She gasps a little, and I worry I said the wrong thing. We’re still walking, and it takes her a minute to reply. “Yeah, that’s why it hurt so much. It was Alyssa, and having her be the one who hurt me sucked.”
“Sucks. You don’t need her, though. Not if she’s like that. I know my shit. You should always listen to Masta Dylan.”
She drops her head back and laughs. God, this girl is killing me. I stare at her neck and wonder what it would feel like to kiss it, but then I see Derrick and Lora, Dad on the ground crying, and me wondering what the hell was going on. I shake my head and notice the painting on the wall.
“I love this artist,” we say at the same time. Okay, we really need to stop having things in common. It’s screwing with my head.
“Yeah, he’s great.” I step closer.
“I love art… mainly because I’m so terrible at it. I can’t help but respect people who can do so well what I could never in a million years accomplish.”
I don’t know what makes me open my mouth and say it, but I do. “I draw. Sketch, paint a little. Nothing like this, but…” Now I feel like an idiot. Like I’m trying to impress her or something. “Yeah, drawing isn’t the same thing, I guess.”
But she’s looking at me with those wide eyes, and I can tell, she thinks it’s something. “I’d love to see your stuff sometime. I mean, if you don’t mind showing me.”
“Yeah? I have one of my sketchbooks in Mary. Want to come see it?” What the hell is wrong with me? It’s just because you brought up her friend and her ex… you’re trying to make her feel better.
Five minutes later we’re in the Hummer, and she’s looking through one of the books I never let anyone see.
“These are great, Dylan.” Her fingers slide across one of my drawings like it’s a treasure. “You’re really good. Seriously, you should be proud of yourself. I could never do this. It’s amazing.”
She’s still looking at my picture, picking the edge of my paper. I totally want to tell her to be careful with it, but I don’t.
“I guess I should take you home.” The words come out of nowhere, but I suddenly need some space from her.
“Yeah, I guess so.”
It doesn’t take us long to get to her house. We’re all quiet again until I can’t take it anymore. “So… should I pick you up tomorrow? I think they have some other wedding crap for us to do.”
I think so at least. One second I’m trying to get away because she’s too easy to be around, and the next I’m trying to find ways to spend more time with her.
“Ugh… stupid wedding. Yeah. I guess so.”
Awkward silence, and then she reaches for me. Holy crap, she’s going to kiss me! Hanes is totally about to kiss me! Mayday, mayday! I don’t think I want her to kiss me. Her arms wrap around me, and it’s totally a hug. I don’t know if I’m glad or disappointed.
“Thanks again… For talking and whatever,” she says.
“No problem.” I pull out of the warmth of her hug. I definitely need to get out of here.
“See ya later.”
“See ya,” she says, and then she’s gone.
~ Ziah ~
Every time I think about the museum, I get all smiley. It’s ridiculous. I’m not the kind of girl to get smiley, especially over a guy who is guaranteed to break my heart. I’m staring off into space as I sit on one of the bar stools when Lora walks in.
“What are you doing here?” I ask.
Dad’s napping, and Mom’s at work. The house is quiet, and I figured she’d still be with her attachment.
“Have I…missed something?” she asks, her head cocked to the side and her voice quiet.
“What do you mean?” I ask, heart pounding.
“I mean, I felt like a bad sister earlier when someone said there might be stuff going on with you that has nothing to do with the wedding.” She sits on the barstool next to mine, still watching my face.
Dylan must have said something. I hate that he did, but it’s more because that’s what it took for my sister to stop and realize it’s not just the wedding that’s thrown me.
“Who said that?” I ask, even though it’s obvious.
Maybe part of me just wants to hear he’s looking out for me. I almost leaned over and kissed him last night, and I don’t want to kiss him. I mean, I don’t want to kiss anyone. He would probably be a great kisser if I did want to kiss someone, but at the same time, my guess is he’s had way too much practice.
“Dylan said you seemed upset, and he wasn’t sure if it was wedding stuff or not.” She rests her chin on her hand as a show she’s not going anywhere.
The total suckiness of the past couple weeks slams into me, and I suddenly have to blink back tears. The thought of going back to school with them makes me sick all over again.
“Ziah. I’m so sorry. Whatever it is. I just assumed it was the wedding because you were so upset about that, and I didn’t stop to think it might be something else.” She puts her arm around me.
I start from the beginning, with the party and seeing Dylan and James and Alyssa, and how it all just got out of control. How James got weird after the party, and he and Alyssa were never in the same room. And how I didn’t see any of it. It feels like I just lost them both.
“God, Ziah. You should have told me first thing.”
I wanted to, but I didn’t know how. Instead of answering, I shrug.
“Is there more?” She cringes. “You look like you’re not done.”
