Chapter Three Part One


CHAPTERTHREE

The next morning I actually woke up on time.
 During breakfast Momactually spoke to me directly.
 Which, as I’ve mentioned, doesn’t happen veryoften.
“Maelie, I know we’d agreed that I’d take you to school every day, but Ireally enjoyed the time in the car with Dad taking me. Plus you know I dislikedriving anyway, so you get the car all to yourself. It’s still my car, but youhave free use of it. Just don’t crash it or anything.”
“Sure Mom. Hey, Saturday night the school is having a…”
“Honey, we need to get going,” Mom said to Dad, who had his nose in thepaper. He set it down, and patted my shoulder on his way to the garage.
“Oh and Maelie, you’re going to love it, we’re going as a family to campat Pikes Peak Friday night! Won’t that be exciting? I just know you’ll love it.Bye bye dear!” Mom said, closing the door behind her.
She didn’t even know she’d just been redundant.
Well, if we were only camping on Friday night, I would still make it tothe dance on Saturday. That would make Danny happy at least.
I drove to school listening to country music again, thinking this wouldprobably be the norm for the year. I parked and looked over my schedule again,making sure I knew where I was going. First period choir… yes.
Choir is a great way to start a day off, did you know that? If you beginwith choir, the whole rest of the day goes well. Singing just makes peoplehappy. Sing in the shower, or in the car, or while you walk… seriously, try itsometime, it’s great.
On my way from Choir to Math, I saw Ryan in the hall, talking to a groupof guys I assumed were his friends. Our eyes met for a split second and hesmiled at me. One of his buddies noticed him looking at me and elbowed himteasingly. That made me smile more than singing had, and I made a mental noteto ask Danny what he knew of Ryan Houston.
I made it through the first half of the day relatively unscathed,receiving only one homework assignment. Finally the bell rang to dismiss mefrom P.E. I showered quickly, and made my way to the cafeteria to find Danny’swindow again. Even though there was a line, I waited.
“The usual?” He asked when it was my turn.
“You bet,” I said smiling.
He handed me a bottle of water, and a basket of fries with a slice ofpepperoni pizza on top, then said, “Where are you sitting today?”
I shrugged, “Same place I guess.”
“Cool, I’ll be out in a few minutes. See ya!”
I walked away shaking my head. He was funny for a freshman. I sat andate, not wanting to pull out a book. I was too set on talking to Danny. Afterten minutes he joined me saying, “Sorry, they asked me to take trash duty todaylast minute. Don’t worry though, I washed my hands.”
I laughed a little awkwardly, trying to think of a way to bring up thesubject I wanted to discuss. Then I saw Ryan across the room sitting with thatsame group of friends plus more, laughing and tossing a baseball from one toanother. “Do you know those guys?” I asked Danny, pointing to Ryan’s group.
He craned his neck to see who I meant. “The baseball team?Yeah, I know a few of them, why?”
Ignoring his question I asked, “Which ones do you know?”
“Well, there’s Blake Larson, he’s that tall one with brown hair; helives on my street. The blonde one is Jason Ingram, he dated my sister – he’s ajerk, totally not worth your time.” I held back a laugh; he knew exactly why Iwas asking. “Um, and the only other one I know the name of is the black hairedguy; that’s Ryan Houston – the ‘local catch’ according to my sister.” He leanedback in his chair and said, “Are you uh, interestedin any of them?” He wiggled his eyebrows at me flirtatiously.
I felt my face warm a little. “Maybe I am!” I said defensively. “So Iwill act upon your recommendation: who would you set me up with?”
He immediately took on a pensive look. I was relieved he didn’t seem tobe thinking of saying himself. Hopefully we’d covered that subject fully enoughyesterday.
“Of all the guys I know, or have heard of, Ryan has always sounded like anawesome guy. He’s not perfect,” I nearly argued that point, “but he’s one ofthe nicest guys in town. I’ve never talked to him, but he seems really cool.”He shrugged, “The rest of them are average I think… except for Jason, he’s nogood.”
I nodded with understanding. “Good to know. Not that I’ll be making anymoves, but I figured since I respect your opinion I ought to ask.”
“Well, you should watch out for Ryan’s girlfriends though. I’ve heardthat she’s a beast. I also heard – all rumor, ok? – That he’s only dating herfor show, because she was so persistent. Telling her he’d date her was the onlyway to get her to stop stalking him. Now, she gets the title of ‘Ryan’s girl’and he sees her less often than he did before they started dating. They’ve beenthat way for three years… I think he’s probably tired of it by now, but hecan’t let her go until he finds someone else to replace her with; otherwiseshe’ll just start stalking him again, ya’ know?”
I eyed him suspiciously, “You seem to know a lot more about Ryan than youlet on at first.”
He focused his eyes on his food, “So? Everybody knows that story; publicknowledge.”
“Danny…”
He looked up, sighed, and mumbled something.
“What was that?” I asked.
“He’s my brother.”
“What? Why didn’t you just say that?”
He fiddled with his fork for a minute before explaining. “We share aroom. I was awake when he got back from the college last night. I asked himabout his day, he said he ‘ran into you’” he held up his fingers to makequotation marks, “twice, and I told him I’d met you during lunch. We talked fora while and I could tell he thought you were cool. I guess I figured…” hestopped.
“Figured what?” I pressed him.
“I figured if I was too young to be your type,” he smiled while he saidit, so I knew he wasn’t offended, “that I’d rather see you with my brother thananyone else.”
Wow. I had not been expecting that. Now that I knew, it made perfectsense that Danny and Ryan were brothers – they were both nice, charming, funny,smart guys. I was willing to bet that their parents were awesome.
“Thanks Danny.”
He shrugged, “That’s what little brothers do… I think.”
Hold it, that was an odd thing to say…“What do you mean, you think?”
“Oh, well Ryan and I are both adopted. Our parents can’t have biologicalchildren, so they adopted us and our sisters. I only joined the family a fewyears ago, so I’m still getting used to being a brother, ya know?”
“No way, I was adopted too, but as a baby.”
“Really? Cool! Ryan is the oldest, and he was adopted as a baby too. Igot really lucky to get him for a brother – he’s the best. You’ll like him.” Hesmiled and wiggled his eyebrows again.
“Are you telling me to hit on your brother?” I asked through my laughter.
“Yes! Yes, that is exactly what I’m telling you to do!” I nearly fell offmy chair I was laughing so hard. Then he started whispering, “No, seriously,Maelie, if Stephanie sees that Ryan is really interested in someone else, shewon’t stalk him after he breaks up with her. You’ve got to get Ryan to really like you, before he breaks up with Steph.”
I felt like I was being given a mission impossible tape… “your mission,should you choose to accept it…”
I sighed and said, “You’re for real?”
“Completely,” Danny assured me.
Oh dear... what was I getting into? I sighed.
“You have my word that I’ll do my best.” I promised.
“YES!” Danny stood so fast his chair shot out from under him and scrapedalong the floor, drawing the attention of most of the lunchroom. I covered mymouth to keep from laughing out loud, before looking across the tables andseeing Ryan watching me. He waved and smiled… and I melted.

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