Bree Taylor was captain of the junior varsity volleyball team; wrote for the high school paper, Hawk Nation; just got cast as Desdemona in Othello; and she was staring at him. Her silky blond curls fell across her face, obscuring her honey brown eyes, every time she leaned over to whisper to Grace. Then she would mindlessly tuck the curls behind her ear as she looked back at him.
It was highly distracting. What could she possibly want from him?
“Excuse me, Miss Taylor, but what you like to share your thoughts with the rest of the class, or is your message just for Mr. Malone as he seems to be the sole focus on your attention?” Mr. Larson paused in front of Bree’s desk waiting for a response.
Bree looked over at Joey one more time and winked, then looked back to Mr. Larson and smiled, “No, Mr. Larson, I don’t have anything I’d like to share…with you.”
Mr. Larson looked between Bree and Joey one last time before moving on with his lesson. Joey turned red to the tips of his ears. He didn't like being the center of attention, unlike his twin brother Marcus who always wanted to be in the spotlight.
Joey bolted out the door as soon as class was done and made a beeline for his locker. He wanted to avoid any more attention from Mr. Larson or Bree.
“Hey man, where’s the fire?” Seth skidded to a stop next to Joey’s locker.
Joey shrugged, “Just don’t want to be late to algebra again. Mrs. Eden says I’ll be enjoying an hour of detention if I can’t show up on time.”
“That sucks, but I got something that will cheer you up,” Seth wiggled his eyebrows suggestively. “So, Grace stopped me after class and said her and Bree want to meet up with us after school. She didn't say why, but I think Bree wants to hook up with you.”
Joey gave a half-smile. “Yeah maybe, or she wants to give me some great hair tips to fix my terrible bed head,” Joey said, running his hands through his shaggy brown hair to no avail.
Seth laughed. “Whatever, man. I’m heading to class I’ll see you after school.”
Joey grabbed his books and ran off to algebra, all of a sudden dreading the end of school. As he reached the door, he considered hanging back and getting detention for being tardy. Then he wouldn't have to meet up with the girls after school. His parents would be disappointed though, so at the last second he stepped through the door and took his seat.
The final bell rang, and Joey left class as if he were heading to the gallows. He took each step deliberately slow, hoping there’d be no one to meet up with when he left the building, except his sister, Deirdre, who was driving him home.
No such luck. Joey spotted them leaning against the wall heading to the parking lot as soon as he stepped outside. The sun shone on her golden curls, illuminating them like a halo around her head. She certainly looked like an angel with her red lips, smooth pale complexion, and white dress flowing in the breeze. What could someone like her possibly want with someone like him, he wondered for the second time today.
He knew the moment she spotted him. She tilted her head and waved him over, smiling all the while. Joey took a steadying breath then jogged over.
“Hey, what’s up?” he asked the group, looking at Seth, Grace, and Bree equally.
“Just chatting up the girls who've been waiting for you,” Seth replied.
“Have you heard about Cody’s party on Friday?” Bree asked.
“Sure,” Joey said even though he hadn't. “Isn't he a junior?”
“Yeah, he’s friends with my brother, Trevor, so I got an invite, and I thought you’d like to come with me,” Bree said batting her lashes at him.
“Why?” Joey asked.
“I mean why me?” he added.
Bree smiled again. “Oh, because you’re cute and kind of sweet. I thought it’d be fun to hang out together and a party is a good place for that. Don’t you think?”
Joey gulped down his apprehension. “Um, sure,” he said. “Are Seth and Grace coming with us?”
Bree looked over at them. Obviously they had not been part of her plan. “Yeah, why not? The party will be fun for them too.”
Grace squealed and Seth did a little fist pump in the air, both happy to have been invited to the party.
“Do you have a cell?” Bree asked.
“Yes,” Joey said, pulling it out of his pocket.
Bree took his phone from him, touching his hand a little longer than was comfortable for Joey. She programmed her number into his contacts and handed it back.
“Text me on Friday and I’ll give you the details,” she said, then waved over her shoulder as she headed out into the parking lot to find her brother.
Seth hugged Joey, then pushed him away. “I can’t believe you got us an invite to Cody’s party!”
Joey gave a half-smile. “Yeah, me neither.”
“This is awesome, Joey. You haven’t hooked up with a girl since seventh grade when Maddy dumped you after two weeks because you wouldn't even hold her hand. Now you’re going to a party with Bree Taylor, the hottest girl in our class and definitely into more than hand holding. I hope you’re ready for this,” Seth said, grinning from ear to ear. “You lucky dog.”
“That’s me, a lucky dog. I got to go, though. Deirdre’s waiting for me,” he said, turning quickly and walking toward the sea of cars.
“Alright, I’ll see you tomorrow, man. We’ll talk then,” Seth said, starting to walk home.
Marcus grabbed Joey from behind. “Hey bro. I saw you talking to Bree. Was she asking about me?”
Joey shook his head.
“What’d she want?” Marcus asked.
“To invite me to Cody’s party,” Joey said with a shrug.
“You’re going to Cody’s party with Bree Taylor. Why?” he asked incredulously.
“I have no idea, but I wish it was you instead of me,” Joey said.
“Me too! At least that would make sense. I’m popular, a football player, the only freshman hanging out with the varsity team, and you’re, well, you,” Marcus said. “No offense.”
“None taken,” Joey replied.
They both just shook their heads in confusion and walked the rest of the way to Deirdre’s car in silence.