I tear my eyes away from his and focus instead on the blanket I placed in his lap. “I’m uh… Not very good yet. But your car gets positively icy in the winter, and your heater doesn’t always work, so I made you a blanket for your lap.”

“It’s so…” I fully expect him to be mean or laugh at it. It’s knit poorly, with uneven patches in some places, and the color is a very light purple. The trim is made of dark gray yarn and is too thick in some places, like the corners.

“…Soft.”

I snap my gaze up to look at his face. To my shock, he brings it up to his face to feel the fabric against his skin. He looks like a happy puppy.

“Thank you,” he says again, lowering the blanket to his lap. “I’ll use it soon.”

“Tj! Your turn!” Dad huffs suddenly.

I jump, turning to look at my parents and best friend. I didn’t mean to ignore them—oops.

Thelma and Mom don’t look irritated, though. In fact, they look amused and very happy.

 

***

 

“So what’s the plan today?” I ask when we step outside after I changed into clothes suitable to go outside in. “No surprises like before.”

Cole scowls playfully. “With how the last surprise went, I won’t be attempting another one anytime soon,” he says, bumping me lightly with his shoulder. “You’re more of a…last-minute addition to current plans.”

His affectionate attitude is the last thing I expect. Considering what happened the last time I saw him, I wasn’t expecting more than a cold shoulder for at least a month.

I take his arm and hook mine through it. His presence cheers me up more than I thought it would. When I hug his arm tightly for a moment, he appears embarrassed.

“We’re just gonna see a movie… Don’t be so happy,” he mumbles, his cheeks growing pinker by the moment. “It’s something I do every year. We don’t need to talk. I think you just need to get away for a little while.”

I turn my head up to stare at him, my mouth open. At first, I think he’s just trying to catch me off guard and give me a false sense of security. But as we get in the car and drive silently to Boulder Station, I realize he isn’t going to erupt and give me the third degree.

“You looked so scared when you stepped into the living room,” Cole says with a chuckle. “I didn’t come over to yell at you, though.” He glances at me when we hit a red light. Sunlight pours in through his sunroof and gives him a halo while making his eyes appear darker.

I can’t stop staring, so I notice when the corner of his mouth quirks up in a smirk. “You always expect the worst from me. I don’t know why I’m not offended.”

“I don’t always expect the worst from you,” I argue, crossing my arms over my chest defensively. At least I’m not staring anymore; though, I don’t want to admit that he is right. “But can you blame me when I do? You have a history of yelling at me for my decisions in life.”

“I yell at you because I care,” he murmurs, not missing a beat. “You know that.”

I remain silent. He pulls into the parking garage at Boulder Station. I still don’t speak by the time he parks. When we step out of the car, I decide to break the silence. I don’t want things to be awkward for the next… Well, who knows how long?

“So, what are we seeing?” I ask now that I realize I still don’t know the full plan.

Cole smirks and the sight is both sexy and terrifying; who knows what he has in store for me today? “Something horror,” he says. “Hope you aren’t a weenie.” His tone is airy, like it isn’t weird to skip out on special occasions with the family in favor of jump-scares and gory deaths.

 

***

 

“Did you have to pick such a freaky movie?” It isn’t that I’m scared easily, but certain things seem to affect me more than others. For example, I can’t watch Paranormal Activity without thinking I’m seeing ghostly activity everywhere for weeks afterward.

“That junk scares you? Man, you really think anything can happen, huh?” Cole asks, snickering. We’re in the car, heading back to my house.

“This is coming from a Guardian?” I mutter to myself. Meanwhile, he just laughs harder. “Hello, Mr. Guardian Against the Apocalypse! You don’t get to say that to me,” I grumble with a pout. “I wouldn’t even entertain the notion if it weren’t for you.”

“Ah, that’s right,” he says, all of the mirth draining from his face. His voice is bitter. “How could I forget that it’s all my fault?”

“Hey,” I murmur. “It isn’t all bad,” I venture softly, trying to reassure him. It’s true, too. “So you’re also at fault for all the awesome days… Like today.” I smile brightly at him when he takes a moment to look over at me at a red light. “Today has been so much fun.”

He remains silent until we turn onto my street. Then, he says, “It was fun.” The small smile that accompanies his words is stunning.



 

 


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