I glanced up from my stupid chemistry book as my pager went off. Uh…yeah I don’t know that number. Not to mention the only people who ever page me are family.
“Who is it, bro?” Eric asked as he looked up from his homework.
I glared at him. God! He was so nosy! “Mind your own beeswax! Know where the phone is?”
Eric shrugged. “You’re such a dork! ‘Mind your own beeswax’. No one says that anymore.”
“Oh shut up, dick.”
“Here.” My head turn toward Godric’s voice…and SHIT! That goddamned blue phone was sailing at my head. Stupid asshole. Well, thankfully I caught it because Mom would freak if we broke another freaking phone.
Eric just laughed as Godric shrugged and pulled the pillow over his head. Lazy shithead. He was always napping, but he always passed his classes. No fair!
I left my stupid chem homework on the table and walked over to the beanbags by the TV and threw myself in one as I dialed the number from my beeper.
I leaned my head back and stared at the glow in the dark stars Alex insisted on putting up as the phone rang.
Oh, shit! I’d know that voice anywhere! I could feel the blood rush to my cheeks as my mouth gaped open like a fish out of water.
“Yeah, um…I got-I mean, my beeper…I got um, beeped. From this number. Uh, yeah.” Wow, great. I sound like a freaking idiot.
“You’re not Jessica.”
Nice of her to notice, I guess? I cleared my throat and tried to form a coherent sentence.
“No, I’m Roman. Roman Northman.”
“Who?” Wow, way to bruise my ego.
“Uh, Roman. I uh-I’m in your AP English class. And your History class. And drama.”
“You are?” Yup, I only sit behind you in every single one…
“Um, yeah. Well, if you’re who I’m thinking you are. You’re Thalia, right?” Like I wouldn’t know. I mean, I’d only been in love with her for the past 3 years. No biggie.
“Oh. Um, yeah. I thought I beeped Jessica.”
Well, she was usually smarter than this. “Yeah, I figured. But, uh no. You got me.”
“Awww man! We were gonna go to the football game tonight, but I need a ride.” She sounded close to tears. “Shit!”
“Well, I mean…I can take you. If you want.”
Silence. I swore I could feel my heart beating out of my chest as I waited for her to say something.
“Really? You’d do that?”
Duh! “Sure. I mean, I was going anyway.” Yeah, no I wasn’t. “I just need your address.” No I didn’t. I knew exactly where she lived. Because it was next door.
God, I’m kinda pathetic.
“It’s 1432 Eighth Street. Know where that is?”
“Uh, yeah…I know where it is.” I tried not to snort a laugh, but I don’t think I succeeded.
“Okay, well the game starts at 6. So can you be here at like, 5? I wanna get there early.”
I checked my watch. It was 3:47. I wasn’t done with my homework…but I had all weekend to do it.
“Yeah, I can do that.”
“Oh thank you!” Her voice went all high and squeaky, which was cute, but also annoying. Sometimes I wish I didn’t like girls. Godric had it easier.
“Alright, see ya at 5!”
She paused for a moment and I face palmed. ‘Cool beans’? ‘COOL BEANS’? Why was I such a dork?
I heard her soft giggle and soft goodbye before the line went dead and I threw my head back again. Wow, did that really happen?
Abrupt laughter from across the room tore my attention away from my blissful contemplation of my completely innocent non-date to see my stupid brothers. My stupid brothers who were rolling on Godric’s bed with the phone still off the hook between them.
“Did you…were you listening?!?!”
They just nodded their stupid heads, their hands clutching their stomachs as they guffawed.
“Guys! You dicks! I’m telling mom!!”
The last thing I heard before I ran down the stairs was them tripping over each other in their race to get off the bed.
I slipped some money in my overalls as the doorbell rang and ran toward the front door. I definitely didn’t want my mom answering the door. I mean, this kid was a classmate, but I didn’t really know him. Stupid, but whatever.
“Alright, Mom, I’m leaving! See you after the game!”
I whipped the door open to see…wait. This was Roman? “Wait! You’re Eric and Godric’s brother?!”
Well, that was unexpected. This was the guy they kept telling me would be perfect for me?! I see those little weirdos outside playing and doing their weird ninja-viking-whatever fights. The Warriors Three, they’d called themselves. And this was the brother who’d named them because he had a thing for Viking stuff.
