The truth of the matter was that I was still madly in love with Ian and seeing Maggie with him was killing me.  Each time he sat down next to her at lunch my heart-felt like it was being ripped out of my chest, each smile he gave her, each slight brush of the hand was enough to tie my stomach into knots.  I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t concentrate; in short, I was miserable.  On top of it all, prom was only a couple of weeks away and the school was buzzing with excitement.  At lunch that Friday, Maggie sat down at the table, practically bursting with excitement over the dance.

“Oh my gosh, we’ve got to go dress shopping and soon.”

“Does this mean you have a date?” Yuuki asked, glancing at me as she asked.

“Not officially, no,” Maggie grinned as Ian sat down beside her.  “I’m still waiting for the invitation, but I know it’s coming.  So what do you say?  Wanna go shopping tomorrow?”

“Sure,” Yuuki shrugged.

“And you?” Maggie asked, turning to me.

“Can’t,” I sighed, “I’ve got that recital in Denver.”

“Oh right,” Maggie nodded, “bummer.  Well, what about Sunday afternoon?  Could you go then?”

“I could but I don’t know what the point would be,” I answered as I picked at my sandwich.

“What do you mean?” Matt asked.  “Aren’t you going to prom?”

“I don’t think so,” I smiled, trying to look amused rather than crushed by my answer.

“Of course you are,” Maggie interjected, apparently shocked by my answer.  “You have to go, it’s prom!”

“Yeah, well, I don’t really see the point in going, seeing as how I don’t have a date or anything,” I groaned.

“That’s never stopped you before,” Maggie exclaimed.

“Oh stop pushing her,” Cade snapped.  “If she doesn’t want to go, she doesn’t have to.”

“I know that,” Maggie snapped back, “but I also know that Lyla always says she doesn’t want to go to a dance when really she does.”

“But this is prom,” Yuuki pointed out, “no one wants to go to prom without a date.”

“That’s true,” Jack agreed.  “It’d be pretty lame to go alone.”

“But she wouldn’t be alone,” Ian grinned, “she’d have you and Yuuki and Maggie and her date there with her.”

“That hardly sounds like fun,” Matt groaned.

“Especially when it means having to watch the two of you together,” Cade grumbled, glaring at Ian and Maggie.

“And what’s that supposed to mean?” Maggie snapped.

“Oh come on, we all know you two are together, whether you admit it to us or not.”

“Oh good grief,” Maggie groaned, “not you too.”

“Don’t “good grief” me,” Cade snapped. “The two of you have been nauseating to be around for weeks.”

“And what, exactly, is that supposed to mean?” Maggie snapped back.

“You know what it means, the two of you and your incessant flirting.  It’s revolting and I’m sick of it and your stupid lies!”

“What lies?” Ian asked, coolly.

“The lies you keep telling everyone, about how you’re not together.”

“But we’re not,” Maggie insisted.

“Whatever,” Cade snapped; grabbing his backpack and his tray and standing to leave.  “Together or not, it doesn’t matter anymore.  You can do whatever you want, I don’t care and Lyla, you shouldn’t care anymore either.  Ian’s a jerk and Maggie obviously isn’t much better so stop wasting your time with them; you’re only going get hurt.”

Before any of us could recover from Cade’s sudden outburst, he was gone, disappearing into the mass of people crowded into the cafeteria.

“Whoa,” Matt chuckled, nodding to his sister, “looks like you have another admirer.”

“Shut-up Matt,” Maggie snapped.

“What?” he laughed.  “I’m just saying…”

“I know what you’re saying and I don’t want to hear it so just shut-up.”

“Fine,” Matt grinned, “but just for the record…I told you so.”

Maggie shot her brother a fierce look before turning her attention to her half-eaten lunch.

“So, Lyla,” Matt grinned, completely ignoring his sister, “I guess this means you’re still into Ian, huh?”

“What?  No, I’m not…no…I mean…I…” I stammered as I felt the heat rising in my cheeks.

“I guess that answers that question,” Matt chuckled.

“Matt!” Maggie shrieked.  “What do you think you’re doing?”

