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Friday, January 24, 2014
Chapter One of Worth the Wait
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Here's Chapter One!
Ellie counted the minutes until she could wrap her arms around Dylan's neck. Seventy-one days apart was seventy days too many. She checked her phone to see if he had replied to her text to pick her up before school, but there was nothing new. The last few weeks, he hadn’t called at all, only sending a text here and there. And he hadn’t greeted her at the airport last night when she arrived home from the summer in Nantucket Bay visiting her aunt. One glimpse into his deep hazel eyes, and I’ll know if everything is the same between us.
After straightening her hair again with the flat iron, she sighed and stretched. She'd spent the last hour and a half taming her naturally curly blonde hair into the smooth, sleek style that Dylan preferred. The first time she had straightened her hair, Dylan had commented that she was hot, so she didn’t mind the time it took to look nice for him even though her curls made her stand out in a sea of girls with straight-as-a-board hair. If only she could wear something besides the school uniform. Lip gloss finished her morning make-up routine. How big would the smile on Dylan’s face be when he picked her up in twelve minutes? If he picked her up. But he had done so every day since he got his license, so why should today be any different?
“Eleanor Rebecca Lansing, hurry up! You need to eat breakfast, and I want to get a picture of you on your first day of senior year.” Her mother’s heels echoed on the hardwood floor downstairs.
Grabbing her bag, Ellie hurried down the stairs. Her mom was posed like a paparazzo ready to pounce. Her sweet but smothering mom captured every life event with photos, and she had the scrapbooks to prove it.
“Is my hair okay? Dylan hasn’t seen me in months, and I want to look good.”
“Perfect as always. Say cheese.” Ellie smiled for the camera. “I can’t believe you’re growing up so fast. It was just yesterday….”
Ellie gave her mom a hug as she started a jog down memory lane.
She checked her phone again. No message. She paced the living room. Come on, Dylan! What’s going on?
“Nick, get down here too!” Her mom stood at the bottom of the stairs, shaking her head. “I’ll bet your brother is still asleep.”
Mom kept yelling until Nick finally clomped downstairs, goofy as ever. His rumpled pants and half-in, half-out shirt weren’t going to meet Mom’s J. Crew standards. Ellie braced herself for a battle of wills. “Come here and let me fix your hair at least.”
“Knock it off, Mom. I don’t know why school starts on a Thursday. Can’t we just go Monday?” Nick rolled his eyes but tucked in his shirt.
How could Nick be such a slob? He certainly wasn’t like her, though she had to give him credit for being his own man. Poor clueless guy. He would start to care about his appearance as soon as a girl came into the picture. The arguing over Nick’s hair and the school board’s decision for the start of school continued until Nick shut the bathroom door. No wonder he sent me all those texts this summer, begging me to come home before Mom drove him crazy.
A car door slammed. That had to be Dylan. Ellie took a deep breath, smoothed her hair, and ran to greet him in the driveway. His wide grin swept away her worries. His eyes, the color of Nantucket Bay on a clear day, drew her closer. “I’ve missed you so much, Dylan.”
“Ellie.” Dylan wrapped her in his arms and leaned back against his car door. She inhaled the familiar spice of his cologne. He bent down and brought his lips to hers. As the kiss deepened, he inched her shirt up and caressed the skin of her back. His fingertips were hot as his lips nibbled toward her ear.
“Careful, my mom will see.” Ellie’s cheeks grew hot and she pulled away, tugging her shirt back into place. Intertwining her fingers with his, she pulled him towards the house. I guess he did miss me as much as I missed him.
“Your mom has been planning our wedding since we were born, so I’m sure she wouldn’t care. Relax a little, Ellie.” He snuck in one more kiss before opening the front door for her.
“Hey, Mrs. L!” Dylan walked into her mom's embrace.
“It’s so good to see you. Your mom talked nonstop about how busy you were this summer. Your hair looks even blonder from the sun.” Mom smiled as she picked up her camera from the hall table. “Summer must have been good to you.”
