I held my breath with my eyes closed waiting for his voice from downstairs but after two minutes, it didn't come. I frowned. Where was he? That was so unusual but maybe it was my lucky day. Maybe I was going to have a great start of my junior year but that would only happen if I got out of that bed and got ready. I was already running late as it was and my best friend Ava would be up my ass again.
My phone rang. *Talk of the devil.* I thought as I flipped it to see the caller ID.
"Hey bitch!" Ava greeted as soon as her face appeared on the screen. "You are not dressed yet?" she gasped.
I lowered the camera trying to hide my pyjamas but it was too late.
"Give me five minutes tops. I'll be right out."
"The thing is, I'm not going to pick you up. My car broke down and I can't get it repaired on time. Can we take yours?"
"Ava! You know I'm on probation. I can't drive before my doctor gives me the go ahead."
"We have to take the bus? Come on Tess!" Ava was disappointed but I knew if I listened to her, I would be in trouble. If I dared to take the car out of the garage, my dad would kill me before the migraines that had forced me to stop driving did. I couldn't risk it regardless of how much I loved Ava. Sometimes she was a bad influence and I did most things because of her. It wasn't once that I had gotten in trouble because of something she had convinced me to do. It was so hard to say no to her and I wouldn't lie and say that I didn't have fun.
Being the silent nerd in class, the wallflower who only moved just when displaced by someone not because she wanted to had seen me missing a lot of fun other teenagers had. That had been until I met Ava. She was the opposite of me. She was my extrovert and in most cases she had to defend me or stand up to bullies for me. Sometimes I admired her confidence but no matter how hard I tried to be like her, I ended up being uncomfortable almost like someone had scraped off my skin. I had eventually stopped trying and let her be the outgoing person for both of us. However, it only took her a few cute words to convince me and rope me into her escapades and this time was no different.
"Come on Tess. Don't make me ride with Tim on top of having to share classes with him."
I chuckled. Tim was Ava's ex boyfriend. They had dated for the whole of sophomore year until he had cheated on her over the summer. The break up was still raw and Ava was nowhere near getting over him. How could I say no and make my friend more miserable than she was? While I could not heal her broken heart, I could at least make it better by fulfilling her wish that morning.
"Okay. Meet me down the street in ten minutes."
I quickly dropped the phone, took a shower and dressed up quickly. Within seven minutes, I was done and heading downstairs hurriedly. I descended in twos and threes hoping to bypass my dad before he saw me. I grabbed the car keys by the door slowly trying not to alert him but just as I was about to step outside, he appeared.
"Tessie, hold up!"
My heart froze in my chest for several seconds. I was sure I had been busted and I wasn't sure what to do next. My dad knew me as his sweet little girl who never got in trouble and whenever I did, he never blamed it on me. Those were the moments I wished my mother was still alive because she could have been stricter. I closed my eyes briefly and then turned around, holding the keys behind me.
"Hey Dad!" Instead of speaking, he bit his lip lightly and stepped forward avoiding eye contact. This was something he did whenever he wanted to talk to me about something serious. "What's going on?"
"There is something I have been wanting to talk to you about but I hadn't found the right moment."
Well, at least it wasn't about the keys. I could deal with the consequences later but whatever it was, he looked even more nervous than I was. Was it something I wanted to know before my first day of junior year?
"Dad, I'm already running late for school. Can it wait until I come back in the evening?" He hesitated and then met my eyes directly. He sighed heavily. "You are scaring me now."
He shook his head, "You are right, honey." He handed me a bag. "Don't forget your lunch."
"Thanks." I accepted the bag but remained staring at him questioningly. I had to admit to myself that I had never seen him like that. Questions ran freely in my head but I couldn't ask them except for one. "Are you okay Dad?"
"Yeah," he stated and shoved his hands in his pockets. "Just do me a favor and come back straight home from school. We have some guests coming over tonight."
"Okay." It wasn't the first time we would be having visitors.
His work partners often came by, my grandma and my mom's sister often dropped by for dinner so I wasn't surprised by that. My father's edgy face and masked voice was what made me question what exactly was going on. A message from Ava popped up on my screen but I dismissed it.
"See you later honey."
I watched him as he headed back to the kitchen without another word. I stood there for several more seconds before I finally moved. I looked at the keys in my hand and without second thought, I placed them back on the rack and left.
Ava was waiting for me down the street and I could see the disappointment in her face the moment I showed up without the car before I even reached her.
"I couldn't do it." Ava exhaled exasperatedly, her hands drooping to her sides. "My dad was acting all weird and I couldn't risk doing something to make him worse. I'm sorry."
"So now I have to see Tim, first thing on my first day of junior year?"
"What are you saying. You saw me first," I responded and shoved her playfully but Ava scowled at me. "You need to show him that you don't care about him anymore. Show him that you have moved on."
"As if it was that easy. Who am I supposed to move on with?"
I was the wrong person to ask that. I didn't know the first thing when it came to boys because I tended to avoid them at all costs. That was the only thing that Ava had failed to rope me into, not because I hadn't tried but because I was always awkward where boys were involved. I was no love expert and she knew that. However that was about to change and neither of us had an idea.
I was preoccupied in my thoughts about the interaction with my dad as we waited for the bus when suddenly Ava tugged on my arm roughly. At first I thought she was about to throw another tantrum regarding Tim but then I saw her eyes blinking with a sparkle I had not seen for a while.
"What now?" I asked without much enthusiasm but Ava just pointed ahead of us.
A few steps away was a young guy about our age or slightly older walking towards us with calculated and confident strides. He looked up and pushed back short strands of his tousled hair that fell over his forehead exposing the hottest face I had ever seen. How I knew he was hot was not an explanation I could give because I just felt it. The sleeves of his t-shirt hugged his biceps perfectly showing muscles of a person who regularly worked out and his face even without smiling was that of a rockstar. Only one word came out of my mouth at that moment.