“Just proving my point,” he shrugged.

“You’re such a jerk,” she sighed.

“I think we all know who the jerks are at this table,” Matt retorted bitterly, “and I’m not one of them.”

“Drop dead,” Maggie growled at her brother.

“Be my guest,” he snapped back as he threw his backpack over his shoulder and left, leaving his half-eaten lunch sitting on the table as he too disappeared into the crowded cafeteria.

“And then there were five,” Yuuki sighed.

“Four,” I corrected her as I grabbed my bag and my tray.

“Are you alright?” she asked as I stood to leave.

“Yeah,” I lied, “I’ve just got some homework I need to get done before class starts.  I’ll see ya later.”

Yuuki just nodded as I followed Matt and Cade’s path into the crowd, grateful to get away from everyone for a while.  As embarrassing as it had been to have my feelings for Ian thrown into the spotlight by both Cade and Matt, it was even worse knowing that those same  feelings had caused such a huge rift in the relationships of my closest friends.  I was pretty sure Matt and Maggie would work things out, they were brother and sister, after all, but I wasn’t as sure about Cade and Ian’s friendship.  Calling your friend a jerk to his face wasn’t usually the best way to keep a friend and the friendship between Maggie and Cade, well, I was pretty sure that could only be mended if Maggie suddenly fell madly in love with Cade, which didn’t seem likely to happen any time soon, if ever at all.  Feeling worse than I could ever remember feeling, I trudged through the rest of the day, doing my best to avoid everyone else, wishing that somehow I could vanish from the face of the earth and let my friends go on with their lives in peace.

Of course vanishing wasn’t an option as my disappearance for the afternoon seemed to cause quite a bit of commotion.  Jack and Yuuki stopped by Stan’s before going home, just to make sure I was really alright.  I assured them both that I was, but for some reason, neither one of them seemed very convinced.

“You know, you can tell us the truth, really,” Yuuki prodded while I assembled the banana split she and Jack were going to share.  “You don’t have to put a happy face on for us.”

“I know, I just don’t want to cause any trouble,” I sighed.

“You’re not,” Jack stated matter-of-factly.  “If anything, Ian and Maggie are the ones causing all the trouble.”

“But that shouldn’t be the case, ya know?” I sighed again, feeling worse and worse about the way this conversation was going.  “I mean if they both really like each other, shouldn’t we be happy for them?  They are our friends, after all.”

“Yeah, but friends don’t do this to other friends,” Jack pointed out.  “It’s just mean.”

“You can’t help who you fall in love with,” I shrugged as I started spraying whipped cream flowers all over the banana split, using cherries as the centers.  “You, of all people, should know that.  How would you like it if we were all telling you two that you couldn’t be together?”

“It would suck,” Yuuki sighed.

“Yeah,” Jack agreed, “but we’re not the ones in question here.  We haven’t done anything wrong.”

“So what makes Ian and Maggie so terrible?” I asked.

“What’s terrible,” Yuuki answered, “is that we all know how you feel about Ian.  The whole school knows, for crying out loud!”

“So maybe I’ve had a change of heart,” I offered, as I added sprinkles to the massive sundae in front of me.

“Have you?” Jack asked.

“No,” I sighed, as I handed him the ice cream.

“So then you shouldn’t have to put up with this,” Jack insisted, taking my frozen masterpiece with a smile.  “You deserve better than this, Lyla, you really do.”

“Thanks Jack,” I sighed, offering my own weak smile in return.  “I just want Maggie and Ian both to be happy and if being happy means being together, then that’s just the way it’s going to be.  Everyone deserves a chance to be really happy, right?”

“Yeah,” Yuuki agreed, “but that includes you.”

“I’m happy,” I insisted.

“Liar,” Yuuki grinned as she and Jack settled themselves in at the nearest booth, ready to destroy my frozen masterpiece.