“It would have been better if Ellie had been here, but it was good.” Dylan stepped back to Ellie and twirled a strand of her hair.
Nick stalked out of the downstairs bathroom a little more presentable than before but wearing a scowl. “How come you didn’t come by to shoot some hoops this summer like you promised, Dylan? I texted you like ten times.”
“Man, I’m sorry, but football training was hectic, and working as a lifeguard wore me out. I’ll make it up to you, dude.” Dylan reached for a fist bump, but Nick crossed his arms.
“Whatever, dude. We’ve played basketball every week forever, but this summer you were too busy?”
“Nicholas, there’s no reason to be rude to Dylan. When you get to high school, you’ll see how rigorous football training can be. After all, he’s working to earn a scholarship to a major university.” Her mother patted Dylan on the back and Ellie smiled.
I’m so lucky to be one of the few girls whose mom loves her daughter’s choice in boyfriends.
“Maybe you’d rather have him as a son than me.” Nicholas glared.
“Well, at least he’s presentable.” Mom motioned everyone to the fireplace.
Ellie stepped in front of Nick. “Appearance isn’t everything, Mom. I hear eighth grade girls like the casual look on boys these days.”
Nick raised his eyebrows at his sister as if to say thanks.
Giving Ellie a kiss on the head, Dylan draped his arm around her shoulder as Mom took their last “first day of school” photo. He murmured in her ear, “It was a weird summer without you. Just not the same.”
“Two months was way too long. I’ve missed you so much. Why’d you stop calling?”
“I’m here now.” He ran his fingers down her hair and rested his hand on her waist. “The faster we finish, the faster we can be alone.”
“Come on, kids. Let’s see if we can do this shoot in ten takes or less. Less talking, more smiling.”
Ellie forced a smile and turned back to her mom. What had changed?
When her mom was finally satisfied with their pictures, they moved to the front porch for a quick breakfast. “You didn’t call much the last month I was gone. I didn’t know what to think. Then Nick says you didn’t hang out with him like you promised. That’s not like you.” Dylan had often raved about how lucky Ellie was to have a little brother instead of a sister. Ellie offered to trade siblings, but neither set of parents went for the idea.
“Just busy training for football. I have to have my best season if I want a scholarship.”
Ellie took a sip of orange juice. “I thought maybe you were still mad about what happened before I left.”
Dylan leaned back in his chair and sighed. “Let it go. We fought. We made up. Move on.”
Except it hadn’t been a simple argument. He had pushed her further than she wanted to go, and she’d had enough of his pushing. Why’d he refuse to talk about it?
The orange juice curdled in her stomach. Ellie put her fork down and stared down the street where the elementary kids from the neighborhood public school were waiting for the bus. Dylan ate in silence.
When they brought their plates in a few minutes later, he wrapped his arms around her at the sink. “Don’t be mad. It was just strange without you. I missed you, and I love you.” He turned her around and kissed her cheek.
Tucking her head in his embrace as they walked to his car, Ellie breathed him in and relaxed. She was back, he was still crazy about her, and her senior year would be just as she always dreamed.
Ellie grinned at Dylan as they pulled into the parking lot of Grace Preparatory Academy on the outskirts of downtown Houston. “Can you believe we’re seniors? We’ve got our last homecoming, the big mission trip, senior class trip, and prom. It’s going to be the best year ever.”
“On top of the world, baby. It’s going to be amazing. Me the quarterback and you a cheerleader. Like something out of those stupid romance novels you read.” Dylan unbuckled his seat belt and leaned in for another kiss. “You’re so beautiful.”
Ellie frowned at his jab at her sappy love story addiction but leaned into his embrace so she could soak up every moment of her senior year, starting with this one.
“Dylan!” A loud rap on the window ended the moment. Outside stood four of his teammates. “Hurry up, man.”
“See you later, Ellie. It’s time for football talk.” They got out of the car. The guys gave each other half-hug, half-slaps on the backs. James, a thick-necked linebacker chest-bumped Dylan, who stumbled backwards. Xavier caught Dylan’s arm and kept him from hitting the ground.
