Bailey comes to a decision
on what to do with Brendan.
All American Bailey
By Taylor Ryan
Copyright© 2017 Taylor Ryan
All Rights Reserved.
Most of the chill from the morning had left by the time I got home from school Monday. The weather had all settled into a rather comfortable mid-September afternoon. From my perch on Amber's front stairs, I could see all the way down the hill to the stop sign. She had gone inside to change out of her pajamas. I still couldn't believe she wore them all day long for some stupid spirit week thing.
Amber had expressed her concern about leaving me outside. Her parents weren't home, and they had a rule that she couldn't bring friends in if they weren't home. I didn't have that rule at my house. However, I didn't really want Amber camping over there all afternoon. I still needed to call Brendan. Plus I still needed time and space to figure out what I wanted to say to him. Not to mention, I needed to talk it over with my mother.
With all of that coursing through my brain, I hardly noticed Amber returning. She wasn't exactly subtle either. The first thing I noticed was her black Converse solidly slapping down on the step next to me. She'd changed into her usual casual attire; worn baggy jeans, flannel shirt over some faded rock band tee, and a knit skull cap. When my gaze had traveled up to her face, I noticed she was studying me.
"What's up?" I asked.
Amber sat silently for a moment, a trait not entirely common with her. "I'm curious," she finally said.
"Well…" Amber looked at me thoughtfully. "I'm not sure how to say it. Or ask it rather."
I let out a half laugh. "When has that ever stopped you?"
"I know. I know," she said. "Always impulsive." Her head tilted to the side. "It's just…" She turned away. "It's nothing."
I tugged on her shirt sleeve. "Amber," I said. "What is it?" I studied her for a moment. "Is it about Nathan?"
"Nooo," Amber said, as she turned back to face me. "It's stupid. Just forget it."
"Amber," I said, looking at her sternly.
"Okay," she said. "I was just wondering about you and Tiffany."
"Oh," I said, letting out a sigh of relief. "What about us?"
Amber shrugged. "It's just that, when we were discussing the group project today, you two looked… I don't know… very comfortable."
"Well we've known each other for years," I said.
"It was more than that," Amber said. "I don't know." She shrugged. "I told you it was stupid."
"I hope we didn't steal all of the spotlight," I said. "So to speak."
"It was you," Amber said. "Wasn't it?"
"Tiffany talked about having a friend she used to make up games with," Amber said. "I remember it from the first day of class." She turned to me. "You were the friend that went away."
"Yes," I said, solemnly.
Amber sighed. "Sucks doesn't it? Being pulled away from friends like that."
"Usually at the worst times," I said, sharing in her melancholy.
"My dad promised he'd let me stay here for high school," Amber said. "We'll see. He said the same thing for junior high." She sighed again. "Just gotta stay positive."
I reached my hand up, in an attempt to put it on her shoulder. To my surprise, Amber made a move toward me. Her head nestled against my shoulder. In the confusion, I ended putting my hand on her opposite shoulder, and holding her in a friendly hug. It didn't feel too awkward. At least, not until Amber reached across my lap and put her hand on my knee.
"You okay?" I asked.
"It's just…" I could feel Amber taking a deep breath. "Watching you and Tiffany. It made me wish I could see some of my old friends again."
"Do you ever call them?"
Amber shook her head against my shoulder. "I've emailed a few," she said. "It's just not the same. You know?"
"Yeah," I said, running my hand over her upper arm and shoulder.
Amber sniffed, making me think she was crying. "These are soft," she said. I looked down to see her casually making circles on my knee. "You know, I've never worn tights," she admitted.
"Really?" I asked. "Not even when you were little?"
"Nope," Amber said. "Are they comfortable?"
"I guess that's debatable," I said. "I think they are."
"God," Amber said. "You're so freakin' femme."
I had to choke back my surprise at her statement. "What are you talking about?" I asked.
"It's not an insult," Amber said, sitting up. "I kinda wish I could pull it off sometimes. You know?"
"Pull what off?"
"The whole package deal," Amber said. "Being all stylish. Having guys wrapped around your finger. Some girls just have it all together."
"What?" Amber asked. "Do you think I'm being stupid?"
"No," I said. "It's just… It's cute that you think I have it all together."
"Well, you seem to," Amber said.
"Trust me," I said. "I've got more issues than a city planning committee."
"See!" Amber said. "You can even toss out witty shit like that."
"It's just something my mother says," I said.
Amber raised her eyebrows.
