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"Turn down your music!" my mother shouts up the stairs, and I barely hear her over the sound of my record spinning on the player. "You'll go deaf!"
Scoffing, I roll off my bed, landing on my feet, and cross the small room to the turning mechanism. I just turn it off, leaving the needle on the record. I've been up here too long, anyway. After slipping on a pair of sandals and brushing out the wrinkles in my shorts, I push on my slightly open door and jump down the stairs, taking two at a time.
The warm air pushes against my skin, heavier downstairs than up, and I skip into the kitchen, where my mother is cutting fruit for a salad. Her hair is pulled into a messy pony tail, and her sleeves are rolled up to her elbows, leaving her hands plenty of room to work. She wipes her hands on the apron tied around her waist and turns around to greet me. "I thought you were goin' 'ta hole up in your room again," she murmurs, smiling and pushing a strand of damp brown hair out of her eyes.
"I thought I might explore the rest of the house for a change," I reply, kissing her cheek quickly before grabbing a strawberry and taking a bite. "Could it get any hotter?!"
"That's Georgia, for 'ya and get outta my salad!" she laughs, shooing me away as she resumes her work. "Be prepared, your father invited a coworker and his family to eat dinner with us tonight."
I shake my head, secretly dreading contact with strangers. "Okay," I answer, skeptically. "I'll be... prepared."
She chuckles as I march into the dining room, where I throw the door open to sit on the netted porch, warmed by the afternoon sun. I push the screen door open to sit on the rough stairs, staring off into the grassy fields surrounding our house. I bask in the sunlight a little, warming my semi-tanned skin, before standing up and quickly scampering back into the shady, semi-cool house.
I grab my sketch pad and pencil, saying, "I'm gonna go outside and draw for a while, m'kay?" My mother grunts a sound of approval, and I hear the mixer start. She's going all-out for this dinner guest. I shrug, leaving her to her business in the kitchen and step into the sunny afternoon once more. I skip to side of the house, where my old tree house sits up high in the apple tree, level with my bedroom window.
Not trusting the well-worn latter rungs, I sit at the base of the tree, my back against the trunk. I balance my notebook on my knees, beginning to sketch a picture of me as a little girl playing in my tree house while current me sits below, looking thoughtful.
I slip into my drawing mindset, becoming dormant to the world. As the light shifts over me, I hardly notice, until a shadow stands between me and the sun. "Excuse me," I murmur, assuming it's my father trying to get a giddy welcoming. "My light."
"Oh, right, sorry," an unfamiliar voice says, quickly sidling around my feet to stand on the other side of me. I look up, tucking a few loose locks of hair behind my ear.
A boy with messy black hair shuffles his feet under my observing stare. His eyes are a piercing blue, and his uncomfortable smile reveals perfectly crooked teeth. He seems familiar, but I don't think I've met him before. I rack my mind as I smile back, hoping he deems my teeth just as adorable as his. "My bad," I mumble. "I thought you were my dad, he's always doing stuff like that."
"Like what? Trying to ruin your drawing?" the boys laughs, crouching beside me to look at my drawing. It's one of my better ones, I remind myself, happily. "That's very good," he agrees, chuckling. "If only I could draw like that."
"It just takes practice," I reply, grinning as I flip my notebook shut. I begin to push myself off the ground, and the stranger stands up, extending his hand to me. I grab his rough hand, and he helps pull me up. Before letting go of my hand, he shakes it lightly and kisses the back of it. I feel the blush creeping on to my cheeks, and I can only hope it doesn't look like a sunburn.
"I'm Josiah," he says, dropping my hand softly.
"I'm Mariah," I answer, flattening my shorts and retying the strings. "It's lovely to meet you." I briefly toy with the idea of curtsying, but decide against it.
"It is far lovelier to be meeting you, I'm sure," he smirks.
I smile and feel the blush going a deeper shade of red. "Well, you'll never know, I guess," I murmur, slipping on the shoes I had discarded sometime during my drawing. He smiles, and I begin to walk back to the porch, and Josiah follows me. On the porch, what I presume is, Josiah's father and mother are speaking with my own. My slender father is leaning against the railing, pushing his glasses up his nose, and my mother is standing beside him, twisting one of her hand's fingers in her apron and the other's with my father's fingers.
