“Hey, Josh.” Brittney Stinnet, one of the popular girls from my grade, smiled up at me as I left Simmie’s coffee house.
I stopped and looked over at her. “Oh, hey.”
She kept smiling at me, but it wasn’t an innocent one. Actually, if I had to put a name to it, I’d call her smile seductive. “You know, you make it really hard for a girl.”
“What?” I frowned. What the hell was she talking about?
“It’s impossible to catch your eye.” Her lips formed a little pout. “You never pay attention to anyone.”
“Oh, I guess I’ve just been busy. School and baseball and all,” I said lamely.
“Hmm. Well,” she said, somehow perky and flirty at the same time, “I finally decided I’d just have to make the first move.”
“Move?” I blinked dumbly at her. I felt like she was about five minutes a head of me – I was just slightly behind on what the hell was going on.
“Mm-hmm. Why don’t you take me out on Friday? We could catch a movie.”
I looked at her. Ran my eyes over her. She really was very pretty. And very different from Alison. Blond and long-haired and filling out her top very well…
I started to tell her no. I didn’t care about her, or really even know her. But Alison was evidently having a great time with her new boyfriend. Why shouldn’t I take someone out, too?
Slowly, I smiled. “Yeah, Brittney. That sounds great.”
I was doing my homework at the dining table when the doorbell rang. I looked up and saw Nora behind the glass.
Smiling, I got up and walked over to let her in. “Hey, Nora. What’s up?”
She came in and immediately dropped down onto the couch. “I am three thousand percent done with Josh.”
I sat down next to her. “What’s going on?”
“You know Josh moved in with our dad, right?”
“Yeah, Mom told us. Aunt Hadley told her a while ago.” She had come over one Saturday. I’d never seen her upset before – definitely never like this.
“Well, now he’s gone and gotten this horrible girlfriend.”
I waited a moment for her to go on. When she didn’t, I said, “I mean…and?”
Nora gave me a look. “She’s bad, Loralee. Everyone knows she’ll spread her legs for anyone.”
“Nora!” I was torn between a gasp and a laugh. It was definitely new to hear her talk like that. Nora had always seemed so conservative, a lot like her mother. “Even if this girl is easy, it’s not really our business, is it? Alison’s got a boyfriend. Josh can have a girlfriend.”
She groaned “It’s not just Brittney. He’s living with Dad.” She sighed softly. “He and dad haven’t gotten along for years. They would fight all the time when Mom made him stay over there, and now he’s moved in? I just don’t get why he’s so pissed at Carter.”
“I don’t know, Nor. Maybe he just needs some space. He’ll probably cool off and move back home soon.”
Nora sighed and shrugged. “I just hate how messed up everything is all of a sudden.”
I wasn’t sure exactly how to respond to that, but, fortunately, Nora quickly changed the subject. After talking for a little longer, she headed home.
I got to my feet and wandered upstairs. For some reason, I couldn’t get my mind off of Josh and his father. I knew that their relationship wasn’t good, of course. Josh and I had known each other my entire life. There are things you just find out over the years. And I’d never given it any thought. But, now, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Or, really, not even them. It was my relationship I couldn’t stop thinking about.
I walked over to my dresser and looked at the one picture I had of my father. A few years ago, when I was eleven or twelve, I’d thought I should at least have a picture of my father, so I’d asked Mama for it. As I stared at it, I remembered the run-in at Simmie’s. He was like a complete stranger to me.
For the first time, I didn’t feel entirely comfortable with that.