"If you only knew…" I said, looking into her eyes.
"Can I…" Amber looked away. "Nah. Forget it."
I shook her shoulder; my arm still embracing her for some reason. "What?"
Amber turned her head back to face me. Her eyes danced as they looked into mine. "I was going to ask," she said. "If it wouldn't be too weird."
"Just ask it," I said, quietly.
"Could you help me put together an outfit?" she asked. "Like maybe something that would get Nathan's attention?" She sighed. "I feel like I'm invisible around him."
"If you want to get his attention," I said, with a laugh. "Just go barefoot."
Amber looked at me puzzled. "Huh?"
"Nothing," I said, shaking my head. "I really don't know what would get his attention." I let my hand drop from Amber's shoulder. "Not even sure clothes would do it."
"Oh," Amber said, dejectedly.
"He's not exactly typical," I said. "Like he plays football, but talking about sports doesn't really seem to stimulate him."
"Well you guys have history, right?" Amber asked. "There's gotta be something I could do to change the way he looks at me."
"Don't… change for him," I said. "That's probably the best piece of advice I can offer."
"I'm just afraid he thinks of me as the big-mouthed army brat," Amber said. "And not in a good way." She let out a long sigh. "It's probably too late anyway. He probably asked that… Danica chick out already."
"I just had a thought," I said.
"I can drive, and do the heavy lifting," Amber said. "If you bring the duct tape."
My head tilted to the side as I stared at her. "What?"
"Nothing," Amber said, turning her gaze away.
"Anyway…" I continued to look cautiously at Amber. "Everyone seems to be going to this stupid homecoming dance. Why don't I change my plans with Brendan? And then we take Nathan up on his offer?"
Amber flashed me an unsure look. "Tag along with his date?"
"Just riding there and back," I said.
"Wait," Amber said. "Are you thinking of sabotage?"
"No!" I exclaimed. "I just thought that he'd have to pick us up first." I raised my eyebrows at her. "He'd see you dressed all fancy…"
"Then he'd see you in a dress," Amber said, "and I would wither in the immense light of your beauty."
"Stop," I added sarcastically.
"It's hard!" Amber whined. "You'll be with Brendan. Nathan will have his date. Probably thinking about you all night. And I'll just be stuck alone at the dance."
"You can hang out with Tiffany and Tawny," I offered.
Amber let out a long sigh.
"But on the way there," I said, trying to remain positive. "You could hint that you'd like to dance with Nathan."
"And listen to the tormenting sound of his laughter at my request."
"You're impossible!" I exclaimed, pushing her away.
Amber looked at me with reservation. "Can we at least try the sabotage idea?" she asked quietly.
"Fine," Amber said, begrudgingly. "I'll think about it." She looked down the street, gesturing to a moving car. "My mom's coming. If you wanna come in for awhile."
"I actually have quite a bit of homework," I said.
"Ah," Amber said, turning back to me. "Well… I guess I'll see you tomorrow then." She jumped to her feet. "I won't be doing any spirit week crap at least." She looked down at me. "Unless you wanna be twinsies?"
I shook my head. Amber shrugged. Then she reached out her hands toward me. Without thinking much about it, I placed my hands in hers. Suddenly it felt weird though, as she was helping me stand up. The act itself was innocent enough; a friend helping another friend stand. However, it brought this strange feeling, as if I was the helpless girl in the skirt that couldn't stand on her own.
My mind not quite off of the thought, I walked with Amber down the stairs to her driveway. Her mother had finished pulling into the garage by the time we reached the bottom. I waited for a moment, thinking it would be impolite to just run off without saying hello. Amber's mother opened the car door. Both of her low heel shoes hit the concrete floor before she even attempted to get out.
I had only seen and talked to Amber's mother on a few occasions. She was a bit quirky, and normally busied herself around the house doing chores. When Amber said she was a "typical housewife," it was really an understatement. Her mother was like super housewife. She kept the house spotless, seemed to always be cooking, and could juggle houseguests like it was her job. Beyond that, she actually prided herself on it, and enjoyed being the one to take care of her family and home.
"Amber," Mrs. Miller said, as she stepped around the car. "Groceries."
Mrs. Miller handed off the keys to Amber, and stepped out of the garage. I took a moment to admire her attire. She wore a pale orange boatneck dress, with a loose skirt that fell to mid calf. A matching light jacket covered her shoulders and arms. The look was complimented by a pair of light brown shoes. She was completely in style, yet at the same time, very modest with her look. I found it hard to believe Amber lived with her, without adopting some kind of feel for more feminine attire.
