Chapter 18: Take Me into Town

After school, I changed into a pair of loose jeans, a flannel button down shirt and a black hoodie. Thomas was making mac and cheese for his dinner, and no matter how much I tried to get him to come with Olivia and I, but he refused. He didn’t want to be a third wheel.

I couldn’t understand how Thomas could stand it. He spent all of his time on this campus. He finally had a chance to get out of this place for a couple of hours and he was opting out of it.

I sprayed on a bit of cologne, and checked my appearance in the mirror on the door of my closet. I rummaged through my messenger bag and produced my battered, tattered package of cigarettes. I had only two left, and if I had to beg, borrow and steal, I was determined to stock up.

I shoved my wallet into my pocket and shoved my cigarettes into my front pocket.

I walked out into the main room. Thomas was standing in the kitchen with one of his textbooks open on the counter. He was standing over the book, eating his dinner.

“Dude, are you sure you don’t want to go to town with us? I mean, I’m sure Olivia won’t mind…”

“No way. She told me it was your first official date and I’m not going to impede on that.”

I cocked one eyebrow. “Seriously? She told you that?”

He nodded. “She told me she’s very excited.”

“Awesome.” I nodded. “What are you doing tonight?”

“Getting to the sixth level of ‘Dungeon Devils. Not very exciting, I guess. I’ve got some history reading to do, and some geometry homework…”

“Dude, it’s Friday night. I mean, I know this place is lame, but there’s got to be something to do!”

Thomas shrugged. “Not really.”

“And you’re sure you don’t want to go into town?”

“I’m sure.”
“Maybe Gabby has a friend we could set you up with, you know? I could ask her.”
“That’s okay. Most of her friends are pretty vacant and conceited… no offense.”
I laughed. “No, I get that. I’ve met her room mate like twice and she’s kind of an airhead. I think all that make up and hairspray has rotted her brain.”

Thomas chuckled. “You’d better get going. You’re going to be late…”

“Oh, shit. Right.” I moved toward the door, but paused. “You’re sure?”

“Definitely.” Thomas agreed. “Go, if you’re late, she’ll kill you.”

“Right.” I grabbed my room key off the table and quickly left. I moved quickly down the hall and took the elevator up to the next floor.

I was early; there was no sign of Olivia.

I paced for a few seconds before plopping down on the bench.

I glanced at my watch and heard the door open. I stood to see Olivia, smiling hugely.

Her hair had been pulled free from the French braid, and was now pulled back by some complicated kind of clip. It hung to the top of her shoulders in thick curls. It hung around her face like a perfect curtain of chocolate waves.

She had on a faint amount of make up on, that made her look beautiful. She was wearing a light purple button down shirt and a pair of fitted jeans. On her feet were a pair of black ballet flats. A white sweater was hanging over her left arm with her purse.

“Hi.” She smiled. “Sorry I’m late.”

“No, no. It’s okay.” I said quickly, getting to my feet. “It was totally worth it.”

She laughed softly. “We’d better hurry. We’ll miss the bus.”

“Right.” I agreed, pressing the button for the elevator.

The doors opened immediately, and we stepped inside.

As soon as the doors closed, I slowly reached toward her and slipped my hand into hers. I interlaced our fingers gently.

Olivia beamed hugely. She turned to me and gently nestled a kiss against my cheek.

I smiled down at her. “You’re really beautiful, do you know that?”

She turned a soft shade of pink. “I’m not even trying…”

“You don’t have to.” I insisted.

“That’s sweet.” She laughed softly. “I guess it’s a good think I took you off the market when I did.” She teased.

“Yeah, because I had so many options…” I rolled my eyes.

She smirked and playfully pushed me away.

The elevator came to a stop and we stepped out into the main hall.

It was beginning to get dark already.

“So, is there anything you want to do when we get to town?” I asked.

“Well, I like the idea of maybe getting dinner… and there was one thing I wanted to ask you about…” She said hesitantly.

“Sure.” I agreed.

“Well, we talked about going to the Founder’s Formal… but class started before we could really come up with a definitive answer… Are we going?” Her gaze flitted to the ground then back up to me.

“I’d like to go. And you said you’ve had your dress chosen for a really long time, right? So I think we should definitely go. Um… when is it?”

“Next Friday.” She answered.

“Okay. I’ll pick up the tickets then…”

She smiled. “Great. Do you think maybe tonight we could look for a suit for you… you said you didn’t have anything to wear…”

“That would be great. Could you help me with that?”

“Absolutely.” She smiled hugely. “I think I could be very useful in the clothing department.”

“Good, because I need all the help I can get.” I smirked.

She beamed up at me.

“There’s a bank machine or a bank in town someplace right? I think I’ve got like five bucks to my name…”

“Yeah, of course,” Olivia answered. “I know where it is.”

“Great.”

We reached the front of the school, where several buses were lined up, surrounded by hundreds of students, all waiting to board.

I automatically assumed that Olivia knew what she was doing. She’d done this before.

She led me to one of the last buses and I led her up onto the bus and led her down the aisle.

I stopped at the next available seat. “Ladies first.” I hesitated.

“It’s okay, you can take the window…” She began.

“It’s yours.”

She smiled and slid into the seat. I plopped down next to her, trying to do some mental calculations in my head. I was desperately short on cash. I was trying to figure out how I was going to manage paying for our dinner and my suit.

If worst came to worse, I could find a pay phone and see if my parents could send me some money.

It seemed we had arrived just in time. Our bus was only about half full and it was already pulling to a start.

Olivia placed her purse on her lap and rummaged through it. She pulled out a tattered paperback novel and opened it.

I was dying to talk to her, to distract myself from my money issues. “What are you reading?” I asked.

“Wuthering Heights.” She smiled sheepishly. “Am I lame or what?”

