I can’t get over how weird yesterday was. I mean, it started because I can’t stand to see a girl cry. When Ziah was all teary and mopey, I did the only thing any guy would—I tried to distract her so the tears would stop. I’m not the best with the whole opening up thing, but I figured pizza always works with me. So I gave it a shot.
And it actually wasn’t so bad.
Not like I think we’re friends or anything, but for a little while, I actually forgot I was just trying to distract her. Granted, today I’ll do everything in my power to make myself remember it was just distraction. She’s still the angry chick whose sister is ripping my brother away from me. And who also has an idiot of an ex-boyfriend.
“Lil D! Open up.” Something pounds against my bedroom door.
“Go away!” I yell back at Derrick. I’m still pissed at him about this whole thing, and honestly, I’m not even sure what to say to him anymore. It’s weird hanging out with him now, and I never expected it to be like that.
“No.” He pushes inside.
“Don’t make me kick your ass again.”
He laughs, and I roll over to ignore him. “Come on. Get dressed. We’re hanging out for a while.”
I look up to see he’s already dressed in a pair of cargo shorts and a button up shirt. “Oh, so you have time for me today? You pried your lips away from Lora long enough to talk with your brother?” Still, I find myself pushing up and getting out of bed.
Derrick rolls his eyes. “Grow up and come on. You’re acting like a five-year-old.”
I choose to ignore that. This is his fault, not mine. Once I’m in my bathroom, I strip and take a quick shower. When I’m ready, I jog down the stairs, half expecting to see Derrick and Lora surgically re-attached, but luckily, she’s not here.
“So what’s up? Why do you suddenly have time for me?”
Derrick groans. “Seriously, you’re starting to piss me off.”
I grab an apple out of the bowl and take a bite. “What a coincidence. You’re doing the same thing to me.”
He doesn’t reply, but grabs his keys off the counter. I follow him, eating the apple as we go. I’ll never admit it, but I’m excited to spend the day with him. I’m so over all this wedding stuff and just want to pretend things are the way they used to be.
We head to the driving range, which may sound like something eighty-year-olds do, but golfing is the shit. When Dad makes time for us, that’s almost always what we do.
Over two buckets of balls, we challenge each other to see who can drive the farthest. Once we’re out of balls, we head to the pizza place, and I pray to God they don’t tell him I was here with Ziah yesterday. I don’t know why, but I don’t want him to know I actually don’t hate her guts. It might come in handy later.
Luckily, Hank’s at lunch, which is ironic as hell, if you ask me, since he works at a pizza place. We have our specialty, drink way too much soda, and then I beat him at a few video games. It feels like old times.
I can almost forget there’s a Ziah or a Lora. I can pretend he’s just here on break and not taking time off from school. I can forget that the one person who was there for me when our family fell apart has hardly had the time of day for me. I can almost forget that I’ve ever doubted the Gibson Boys.
Right now, it’s still just us, and nothing is going to tear us apart like it did when I was younger.
“Where do you want to go next?” Derrick asks as we drive through town.
“I don’t know.” It makes me sound like a p**sy, but I suddenly want to think of something else so we can keep hanging out. “Wanna hit the mall? Dad’s birthday is coming up. We need to get him something.”
Derrick nods as he pulls onto the freeway. The car is quiet for a few minutes before he says, “Listen, Dyl, I wanted to talk to you about something real quick.”
“Yeah?” I ask, flipping with the knobs, just assuming it’s going to be something stupid.
“Lora’s having a really hard time with Ziah being so against the wedding, and you treating her like you do… She thinks you don’t like her or something. I was thinking—”
I fight a groan. “That you’d hang out with me like old times just to suck up before you pounce on me to make your girl feel better?” I shake my head, suddenly feeling like punching my brother more than I ever have.
“What? No. I just thought this would be a good chance to bring it up.”
It’s stupid, but I feel like I’m locked out of what’s going on again. That I’m in my room alone while Dad loses it, Derrick tries to cover for him… and Mom is just gone. No one ever tells me what’s going on. All I know is they’re out there, and I’m in here. Alone.
Hell, maybe I am a wuss.
“You know that’s not how it is.”
Actually, I don’t, but whatever. “You know what? I forgot I had something to do. Let’s just go home.”
He doesn’t even argue.
Ziah’s ridden the whole way to the museum in silence, and even though I’m trying not to be, I’m pissed about Derrick. I don’t say a word to her because I’ve been known to be a jerk when I’m in a bad mood. Of course she has her hair up again, and I not only have to see that little strand hanging down but also her neck. It’s a nice neck. I like kissing necks, and I suddenly want to kiss hers. What the hell is wrong with me?
