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I'm Just Ryan. And That's All I'll Ever Be (Chapter Three)
Wow. I thought I felt low when Nick left me. It was amazing how much lower one could sink. Why did this always happen to me? Any other girl somehow managed to get what I wanted every time. It wasn’t fair.
There had to something wrong with me. That was the only explanation. Why else would every single guy in my past turn me down for someone else? If someone would just explain to me what it was, I would change! Honest I would! Was it because I’m too opinionated? I could try to keep my mouth shut. Was it that I hated crowds or speaking in public? I could take a public-speaking class. Am I too shy? I could learn to be more out-going. Is my hair too long? I could cut it. Too short? Extensions. Wrong color? I could always dye it again. Too much of a nerd? I guess I could skip a few homework assignments. Someone just please tell me what it is!
When Nick had first dumped me, my friends had all said he wasn’t worth crying over, it was his loss, there was someone better for me. What if they were wrong? What if he was very much worth the tears, I was the one that missed out, and there was no one out there who wanted me? What then?
I tried not to dwell too much on the what-ifs. I had instead focused on getting through the lunch as soon as possible. Seth’s friends were all wonderful, and very funny. The guys were other basketball players, and Krysta was a cheerleader. I asked how Aimee was involved, and Seth said she came for support in the bleachers. Great. So she was just a nobody like me, and she still got the hot guy! What did she have that I didn’t?
I arrived home around three, plenty of time to kill before picking up Ben. I grabbed a Pepsi from the fridge and bounded upstairs. I immediately booted up my waiting laptop, anxious to get online and see what I’d missed while at school. Nothing really interesting, Becca was going to see Harry Potter with Luke, but that was pretty typical. Tyler was away on a vacation and the loser didn’t take his laptop with him. Oh well, I could text him later. Matt was going for a run and bike ride, boring. And then Rachel…was in a relationship?!? What?? My eyes darted to the chat box, but of course she wasn’t online. Grrrr! Oh, wait! Skype! I maneuvered my mouse and opened the video chat. Becca was on, that was unusual. But I wasn’t concerned with her. Scanning the list of contacts, I finally found Rachel’s name, and…yes! She was on! I called Rachel and Becca at the same time, and very impatiently waited for them to answer.
“Hey, Ry, how’s—”
“Never mind how I am! You have a boyfriend??” I interrupted.
Rachel blushed and nodded, a huge grin on her face. Wow, just wait until I leave the state before you allow anything exciting to happen!
“Isn’t it amazing?” Becca jumped in.
“How did this happen? Give me details!”
“Well, you know how I like Jude, right?” Rachel began, twisting her red hair in her hands.
“Jude? Jude who?” I teased. Of course I knew him. He was all I heard about for the past year, it seems like. He was a not so tall, blonde soccer player. He was really socially awkward, but apparently that was only with us people. With Rachel he was actually a smart, intelligent person capable of deep conversations. I’m going to have to take her word on that one…
“Jude Connor, duh!” Becca inserted.
“Thank you, Captain Obvious.” I rolled my eyes at her.
“You’re welcome, Lieutenant Sarcasm.”
“Anyway,” Rachel tried to regain control of the conversation. “He finally asked me out today!” she was grinning like an idiot now. But that was okay. Her first boyfriend, it was a pretty big deal.
“That’s so great, Rach. I told you it would happen!” I beamed.
Rachel continued to go into greater detail about the whole affair, with Becca contributing every now and then something she was too excited about to wait. I sat back and listened, sipping my Pepsi, just enjoying listening to them. Rachel’s green eyes sparkled with happiness, her smile growing wider every time she mentioned Jude’s name. Becca was painting her fingernails, her hair pulled up in a messy ponytail, and still in her SpongeBob pajamas. Typical Becca. I loved these two, though. We were quite a trio.
“Oh, hey guys, Luke’s here. I have to get ready for Harry Potter! We’re going to the store to buy Dobby ears and everything!” Becca announced forty-five minutes later.
I rolled my eyes again, clearly unimpressed, but I wasn’t about to start an argument for or against Dobby. Rachel, however, was incredibly impressed, and expressed her own interest in going to the movies.
“I think I’ll go later this weekend, it’s going to be so crowded on opening night.”
“Yeah, but it will be worth it! Rachel, I’ll let you know how it is. Ry, text me, okay? Kay, bye! Love you guys!” Becca signed off.
“She would wear Dobby ears.” I muttered.
“It’s Becca, of course she would.” Rachel laughed.
“Well, I gotta pick up Ben from soccer practice. Mom’s…working…So I’ll talk to you later, okay?”
“Yep, sure! I’m going to get on Facebook and see if Jude is on. But I won’t talk to him unless he talks to me first. I don’t wanna seem over eager or obsessive.”
“Child, you worry too much. Bye!”
“See ya!” I exited the chat room. Well, this was some new information to process. Processing required music. I opened up my playlist, selected Devil Wears Prada, and turned up the volume as loud as it would go. I find loud music a necessity. It drowns out your depressing thoughts, so you can’t wallow in them. It creates a throbbing pain in your ears which distracts you from the ache of your heart. And usually the lyrics describe exactly what you’re feeling, so then you don’t feel so alone. It’s the perfect therapy.