Jack and Yuuki left about an hour later, both groaning about how they’d eaten too much and how I always spoiled them with extra scoops of ice cream, which I knew they both loved, even if they did complain about their aching stomachs.  On their way out Yuuki reminded me that if I ever needed anything, I knew who to call.  I just nodded in gratitude and watched as they walked down the sidewalk, hand in hand, looking so perfectly content.  I caught myself sighing as I watched them disappear around the corner, wishing I could find a guy with whom I could share monster banana splits and long walks off into the sunset.

 

At home that evening, I did everything I could to get my mind off of what had happened that day, but no matter what I did, I kept coming back to the fact and Ian and Maggie were together and I would never be happy again.  After a silent supper with my mom, I shut myself in my room and started working on my latest comic, which had almost become an obsession.  About an hour into my work, the phone rang but I just ignored it, figuring my mom would pick it up if it were anyone important.  Not two seconds later, my mom was standing outside my door, knocking.

“Lyla?” she called through the door, “It’s for you…it’s Maggie.”

Sighing, I picked up the hamburger phone that sat on my desk and yelled to my mom that I had it.

“Hello?” I asked as I heard my mom hanging up the other line.

“Hey Lyla,” Maggie sighed, sounding uncharacteristically down.  “Whatcha up to?”

“Nothing really, just drawing.”

“Would you mind if I came over for a little while?  I’ve got something I need to talk to you about.”

“I don’t know,” I sighed, not really feeling up to listening to anything Maggie had to say.  “I’ve got to get up early for the recital tomorrow.”

“Oh, right.  Well, I wouldn’t stay long.  I just really need to talk to you about something.  Please?”

“Sure,” I sighed, knowing how annoyingly persistent Maggie could be.

“Great!  I’ll be right over.”

“Okay,” I said to myself as Maggie had already hung up.

Not five minutes later she was sprawled on my bed, flipping through one of my old sketch books as I continued to work on my latest creation, not saying anything as I waited for her to begin.  I almost wondered how she’d managed to be at my house so soon after hanging up with me, but I figured she must have been on her way when she called.  The silence between us was growing more awkward by the second and I was beginning to wonder if she was ever going to say what she’d come over to say when she shattered the silence with a sigh and a “so.”

“So what?” I asked, not taking my eyes off my work.

“So I think I owe you an apology.”

“What for?”

“For being a colossal jerk,” she sighed.

“What do you mean?” I asked, finally looking up at her.  “You haven’t done anything.”

“It’s nice of you to say that,” Maggie grinned, “but we both know that’s not true.  I’ve been a huge jerk these past few weeks and I was hoping that maybe, you could forgive me.”

“And what, exactly, am I supposed to forgive?” I asked, turning back to my book.

“Well, for starters, how about for lying?”

“What’d you lie about?” I asked, preparing myself for the truth about Maggie and Ian I knew was only moments away.  I wondered why it’d taken her so long to admit that they were really together.

“About me and Ian.”

Ha!  I knew it!

“What about you and Ian?” I asked, trying to sound as if I didn’t care about the answer.

“Well, over the past few weeks we’ve been spending a lot of time together, right?  What with the play and all.  Well, some people have gotten the impression that we’re together and well, we’re not.  Not at all.”

“I thought you said you were here to apologize for lying,” I muttered, disappointed that Maggie had chosen to lie to me again.

“I am,” Maggie insisted.  “I’m telling you, we were never together, not even for a little while.  We were just acting.”

“Acting?”

“Yeah, acting.  You know?  Pretending to be something we’re not.”

“I know what acting is, I just don’t get why you would do that.  What was the point?”

“Well, let’s just say that it was another one of my hair-brained schemes that, of course, went all wrong.”

“What do you mean?  You got the guy you wanted, didn’t you?  I wouldn’t call that a failure.”

“That’s just it, I didn’t get the guy I wanted!”

“But you have Ian!”

“No, I don’t!  I’ve already told you, that was all just an act!  A plot!  A ploy!”

“So if you’re not after Ian…?”

“I’ve been trying,” Maggie sighed, “very unsuccessfully I might add, these past few weeks, or months, really, to get Cade to notice me.”

“Cade?” I asked, looking up, my interest finally piqued.

“Yeah, Cade.  You know…Cade Davies.”

