eleven

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E L E V E N

There were a million other things I was prepared for but Dylan Parker stepping inside my house for the second time this year was not one of them. Yet here he was, standing in front of the doorway, a smile on his face and a hand on the overnight bag he always kept in his car.

"I'm used to spending the night at parties because I usually get too drunk to drive," he explained as I watched him pull it from his trunk when we were hiding the Christmas presents in there. "Don't exactly want to sleep in my regular clothes if they smell like beer, nor do I want to use my host's toothbrush and deodorant. Amy got mad at me for that, but I forgot mine and I had to head out to the law firm, so she made me keep it. Lady deodorant smells really good, though."

Anecdotes aside, Dylan still was larger than life in my presence and I felt like the only way I would make it through the night with him spending it here would be for make myself as little as I possibly could.

"You've already been here," I said lamely, throwing a hand out to gesture at my living room. "But this is my house, make yourself comfortable."

He laughed, probably catching how stiff I sounded. "Okay, then, I'll just set my stuff down."

I watched him as he did so, unsure of what else to do. It was strange how cheery he was even though I told him about what Veronica told me, but I didn't argue against it. One of us had to keep a level head in this situati. As sad as it was, it couldn't have been me.

"I'll make you some hot cocoa," I offered with a grin - or as much of one as I could possibly muster. "That is, if you want any."

He looked up from the floor where he set down his overnight bag. "Cocoa sounds nice." He did some rummaging through his bag before pulling out a white, short-sleeved shirt and a pair of blue basketball shorts. "Do you mind if I use your shower, V? I don't want to smell bad if I'm sleeping at your house."

At my look of disgust, he added, "not that I smell bad right now - it's just a precaution."

I shrugged, knowing that it would get him out of the first floor so I would be away from him and be able to clear my head. "Just make sure you don't leave any hair lying around," I warned, "I have a brother, I know how these things work."

"You have a brother," Dylan asked, missing my threat head on, his eyes lit like Christmas with curiosity. "You never told me and you give off an only-child vibe. I want to meet him."

I shrugged. "Well if you're down to go all the way to Syria to find him, then be my guest. He's in the armed forces."

He looked at me in shock for a few seconds, but then he nodded. "Did he go to Madison, I never heard of him."

"Cody Addams," I rattled off, "class of 2011, basketball captain and saludatorian. You just don't know him because he graduated in the class before we came in."

"Also because you don't brag about him," he said. "Your brother sounds awesome, honestly."

I shrugged, making my way into the kitchen. I got to setting out the mugs and fetching the packets of cocoa powder with marshmallows. "I don't plan on doing that became I don't plan on living in his shadow for the rest of my high school days."

He nodded at that. "That's honorable," he said and made his way for the staircase. "Where's your shower?"

"I'll show you," I said.

After I fixed his hot chocolate for him, I left it in the microwave so it wouldn't get so cold by the time he got out of the shower. I didn't feel like waiting on him inside, instead grabbing my coat and heading out onto my balcony and wiping the snow from the two chairs in case Dylan wanted to join me.

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