This guy was the one who slunk behind the family next door and seemed to disappear into the background. He was in my classes? Huh. He must be one hell of a quiet motherfucker.
His face fell slightly when I asked him about his brothers and he shuffled his feet nervously. “Uh, yeah. They’re-yeah, they’re my brothers.”
“Oh…so, wait. You live next door?” He nodded and I wrinkled my nose as I reached a hand out to lightly punch his arm. “Why didn’t you tell me, dick?!”
Now his face fell dramatically and I swear the poor guy looked like he was gonna sprint away. Shit. “No, I’m sorry. I was joking. I mean, I do that when I’m nervous.”
Damn it, it was my turn to shuffle nervously. Then I realized that I was still standing in the open front door-where any of my family could come waltzing by to witness this exercise in humiliation.
I stepped outside and he nearly tripped down the porch steps as he scrambled to get away from me. Shit, did I really scare him?
I looked him up and down. Well, that was…new. He usually didn’t look quite so…not cool exactly, but more like this is what he thought cool was. It…almost worked. Sorta.
Yeah, maybe this wasn’t the best idea. He really seemed like he was about to swallow his tongue and I could’ve sworn he was more tan than he looked at the moment. Then again, he usually seemed to melt in the background whenever his family was around so maybe I was wrong.
His fingers laced themselves together and twisted around. He was regretting this offer, I’m sure.
“Well, should we…uh-go?” He motioned toward the house next door and I grinned. They had some pretty sweet cars. Maybe he’d let me see them!
I followed him across the immaculately manicured lawns as he fished a keychain out of his pocket. I held back the chuckle when he had to bend to the side to reach all the way down. Seriously, those shorts…
Maybe I should’ve been paying more attention because when he stopped next to a pristine red ‘67 Chevy Impala I nearly lost my shit.
“THIS is your car?!” I know my eyes were wide and my mouth was hanging open…hell, maybe I was drooling. But I didn’t give a damn. If I ever learned to drive, this is the car I’d want.
“Uh, yeah. But uh-it’s not…I mean, it’s not like my parents just bought it for me. I mean, uh-just,” He paused, his eyes swinging toward the front window. I turned to see Eric and Godric grinning from behind the glass and I giggled as I waved a hello. “-yeah it’s my car.”
Damn, he looked so dejected! I ran my hand over the shiny red paint in awe. Clearly he didn’t know the effect of awesome cars on chicks.
“This is sweeeeeet! Oh my God! I love it!”
Wha?? I swung around to look at him and he looked completely different with a smile on his face.
“It’s a her. Kinda like a ship.” He ran a hand over the back panel gently, almost a caress that I was suddenly jealous of. “She’s my baby.”
We rode in silence for a few minutes and I wondered what was going through her head. She was kinda weird-which I’d known. But she just kept staring at my car; at the dashboard, the door panels, the leather seats.
“Uh, do you wanna turn on the radio?”
Her head whipped my way, nearly stinging me with the ends. “Oh! Uh, sure.”
I reached forward, suddenly glad that Pam had preprogrammed one of those ridiculous Pop stations into my stereo. I hit number six and sat back as I tried not to grimace.
God this music was awful! I smiled over at Thalia as I pulled up to a red light. “So…the uh-I mean…the…this band is awesome huh?!”
God, I hated this shit. But if it’s what she wanted…
“Oh, uh…yeah. I guess.” What…did she not like this crap?
“If you want to change the station, go ahead.”
“Oh thank God! You don’t like that shit, do you?” She leaned forward and twisted the dial until it landed on the classic rock channel that I usually listened to.
Oh hell yes! The first strains of ‘Eye of the Tiger’ sounded through the speaker and my hand unconsciously began drumming against my leg. I glanced sideways, hopeful that she’d leave it on this channel.
“Risin’ up, back on the street-”
I smiled as she continued to sing, joining in at the chorus. She giggled as I drummed on the steering wheel, overexaggerating my movements as I belted out the lyrics. I nearly ran us off the road when she started air guitaring, her head falling in my lap as she ‘strummed’.