“Of course I know Cade.  I just never knew you liked him.”

“That’s because I was too afraid to tell you,” Maggie sighed, looking down at her hands as she spoke.

“Why?”

“Because I thought you two were together.”

“But that’s ridiculous!  You know I’ve never been interested in Cade like that.  We’re just friends.”

“That’s what you always said, but well, to be honest, it didn’t really seem that way.  I mean, the two of you were always together.  He always sits by you at lunch and then he asked you to the hop in January and I just assumed that you two have been together ever since.”

“Maggie, that’s crazy!  You know you and Yuuki would be the first to know if I ever actually ended up with a guy!”

“Yeah, I know.”

“And assuming I was with Cade because he suckered me into going to the hop with him is just crazy; especially since he spent the entire night dancing with you while I was out freezing my butt off and saving people from psychotic donut drivers!”

“He did spend the whole night with me, that night, didn’t he?” Maggie asked, sheepishly.

“Yes, he did!  And I couldn’t have been happier!  I told you, I’m not interested in Cade at all!”

“I know, but at the time, it just seemed like you were.  I mean, he did humiliate you at the fall auditions, which was a very good indicator that he liked you.  And then there was the dance and then Ian told me you two were always pairing up in P.E…”

“Maggie, it’s dance P.E. and Cade’s the only boy.  We all have to pair up with him at some point.”

“Yeah, but Ian said you danced with him more than anyone.”

“That’s because he was always wanting to talk to me about you.”

“Then why didn’t he dance with Yuuki?”

“He did, but he got tired of her always ignoring him while she tried to catch a glimpse of Jack in the weight room.”

“Oh,” Maggie sighed, suddenly very interested in a chip in her otherwise perfectly polished nails.  “So you guys weren’t flirting?  Ian said it looked like you were flirting, you know, talking, laughing, dancing.”

“Again, it’s dance P.E., dancing is required.”

“Yeah, but what about the talking and the laughing?”

“Maggie,” I sighed, “it’s Cade!”

“So?”

“So, you know how he is.  You can’t be around him without laughing; he wouldn’t allow it.”

“I guess not,” Maggie shrugged.

“And as for the talking, if we weren’t talking about classes or the play we were talking about you.”

“Really?” Maggie asked, finally looking up, her eyes full of hope.

“Yes!  Oh my gosh, most of the time he wouldn’t shut up about you.  I wanted to slap him.  Sorry, I love you, but even I don’t want to talk about you all the time.”

“He really talked about me that much?”

“Constantly,” I assured her, rolling my eyes. “Especially after things started happening with you and Ian.  He wouldn’t shut up.  He was always asking me what you saw in Ian and why all of the girls he liked were only interested in Ian and why couldn’t he, just once, find a girl who was actually interested in him.  You know, stuff like that.”

“Oh man,” Maggie groaned, “I’ve really screwed everything up, haven’t I?”

“I don’t know,” I shrugged, “I’d think a guy that into you would be willing to forgive you if he knew the truth.  He really is crazy about you, you know.”

“I wish I’d known that earlier.”

“I would have told you but I was afraid you’d see it as a pathetic attempt, on my part, to keep you from Ian and I didn’t want that.”

“Why not?”

“Because you seemed so happy.  Maggie, you’re my best friend, I’d do anything to make you happy.”

“Even let me date the guy you’ve liked for the past six years?”

“I figured that with all the crappy guy experiences you’ve had over the past year, you deserved to finally get a great guy.”

“Oh Lyla, you really are amazing.”

“No I’m not,” I grumbled, turning back to my book.

“Lyla, any girl who’s willing to hand the guy she loves over to her best friend, is truly amazing.  If it were me, I wouldn’t let you get away with it.  Obviously.”

“So what, exactly, was your whole master plan here?”

“I’m a little embarrassed to admit it,” Maggie sighed.  “It’s so shallow and mean, I’m ashamed to tell you.”

“Is it really that bad?”

“It involves hurting my best friend, so yes, it’s that bad.”

“What I don’t understand is why.  Why would you do something so mean?”