There’s no point in trying to hide anything now that I know she’s going to be watching me, so I tell her about Dylan at the party. The way he looked at me, and the way I felt.
“Whoa, whoa.” She stops rubbing her hand across my back. “You noticed Dylan? That way?”
“Okay. So Derrick even said if you were at all interested in Dylan, not to be. He hasn’t grown up yet.” Lora’s voice is all authoritative. “I knew Derrick was a long-shot when I first started dating him, and he’s four years older than Dylan.
I’m suddenly defensive. “Well, Dylan saw something was upsetting me when you didn’t.”
Now I wish she’d just run back to Derrick.
She sighs. “I’m sorry, Ziah. I know you’re smarter than to get involved with someone like him. And I don’t want to fight with you anymore, okay? Let’s be happy. Tomorrow’s cake day, yay!” She’s talking quietly, but still manages her Lora enthusiasm, and she’s trying really hard to lighten the mood.
I want to defend Dylan, but then she’d get the wrong impression, and it’s all the same stuff I’ve been telling myself. I’m aware that he’s not good for me. I’m also aware of how I feel when I’m around him, and that it’s probably dangerous. After safe James, no way would I risk myself with someone like Dylan.
“So. We good?” she asks.
Half of me really wants to hold on to my frustration, but I miss my sister. “We’re good. Now I want to know how you met Derrick, just don’t ramble on for too long,” I tease. I figure this is a good way to say thank you for finally taking some time away from the fiancé.
Lora laughs and tells me all about the night they met, and how that very first night he said he was going to marry her. How her roommates Karissa and Mardie put her up to this ridiculous night of things every college girl should do. If I wasn’t so opposed to them jumping into a wedding, it would be a pretty swoon-worthy story.
She makes Mom’s hot chocolate, and we fall asleep watching some cheesy Lifetime movie we make fun of until we can’t keep our eyes open any longer. I’ve missed having my sister around.
Soft knocking pulls me from the last bits of sleep. “Ziah?” Lora’s voice carries through the door. “You awake?”
“I am now,” I snap. Then I remember we’re not fighting anymore.
I hate to admit Dylan was right, but it felt good to talk to Lora about everything. She gets how sucky it is for me to feel like I was the third wheel with Alyssa and James. Like they might have secretly wanted to be together, and I was in their way. Humiliation doesn’t even scratch the surface of that possibility. She tries to point out they’re obviously not together, and it might not hurt to know a little more about the situation. But I’m not ready to go there yet.
“Don’t be so grouchy.” She pushes into my room with a tray filled with muffins and hot chocolate. This is Lora-speak for “I’m still sorry.”
“I can’t believe you stayed here last night.” I rub my eyes as I push the blankets down and sit up.
“I did grow up here.” She sits down with the tray between us and grabs a muffin.
“Yes. But since then, you’ve formed an attachment.” I smirk. “Or another limb, you could call it.”
Lora rolls her eyes. “Just wait. When someone hits you…”
I hold my hand up between us. “No. Way. James was like the most loyal guy I know, the most level-headed and good, and look what happened there. No WAY am I doing that again.” Who would take the risk?
“You’ll stay single forever?” She scoffs as she shoves another heaping bite of muffin into her mouth.
“No.” I grab a chocolate chip muffin. “Maybe I’ll just start to like girls instead.” Crumbs fall out of my mouth as I talk, and we both end up giggling over it. A bit girly and pathetic, but it feels good.
“Uh…huh…” Lora smirks.
“So, what’s up?” I ask.
“So, I just got an email that my wedding dress is ready for me try on. Come with me?” she asks. “And then we’ll do cake?”
And I may not be a girlie-girl, but everyone wants to see wedding dresses. Well. And everyone should love cake.
“Okay. Lora. No way.” I wrap my arms around my waist as she tries to pull me from the dressing room.
Beige lace. Strapless. Small black waistband, and short. Like my legs suddenly look ten miles long because the skirt is that short. This was supposed to be her dress fitting. Not mine. I was tricked.
Also, as fun as wedding dresses are, it’s scary to be in a place where all the clothes cost as much as the average house payment. Racks and racks of them.
“Ziah, you only think it’s short because you never wear skirts, and your shorts are grandma shorts.” She makes a face.
I narrow my eyes, unappeased.
“Karissa and Mardie are both going to wear dresses that are similar but not the same. It’ll be fun!” Lora’s brows nearly reach her hairline as she changes tactics and goes for overly cheery.
I sigh. “Karissa and Mardie are the two girls that set you up with a list of dares that put you in the hospital to get stitches, and whose efforts resulted in your engagement. Am I right?”
Lora looks wistful instead of defensive. It all came out in the How I Met Derrick stuff last night.