I trudge into school early. Not as early as yesterday, but still before anybody but Quin. He's finished with his morning practice when I walk into the gym, and is changing out of his jersey into his dress-code-approved polo shirt.
"Hey, Crackerjack, how's it going?"
He doesn't sound any different, but his lip is majorly swollen. "Ouch, Quin, that looks painful."
Quin takes a step closer. "Why don't you kiss it and make it better?"
"Quin!" Flirting is one thing, but this is starting to get really, I don't know, serious?
"C'mon, Crackerjack, I thought you were trying to be less of a daddy's girl."
"Are you pressuring me, Quincy Howard?"
"Wouldn't dream of it. Pressuring you on the court got me whacked in the mouth, so pressuring you off the court'd probably get me kneed in the balls. Which would be totally hot, but no fun." He tries to flash that swaggering smile at me, but winces and stops.
I can't take this anymore. Is he flirting, is he serious, is it all a joke—ENOUGH! "Quin Howard, I am starting to think you've got a crush on me." Oh gosh, I don't think it's healthy for my heart to pound this hard. No way he'll admit it, he's gonna deny it—
"Clara Jeanne Simon," he says softly, leaning in even closer, his nose basically a millimeter away from mine, "I am starting to think you're a tease."
What? "Well, maybe I am." The words jump out of my mouth before I can stop them, but I know they don't matter, not now, not when I've got Quin Howard wrapped around my little finger! This right here, this has gotta be how Mom feels in her courtroom when she paints some witness into a corner. Power on top of power, except I don't need the heels, the suit, or the hair—Oh, man, what a rush.
I'm so, so tempted to just turn and walk out on him right now, see if he follows, string him along like those glamorous girls in the high school shows, find out exactly how much sway I've got over him . . . But that picture of my mother slices through my plans.
Strength. Control. Power. She's got 'em in spades. And there's nobody in this world who I'd less like to be.
Then there's me and Dad. Screwing everything up, stuck in our old pattern like hamsters in wheels, terrified to tip the balance or use our old yelling to go somewhere new. The conversationless breakfast, the aborted sentences, the silent power struggle.
I'm not about to let that happen with Quin just because this is all different and scary and happening so fast.
So I kiss him. Not a real kiss—just the one he asked for, quick and light against that swollen upper lip. "All better?"
"Yup." He grins widely, this time without a trace of a wince, and I realize that he's been playing me as much as I just played him. I grin back.
"So, Quin, you gonna ask me out, or what?"
. . . . . . . . .
When I get home after school, Dad's there waiting with my mug of chocolate milk, and I wanna hug him but I don't. Again, we sit down in super awkward silence, but my head's spinning and I'm walking on air and if I don't say something soon I'm gonna explode.
Dad's biting his lip, looking at me anxiously, and I have a feeling I'm looking back at him the exact same way.
We both burst out at once:
"Dad, I have a boyfriend!"
"Crackerjack, I want you to meet Andy!"
I stare at him; he stares at me.
"YOU WHAT?" we both yell, and finally, finally we're on the same page again, laughing our heads off, and then I'm spilling it all, how I used Quin to cheat with basketball, how I couldn't just use him because he's freakin' Quin Howard, how he asked me to the movies this weekend.
I have about a zillion I'm-talking-about-a-boy-to-MY-DAD mini heart attacks, but Dad just listens to my whole starry-eyed teenage monologue with an I-kinda-knew-this-day-would-come smile on his face. When I'm done, he leans back in his chair, sips his own chocolate milk, and says, "I could, um, give you the 411 on me and Andy, if you want—"
"Ew, Dad, TMI!"
He laughs, checks the wall clock, then leans forward again and asks quietly, "What d'you say I take the rest of the day off and we watch Netflix and go rollerblading? Seein' as those are the only two things neither of us has cheated on."
We clunk our plastic elephant mugs together, toasting our future fidelity.
A/N: The end! Hope you liked it if you've read this much - let me know...Reviews are like crack, except I can't buy them on the black market. I do my best to reply to reviews; if you reviewed and I didn't reply, I'm sorry! Leave another and I'll reply this time, I promise...
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