“Because I was jealous.  You were with Cade and I wanted him for myself.”

“So you decided to give me a taste of my own medicine?”

“Something like that,” Maggie nodded, once again interested in the chip on her nail.  “Every time I saw you two together, I felt like my heart was being ripped out of my chest.  It hurt and I hated it so I decided to come up with a plan to make you feel just as awful.”

“Oh Maggie,” I sighed.

“I know, I’m terrible.”

“No…”

“No, really, I am.  I know it.  I felt awful the entire time I was plotting but I just kept thinking of Cade and how he looked at you the way I wanted him to look at me and so I kept going.  I wasn’t sure, at first, if I could convince Ian to go along with my plan.  I mean, yeah, he’s been a jerk to you all year, but to everyone else, he’s a pretty nice guy.  I wasn’t sure he’d go for something so low, but when I finally got up the courage to ask him, he was all for it.”

“Why does that not surprise me?”

“Anyway, once he was on board, things just kinda took off.  At first, I wasn’t sure our plan was working; I mean, you and Cade seemed to be as close as ever but then Yuuki started talking to me.  Telling me how she was glad I was happy but at the same time concerned that I was being a little bit mean to you.  I told her that you were fine, that you had Cade and if something were really wrong, you’d say something.  Yuuki told me that you and Cade were only friends, which, of course, I didn’t believe, and so I kept up the act.  The brilliant thing about the whole plan was that anytime anyone asked Ian or me about our “relationship” we could be completely honest.  Never once, did we lie about our status because we never were together.”

“No one believed you, you know.”

“I know, that’s the brilliant part.  I never believed you when you said the same about Cade.  See?  My plan was perfect!  I’d make you feel as awful as I did by doing the exact same thing to you that you were doing to me.”

“But I wasn’t doing anything to you!”

“I know that now.  To be honest, I knew it then, I was just too upset to listen.  You’d taken the guy I liked so I was going to take yours.  All’s fair in love and war, right?”

“I guess,” I sighed.  “So why didn’t you just tell me all of this in the first place?  I could have told you about Cade’s insane crush on you weeks ago.”

“I don’t know,” Maggie groaned, “I’m just stupid, I guess.”

“You’re not stupid.”

“But I am terrible.  I mean, I’ve hurt you, I’ve hurt Cade and I’ve really screwed everything up.”

“I doubt it’s as bad as you think,” I sighed.  “I’m mean, you’ve already confessed to me and I forgive you.  I’m pretty sure Cade will do the same and then everything will be back to normal.”

“Maybe,” Maggie shrugged.

“It will, I promise.”

“I really am sorry,” Maggie sighed.

“I know.”

“So, am I forgiven?”

“I already said you were, didn’t I?”

“Yeah.”

“Then there you go,” I grinned.

Maggie smiled back at me and for a second we just sat there, eyes locked as we told each other, without words, that the one was truly sorry and genuinely forgiven.

“Well,” Maggie sighed as she stood, “I promised I wouldn’t stay long so I’d better go.  Good luck at the recital tomorrow.”

“Thanks,” I sighed, as we headed toward the front door, “I’m gonna need all the luck I can get.”

“I doubt that,” Maggie grinned.  “So, are we still on for Sunday?”

“Dress shopping?”

“Yeah.”

“I thought you said you didn’t have a date.”

“I don’t, not yet anyway.  But I’m hoping my explanation, apology and invitation will change that.”

“So you’re going to ask Cade to prom?”

“If he’ll let me talk to him I will.  I’m on my way over there next.”

“Well, good luck,” I grinned as I opened the front door.

“Thanks,” she smiled back, “for everything.  You really are an amazing person.”

“Nah,” I laughed, as she started for her car, “you are.”

With Maggie gone, I spent the rest of the evening, working on my book and going over everything she had said.  It was a lot to process and I had to admit, part of it hurt, especially considering we’d been friends for forever, but in the end, I just let it all go.  The truth was out, Maggie was sorry and Ian was no more in love with her than he was with me.  Finally, the world was back to normal.

