Confessions of a Nosey Best Friend
When I got back home after the shopping trip – which, by the way, was a huge success, with the exception of the ride home when Nora barely spoke to Danny – my parents gave me a message from the neighbors asking me to babysit. Mr. and Mrs. Worthington had a last-minute thing with some client of Mr. Worthington's. Their five-year-old Alex was already asleep, so I wouldn't really have to do anything. I grabbed my schoolbag and ran across my lawn to their house.
"Oh, thank you so much, Ashleigh!" gushed Mrs. Worthington. "I just don't know what we'd do without you!"
Mr. Worthington held a coat for his wife as he added, "If Evan beats us home, you can go."
Mrs. Worthington nodded her head in agreement, picked up her clutch from the entryway table, and left me with a sour taste in my mouth.
Evan – or Van, as he preferred – was a pain in my backside. Usually, I got along with anyone and everyone. But not Van. He was annoyingly arrogant (is there any other kind, though?). That, I could have dealt with or looked past. But Van liked to find ways to pick at me, to try to get under my skin. Over the three years they'd lived in that house, he'd learned every button of mine to push. And then he'd wired every button to a remote-control and was constantly pushing those buttons as often as he possibly could.
But hopefully, his parents would be home before him and I would not have to see him.
I locked the door behind the Worthingtons, after they left, and went to sit in the kitchen. I spread my homework out on the pristine kitchen table and got to work.
After a while, I came to my history reading, which of course made me think of Nora and, by default, Danny. Things were going so much more smoothly than I'd have ever thought possible. Danny was without question my very best friend, and I was his. Therefore, it went without saying that I'd do anything in my power to see him happy. And when Mr. Links called her name as my partner for the history project, I was beyond ecstatic.
I read for a little while about the beginnings of unrest in the colonies, but soon was thinking of the signs of unrest I'd seen in Daniel concerning his relationship with Rachel. Not that he'd ever actually complain about her out loud. But I could see how often he disliked something she'd say or do by the tension around his eyes and in his tight jaw or shoulders.
He never had that around Nora, unless it was directed at someone else or caused by uncertainty. Cheesy though it may sound, he was happier than I'd ever seen him when he was with her.
I'd watched them a little, talking on that porch-swing on my back deck. He was so attentive and gentle with her, like he knew on an instinctual level what she needed to open up.
Of course, it had been my intention to get Danny to hang out with her at my party. Rachel's emergency-whine-fest was a perfect excuse to leave them alone. And I couldn't have been happier that he'd finally dumped Rachel. Even if it did take her cheating to get him to do it.
My cell phone beeped, indicating a new text message. I picked it up and stood, planning to get a glass of water while I read the message. When I saw who sent it, I grinned, thinking of how we met.
At the reception after the concert that Danny's brother Zeke was in, the one where we discovered the existence of Solo Girl, Danny got a call from Rachel. He stepped outside to talk to her, (even though he and I had been in the middle of a discussion of the music and he was going on and on about that solo). Danny had asked Rachel to come, she refused, then had the nerve to be angry that he'd gone without her.
So while he was off diffusing the bomb that is an angry Rachel, I decided to do some detective work. Anyone could tell that whoever was playing the melody of that solo was putting his or her whole heart – maybe even more – into the music. And that heart had touched my Danny's heart. The music spoke to his soul. His entire body was focused on listening to, on experiencing, on absorbing the music. It was as though something had shifted inside of my best friend.
Of course, at the time I was not certain that Solo Girl was in fact a girl. I thought she might be, just based on a hunch. And I had to meet her. She'd be the perfect girl for Danny. Darn better than Rachel anyway. And if it had turned out that the soloist was a guy, then maybe he'd be perfect for me.
So when Danny left me momentarily alone at the concert's cake-and-punch reception, I looked around for someone to ask about who it was that played that solo. Yeah, sure, I may have been a little delusional, but I'd known Danny all my life and never had I seen him so visibly moved.
I didn't want to draw any extra attention for Danny's sake (he might be embarrassed that I was asking around about this unknown person), so I looked for individuals or small groups to approach. I spotted two girls near one of the exits. One had golden-brown hair pulled into a bun at the nape of her neck and looked vaguely familiar, but I couldn't place her. She stood with a short girl with a slightly darker complexion and brown, wavy hair.
As I approached, the dark-haired girl said something, to which the other shook her head, looking a little alarmed. With a quick glance around the room, she blushed and went through the exit. The other girl was left standing with a confused and concerned frown on her face.
After I approached and introduced myself, I learned that the girl was Lucy. And her friend who had just left was Leanora. Solo Girl.