Josiah's father has the same black hair with strands of grey hair on the sides, and his stomach pouches over the band of his pants as he sits in one of the two porch chairs. Josiah's mother occupies the other one. She is a small, birdlike creature with curly brown hair and thin arms, making her almost the complete opposite of my own mother.
"Yup, that's my parents," Josiah sighs as I look over the scene. "Mr. and Mrs. Kellan, I guess you'll call them."
"I guess," I murmur, switching my gaze from his parents to him, only to find Josiah's eyes on me. I quickly look at the ground, and I hear Josiah clear his though. "Uh, shall we go inside?"
"Sure, that'd be great," he answers, wiping at his forehead. "I'm sure my brother is hanging around somewhere, bored out of his mind."
"I'd love to meet him," I reply, beginning to walk to the house and hoping to impress Josiah with my willingness to play with his brother. This kid is really cute. I'll do pretty much anything to make him think the same.
"Nah, he's just like any other little guy out there," Josiah shrugs, chuckling. As we approach the porch, my mother's egg timer goes off, and she scurries off with Mrs. Kellan at her side. "At least our mothers are getting along!" Josiah laughs, pulling the screen door open for me.
"Hello, Daddy," I say, smiling as I wrap my arm around his neck.
"Hello, Mariah," he replies, patting my hand. "This is Mr. Kellan. I see you've met Josiah, already." I nod, saying hello to Mr. Kellan.
"Well, I guess I'll change into better dinner clothes," I laugh, slipping my shoes off to feel the sun-warmed wood beneath my feet.
"I'm gonna get a drink of water," Josiah murmurs, meeker around his father. This time, I open the door for Josiah and gesture to the kitchen.
"My mom'll get you some water in there," I say, looking at his feet. "I'm gonna go change."
"You look great right now," he says, with obviously fabricated confidence. "Just sayin'," he blurts before scuttling into the kitchen. A stark blush forms on my cheeks and burns as I run up the stairs, grabbing the door frame as I swing into my room.
I slide over the painted wood to my dresser in the back corner, rifling through the drawers until I find a pair of non-wrinkled shorts and a clean shirt. Before returning to the 'party', I glance in the mirror.
My face is pink from sitting in the sun, and my hair is loosely tied into a pony tail. I take out the rubber band securing my hair and shake my hair out. It has retained some of it's natural curl, but it's obviously been in a ponytail all day, so I just put in a nicer one and leave, skipping down the stairs again.
Downstairs, Mrs. Kellan is putting a pasta salad on the table. "Oh, hello!" she says, startled. "You must be Mariah. I'm Mrs. Kellan." She smiles, quickly sprucing her hair, and scurrying into the kitchen again, not giving me time to introduce myself properly.
I stand in the dining room, staring at the table for a minute before shuffling into the kitchen. "Do you need some help?" I ask, watching the two women flurry about the counters.
My mother pauses for a moment, just long enough to register what I said. "Oh, no, Honey, I think we have this under control," she responds, patting my shoulder. "Thanks for asking, though, Mariah."
"No problem," I murmur, whistling as I move back into the dining room. Josiah enters from the living room, where, I assume, his brother is playing or something.
"Oh, hey," he says. "I was looking for you, I mean, not looking actively, but you know, wondering where you were or whatever, I just- I'm going to stop talking now before you get creeped out," he rambles, chuckling as he runs his hand through his messy black hair.
"Oh," I laugh, looking at the ground, unsure of what to say. "Well, I'm not surprised, there aren't many people here." I laugh, tucking my brown hair behind my ear.
"Children, keep your shirts on!" my mother cries, bustling into the dining room with a pan of lasagna. "Dinner is here!"
I raise my eyebrow, taking the pan from her to put it on the center of the table. I stand behind a chair, watching as Mrs. Kellan takes up the spot across from me. I finally get to observe her up close.
Her eyes are green and almond shaped, and they seem to know more than her forty-five years or so should know. My mother tromps back into the dining room with my father and Mr. Kellan following close behind. "Junior! Dinner!" Mr. Kellan shouts. My father jumps, he glasses slipping down his nose before settling into his place beside my mother.
Suddenly the back door opens, and a small-ish boy rush into the room, squealing, "Oh boy, oh boy!"
"That's Ross!" Mrs. Kellan sighs, ruffling the little boy's brown hair. "The baby of the family!"
