“I think he was going to have a busy week. I wonder if this weekend is still happening … I think I’m supposed to see him day after tomorrow! We’re all supposed to go to Jeff and Laila’s on Saturday.”
“You didn’t tell me that part! How could you forget to tell me THAT? Here, ask your mom … text her really quick and see,” she excitedly throws my phone.
Within minutes my mom texts back that the plan is still on for the weekend and Tessa squeals. “Okay, what ELSE did you leave out? Start from the beginning AGAIN.”
- 4 -
Being oblivious has its perks. And when it comes to my appearance, that has always been my motto. This time a week ago, when I was getting ready to meet the Roberts, I don’t think I even bothered to shave my legs. Now, it’s like I’m possessed. I have gone through every beauty ritual possible within the confines of my limited budget. I have exfoliated and buffed and polished. My hair follicles are completely hair-free in the places where that is desirous, and the hairs on my head have never looked so good, let me tell you. The curls, they are practically aglow with all the attention they’ve been given. Loose waves fall down my back, with nary a frizz in sight. My mother will be proud.
Tessa is so sweet … or maybe she just couldn’t bear the thought of me wearing my norm and knew I was too stubborn to break my New York/Clothes mission again, but she showed up this morning with my outfit. The poor girl has been dying to dress me for years and I haven’t let her waste her time—she’s been too busy doing alterations at her job to sew for me. Whatever her motivation, I am so appreciative. The girl is beyond talented. She made a long, plum slip dress that fits to perfection. It’s comfortable and looks effortless, which is really what I want, even though I have contradicted myself with my actions. Sigh.
It’s not a date, I realize that. Truly, I do. I just can’t seem to stop the primping. This concept is foreign to me and I’m afraid it will lead to a disastrous character downfall if it continues. Besides loathing shallowness, I really don’t want to lose my, shall we say, edge—over a guy. Aloof has been my middle name for years, and after just one lunch with Ian Sterling, that seems severely threatened.
I’m buckling my sandals when Charlie comes in my room. Her mouth gapes when she gets a look at me. “Wow, honey. You look gorgeous!” And then, with a slight frown, “Are you sure you don’t need a tank under that?”
I look down and see that I’m pretty pleased with where things are and aren’t. “No, I don’t think so.”
“I’m not sure I’ve ever seen the—” she points left and right, back and forth toward my chest, “—so prominently displayed.”
“Your dad’s not gonna like it…” She continues to study me. “Have you lost weight?”
“Well, you sure look like it,” she says, half-concerned and half-impressed. “Have you heard from Michael?”
“No. But it’s only been two days. Have you?”
She’s still frowning over my dress, so it takes her a moment to answer. “Dad did yesterday. He said he sounded so sad.”
“Hmm.” I’m not sure what to say to that. “I’ll just grab my jacket and I’m ready.”
We pull up to the Roberts’ beautiful Victorian. Their house sits tall and proud on a hill, overlooking the entire bay, like Mother Superior. My parents visit every time Jeff and Laila are in town, but I only remember coming two or three times as a kid. The house is memorable. I have this recurring dream about the front doors—two wooden doors with intricate engravings that stand out against the white house. The dream is never exactly the same; in fact, the only recurring part is the doors. I stop and stare at the doors every time, but they never open to the same room. I’ve been every age in the dreams. I must have looked at those doors long and hard as a child.
When Laila opens the door, I realize I’m holding my breath—in anticipation of which room I will see this time, but also of who will be in it.
“Hello!” Laila hugs all of us and Jeff follows suit. Over their shoulders, I do a quick inventory of the room.
He’s not here. Check.
They’ve updated the living room. Check.
It’s lovely. Check.
My dad and Jeff move to the deck to check the meat on the grill, while Laila ushers my mom into the kitchen. I’m lagging behind, trying not to be too obvious, but I peer through a door or two. Very subtly, of course.
“Sparrow, I was hoping you’d bring Michael,” Laila says loudly.
I round the corner and enter the kitchen.
He’s not here either. Check.
“Michael went to see his family in Seattle this week,” I answer.
“He is so good-looking,” Laila laughs, fanning her face.
I laugh. “Yes, he is.”
“He asked Ro to marry him last Saturday,” my mom, the traitor, tells Laila.
“You’re kidding!” Laila looks at me. “How exciting. You’re so young, though. Jeff and I got married too young—I was eighteen! I wish I’d waited. You need to live a little!”
I resist the urge to gloat at Charlie. We begin carrying the rest of the food outside.
“He would be extremely hard to turn down. I don’t blame you! When’s the wedding?” Laila laughs.
“Who’s getting married?”
The flames take root again, lapping around my feet, up my legs and chest, sizzling red-hot out my pores … just at the sound of his voice. I nearly drop the huge salad bowl I’m carrying. Fortunately, only the tongs go flying, landing on the deck with a loud thwack.
I am pathetic. My girl-ness is betraying me, dangit.
Ian is behind us and I’m not sure how long he’s been there. His hair is wet and standing every which way. He crosses over to the tongs and gives me a blinding smile just before he bends down to pick them up.
“Hi,” he says.
“Hi,” I whisper back.
“Our lovely Sparrow here…” Laila answers.
I look at her in horror. Ian sees my expression and looks confused.
“Our lovely Sparrow here what?” he asks, grinning at me again.