"Bailey," Mrs. Miller said, walking right up into my personal space.
"Hello Misses Miller," I responded. Amber's parents hated non-adults calling them by their first names. "I was just heading home."
"Oh," she said, giving pause.
I stood there awkwardly for a moment. "I like your dress," I offered.
"Thank you dear," Mrs. Miller said. "I was about to compliment you on your attire." She turned to see if Amber was within earshot, before turning back to me. "You're certainly staying with the times," she said a little louder. "If only some of your style could rub off on my Amber."
I glanced at Amber, only to see her rolling her eyes as she walked past. "Well," I said. "She certainly has a style all her own."
"Yes…" Mrs. Miller turned half of her body and watched Amber carry groceries up the stairs. "If you can call it that. I'm afraid we spent too much time on the west coast during her more… impressionable years."
"Well, I don't want to keep you," I said, taking a step back.
"Bailey," Mrs. Miller said, turning back to face me. "I'm having a small dinner party on the second of November. It's a Saturday." She smiled at me. "It's semi formal. Just getting to know a few of the neighbors. Would you mind passing the word along to your mother?"
"Of course," I said. "She would probably enjoy getting together."
"You're invited too, of course," Mrs. Miller said. "I'm sure Amber would appreciate having a friend there."
"I'd be delighted," I said, trying to feign a smile.
"Splendid," Mrs. Miller said. "Please have your mother call me about it."
"I will," I said.
"Well I'll let you run along," she said. "Have a nice day."
"You too," I said. I looked up to see Amber coming back down for more groceries. "Bye Amber," I said. "See you tomorrow."
"Take care," Amber said.
I hurried across the street before I got invited to Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners as well. With the front door closed behind me, I made sure it was locked before heading further into the house. My mother had rearranged her schedule since the summer, in an effort to be home with me more on the weekends. However, she still worked through rush hour most nights. She hated driving in traffic, which basically meant I was alone in the house until about six to seven o'clock most nights. It was a little scary, but I tried to busy myself with homework until then.
Reaching down, I gathered up my book bag from the entry way. I had dropped it off inside before running over to Amber's house. The house appeared to be empty. I cautiously climbed the stairs; staying on the balls of my feet to cut down on any unwarranted noise. Ever since I returned home, I had been left with this weird feeling that we would one day have one of Trevor James' lackeys break in to our house. So every day I made sure to check the back door, and see that the house was empty before settling in.
Honestly, I don't know why my mother decided to keep this house. Every single one of Tom's associates knew where we lived. If any of them ever sought retaliation, they knew right where to find us. So I might have been a little scared, and a little overly cautious. Granted it was good practice to check your house for invaders, but I had started becoming obsessive about it. I would first listen at the front door for any unusual sounds. Next I would always creep up the stairs, and check our sliding glass back door. Then I would go down the hallway, stopping at each door to check the rooms.
Once I had been completely convinced there were no monsters lurking about upstairs, I would retreat down to my room in the basement. I even had my own little routine down there. The first thing I would do is check my bathroom and closet for anyone hiding. Then I would return to my door and close myself inside; wishing dearly I had a lock. It felt really stupid for the most part, but I felt better knowing I had at least checked around.
I really had no plan of what I would do if there was someone in the house. At fourteen I weighed all of one-hundred and fifteen pounds. My five foot four inch frame was barely a lethal weapon. The only defensive weapon I had, most days, happened to be my school bag. I seriously doubted hitting a full grown man with a bag would deter them for more than a few seconds. Although, it might give me just enough time to get to an exit. Especially if I aimed low.
A small part of me wished Justin had stayed at home. I wouldn't have this awesome new room, but at least there would be a little more protection around here. That is, of course, if he wouldn't be at work too. My mother and I had discussed getting some sort of house alarm, but she wasn't exactly in a rush to spend money on one. I expressed my concerns with her, and she simply told me to keep my eyes open for anything suspicious. However, she didn't seem to think we were in any real danger.
Truth is, neither of us knew at all what Tom or Trevor were capable of doing. Yes, we knew they smuggled drugs, but other than that, we didn't know what else they had gotten involved with. We allegedly had taken down the mastermind; Trevor James. Yet, I had seen some movies where the bad guys have methods to reach people outside of prison walls. So it wasn't like it was all in my head. There was potential for real threat. It might have been a long shot, considering I wasn't the reason at all why they got caught, but they could always lash out.