So Rachel and Jude…They were a perfect match. He was a dumb jock with good intentions, even though slightly misguided by his other dumb jock friends; she was a brainiac with a kind heart and a solid head on her shoulders. They balanced out each other’s good and bad traits, and were undeniably cute together. Rachel’s months of waiting finally paid off. And Becca and Luke seemed to be as close as ever, that pair was literally inseparable…It reminded me of how Nick and I used to be….
My thoughts started to drift toward Nick, but a particularly loud scream in the song banished them. And made me remember why I had gotten off the chat room in the first place. Ben. Crap, if I’m late again he’ll kill me.
I had just parked my car when my phone rang. We were back at home, Ben complaining about his coach, and me trying to juggle carrying in the Chinese take-out, my backpack, and answering the phone.
“Uh, Ben, a little help?”
He heaved a great sigh, it was such a huge request to carry in the food that I got specifically for him, but he took it anyway. Just in time for me to answer my phone.
“Hey, honey, it’s Mom. I’m running late again, so could you—”
“Don’t worry, I already got dinner.” I rolled my eyes. This was the fourth time this week. Kinda disgusting if you think about it.
“Oh! Well, good. And you remembered your brother?”
“And you weren’t late?”
“Good, he is always in a bad mood when you’re late.”
“I know, Mom.”
“Sounds like everything’s going fine, then. Oh, one more thing, will you water the flowers out front for me? I’ve been meaning to do it, they look awful, but I’ve been so busy. And it hasn’t rained in a while.”
“Alright, alright, I’ll do it.”
“Thanks, sweetie. I’ll see you later tonight.”
“Bye.” I stuck the phone in my back pocket, snatched my backpack out of the passenger seat, and locked the doors. Ben was long since inside, no doubt half the food was gone by now.
I lugged my bag inside, dropping immediately inside the door, where Ben had already discarded his duffel bag and cleats.
“Ben, save some for me!” I yelled into the dining room.
“Yeah, yeah.” He said, mouth full of food.
“I mean it, I’m hungry. Like my stomach hurts from me being so hungry.”
“Does your face hurt?”
“Does your face hurt? ‘Cause it’s killing me!” he burst into hysterical laughter. I swear I could kill him one of these days.
“God, you’re so stupid.”
“I know you are, but what am I?” he continued to chuckle.
I stalked outside, not even dignifying that with a reply. If I ever find out who invented that stupid phrase, I will strangle them. It is the worst comeback line in the history of forever, but for whatever reason, Ben loves it.
I went over to the side of the house where the hose was, debating whether to fill the watering can or just drag the hose out and spray the plants. Hose is faster…Hose wins. I untangle it, making sure to smooth out the kinks. It looked like it hadn’t been used in a while. I finally get back around to the front of the house, and proceed to direct the spray at the drooping flowers. They really did look awful.
I heard a car pulling up on the street behind me. I guess Mom got done sooner than expected. I didn’t pay any mind to it, until I heard someone directly behind me.
“Um, hi, I was won—” Wait, I knew that voice. It was Andrew. What could he possibly want?
I whirled around, which consequentially caused the hose to spray him with water from his chest down. Oops.
“Oh my God! I’m so sorry!” I tried to unclench the hose handle, but it was jammed. Andrew was now completely soaked, too surprised to do anything. I ran back to the house and quickly turned the water off. I came back slowly, expecting his rage to explode any minute.
His white American Eagle shirt was plastered to his chest, his shorts were dripping puddles onto the grass, and his flip flops squeaked when he moved. He still hadn’t said anything.
“I’m really, really sorry. Honestly, that was an accident. The handle was stuck, so it wouldn’t turn off…”
“You sure about that?” he muttered, wringing out his shirt.
“I swear. Seriously, I’m sorry, I wasn’t paying attention.”
“That was obvious.” I felt my blood beginning to boil. Why couldn’t he just accept my apology and get over it?
“Come on, it’s just water. It won’t hurt you.”
“No, but it hurt my homework.” He pulled a wet piece of paper out of his pocket, the writing now unreadable. “That’s why I came over. Mr. Peters gave us that assignment of review questions, and embarrassing as this is, I need help. And you were the closest person that’s in my class, so I thought maybe you might’ve understood it better…”
I could’ve leapt with glee. The guy who’s been a jerk to me since day one is now asking me for help? This oughta be good.
“Well, I don’t know. I’ve gotta finish watering these plants, and help my little brother with his homework. And I still haven’t eaten.”
“You could water while I go change, and then we could work while you eat?” Jeez, he was desperate. He must really suck at calculus. Well, the joke’s on him, because I know zip about math.
“I’m still not sure.” I could see the torture on his face as he knew what he had to do. I crossed my arms and waited.
He sighed. “Ryan, will you please help me with the homework?”
“Hmm…I guess I could.” I conceded. I coulda sworn he almost smiled. Almost.
“Good. I’ll be back in five.” He jogged back across the yard.
“Gimme ten!” I called.
I returned to my project at hand, proud as a peacock with myself. He had said ‘please’, he didn’t throw a fit, and I could definitely make sure he got the problems wrong. All he had to do was copy mine, and that was a guaranteed fail. I just finished watering when I finally realized what had just occurred. Andrew Cooper was coming to my house.