She was perfect. Two hundred percent perfect. Conversation flowed much better after that and I didn’t complain at all when her head stayed in my lap. We were arguing about the merits of Pizza Hut vs. Louisiana Pizza Kitchen for an after game bite as we pulled into the parking lot and I glanced down at her dark hair spilling across my legs. Her smile was beautiful as she laughed along to whatever asinine comment I’d just made. And all I wanted to do was kiss her.
But she sat up. Wow, all of a sudden I was glad my pants were ridiculous and huge.
She glanced around, clearly scouting to see who else had come this early. “Come on. I think I see Jess over there. I need to go bitch at her!”
Oh. Great. So, yeah this probably wasn’t quite the spiritual experience for her that it was for me.
“Uh, I actually just remembered…I have-uh…homework. Yeah. But I’m sure Jessica will give you a ride back. I mean, that was the original…uh, plan…right?”
Her eyes, those gorgeous cinnamon eyes, widened and an emotion flashed so quickly that I nearly missed it. “Unless…I mean, do you think Jessica would do that? I can stay-if you want.”
Her smile was blinding, a lightning strike sent to stop my heart and sear itself on my soul. “That would be great. I…I don’t want you to go.”
Well, I certainly liked where this was potentially leading, but I was still unsure-mostly of myself. I’d never even kissed a girl, something my idiot brothers took way too much pleasure in teasing me about. Hell, Godric had gotten more action from a girl and he was gay!
My sudden surge of self confidence vanished just as quickly as it’d come. Thalia hopped out of my car and reverently pushed the door closed. I chuckled lowly, amused as hell by her careful treatment of my baby.
“Come on! Let’s go!”
Whoah! She grabbed my hand! And was currently tugging me toward the bleachers. But her tiny, warm, ridiculously soft hand was engulfed in my much bigger one. Holy fuck!
I stood by silently as she found friend after friend, grateful just to be with her. Her hand stayed wrapped in mine, even as she abandoned her people and pulled me to sit on the hard metal bleachers.
We talked a little as we waited for the game to start and she ignored every attempt her friends made to intrude on our conversation. With every passing moment, I just knew I was falling a little more in love with her.
How did I never meet him before? He was…kinda perfect actually. Even his adorable attempt to look cool was totally doing it for me.
I took a risk holding his hand, but if the smile that broke across his face was any indication, it wasn’t an unwelcome gesture. Maybe those little twerps were onto something.
He stood by as I talked to my friends, though I was careful to introduce him. It’s amazing how many of them seemed to think he was new. But he didn’t care; he just smiled and made small talk as I held his hand.
“What the hell are you doing?” Jessica’s soft whisper in my ear had annoyed me and I checked over my shoulder to make sure Roman was engaged elsewhere.
“What do you mean? I couldn’t get ahold of you, so he offered me a ride.”
Her eyebrows rose nearly to her extremely red hairline. “And that means you have to hold hands and babysit the dork?”
Fucking bitch! I scowled at her as I tugged Roman away without answering, not dignifying her bitchiness with a response.
“So, this is something you like to do?” Roman asked as I settled up about halfway up the stands. I glanced around as he grinned shyly. Seriously he was adorable.
“Eh, it gets me out of the house. That’s really my only motivation. I could care less about football.”
“So…do you really want to stay?” He looked so hopeful and I debated internally. I really didn’t care at all, but I knew my dad would ask about the game. I needed to have a slight idea of what happened.
“Let’s stay for the first quarter and then we can go. Sound good?” He bit his lip and damn if I didn’t want to lick the sting away.
He nodded silently and turned toward the field as someone began talking over the loudspeaker. I leaned my shoulder against his, never letting go of his hand. He felt…right. It felt like this was exactly where I was meant to be and exactly who I was meant to be with. But that kind of thing doesn’t happen to 17 year olds…right?
“Hey Thalia. Who’s your…friend?”
Well shit. I’d know that voice anywhere; hell, the sound of my kinda made me want to jab a screwdriver in my ear. Or his.
“Hello Quinn. This is Roman. Roman this is the douchiest guy in school.”
My adorable companion just choked as he tried to hold back a laugh and Quinn huffed dramatically. He wedged himself between me and the person beside me, his thigh nearly covering my own. I scooted closer to Roman, but damn this fucking idiot couldn’t take a hint.