Tossing my school bag onto my bed, I sat myself down on the foot of it. I took another brief moment to listen for footsteps. The house answered back with silence. Finally, I felt convinced that I was alone. I reached down and slipped my chunky heels off. It actually felt good to be free from them. They weren't exactly five inch stilettos, but then again, I wasn't exactly used to wearing heels.
Today had been the first day I wore any sort of heeled shoe to school. At least the first I'd worn them to high school. My wardrobe boasted quite a few pairs of them, but I had held off for the first few weeks. It never bothered me to wear them to school last year. Then again, last year I had been in only one building; carpeted for the most part. There happened to be a lot more ground to cover at my new school. Plus we had to go outside to get to other buildings.
I felt short at school though. I'll admit, most of it was in my head. The girls my age were actually around my height. Even Amber barely had an inch on me, and she was one of the taller ones. The upper classmen, on the other hand, made me feel like a little kid walking amongst them. For the record, I didn't want to be extremely tall. When the doctors told me I might be taller than average, because of the orchiectomy, I had this thought in the back of my mind that I'd be a giant.
That being said, I didn't want to be super short either. I had personal hang-ups about being looked down upon. Basically, I just wanted to fit in. I wanted to be average when it came to height. After being on hormones for a few months, I was happy to hear that my height might even out after all. My doctor, at the time, projected that I'd most likely hit the five foot eight mark. Which actually sounded like good news to me.
I spun myself up onto my bed. A queen size bed had been the major selling point on switching rooms. Up until last year, I had always had a little bed in a little room. Not to be ungrateful, because I at least had a bed to sleep in at night. However, the bed my cousin had left behind, left me absolutely spoiled. Her bed felt like an enormous cloud; one I would sink into and be carried away from my worries for awhile.
I absolutely loved her bed. For once, I could roll over and not be met with the edge of the bed to either side. It felt so big and safe; like a giant hug. So when my mother suggested I could get a new bed, that's all I could think about. It had taken a little over three weeks to get my room completely finished. My mother's friend couldn't even get around to doing the closet for two weeks. Once the bed was set up, however, I was instantly happy. Everything else simply seemed like extra little bonuses.
Staring up at the ceiling, I took a moment to daydream. It took everything in my power to keep my mind off of the impending phone conversation with Brendan. I still didn't know why I said that I would call him. That wasn't like me at all. Eventually I sat up and pulled my school bag with me over to my desk. I didn't exactly lie to Amber. While I made it seem that I had so much homework that I couldn't hang out, I did have a fair amount to do. I took a quick detour to the bathroom before starting on it.
The clock on my desk read six o'clock by the time I finished my homework. I always left my math homework for last, as it completely drained me. In junior high I had taken pre-algebra twice. Basically I didn't quite grasp it in seventh grade, so my aunt suggested I take it again in eighth. I still didn't fully understand it in the end, but I decided to move on to algebra. It was required, along with algebra II, to graduate high school. So I bit the bullet, so to speak, and decided to get them both out of the way as soon as possible.
Closing my algebra book, I pushed myself away from the desk. It was a cute little white desk, with two drawers on the side, and just enough room to squeeze a chair under it. In fact, most of my furniture was white now. I won out on the wall color of my room, but my mother picked the contrasting white. Not that it bothered me, as the room now looked ten times cleaner than how Justin had left it. Plus the white furniture was light and airy, and gave the room a more feminine feel.
I stood gingerly. It had been about two hours since I started, but it felt like I had been sitting for four. Perhaps the heels made my legs more tired than I thought. My nylon-encased feet sank into the new carpet as I paced around my room. I still couldn't get over that jerk Brent gawking at my legs for nearly an hour. His disturbing behavior alone made me hesitant to even dress this way again. I'd already made up my mind that I wouldn't give him another chance.
Right as I had made the commitment to change out of my clothes, I heard the phone ring upstairs. I sighed, pulling my sweater back down. One thing I had pushed for at the start, was having a phone in my room. There was already a phone line. Tom had put one in for Justin. The problem was, I decided I needed a cordless phone, but I kept leaving the stupid thing upstairs. I quickly exited my room, and hurried up the stairs to the kitchen.
"Hello?" I paused to take a few short breaths of air after answering the phone.
"Hi honey," my mother said, on the other end. "How was your day?"
"Good interesting?" she asked. "Or bad?"