I slam Mary’s door and then just get mad at myself. It’s not her fault Derrick’s a jerk. I walk to the other side of the Hummer and wait for Ziah to climb down. Silence still weighing on us, we head inside.
“Hey.” She touches my arm.
I may or may not enjoy that innocent touch way too much. It’s like ever since I first noticed that piece of hair, followed by our semi-normal day yesterday, I can’t stop thinking insane stuff about her.
“Are you okay?” She smiles.
No, no I’m not. “Yeah, just wondering who the hell would want to get married in a museum. I didn’t know people did that.”
“You didn’t? If I agreed with this wedding, I would actually think it’s cool. It was my idea.”
Oh. Leave it to me to insult her. “I mean, it’s cool… Actually, unique. Yeah, unique.”
Ziah laughs all high-pitched. “No, you think it’s lame, and that’s okay. Stop trying to be nice. Two days in a row is going to scare me.”
This time, I laugh with her. I don’t know why, but I enjoy the little reminder that I helped her feel better yesterday. Me. And not because I’m rich or because I’m a good kisser, which is usually the way I help girls. It just…was. “Yeah, I definitely don’t want to look like a nice guy. Thanks for saving me on that one.”
She smiles at me again and then does this girly, hip-bump thing to me. “Come on, let’s look around.” Umm, who is this, and what happened to angry Ziah?
Obviously in her element, she leads me around. I snap pictures here and there for my loser brother with Ziah’s phone because I left mine in Mary. She wants shots of every angle and every freaking inch of the place. It’s crazy because I know she’s not any more excited about this wedding than me, but she’s one of those girls that if she’s going to do something, she’s going to do it right. I can understand that. Kind of. After an hour, I’m not sure how much more there is to photograph.
“You’d think you were the one getting married. You’d be one of those bridezilla girls wouldn’t you?” I say it just to get a rise out of her because I know she wouldn’t be like that.
“What? I can’t believe you would say that! You know I think this whole thing is stupid.”
I laugh. “Truth hurt?” For some reason, joking around with her like this kind of helps me forget about Derrick.
“No, but I’m going to hurt you.”
I pull her hair like a twelve-year-old and run. She chases me. When did I stop being mad?
“Get over here, Lil D!”
I zip by her and pull her hair again. “Don’t call me that.”
I take a corner and collide into something. “Umph.”
Four eyes are staring back at me. Okay, not four but a woman old enough to be my grandmother with glasses so thick I think they’re the same as my windshield.
“Sir and miss. You cannot run in the museum. If I catch you again, I’m going to have to ask you to leave.”
“Oh no! We’re so sorry,” Ziah says before I get the chance to tell the lady if I run again, there’s no way she could catch me. When I open my mouth to say so, Ziah gives me this look that makes me snap my mouth closed before she grabs my arm and pulls me away.
“You’re no fun.”
“You almost got us kicked out.” She lets go of my arm and turns to face me.
“Which would have been the fun part. Don’t you ever break any rules, Hanes?” I give her a wink and a smile. Then lean a little closer. Maybe too close.
Her feet plant themselves to the floor. Her breath hitches. I actually see the pulse beating in her neck, and I know. She’s looking at me all funny, and suddenly I’m breathing faster, too. I notice a tiny scar by her lip and can’t help but wonder how it happened. Wonder what it would feel like under my finger.
As if we both realize this moment is way too strange, we jump apart.
What the hell was that?
I step away, and she’s still watching me. “Wanna look around for fun now? I think you got enough pictures.”
She nods, looks at the floor, and I can’t help but feel like I just let her down somehow. “What do you want to look at first? I’m game for anything.” And I’m totally trying to make up for the fact that I’m a jerk.
Ziah leads me to display after display. I’m pretty sure we’ve looked at everything twice, and as boring as the museum should be, it’s fun because she keeps making me laugh. I’m making her laugh, too. I wonder if this is what it was like for her when I helped her forget about James. If we can somehow make each other forget all the shit that’s going on while we plan this stupid wedding.
Is this what it’s like to be just friends with a girl? I like it a lot more than I thought I would.
“How you doing?” I finally ask her as we walk along. “You know, with Alyssa and the jerk?”
“Who? Oh. Right. Yeah. He is a jerk. I like your name for him better.” She shrugs. When she does, her arm brushes mine, and I’m way more aware of it than I should be. It’s an arm, for God’s sake.
“I’m okay, I guess. Still trying to sort it all out in my mind. It sucks. She was my best friend… I lost them both at the same time.”
I love how she opens up to me. I’m not sure any girl has ever been as honest with me as she is. It makes me want to give her the same thing.
“You remember Paul? He was the one dancing like an idiot in my kitchen that first night. Anyway, he’s an idiot, but he’s my boy, too. We’ve known each other since we were little. I can’t imagine what I’d do if he screwed me over like that.”