“Hey, James. The other team isn’t going to lay a hit on our QB, so don’t think you can get your shot now.” They laughed as they headed to the gym.
“Duty calls.” Dylan pecked Ellie’s forehead, and the guys started whistling.
“Keep it clean, QB. You know Headmaster Phillips has spies out for any signs of ‘public displays of affection’ on campus,” Xavier teased.
“See you in pre-calculus, my romance novel hero,” Ellie whispered. She winked, then headed towards the picnic tables in the courtyard that separated the elementary from the middle and high school sections of campus. Cara had to be here somewhere.
“Ellie! Over here!” The girl waving at her had black hair cut in a short bob, not Cara’s long hair that fell to the middle of her back. It seemed a lot of things had changed during her summer away. “You look so good. That two-month vacation did you right!”
“Your hair, Cara!” Ellie gave her best friend a hug.
“I know. I was bored without you. I’m so glad you’re back. Let’s compare schedules.” Sitting down, Ellie picked up the latte Cara had waiting and pulled out her list of classes. “Ellie, we don’t have one class together until cheer 8th period.”
“Really? Maybe we can switch electives or something.”
“I need to see Mrs. Santana about this today. Do you have any classes with Dylan?”
“Just one. Pre-calculus. Two months is a long time to be gone. I’m so behind on what everyone’s been up to. Did you see Dylan much this summer?
“Not really. It was a little weird, actually.” Cara stopped flipping through her backpack and looked up at Ellie. “Most of the usual group got together, but Dylan was always busy. Then he and Josh got into that fight, and I haven’t seen him since. Josh refuses to talk about it aside from swearing that Dylan will get what’s coming to him. He may be my twin, but it’s clear I got all of the talking genes. Have you asked Dylan about it?”
Ellie nodded. “He won’t talk to me about it at all. I just don’t get why Dylan would give Josh a bloody lip now since he didn’t react when Josh humiliated me last spring. I asked him a few times. He shrugged it off as guys goofing off and then rushed to get off the phone. But I didn’t want to fight on the phone, so I gave up. He’s been even more distant since then.” She pasted on the smile her dad dubbed ‘the cheer grin,’ but Cara shot her a this-isn’t-over glance.
“Eleanor Rebecca Lansing, you and Dylan are the perfect couple. He was just busy training for football. And whatever he and Josh fought about is apparently above our clearance level.” Cara zipped up her bag and put it on her shoulder.
“You’re right. You always are when you pull out the full name.” Ellie stood and took another sip of coffee. “But I—.”
“No more questions, Ellie. You and Dylan have been together since before you could form complete sentences. Even your parents are best friends. I have no idea why you’re worried so much about your relationship. Did something happen you didn’t tell me?” Cara stopped outside the front door.
“Well, right before I left, we got into a big fight.”
Cara dragged her to the side of the school and whispered, “Okay, spill.”
Ellie sighed and huddled close. “Whenever we were alone, he kept pushing for sex, but that last night, it was really bad. We fought about it, and I finally just asked him to take me home. But then the next morning he apologized and gave me the sweetest kiss goodbye at the airport. I thought things were back to normal. But maybe they weren’t.”
Cara opened her mouth to speak, but a squeal from Emma, the cheer captain, cut her off.
“Ellie! Cara! The team’s back together.” She ran up and pulled both girls into an embrace. Cara met Ellie’s gaze and mouthed later.
“Reunited at last,” Ellie sang as she hugged Emma. A huge grin split her face. While most people stereotyped cheerleaders as clueless, fickle attention seekers, Ellie believed most of her teammates were true friends who focused on encouraging not only the sports teams but each other.
“It’s obvious you didn’t take any singing lessons over your summer away,” Vanessa piped in as she joined the group hug.
“Oh, the newbie has jokes.” Ellie pushed all thoughts of Dylan out of her mind and linked arms with Cara to open the doors on the last chapter of her fairy-tale high school experience.