"I was going to wait 'til you got home --"
"Well that's the thing," my mother interjected. "I'm going to have to stay pretty late tonight. I called to tell you to order some pizza, or something."
"I can cook," I offered.
"No," she said. "I don't want you to go to all that trouble."
"It's really no trouble," I said.
"Bailey… honestly, I would feel bad having you cook, and then it will probably just end up cold." My mother sighed on the other end. "I'm probably going to be here most of the night. We got an important flying in tomorrow. And our paperwork here is an absolute mess right now."
"Oh… Well I could just make spaghetti."
"Just order yourself a pizza," she said. "In fact, why don't you invite Amber over for awhile. Or even Nathan. I'd feel better if you weren't there alone." She paused for a moment before adding, "There's some money in the drawer by the refrigerator. Just behave yourself."
"Mom… I need to ask you something."
"I… kind of got asked out by a boy today," I said.
"Oh," my mother said, leaving me with a long silent pause. "What did you say?" she finally asked.
"I told him I had to ask you," I said.
"How old is he?"
"My age," I said. "He's in my science class."
"Yes. I'll be in there in just one moment," my mother said, to someone in the office. "I'm sorry, Bailey. Things are starting to get crazy around here."
"I told him I'd call him tonight."
A long silence greeted me on the other end. "It's fine with me," my mother finally said. "If it's something you want to do."
"We'll talk about curfew, and the details later," she said. "But I don't mind."
"Thanks, mom," I said. "Like I said, I wanted to wait, but I said I would call him tonight."
"It's fine, honey," my mother said. "I have to go though. I love you, and I'll see you later tonight. Okay?"
"Okay," I said. "I love you too."
Before I could say goodbye, she had already hung up on her end. There was no doubt she loved me, and probably wanted to talk longer, but when she was at work she tended to have a one-track mind. I sat there for a moment, just holding the phone. It wasn't exactly how I wanted to ask, or break the news to my mother, but it worked out anyway. I really had no excuse now to back out of my date with Brendan. That is of course, unless I didn't feel like doing the date. A small little part of me wanted to at least take a chance on it, despite my nerves.
I placed the telephone on the hook, then grabbed mine off of the kitchen counter. Apparently I had gotten hungry, or something, during my last phone call. I retreated back down to my room, and grabbed my notebook. Falling onto my bed, I opened the notebook up, and found Brendan's number. After dialing the number, I collapsed back on the bed. The phone began to ring. I took a few long, deep breaths.
"Hi," I said. "Is this Brendan?"
"This is Bailey," I said.
"Oh," Brendan said. "Hey!"
"Did I call at a bad time?"
"Not… really," he said. "We're about to eat, but not for another few minutes."
"Oh… well I can't talk long," I lied. "I just wanted to… call." I took a deep breath. That sounded so stupid. "My mom gave me the okay for Saturday."
"Cool," Brendan said, sounding a bit relieved. It made me wish I could have done this face-to-face; to see his reaction. "Uh… you still wanna do the movie? Because I don't think there's anything good playing."
"Actually…" I took another deep breath. Maybe face-to-face was a bad idea. I might have passed out. "I kind of changed my mind on the dance."
"Yeah…" I sighed. "It seems my friends are wanting to go, and I don't know… It might be fun."
"Oh…" A slight pause came from Brendan's end. "So you want to do… like… a friend thing?"
"No," I said, sitting up in my bed. "It's not like that. They just kind of… you know… talked me into it." I swallowed hard. "I'd still like to go with you, though."
"Oh, okay," Brendan said.
"That is if you want to go?"
"Sure," Brendan said. "I don't mind dances. Do you wanna just meet there?"
I thought it over for a moment. "That would probably be best," I said.
"Okay," Brendan said. "Cool then. I guess it's a date."
"I guess so," I said. I smiled for some reason, despite him being unable to see me. "I should…"
"Yeah," Brendan said. "I gotta get going. I'll see you at school."
"Okay," I said. "See you then."
"Bye," Brendan said, before hanging up.
I hung up the phone and collapsed back onto my bed. My heart felt like it was going to leap out of my chest. It was like the entire bundle of nerves, I had been saving up all day, suddenly exploded into ribbons that coursed through my body. I couldn't shake the anxious feeling, but at least the slight sickness at my stomach was gone. My body trembled. It took a few minutes of lying there in my bed to get over the phone call.
"Well now I'm committed," I said, holding up the phone.
To Be Continued...
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