her head, neck, and back on the sofa cushion. "We all know I'm going to get over it eventually. I'll find someone else, or he'll find me, and we'll live happily ever after. I shouldn't be stressing over this guy, especially considering I could do a hell of a lot better."
"You mean worse."
"Don't remind me," she said, slapping her forehead a few seconds afterward.
"Whoa," Rusty said, justifiably given how hard she had just hit herself. "But I mean it, Holly. I think you two have chemistry."
"I am so stupid."
"Jesus, Holly, you overreacted! It's not like he's dead! You can still fix things!"
"I know, I know, I'm just…conflicted." She looked at Rusty, his five o'clock shadow making her feel like she was shaving a portion of her chances with Kent off even more every day, until eventually there would be no such opportunity left. "Do you know what it's like, to want to throw yourself at someone, to give them your whole body, and at the same time try to hold that...volcano inside you? I'm like Yellowstone here, I'm waiting for my moment, and it's getting really hard to contain it. When I explode, it's going to be huge."
"You're telling me," Rusty said. "You're the sweetest, most innocent girl I've ever known. When that innocence ends, you're damn right it's going to be huge. And about that containment feeling you've got boiling in there, that's nothing unusual for a guy. You know us: everything, and I mean everything, turns us on."
"I'm not turning you on right now, am I?" Holly asked, scooting a few inches away from Rusty, just to keep herself at a safe distance from his body, which to her was like a big soda can filled with sperm and about to explode.
"You are, but you're a pretty girl, it's not like either of us can help it," Rusty said as he took a sip from his Coke. "And you don't need to worry about me hitting on you anymore, because as far as I'm concerned, you belong to Kent now."
The soft drinks in her fridge were mainly for her friends when they visited, because Holly mostly drank water, juice, and occasionally coffee or tea. As a dancer, she needed to be fit, but there was also the influence from her father—he was a veterinarian, but that didn't mean the human owners of the pets he treated were excluded from his suggestions to maintain good health—as well as the lessons learned from her own poor lifestyle choices in middle school only a few years back. Holly treated her body well, and as Rusty had just told her: it showed.
But obviously not well enough for the man she was pining for to notice. She began to wonder if Kent was even worth the trouble anymore. Holly stood up and started pacing around the coffee table that sat in front of the sofa, and while trying to keep up with the "if's" running through her head, she watched Rusty watch her through the corner of her eye.
"You have to leave," she told him abruptly.
"Why? I just got here."
"I need some alone time. I'm trying to think of how I can make it up to Kent tomorrow. But, you know, without letting him know how I feel. …Directly."
"Funny, I think he's trying to do same thing to you."
"I thought you said you didn't know if he was interested in me."
"It's fifty-fifty, you know that."
"Well, can you leave, please? I appreciate the help, really, but I got this." She nodded to herself and repeated, "I got this." After a short pause, she smiled and said, "Idea!"
"That didn't take long," Rusty remarked. "Care to share?"
"No," Holly said, "You'll just have to wait until tomorrow."
Rusty sighed and took another drink. "Why don't you want me to know?"
"Because you're not Kent. If you were Kent, there'd be less talking and more touching right now. Although," she said, going off on a hypothetical tangent, "there wouldn't really be a need for my plan if Kent had knocked on my door instead of you." Resuming her explanation to Rusty, she lifted a finger and finished with: "I have a cunning plan that gets better the more I think about it, and the less time I have trying to figure out how exactly to make it work, the more likely it's going to fail, and if this fails, I'm blaming you."
"Just tell me this: is Kent going to walk home tomorrow feeling like a stud?"
Holly thought about this for a second, then smiled and said, "No, not just yet. I have to find out what turns him on first."
"Female nudity is probably high on the list, but I think that violates the dress code."
"I'll keep that in mind, Rusty," she laughed, gently pushing him out the door.
Before turning around to walk home, Rusty asked her one final question. "If I help you find out what turns on Kent, will you help me find out what turns on Claire?"
Holly closed the door, giggling as usual at Rusty's remarks, and then heard another one open signaling the start of something very special with Kent. She rushed to the phone to call her father and inform him of the assistance she would need from him when he came home later—specifically, assistance in the form of four wheels and an engine—and once that was done, all that was left to do was to stick to the plan. Tomorrow couldn't come soon enough.