I Bet You (Page 9)
“Come on, man,” he says as we walk out of the field house. “What’s so bad about the bet? I don’t think she hates you. There’s something between you and her already.”
I frown. “No, there isn’t.”
I give him side-eye and he shrugs. “What? Everybody thinks I don’t notice s**t because I’m spastic, but it looked pretty steamy behind that plant before she dumped the water on you. She was into you.” He sighs as we walk to the parking lot to get in our cars. “Besides, wouldn’t it be awesome to get one over on Archer? It would bug the s**t out of him.”
I get to my black Chevy truck and unlock it with the clicker.
He watches me. “Dude, take one for the team. Ask her out again. Hell, you never know, you might really like her.”
“Nope. Not interested.” I motion to the passenger side. “Now, do you need a ride to class or what? You don’t need to miss that upper level psych class. I saw the F you got on your paper. Focus, man—we need to keep those grades up. What if the NFL doesn’t work out?”
“Yes, Mom, I’m going to class.” He exhales and gets in the truck. “I just don’t see why you won’t at least play along.”
“Football isn’t fun and games,” I tell him as I crank the vehicle. “It’s serious s**t and we can’t screw it up. The draft is coming, and everyone’s watching us.”
“You thought the ketchup was fun.”
“You like annoying her,” he adds in a singsong voice.
We pull out of the parking lot, and I should be thinking about my next class, but in the back of my mind I’m still replaying Archer’s wager in my head.
I bet you can’t score that girl before homecoming.
I’m standing in my kitchen, about to feed my bird when my phone pings with a text from an unknown number. I set the food down and study the message.
Hey, you there? I want to talk.
Hmmm. I study the text. Talk? Well, that sounds serious and it’s obviously from someone who gets straight to the point. No bullshit—I like it. Studying the number, it seems vaguely familiar, but I can’t put my finger on it. My brow wrinkles. It’s the prefix for this area, so it could be anyone around Magnolia.
I shrug. Unknown texts can be intriguing. Once I got a series of messages about the best toga party on campus, and Charisma and I ended up asking for the address and crashing. It was out on a farm in the middle of a field, and there was free chardonnay—albeit, not the best, but I’ll drink any kind of white wine. To this day, Charisma claims to have hooked up with some guy in the barn who blew her mind. Too bad she was too drunk to recall his name…
Anyway. Fun things can happen when you eavesdrop on someone’s texts.
Talk about what? I reply.
It’s better if we do this face to face. I got your address from someone in class. Would you mind if I dropped by? I need to see you.
I need to see you. I make a whistling noise under my breath. Oh, that’s a tantalizing phrase, and it makes my romantic heart jump. It’s so…emotional. Is this a guy or a girl texting? With the brevity of words and straight-to-the-point way of speaking, I’m guessing male. It’s likely a college guy since he mentioned class, and obviously they don’t know each other well since he had to ask where she lives…hmmm… My head pictures a lonely guy who’s just trying to make things right with a girl.
But what if it’s the mob and this is a lure so a hitman can kill the snitch who’s squealed to the police? Maybe “face to face” really means I’m going to whack you.
Too much Dateline, Penelope.
I’m fascinated as I pace around the kitchen. I decide to indulge my curiosity and text him back.
What do you want to talk about? Just text it. I want to know all the things!
There’s a pause, and I wonder what he’s thinking. What if this issue is a big deal to him? Worry p****s at me, and I feel guilty for being nosy.
Are you okay? I send.
His reply arrives fast. Just a shitty day, but this isn’t about me. Look, I’m sorry for what happened between us. I want to make it up to you.
How will you make it up to me? I ask, excitement curling. Type it here. Because this girl is dying to know.
My mom always said I was too curious for my own good and it’s landed me in trouble plenty of times, but I can’t resist prying away layers to get to the heart of the matter. It’s part of who I am. Maybe it’s what pushes me to be a writer, to get all those emotions out and bounce them around to see what they can do.
He hasn’t replied after several beats, and my conscience tugs at me again. I waffle about coming clean just as another text comes in.
What do you want? he says.
You, I send, biting my lip. What if I read this scenario completely wrong? Have I screwed everything up and given myself away?
Me? Are you sure?
Yes, I reply.
I mean, I could be wrong and this isn’t a boy/girl love thing, but what if I’m not? I’m committed to seeing how this plays out now. Romance must always win! is my motto.
There are three dots on my screen for several moments, as if the person on the other end is typing and deleting his response over and over.
Come on, I think, clutching the phone in anticipation.
You can’t handle me, babe, is his reply.
Babe? My eyes widen. Oh. This is a bad, bad boy. And his words send a buzz right through me.
He sends another. Let’s talk about this in person. Do you mind if I come by your house tonight? 8:00 PM?
I study the words. Well, technically, I’ll be at my sorority meeting and then off to dinner with some pledges, so…what’s the harm? Maybe I’ll reunite two people who obviously need to talk.
Before I can reply, another message appears.
You see right through me and don’t take my s**t, he replies. I dig that.
Oh, wow, he’s getting sweet? I grab a raspberry sucker from the drawer next to the fridge and pop it in my mouth.
I believe you. We can work this out, I send happily and then announce aloud, “Call me Dr. Phil, people. I’m saving a relationship somewhere.”
Can’t wait to see you, I send. Wait…was that too much? Nah. See you at 8.
Got it, is his reply.
I set my phone down and focus on my bird, a pretty African Grey parrot who’s been watching me the entire time, his small pale yellow eyes going from me to the box of Ritz crackers on the counter.
“Jock is today’s word, Vampire Bill,” I tell him as I approach his cage by the bay window. “I know, normally I have harder words of the day, but a certain person named Ryker has been on my mind and he’s a real a*****e.”
I recall the episode at Sugar’s and my chest hurts. Not to mention I saw him today in my upper level calculus class, one we unfortunately share. He attempted to speak to me in the hall before class started, but I sidestepped him, dashed into the room, and plopped myself between two people so he couldn’t sit near me. As soon as the bell rang at the end of class, I was up and darting out of my seat.
Whatever. I don’t care what he wants to say. He’s already done and said enough.
I push my fingers into the cage and give Vampire Bill an encouraging scratch on his head. He’s a small fellow by parrot standards, a runt really, only weighing about half a pound. One of his wings is also slightly smaller than the other. His beak is black and surprisingly delicate considering what a little pig he is when he eats.