"I'm not a baby, Mom," he whines, scrunching up in his chair so her hand hangs in the air above him.
"Of course you aren't," she sighs, bring her hand back towards herself. My mother begins dishing out lasagna to the plates all around the table. As we begin devouring the pasta, I am sure to keep myself clean and my plate mostly full. I don't want Josiah to think I'm a slob or anything.
After an hour of semi-awkward chit-chat, my father pushes away from the table, saying, "I'm gonna take a smoke on the porch. Howard? Care to join me?"
"Sure, Buddy," he agrees, pushing himself away from the table. The mothers stand up as well, picking up dishes.
"I'll help," I say, beginning to pick up my plate.
"Oh, you silly thing, go enjoy yourself. We'll take care of this," Mrs. Kellan laughs, scuttling into the kitchen. My mother follows, bumping me with her hip playfully before disappearing.
"Well, um," I start, stuffing my hands into my pockets only to take them out again. "I have some, uh, records upstairs, if you'd be interested in listening to them. I mean, by no means do you need to follow a strange girl up to her room to listen to weird music and talk, so don't-"
"I'd love to," he agrees, laughing as he ruffles his hair a little. I gesture to the stairs and begin to step towards them, with Josiah following me. I hear the unfamiliar creaks behind me as he steps in all the wrong places. "You must be really good at sneaking around," he chuckles, plopping down on my couch beside the record player while I step onto the cushions, using the as a step up to my shelf of records. I grab the empty case and my favorite Frank Sinatra record.
"I guess you could say that," I murmur, adjusting the player and congratulating myself for cleaning my room earlier. As the blaring trumpets' noise begins to tinkle off the record and swirl around the room, I twirl into my spot on the opposite side of the couch. "Mostly I just chill out in here, though." I smile, in a (hopefully) sweet way.
"I can see why," Josiah sighs, looking around. "It's nice in here."
"I like to think so," I agree, twirling my hair around my finger and humming the tune to 'The Lady is a Tramp'. I nod my head to the beat, and I can see Josiah drumming his fingers.
I suddenly realize he's looking at me while I'm looking at him, so I quickly fix my gaze on my hand that is still sitting on my lap. "Care to dance?" he asks, standing up and extending his hand. "As friends, of course," he adds.
I feel my lips crack into a lame smile, and my cheeks flush with colour, but I don't care anymore. This boy is asking me to dance with him!
I take his hand, standing up, and we begin a sort of childish flailing dance, with our hands clasped together. I let out a laugh as he twirls me around the room, maneuvering around the furniture. I can see his slightly crooked teeth glimmering from his mouth in a smile of pure ecstasy while we end the song in the middle of a dip. I let out a squeal, and he lets out a laugh. I pretend to hit him, getting ready to sit down again.
"Another one?" he asks, offering his hand again. "Just one won't hurt, will it?" I stand up again, this time with "Witchcraft" blaring. I wrap my arms around his neck, and his hands go on my waist.
My heartbeat speeds up as I lay my head on his shoulder, hearing his own heartbeat. Our hips are touching, and I can feel he has pens stuffed in his deep pockets. There's probably a notebook somewhere in there, too.
I hear him sigh a sigh of contentment, and I twist my fingers in the strands of hair at the base of his neck.
Alright, I'm not exactly playing 'hard-to-get' with this boy, but, hopefully, my sudden brashness will pay off, and he'll ask for my number or some-.
Suddenly my thoughts are interrupted by Josiah's face coming closer and closer to my own, and, then, suddenly, we're kissing, gently, in the middle of my room with good old Frankie playing. This is a first kiss almost too cool for words, but I can't think of anything besides the way his lips feel on mine.
It's like I've aged down, and, suddenly, my knees are weak, and I'm depending on Josiah to hold me up. As the song comes to a close, so does the kiss.
"He was right," Josiah smirks. "Fingers in one's hair makes it almost impossible to think of anything else."
"I'm glad it worked, then," I laugh, thankful for the music to distract from my bright red face.
We faintly hear Josiah's mother yelling for him, and I let my arms drop. "I guess this is good-bye," I murmur, looking at my feet.
"Good-bye for now," Josiah replies, winking and quickly pecking another kiss onto my cheek. "I'll be back in no time at all, my love."