“So, Quinn. How do you and Thalia know each other?”
Awww, he was trying to be polite. It was adorable-and totally unnecessary.
“Oh, we go way back, don’t we babe?”
I think I threw up in my mouth a little. I stood quickly and turned to plop myself right in Roman’s lap, much to his surprise. “By ‘go way back’ he means his parents work for my Dad and he’s been trying to get in my pants for as long as I can remember. Do I need to calibrate you again, Douche?”
His weird purple eyes narrowed as he scoffed. “Why don’t you let your little boy toy do it for you? I think I could take him.”
“Forget it. Just get the fuck out of here.”
Roman’s arms wrapped gently around my waist as I leaned back against his chest. Even sitting on him, he was just as tall as me. The whole Hyde/Northman family were part giant, I swear.
“No, seriously. You’re gonna choose this fucking pansy over me, then I think he should have to fight for you. Come on, Asshole, let’s see what you got!”
“Dude I could eat a bowl of alphabet soup and shit out a more intelligent challenge. Get the fuck out of here.”
Roman nudged my shoulder with his nose. “Is he going to leave if I don’t do this?”
Shit, this is not at all how I wanted our first da-I mean, outing, to go. Not that I really planned this or anything. Or well, shit. I sighed and shook my head. Quinn may be an ignoramus, but he was a stubborn ignoramus.
“Alright. Let’s go. And then we’ll get out of here, okay?”
Wow, so there’s the confidence I was looking for. And good god damn I felt myself get a little wet. Seriously, a kid wearing JNCO’s shouldn’t be this sexy.
Quinn stood and lumbered down the bleachers, his huge elephant feet making a racket more akin to thunder then footsteps. Roman and I followed more sedately, my hand still engulfed in his.
We followed Quinn to a spot down toward the opposing team’s end zone and Roman raised an eyebrow as we watched him ‘get ready’. The idiot was hopping in place and shaking out his limbs like he was an HBO fighter.
“Alright, dork. Let’s see what you got.”
Roman rolled his eyes as Quinn raised his fists, his feet still doing that weird little bunny hop. I blanched as he let my hand go. No, that didn’t feel good at all. My hand felt almost naked.
Roman just stood there as Quinn circled him and I began to breathe a little heavier. Was he just going to stand there and let the moron clock him?!
I squeaked as Quinn’s fist shot out, waiting for the crunch as it connected with Roman’s face…but all I heard was a thud. I glanced between my fingers, since apparently they had a mind of their own, to see Quinn picking himself up off the ground.
“You got lucky, pussy! Fight fair!”
“I don’t see what’s unfair about stepping to the left, but alright. If that’s how you want it…”
My eyes widened as Roman…good lord, how the hell did he do that?!
With two quick jabs of his fists, Quinn hit the dirt again. And this time he wasn’t getting back up. I glanced at my…god I wanted him to be my boyfriend…as he flexed his fists lazily.
“Glad we cleared that up, assbag. Leave Thalia alone. ‘Night.”
I know I could fight my own battles, but…I latched onto his hands once again as we ambled toward the parking lot. “Are you alright? I mean, your hand…”
“It’s fine. Believe me, growing up with my brothers and cousins…yeah I know how to fight.” His face flushed so brightly I could see it in the unlit parking lot. “And uh-my dad taught me how a few years back. I was getting bullied a lot.”
I expected pity. I fully expected her to yank her hand away and return to grab another ride home.
But then again, I should’ve known that nothing about Thalia was as I expected. She yanked me to a stop and I held my breath, bracing for the rejection I knew was coming-
Then her lips were on mine.
My brain froze as her tongue caressed my lip, her hands winding up around my neck as she stood on her toes. My eyes, which I had failed to close in my shock, caught the way her expression faltered when I didn’t respond. She sank back down, her lips leaving mine cold as she retreated.
“I’m uh-sorry. I just..”
Oh hell no! I surged forward and captured her lips again as one of my hands tangled in her hair and the other gripped her hip. Her small hands gripped my biceps as I bent her backward. The small moan she let out against my lips had to be the most beautiful sound I’d ever heard.
We pulled back a moment later, our breathing labored and the air between us intense as I rested my forehead against hers.