 

I woke up the next morning feeling awful, with all of the excitement of Maggie’s confession, I’d completely forgotten about the recital, until I fell asleep, that is.  I tossed and turned the entire night, dreaming about the recital, where, for some reason, the only song I could remember how to play was Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star and the only clothes I owned was the SpongeBob bathing suit I’d had when I was six.  Paranoid that I really had forgotten my pieces, I jumped out of bed two hours before my alarm went off and sat at the piano, playing my recital pieces over and over, until my mom finally stumbled into the living room and demanded I stop.  Feeling a little guilty for waking her up at such an ungodly hour, I stopped playing and headed to the kitchen to make some breakfast, hoping the food would act as a peace-offering.  Half an hour later the kitchen table was covered in eggs, bacon, pancakes and an awesome fruit salad, the only problem was that once I sat down to eat, my nerves got the better of me and I found myself too anxious to eat.

“Aren’t you going to eat?” my mom asked as she dove into the food.

“I can’t,” I moaned.

“Nervous?”

“Extremely.”

“You’ll do fine, you know that, don’t you?”

“Fine isn’t exactly what I’m going for.”

“Alright, you’ll do wonderfully.  Is that better?”

“A little,” I groaned.  “I just wish I didn’t have to play in front of so many people.”

“I thought you only had to play in front of a panel of judges.”

“I do, but still, that’s like three people!  You know how much I hate to play in front of people!  It may as well be a thousand!  Oh, why did I ever say I’d do this?”

“I think it had something to do with the five thousand dollar scholarship,” my mom grinned sympathetically.

“Right,” I sighed as I picked at the food on my plate.

“You know, you really should eat something before you go.  I’d hate to have you faint from hunger in the middle of Claire de lune.”

“If I faint, it won’t be from hunger.”

“Well, you should eat something anyway.”

Not feeling up to any sort of confrontation, I did as my mom said and managed to choke down a couple bites of fruit before my stomach completely knotted up.  Satisfied that I’d at least tried, my mom let me go get ready while she cleaned up the mess in the kitchen.  It took me twice as long as usual to get ready because I kept running back to the piano to look over my pieces, tripping over Bills as I went, completely convinced that I had forgotten every note.  Tired of me constantly running into him, Bills took refuge on the couch while my mom, just as sick of my parade as Bills was, brought the sheet music into the bathroom so I could look over it as I finished getting ready.

“So what are you going to wear?” she asked as I tried to figure out what to do with my hair.

“I don’t know,” I whined.  “I tried to figure out what to wear last night but nothing I have seems right.  Maybe I can just wear my pajamas?”

“I’m not sure that’d be the best idea,” my mom grinned as she disappeared down the hall.

“Do you have anything I could wear?” I yelled.

“Maybe,” she yelled back, “you can check my closet if you want to.”

“Okay, thanks!”

“Or maybe you could wear this,” my mom grinned as she suddenly appeared in the doorway holding the most perfect dress out in front of her.  The dress was simple, solid white, strapless and tiered, with lace trim on the lowest tier that just barely touched the top of my foot and it was completely gorgeous.  In a way it reminded me of something a flower child would wear, which, of course, only made me love it more.

“Oh my goodness!  Mom!  Where did you get this?” I shrieked as I grabbed the dress and held it in front of me.  “It’s perfect!”

“I thought you’d like it,” she grinned.

“Are you kidding?  I love it!  It’s so great!  Thank you!”

“You’re welcome.  Now try it on and make sure it fits.”

Obediently, I tried on the dress, which, of course, fit perfectly.  My mom just had a knack for finding me the perfect clothes, something she said was a gift.

“So how is it?” my mom asked through the door.

“Fantastic,” I grinned as I opened the door and twirled around for her.

“I’m glad you like it.”

“I love it!  Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you!”

“By George, I think she likes it!  You know, the best part of that dress is…”

“That I can just shorten it and wear it again?” I asked with a grin.

“Ha ha,” my mom groaned at my lame movie reference.  “I was going to say that you can wear flats or sandals with it and it’ll still look great.”

“Perfect!” I laughed.  “One less thing to have to worry about.”