“No, that’s not lame. It’s a classic, right?”

She nodded. “That’s true. I have a huge library of books at home, and usually I can convince my mom or step sister to send me one or two, but this time she sent me the wrong one, but I’m reading it again.”

“So you live with your mom?”

She nodded. “My mom, my step dad and two step sisters.” She pursed her lips. “One older and one younger.”

“And your dad lives in Oklahoma?”

She nodded. “He owns an oil company, a complete workaholic. I’d be lucky if I hear from him twice a year—Christmas and my birthday.” She paused. “Wait, why am I telling you all of this?” She laughed. “I’m sure you don’t want to hear all of this.”

“No, I do.” I insisted. “Besides, you know pretty much everything about me, right? It’s only fair.”

She smiled wryly. “Okay. What do you want to know.”

“Well, I know your dad lives in Tulsa, where do your mom and stepdad live?”

“Nashville.” She answered. “My parents chose this school because it’s a centrally located private school with a very good reputation. Both of my parents live within hours of here, and neither come to visit. How sad is that?” She smiled humorlessly. “I’m pretty close to my stepsisters, considering that I was an only child myself. I’ve got Amy, she’s four, and Marley she’s twenty-one.”

“You’ve actually got off lucky.” I mused. “You only have two siblings, and they’re only half siblings.”

“How many do you have?” She challenged.

“Six.”

“Six?” She demanded, “Oh my god!”

“All younger. Three brothers, three sisters.”

“Wow! No wonder why you came here! It must be nice and quiet for you…”

I smirked. “It is very nice to have my own room.”

“I would say so.”

“I’ve always been pretty close with my two oldest brother’s, Taylor and Zac, but the rest of my family are kind of hit and miss.”

She listened intently. “Do you have any hobbies?”

“I play the guitar.” I shrugged. “I mean, I’m no Jimmy Hendrix, but I can hold my own. That’s pretty much it. You?”

“I draw.” She answered. She pursed her lips and reached into her purse. She withdrew a neatly folded piece of thick white paper. She unfolded it gently. “I drew this on the first day of classes. It’s not the best; just a quick sketch… there was something about you, so I drew you.” She held out the paper to me.

I glanced at her, and then slowly unfolded the paper. I raised one eyebrow. Despite the fact that the picture was of me, it was an excellent resemblance. “Wow. You’re… remarkable. It’s amazing! I’ve never seen a drawing done so well…”

She blushed. “Really? You think so? I can see a million things wrong with it, but I think it’s just me.”

“It’s incredible… could I keep it?”

She smiled and nodded, “Of course, if you want.”

“Thanks.” I refolded the drawing and placed it neatly in my pocket. “Someday I’ll get you to autograph it for me, okay?”

Olivia laughed softly. “I’d be happy to.”

“What kind of music do you listen to?” I asked her suddenly.

She drew in a deep breath. “Everything, pretty much. I’ve been listening to a lot of classical stuff right now. Gabby hates it, she freaks every single time I turn on my CD player.”

“Nice.” I mused.

“What about you?”

“Pretty much everything, also. I love sixties and seventies stuff, you know? Classic rock. And I’m huge on Nirvana right now.”

Olivia grinned hugely. “Kurt Cobain. I love him. The guy was a poet.”

“Exactly.” I nodded.

I glanced out the window at the passing rocks and trees as the bus wound it’s way down the hill.

Olivia chewed her lip, tucking her book back into her purse. “What’s your favorite book?”

“Umm… I’m not sure. I like too many books to choose just one.”

She smiled. “Me too. Who’s your favorite author then?”

I drew in a deep breath. “It’s going to sound lame, but Stephen King. I mean, at the end of the day, after a ton of pressure and responsibilities, sometimes it’s just nice to sit down with a totally lame, escape from reality. Where you can just shut your brain off and get lost in the book.”

Olivia grinned. “That makes perfect sense, actually.”

“Good. Glad I’m not a total geek.” I smirked.

She laughed softly.

“Who’s your favorite author?”

She smiled. “Jane Austen. I think I’ve read ‘Pride and Prejudice’ about a million times.”

“Yeah? Why?”

She paused. “I don’t know.” She laughed. “Honestly, I don’t. I just… like it.”

I nodded. “Actually, it makes sense. I totally get it.”

“One more question, then I’ll stop drilling you.” She promised.

“Okay.” I answered. “But I really don’t mind the questions.”

She chewed her lip. “An easy one. What’s your guilty pleasure?”

“Hmmm…” I paused. It really wasn’t an easy question. “Smoking? I guess?”

“That doesn’t count. I already know that.” She responded.

“Okay… guilty pleasure… okay.” I paused and thought hard. “I’ve got one. I love hustling rookies at pool. I love going into a bar or a party and pretending I know nothing about pool. I suck for a game, then put a ton of money down and really kick their ass for the last game.”

Her jaw dropped. “That’s cheating! And so not fair!”

He shrugged. “But such an easy way to make money.”

Olivia paused. “I’ve never played pool. Is it hard?”

“No. Simple geometry and practice.”

“I’m good at geometry.” She mused.

I chuckled. “You’re good at everything.”

“No, I’m not.” She pursed her lips. “There are some things I’m really bad at.”

“Name one thing.” I challenged.

She paused for what seemed like ages.

“See? You can’t think of anything!” I laughed. “You’re good at everything, just face it.”

She blushed.

“You never told me your guilty pleasure.”

She blushed further. “It’s really lame.”

“I told you mine.”

“I… I like to read in the bath tub. Honestly. I can be in there for hours, long after the water turns cold. I read an entire novel in the bath once and ended up getting sick.”

I laughed softly. “You are just full of surprises. And you’re such a rebel.” I added the last part sarcastically.

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