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As If

Summary:
Kim has had a crush on Jared Lancer for a good solid year, but she's too shy to even look at him. She's doodled "Kimberly Lancer" in all her notebooks. So when Jared starts paying attention to her--in fact, a lot of attention--how is she supposed to react? Chapter three now up!


Notes:
This is actually going to have a couple other chapters, rather than being a oneshot, so look out for updates fairly soon.


3. As If I Could Ever Relax Around Him

Rating 5/5   Word Count 1118   Review this Chapter

Over those weeks, I noticed something. Frequently, as we walked home together, Jared would look over at me, open his mouth, and shut it again, giving a discontented sigh. Something was definitely bothering him, but I wasn’t sure how to ask. I didn’t even know how to make small talk, for goodness’ sake.

Finally one day I managed, “You okay?”

His head jerked up, like I’d startled him from a trance. “Oh. Yeah, I’m fine.” He stuck his hands in his pockets, and we walked another block. “Um, listen, Kim,” Jared said, stopping.

I reluctantly stopped too, standing next to him. I usually tried to keep a little bit more distance than this between us, because I was sure that I was going to start hyperventilating if I didn’t. “Hmm?” I responded, trying to make it sound natural.

“I…” He paused, awkward. “There’s a bonfire out at the First Beach on Saturday.”

I cocked my head; it was easier than words.

“Kim”—another strange thing: just saying my name seemed to give him an awful lot of pleasure—“would you go with me?”

I stared at him for a moment, slack-jawed. It sounded almost like…a date? “I’d…love to,” I said hesitantly, slowly. I wasn’t good at this at all. He must see something in me that I don’t. “When—when is it?” Not to mention incapable of uttering a single sentence without stuttering.

“Saturday,” he repeated carefully.

Crud. I could have just smacked myself for sounding so idiotic. “I know,” I said. “I mean, what time?”

“Can I pick you up at six? It’ll start pretty close to that.”

“That’s…fine.”

Jared grinned broadly. “Great.” He turned to walk away, but then spun back and kissed me on the cheek before jogging off.

I stood there, stunned, touching my cheek. It started to rain, but I didn’t move.

***

The rain came down the entire night, and I had a hard time falling asleep. Normally the sound soothed me.

What if it was still raining on Saturday? I had the sensation that the invitation from Jared was reluctant. I had no idea if I was correct. Maybe it was a pity date-type thing.

Not that it’s exactly an original sentiment, but I wish he were in love with me.

***

Saturday morning, I got up early, took a shower, put my hair in curlers. My mom said, “Honey, what’s wrong with you?”

“Nothing.”

Her eyes narrowed. “It’s a boy, isn’t it? It’s that Jared Lancer.”

I blushed and didn’t say anything. I was looking through my closet for something to wear. I didn’t have much in the way of attractive clothing. I was more the type of girl who went for khakis and polo shirts.

“Where’s he taking you?”

I glanced over my shoulder. “Down to the First Beach.”

“Is anyone else going to be there?”

“Some of his friends from school—Paul Rivers and, um”—I struggled to think of the other names he’d told me—“Embry…Call. And Sam Uley.”

As soon as I said Sam’s name, she relaxed. What was it with him?

“Well, that’s good,” she said decisively.

I found a pair of dark, almost brand new jeans. I had worn them maybe once before. I laid them out of them on my bed and went back to my closet to look for a suitable blouse.

My mother hovered. “I know you said Jared’s in your year…he just looks so much older, you know? Like he’s about twenty-five instead of eighteen.”

I gave her an aggravated look. “Mother,” I rebuked.

“Oh, don’t ‘Mother’ me. I know he’s not.”

I eyed an old sweatshirt speculatively. It was WWF brand, and from a few years ago when I’d gone through a save-the-whales spell.

“That’s cute,” my mom said.

“Don’t you think it’s a little bit…I don’t know, casual?” I asked.

“It’s a bonfire, Kim,” she said. “You’re supposed to dress casual.”

I sighed, put on a tank top, and donned the sweatshirt over it. It was a little pilled on the inside, scratchy. It was still too big for me, too; apparently I hadn’t grown much in three years. Boy, that was discouraging.

“You look nice,” Mom said.

“Thanks,” I said dubiously. Fashion thumbs-ups from one’s mother were never very comforting.

The clock ran in slow motion for the entire day. I made lunch, pizza, which took a while to make, and even that time ticked by slowly. I cleaned my room, even though it was already tidy—because when you have no social life, free time presents itself in alarming quantities—and made my bed.

Then, about thirty minutes before six, panic set in and the clock rushed ahead. What if he didn’t come? Worse yet, what if he came, took one look at me and said, “Well, you’re obviously a waste of time, I’ll be going now”? I buried my face in my hands and waited in my bedroom.

I suppose that I must have been listening for the rumble of an engine, because when the doorbell rang I jumped.

I heard my mother say, “Jared. It’s nice to see you again—how are your parents? Please come in…”

I bolted into the front room. Jared was sitting on one side of the loveseat, and judging by the conspiratorial wink my mother gave me as I entered the room, he was there purposefully.

“Hi,” I said softly.

His head turned and he gave me a wide smile and stood. “Hey, Kim,” he said.

I suddenly wished that I were wearing something infinitely more fashionable, like a summer dress or a fancy blouse or something.

“Can I get you anything, Jared?” my mom asked. “Soda, water…”

“I’d love to, Mrs. Bradley”—how he knew my and my mother’s surname was beyond me, unless he’d gone and looked me up in the school register—“but Emily always insists on cooking for stuff like this.”

I threw him a grateful glance; I was fairly tight-strung and was fairly anxious for the wheels to start spinning, so that I couldn’t chicken out. “Shouldn’t we probably be going?” I asked.

“Sure,” he said—for once, he’d said less than I had.

We said goodbye to my mother and began the walk there. I opened my mouth once, thinking to ask if he had a car, but realized that it would probably be pretty rude, and was quiet again.

I wondered if I was ever going to be able to be the one to break the silence.