“Exactly!”

“How’d I end up with such a great mom?”

“I guess you were just lucky.  Now you need to hurry up and finish getting ready, I don’t want you speeding all the way there because you’re running late.”

“Alright.”

“Oh, I almost forgot, I wasn’t sure about the weather when I bought the dress, so I bought you a little sweater to wear with it, just in case.”

“Thanks mom.”

“You’re welcome now hurry up, you’ve got to leave soon.”

The excitement of the dress got my mind off of the recital and I was able to finish getting ready relatively quickly.  Once satisfied that I was completely ready, I grabbed my music and the sweater my mom had left lying on the couch for me, gave Bills a quick pat, told my mom bye and headed out the front door, my brief moment of confidence quickly fading as I stepped out into the brisk spring air.

The nerves I’d been struggling to control all morning were back in full force as I made my way toward my car.  I was beginning to wonder if I shouldn’t have had my mom take me to the recital but I decided that driving would help get my mind off of being so nervous.  Hoping that were the case, I fished around in my bag for my keys, completely unaware of anything else around me, until I ran into my car that is.

“Ouch,” I groaned as I continued the search for my keys, my knee throbbing slightly from being rammed into the car door.

“Nice one,” a voice called out from somewhere nearby.

“Huh?”  I asked, looking up to find Ian leaning casually against the side of his car, which had been parked behind mine, looking like some sort of mafia hitman in his black pinstriped suit and felt fedora.  “Oh, yeah, I know.  Thanks.  So, um, what, exactly, are you doing here?”

“I’m here to give you a ride.”

“A ride?”

“Yes, a ride.  You know, to the recital?”

“Seriously?  Why?”

“Because it doesn’t make sense for us to drive separately.”

“So you’re going to Denver today do?”

“I am,” Ian nodded.

“And why’s that?”

“Because of some stupid recital my mom’s making me go to.”

“Okay…,” I sighed, not really sure what to make of Ian’s answer.  “So, are you playing at this recital or do you just like to dress like the Godfather every once in a while?”

“Wouldn’t you like to know?” Ian chuckled.  “So are you ready?  We should probably get going.”

“Um, I guess so.  Are you sure you want me to ride with you?  I don’t want to be a bother or anything.”

“If I thought you were going to be a bother, I wouldn’t have stopped  by to ask if you wanted a ride.  Now will you please get in before I change my mind?”

“Do you mind if I tell my mom I’m going with you first?  I don’t want her freaking out when she sees my car still in the drive.”

“She already knows I’m here but you can tell her if that’ll make you feel better.”

“How does she…you know what, never mind.  I’ll just run in and tell her I’m leaving.  I’ll only be a sec.”

I ran back inside to find my mom acting just a little too casually as she lay sprawled on the couch, flipping through an old issue of one of her chocolate catalogs.

“I guess this means you know who’s outside,” I stated flatly, “and that he’s asked me to go with him.”

“I do,” my mom grinned from behind her magazine.

“I don’t have time to ask what’s going on right now, but you and I are going to have a little talk when I get home.”

“I sure hope so,” my mom grinned as she put down her magazine.

I just rolled my eyes at her as I started back toward the front door.

“Have fun!” I heard my mom yell as I closed the door behind me.

A thousand different emotions churned inside me as I headed toward the sleek Mustang sitting in my driveway.  It made sense, practically, for us to ride together, but I just didn’t see why Ian would offer to spend a good portion of his day with me.  Sure, we all liked to do our part to save the environment and all, but Ian subjecting himself to a day with me just seemed to be a little too over the top.  He had, after all, spent the entire year loathing me and had willingly joined Maggie in her plot to torment me and win Cade for herself.  Still, an entire day spent with Ian was a thrilling prospect.  Not that I expected anything really spectacular to happen, if history were any indicator of how the day would go, we’d probably end the day in an argument.  Of course, there had been a few occasions in the past few months where we had actually gotten along, maybe today would be one of them.  Not really sure what the day might hold, I slid into the passenger’s seat, trying not to let my hopes get too high as I pulled the door shut beside me.

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