I stood before the mirror and sighed at my reflection. The yellow floral romper dress hugged my curves and accented the little tan that I had left after summer ended.
My hair lay over my thin shoulders delicately as each curl twisted above my collar bone. I slipped on my gladiator sandals and headed down the stairs into the living room.
My mom was bent over the sink eating left over pasta from the night before and I smiled softly at her. She didn’t notice I was in her presence until I tapped her on the shoulder. She jumped with a gasp of surprise and twirled in my direction.
My mothers long dark hair whipped across her naturally tanned face and she sighed once she noticed it was me. With a brush of her hand the hair was back in its rightful place behind her ear.
“Nina, you startled me.” She sized up my outfit and smiled. “Going on a date tonight?”
I laughed and shook my head. “No ma, im just going out to dinner with Alex and a few of his friends.”
My mom raised her eyebrow and tossed the empty bowl into the dishwasher. “Alex, huh? It’s been a while since he has been over here to see me. What’s he been up to lately?”
“He’s been touring with his band. He has obligations now, he isn’t the small town boy we grew up with.” I paused while choosing my next words carefully. “He is... different now.”
“Well I’m glad you are going out tonight, you need time out with friends.” She wiggled her eyebrows suggestively and I groaned inwardly.
“He has a girlfriend mother, so please when he comes to pick me up will you relax on the ‘date’ thing?”
She held up her hands and smirked. “My lips are sealed.”
As if on que the door bell rang and mom glanced at me with a mischievous smile creeping onto her face. We raced to the door and she just happened to toss her heal in my direction causing me stumble and fall on the hardwood floor.
She opened the door and Alex smiled down at her. “Ms. Reignaldi, it’s nice to see you again.”
Mom giggled and stepped aside to reveal me sprawled out on the floor silently cursing her dress shoe. I glanced up at the two of them staring at me and acted as if I had dropped the back to my earring. Feeling around the floor awkwardly while lying on my stomach I smiled and grasped at the invisible clasp.
“Oh! I found it.” I pushed myself up from the floor and sighed while straightening out my dress casually.
Alex cleared his throat to cover the awkward silence and nodded to my mother. “It was very nice to see you again, Ms. Reignaldi but we better be going.”
I inwardly thanked him for the out and smiled to my mom. “Right, see you later Ma.”
Alex took a hold of my hand and we made our way out to his car.
“You really didn’t have to come pick me up, I could have driven to the restaurant.”
He smirked and opened the passenger door for me. “Are you crazy? And miss a moment like that? Never.”
I laughed self consciously and slid into the leather seat of his BMW. I watched as he skipped around the front of his car and into the drivers seat easily. He was dressed in a pair of dark skinny jeans and a button down red, black, and grey shirt.
We pealed out of the driveway and ‘You and Me’ (the acoustic version) by the Dave Matthews Band played softly in the background.
“Wow, I didn’t think you listened to this type of music.” I stated as a-matter-of-factly.
“Really? Well, there’s a lot you don’t know about me Aria.” There was a hint of a smile in his voice and I could help but stiffen when his hand cupped mine gently.
“Yes, you are getting more mysterious every day, Alex. Let me tell you about it.”
Alex squeezed my hand playfully and sighed. “Your sarcasm was duly noted, Red.”
My heart beat quickened at the sound of my childhood nickname and I smiled to myself softly. “Wow Gaskarth, playing the nickname card. You must really want this to go well tonight.”
“I just want you to be as comfortable as possible, Ar.” He glanced over at me and I thought I caught a glimpse of worry in his eyes.
“What are you not telling me?”
Alex focused on the road and shook his head. “I don’t know what you are talking about.”
“Bull crap, Jack is going to be there isn’t he?”
His posture stiffened and he laughed awkwardly. “Jack? Barakat? Why would he be there, at the restaurant, with us..to eat?”
“Alex, why didn’t you tell me Jack was going to be there?” I hissed as he pulled into the parking lot of Olive Garden.
He turned in his seat so his body was facing me and he sighed apologetically. “I knew that if I told you Jack was going to be here then you wouldn’t come with me tonight.”
I started to say something but he placed his hand over my mouth roughly.
“Please, let me finish.”
Once he was fully convinced that I wouldn’t interrupt him he went on. “I really wanted you to come tonight because it’s been forever since we have hung out and I really missed you Aria.”
I sighed down at my lap and looked up at Alex’s pleading face. His dark brown eyes gazed into mine and I couldn’t help but crack a smile.
He reached over the seat and hugged me tightly. “Thank you, Ar. You are the absolute best friend a guy could ever have.”
I laughed and hugged him back. “You really missed me?”
Alex nodded and turned off the ignition. “Of course I did, babe. You know you are my everything.”
Just hearing those words come out of Alex’s mouth made all the anxiety about seeing Jack disappear. That is, until we met the group at our table.
The members of All Time Low were sitting on one side with Marcie, Alex’s girlfriend. John Oh’ from the Maine was sitting on the other side. I sat on the empty seat next to John Oh and Alex sat on the other side of him across from Marcie.
Jack Barakat was only inches away from me and I could feel him staring at the top of my head as I was bent over texting Brighten.
Awkward: Sitting across from Barakat and diagonal from Marcie.
I slid my phone into my pocket and took a long drink of my iced raspberry tea John Oh had ordered for me.
He leaned over so his mouth was pressed up against my ear and whispered, “Do you want to trade me seats? I know how awkward this is for you.”
I smiled easily and shook my head. “No, its alright. But thanks anyway.”
