Crush, p.7
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       Crush, p.7

           Lacey Weatherford

  Chapter Four


  My hand trembled as I reached for the doorknob after the knock sounded. I took a steadying breath and tried to appear normal as I swung it open.

  “Hey, Clay,” I said casually. That was as far as I got. My jaw fell open, and I quickly snapped it shut.

  He was completely transformed. His blond hair was no longer slicked back, instead styled to perfection in the latest messy trend. He wasn’t wearing his glasses, and due to the extreme, startling, blue shade of his eyes, I quickly gathered he’d gotten contacts. There wasn’t an ounce of plaid anywhere on his body—instead he was wearing a blue t-shirt in a shade that only further complimented his eyes and his newly-trimmed physique. His jeans were a dark indigo, slung low on his hips, and a pair of black checkerboard vans completed the ensemble.

  He chuckled. “You look amazing,” he said as his eyes drifted over the short, green, halter summer dress I was wearing, along with a pair of matching sandals.

  “Um, so do you. What happened?” I shook my head. “That didn’t come out like I meant. I mean . . . I never knew you cared about being fashionable.”

  He shrugged. “I decided it was time for a change, so I’ve been saving up some money for it. I’ve been trying to slowly switch things up, just to see if you would notice but then after today I was tired of waiting.”

  I wasn’t sure what to say. He looked great, but not like my Clay either. “Well, you look . . . good.”

  He shifted a little and glanced away for a second as if he were uncomfortable. “So, you ready to go?”

  “Yeah, just let me grab my sweater really quick in case it gets chilly later.” I went to get it off the couch. “Mom, I’m heading out with Clay now,” I called.

  She appeared and came to give me a kiss. “Have a good time. Be home by midnight. Love you.”

  “I will. Love you too.”

  I left the house, and Clay walked me to his old, white VW Rabbit, pausing to open the door. I slid in. “Thank you,” I mumbled under my breath.

  I couldn’t remember him ever doing this for me before. Something had definitely changed. I thought back to our tickle fight beside the pool today and felt a little sick. I didn’t want things to be different between us. I was happy with the way they were. I was beginning to think my mom was right. Clay liked me.

  “Oh, shoot!” I exclaimed as I glanced down, realizing I’d forgotten my purse.

  “What is it?” he asked.

  “I left my bag on the couch. I need my money for dinner and the movie.” I moved, intending to get out.

  “No worries. This is my treat.” He smiled.

  “Wait!” I heard my mom. She came running from the house with my handbag. “You forgot this, Cami! Hi, Clay. You look nice tonight,” she added, giving him the once over.

  He blushed a little and glanced away. “Thanks,” he mumbled.

  “Here you go, sweetie,” Mom said, handing me my purse.

  My relief was palpable. “Thank you. I just realized. I didn’t want to make Clay pay for everything. It defeats the whole point of going Dutch, right?” I laughed nervously hoping I didn’t sound stupid while I tried to make him understand we were not on a date.

  My mom looked at me curiously. “Okay. Have fun!” She stepped back to the curb and Clay shut my door.

  I clutched my bag tightly as I watched him walk around the car. I felt like I’d been cast in a role for a horror spot in Invasion of the Body Snatchers. My BFF had suddenly disappeared, replaced with someone who sort of looked like him, but this person had designs on me. I was having a hard time coming to terms with it. It was impossible to just wake up one morning and decide you weren’t a science nerd anymore, but a jock instead. The social ladder didn’t work that way—did it?

  Clay slid into his seat and started the car. “I think I’ll replace this beater-mobile next. What do you think about that? Maybe get a sports car . . . like a Mustang or something.”

  “Who are you?” I asked, unable to keep it to myself anymore. “Why are you doing all this? And I like your car! We have good memories in it. Where would you get that kind of money anyway? Buying a car is a lot different than saving up for contacts.”

  “It doesn’t have to be brand new. There are nice, used cars out there, Cami.” He sounded frustrated. “Besides, I thought you’d like all of this. You were the one who inspired it.”

  “How?” His remark surprised me.