The water flowed into my glass from the faucet in the Worthingtons' kitchen sink while I read Lucy's text: how d'ya think shopping went?
I thought for a few moments, then replied: ok. tho D didn't stick to his plan.
Her reply was quick: lol, he has a plan now, too?
We had a plan, as well. Lucy and I exchanged numbers, and started getting together to talk and scheme. It was clear she was a really good friend to Nora, but Nora had some sort of barrier keeping her from getting close to anyone. But Lucy kept trying, no matter how many times she was shot down. I really wished for a good friend like that, one that liked me for me, and not for my cheerleading or my school involvement or my popularity. Nora didn't know how rare what she had was. I was a little tempted to be jealous, but as I had been getting to know her since the start of school, she was too sweet to really be jealous of.
I chuckled while I typed: well, he did. not sure if he's still keeping to it.
The water over-flowed my glass, pouring all over my left hand that was not typing. I quickly dried the glass and my hand, the returned to the table to read Lucy's text: do i wanna know what it is?
I took a sip of water, then quickly typed out: be her friend, nothin' else til she's more comfortable w him. i'm not thinkin' he can keep to it for very long.
She replied: hmm. i dunno either. he likes her a lot?
I grinned again as I typed: yah. a LOT. like he'll be taking her to homecoming as his gf if he can. or proposing.
She asked: lol. so soon?
My homework was long forgotten as I typed: yah, seems too soon maybe, but my mom always said guys a lot of the time know before the girl that they've found their match.
Lucy's reply was quick: aww!
After a few seconds, she sent: i gotta get goin' on hw. ttyl.
I sent a quick bye then went back to my homework. After I finished the reading for history, I packed up my things, and went upstairs to check on Alex. He was sound asleep, hugging the little elephant (Fanny) that he'd had forever and denied sleeping with. I jogged back down the stairs and returned to the kitchen.
After sticking my iPod into the player in their kitchen, I noticed a pile of sunflowers on the kitchen island that had escaped my notice. I was sure that Mrs. Worthington had gathered them from their garden, but forgotten to get a vase for them. She was always doing things like that. Deciding to take care of them for her, I dragged a chair over to the cupboard I thought I remembered she kept vases in. Resting one knee on the counter (I was rather short), I opened the cupboard.
"Hm, pitchers. Where are the vases?" I leaned a little to my right and opened the next door. "There they are." So what? Lots of people talk to themselves. Don't they?
I saw a large vase that would be perfect for the sunflowers, with its conical shape – wide enough at the top for them all to fit, but also wide enough at the base to prevent tipping. I stretched a little further, placing my left hand on the back of the chair to keep me from falling over. I had the vase in my hand, but didn't take into account the fact that the chair might tip.
As I started to fall, I clutched the vase to my chest, hoping to prevent it from breaking. But I never hit the ground. Wow, I thought, this guy could catch flyers on the cheer team. His muscled arms here hooked around my shoulders and behind my knees, his broad chest supporting me on the side. My eyes trailed from that chest, up a neck, firm chin, surprisingly soft lips, slightly crooked nose, to eyes of steel grey peering at me from beneath a fringe of black hair. Eyes that I knew and despised. Well, not so much that I did the despising. But I was sure that he despised me.
"You should be careful," came his deep, serious voice. His breath fanned across my face, sending shivers down my spine. "My mom's heart would break if anything happened to that vase."
Then he winked. Winked.
My mind was reeling. His comment, totally expected. Feigning concern for me, then twisting it at the last second to be an insult? Yeah, I get that. But the wink? Wouldn't that just negate the insult? Turn it to . . . what? Teasing? If it were any other guy, I might consider it flirting, but this was Van Worthington.
Maybe he just had something in his eye and the wink was an involuntary eye twitch. Yeah, that definitely made more sense.
When he set me on my feet, (to my great embarrassment) I swayed a little. His hand immediately shot out to steady me, but I backed away, muttering a quiet, "Thanks, I'm fine." So unlike me.
"So, you can go now, if you want, since I'm home." A small smile accompanied the words from Van, but that just confused me even more. If I want? A smile? That was so unlike him.
"Okay, thanks." I was definitely thrown off balance. What is going on? I poured the rest of my water down the drain, placed the glass in the dishwasher, grabbed my iPod and bag – all in record time. I headed toward the front door, but when I grasped the handle I hesitated.
Do I say good-bye? We've never exchanged pleasant words. Now what?
I ended up muttering a quick, "Bye," unsure of whether or not he heard it, and sprinted back to my house.