“So, uh yeah. I’ve kinda been wanting to do that for the last three years.” No guts, no glory, I guess.
“Really?” Her voice was high and squeaky as her eyes widened. I nodded shyly, my confidence suddenly wavering as she stared back blankly.
I gingerly unwound my hand from the dark, silky strands of her hair and steadied her as she swayed lightly on her feet.
“Come on. Let’s go.”
We walked silently toward my car, the blank look never leaving her face. Damn it! I blew it. Seriously I was such a spaz sometimes.
I unlocked her door and shut it behind her as she sunk down into the leather seats. As I rounded the front of the car, I sighed in defeat. I never should’ve gone for it, but hell-the filter on my brain went on the fritz when she was around. And especially after that kiss…
My hand shook as I tried to get the damn key in the ignition, but I pulled up short when her small hand appeared in my line of vision.
“Why are you all nervous again?”
I sighed in frustration. Seriously? I tell her I’ve been bullied a lot, that I’ve been wanting to kiss her for years and then she freezes up on me. Why wouldn’t I be nervous?!
“Look I’m sorry that I said that stuff. Hormones. It was nothing.”
Damn it, now she looked upset! Couldn’t this god damned girl make up her mind?! Now I know why they say love takes work.
“What? Why do you look like you’re gonna cry?”
She rolled her eyes and pulled her legs up on the seat. “It didn’t…I mean, it wasn’t nothing. At least to me.”
Uh, excuse me? “Excuse me?” Wow, my filter was totally shot, huh?
“I just…I mean-tonight has been great. Seriously great. I didn’t know how awesome it would be when you showed up at my house. And I kinda..I mean,” her fingers twined around themselves as she wrinkled her nose adorably, “I like you. Like, like like you.”
Brain freeze. Total brain freeze. I’m glad I wasn’t driving because I probably would’ve crashed my baby.
“Well, uh…I mean…I kinda-like you, too.” Articulate man. Seriously, way to go. But her brown eyes sparkled as she raised her eyes to meet mine. “Would you maybe…want to…be uh-wow, this is harder than I thought it would be…wouldyoumaybewanttobemygirlfriend?”
She giggled and my heart skipped a beat. “Yeah. I think I’d like that.”
Wow. So yeah, I’ve got a girlfriend. Way to go me.
x . x . x . x . x
I watched as she climbed her porch steps, my lips still tingling from the good-night kiss, er, kisses we’d shared. She waved shyly as she pulled her front door open and slipped inside and I grinned.
My hands found their way into my pockets as I ambled across her lawn and then mine, my mind humming with everything that had happened.
Mom and Dad peeked their heads out of the office as I let myself in, their faces twisted in hopefulness. I grinned and rolled my eyes at them good naturedly.
“So, how did it go?” Mom was practically quivering with anticipation and I debated trying to draw out the suspense. But nah, I was too excited.
“She’s uh-she’s officially my girlfriend. I’m telling you I’m gonna marry that girl one day. Perfect night.” She squealed, an ear piercing noise that I sincerely hoped Thalia wasn’t capable of making. Her arms wrapped themselves around me as she pulled me down for a kiss. “Oh and Dad?” I peeked around Mom and cocked an eyebrow. “I beat up the guy that’s been harassing her. One less bully to deal with.”
I yanked myself away from Mom as she exploded in frustration. “I told you it wasn’t a good idea to teach him to fight! Coleman, honestly-”
I didn’t stick around to hear the rest of her tirade and shot Dad an apologetic grimace on my way up the stairs.
“I don’t think he did it.”
I glared up at Eric and Godric, who were perched on the stairs above me. “What didn’t I do?”
Eric smirked as they blocked my way. “I bet Godric five bucks that you wouldn’t have the stones to kiss her.”
Wow, lovely brothers I have.
“Oh grow up, dicks!”
Nope, they weren’t budging. Seriously, little brothers were the absolute worst! Ugh, fine.
“Hate to break it to you, Little Bro, but you owe G-man a fiver.” I slapped Godric a high five as I climbed over them, my other hand smacking Eric in the back of the head. His indignant ‘ow’ followed me as I climbed.
“Wait, you’re telling me you actually had the nerve to kiss her?!”
I glanced over my shoulder. “Sure. But it was easy since she kissed me first!”