  “Don’t you remember the day those guys were picking on me in class? You told me not to listen to them because they couldn’t see how wonderful I really was. You said it was up to me to be what I wanted. Well, this is what I want to be—someone girls will notice, and people will want to hang out with. Sure, I’m good at school—really good. I can get a blue ribbon at any science fair, but I don’t want to just be smart. I want to look good doing it. I want to have more friends—not that you won’t always be my best friend—but I’m tired of sitting on the sidelines and watching life happen to everyone else. So I made some changes. I thought you’d be pleased.” He glanced over, a hurt expression on his face.

  “Clay, I think you look amazing, but I did before too,” I said softly.

  “You did?” He glanced at me with a hopeful expression.

  I nodded. “I’ve known you since we were five. You’re like my favorite brother who I adore.”

  His jaw clenched. He put the car into gear and headed off down the road without speaking.

  I felt my hands trembling, wishing he would say something, but hoping he wouldn’t either.

  “I never wanted to be your brother, Cami.”

  Biting my bottom lip, I turned away to look out the window and blinked back the tears, which threatened. I hated hurting him. I wasn’t sure what else to say, so I didn’t say anything as we drove the rest of the way to the restaurant.

  Dinner was brutal. We ate mostly in silence. It didn’t matter that we were at our favorite mom and pop diner, Francesca’s, eating our favorite burgers and crispy French fries. Everything tasted like sawdust in my mouth, so I just sat and stirred my thick, strawberry shake while I watched Clay texting madly on his phone to someone.

  “Who you talking to?” I finally asked.

  “Marcy,” he replied shortly.

  I felt a sudden burst of relief. Maybe he didn’t like me in that way after all.

  “Let me see your phone.” I gestured for him to hand it to me, but he pulled back. “Give it to me. I want to take a picture of you so you can send it to her. She needs to see how hot you look tonight.”

  A slow grin crossed his face, and he slumped back into his chair. “You think I look hot?”

  I nodded. “Yes, and don’t move. The slouch you’re sitting in is perfect.”

  He pushed a button and slid the phone across the table. “Here you go.” He’d already pulled up the camera.

  “Okay, give me some sexy smolder.”

  He laughed and pursed his lips together. “Not duck face!” I groaned. “Sexy smolder. You know, you’re looking at that gorgeous girl who you always wanted and you’re thinking, “Come to me, baby.”

  His look changed immediately and instantly there it was, smolder. Wow, he could actually do it. I snapped the picture and handed the phone back.

  “Here you go. Marcy’s gonna love that!”

  His expression fell a little, but he glanced at the picture anyway. A small grin crossed his face. “Thanks, Cami. I like it. You’re a good photographer even when you don’t have your big camera.”

  “Thanks. I love photography. It’s always fun in the dark room, watching the pictures develop.”

  “Maybe you can show me sometime,” he said, staring at the image on his phone. “I’m gonna message this to you so you can put it as my contact photo.”

  “Sweet. Sounds good.” I pulled my cell out and waited for the text to pop in.

  “Aren’t you hungry tonight?” he asked, motioning to my barely-touched food.

  I shook m
y head. “Not really. I’ve just had a nervous stomach for some reason. Don’t worry, I’ll get some snacks at the movie theater if I need to.”

  He shrugged. “Suit yourself.” He tossed several bills onto the table. “I’ve got dinner tonight.”

  “No really, Clay. Let me get my own. You said yourself you wanted to save for a new car.”

  “I’m paying for dinner,” he said in a no-nonsense voice.

  “All right. I’ll leave the tip then.” I put a few dollars next to his. “Thanks.”

  He nodded abruptly and quickly stood and headed for the door. I sighed, not happy that we seemed to be back at awkward again. I’d been hopeful there for a few minutes.

  I watched him walk to his car, but I headed toward the restrooms instead to check my lip-gloss, teeth, and pop a breath mint. Thankfully the movie was next. We wouldn’t have to do a lot of talking there.

  Smoothing my hands over my dress, I gave a sigh and turned to go.

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