I glanced over at Jack who was laughing with Rien and Zack. I suddenly became nauseous and regretted declining John Oh’s offer of switching seats. I didn’t want the boys to think I was trying to run away from John by switching John Oh seats and I diffidently didn’t want them to think I was trying to be closer to Alex.
This was going to be a fun night.
The dinner seemed to go on for hours and I just hid behind my plate of Alfredo. I pushed the soggy noodles around on my plate and sighed as Alex kept up the conversation at the table. At the moment the topic was of their concert in Germany and how all the German girls flocked Jack after the show.
John Oh glanced over at me and my full plate of pasta. “You haven’t even taken a bite of your food.”
I placed my hand over my stomach and sighed. “I’m just not feeling to well, I think im coming down with something.”
He placed a hand over my forehead and his brows furrowed with concern. “You do feel a bit warm, do you want me to take you home?”
I nodded and he announced to the table that he was driving me home and he would just go home afterwards. A chorus of ‘get wells’ and an eye roll from Barakat followed us out of the restaurant.
I trailed behind John Oh out to the parking lot and he glanced back at me. “Are you cold?”
I nodded and began to say that it was fine but he took off his jacket and placed it on my shoulders gently. I smiled softly as he opened the passenger door to his Volvo and I slid in easily.
In a maximum of three minutes we were out of the parking lot and onto the interstate.
“You’re going to have to help me with finding your house, its been a while since I have been there.” John Oh said while turning on his brights.
“Alex.” My mind wondered to how he ignored me at dinner even after he told me he wanted me there and how much he had missed me while they were on tour.
“Excuse me?” John Oh asked while pulling up to my house. I shook my head and smiled over at him.
“Nothing, this is my house.” He turned off the car and he walked me up to the door. My moms car wasn’t in the driveway and I assumed she was over at one of her friends house and I would have the house to myself tonight.
“Thank you, for taking me home.” I said while sliding off his jacket. I held it in his direction but he held up his hand and shook his head.
“It was my pleasure, and keep it, you never know when you will get cold again.”
I smiled gently and tucked the jack under my arm. “It’s getting pretty late, I better get inside.”
“Are you home alone tonight?”
I glanced up at his face and nodded. “Yeah, my mom’s out.”
Worry shadowed his perfectly tanned face. “You should call her, you don’t need to be home alone when you’re sick.”
“You could stay here if you want, it is pretty late.”
He was silent for a moment as he stared at me thoughtfully and then he nodded. “It would be easier just to stay here and go home in the morning.”
I nodded in agreement and opened the front door.
“Come in, then.”
I slipped off my shoes and flipped on the lights in the foyer. John Oh followed suit and trailed behind me as I made my way to the kitchen.
“Your house is cute, this is the type of house I want when I get out of college.” He studied the pictures on the wall of my mom and I.
“I don’t see your dad in any of these, what happened there?”
I grabbed two waters out of the fridge and set them on the counter. “He died when I was two, he was in the army.”
John Oh walked over to me and sighed. “I’m sorry, you must miss him a lot.”
I shrugged my shoulders. “You cant really miss somebody you don’t remember.”
I glanced down at my dress and John took a swig of his water. “I better go change out of these clothes. My brother has some things upstairs that he left when he went off to college. You can try them on and see if they fit you.”
He nodded and I ran up the stairs and into the security of my bed room. I slipped off my dress and pulled my phone out of the pocket.
I noticed I had one voice mail and two text messages. I opened the first text from Brighten.
Wow, that sucks. Haha have fun.
I laughed and shook my head. What are best friends for, right?
I opened the remaining text from my mom, wont be home till morning. Love you Nina.
I sighed and shut my phone saving the voice mail for later. I raided my drawers for something appropriate to wear besides my normal big t-shirt. I decided on a pair of floral pajama shorts and a plain v-neck t-shirt. I tossed my hair up into a messy bun and opened my phone to play the voice mail.
“You have one unheard message. First, unheard message. ‘Hey Aria, it’s me Alex. I saw John Oh took you home tonight. Sorry I couldn’t say goodbye but I hope you will forgive me somehow. Get well, Red. Later’.”
I just stood there, my mouth agape as my best friends voice disappeared. “To delete this message press-“
I pressed 7 and tossed my phone onto my bed. I wasn’t going to worry about Alex tonight, I wasn’t going to worry about Alex at all.
I made my way down stairs to find John Oh sitting on the couch watching Disney Channel. I smirked and sat down next to him on the leather couch.
“I didn’t see you as the ‘Hannah Montana’ type.”
John Oh laughed and turned to me. He had on a pair of my brothers basketball shorts and a University of Southern California t-shirt. The shirt was a bit sung on him really defining his muscles and I suddenly felt self conscious in my floral PJ’s.
“Don’t judge. It’s a new season.” He smiled and handed me the remote. “Sick people get to pick the show, it’s a rule.”
I laughed and swung my legs over the side of the couch. “Since when?”
He shrugged and smiled dimly. “Right now.”
I shook my head and crawled over to the movie bin. “Do you want to watch Step Up 1&2 or The Hills Have Eyes?”
John Oh thought it over for a minute and finally came up with a conclusion. “Silent Hill of course, who doesn’t want to be scared to death at 12 in the morning?”
I laughed and put the DVD in the player. The opening credits appeared on the screen and I took my place back on the couch next to John Oh. He pulled me close to him so my head was lying on his perfectly toned chest and I smiled softly.
“I hope you don’t mind.” His voice was soft as the movie started. I shook my head slightly and sighed.
“Not at all.”
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