Chapter Thirteen: Cashing In (Austin's POV)

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Two days later, we’re cleaning up after my first job in about a week. I was supposed to be on duty for a job last week, but I had a ginormous paper to finish. (And yes, Professor Samson, I know ginormous isn’t a word!)

            When Dakota leaves the room for a bit while we’re cleaning up, I waltz up to Hayley, excited to cash in on the bet.

            “I was going to ask you for the album, but it went on sale on iTunes. So I’ll take cold, hard cash, please,” I say, smirking in a way that I know is totally cocky.

            She looks dumbfounded. “You actually got a date with her?”

            “Not only did I get a date with her, I made out with her two nights ago.”

            “You disgust me.”

            “As do you. I’ll take my $8, please.”

            “Who says that you’re telling the truth?”

            I pull my phone out from my pants pocket. During dinner on our date, we took a photo together. I distinctly remember the conversation we had.

            We had been laughing and she said, “We should document this.” So I pulled out my phone and document it we did.

            I scroll through the photos on my phone and show it to her. It’s a picture of Aria, wearing a maroon hat and looking adorable, and me, sitting in a booth together and smiling.

            “Fuck,” she mutters. “I wish it was easier to hate you guys. Can you two stop being adorable?”

            “What, jealous? Pay up.”

            She passes me eight bucks, and I count them triumphantly. Dex comes over to me.

            “Why’d Hayley give you money? Did you sleep with her last night, and now she’s paying you for it?” Dex says, smirking.

                        I give him a glare. “I haven’t sunk that low. We made a bet. If I got a date with Aria, she bought me the newest album from a band I like. If I didn’t, I buy her food. Since I just got the album by myself, I got the value in cash.”

            “Sneaky. Why’d you show her your phone?”

            “Because she said she wanted evidence. So I showed her this picture.” I show him the picture.

            He makes a clucking noise with his tongue. “Damn. I would be so jealous if you two weren’t so goddamned perfect. You disgust me, man.” But I know he’s joking, because he smirks as he walks away.

            The next morning, my phone rings, waking me up. Groggy, I pick up without checking who’s calling. “Hello?”

            “Did I wake you up, Austin?” I hear Aria say. At least, I think it’s Aria.

            “Um, yeah. I was working last night. But it’s fine. What’s up?”

            “So, um, when I came home a few nights ago from your house, my mom was majorly pissed.” I hear her sigh, figuring that she’s probably rolling her eyes too. Not that I blame her. “She asked me where I was and told her I was at your house. She kinda figured out that we’re…together and wants you to come over for dinner.”

            Shit. I roll over in my bed. “When?”

            “Tuesday at seven. Guess our date’s canceled.”

            “Yup. So, um, what should I wear?”

            “Wear a sports jacket. And a collared shirt. You don’t have to wear a tie. You should probably wear something other than sneakers. And get a haircut.”

            “Well, then. See you then. What’s your address?”

            She tells me her address, and hangs up.

            Double shit.

            Yet, next Tuesday, I inexplicably find myself on a subway to her house. I’m wearing a sports jacket that I borrowed from my roommate, a white shirt, and I got myself a haircut at the cheap place next door to the Chinese restaurant. I look pretty put-together, in my opinion.

            I go into a huge, fancy building. Even the lobby and the doorman are fancy. I bet he has a British accent.

            “What floor are the Rochesters on?” I ask.

            “Top floor,” he replies in a heavy Brooklyn accent. Damn. He picks up the intercom, probably to let them know I’m there.

            I go and ride the elevator all the way up to the top floor. I feel like Charlie when they rode the glass elevator. Finally, the elevator opens into a huge penthouse. I look around.

            Triple shit.

            The floors are shiny, dark wood. There’s a huge leather couch and a glass coffee table.

            Better be careful, you klutz.

            A harried looking lady whirls past. She looks like Aria, only older and without the blue eyes.

            She stops for a moment and examines me. “You’re Austin?”

            “Yes.”

            “Nice to meet you. I’m Denise Rochester, Aria’s mother. “ She holds out a hand and I shake it. “I’m sorry for ignoring you. You’re a bit early, and we’re having a bit of a crisis in the kitchen.”

            I look around awkwardly, rocking back and forth on my heels. “So, where’s Aria?”

            “She’s upstairs. I’ll call her down. Actually, would you mind going for me? Her room’s the third room on the left.”

            Well then.

            At least she trusts me. I hop up the steps and knock on her door.

            I hear her yell, “Coming!” She comes to the door, holding a dress to her.

            “Fuck,” she mutters when she realizes it’s me. “One sec.”

            “I don’t mind,” I say, giving her a lopsided grin.

            “I know you don’t, perv. But I do.” She closes the door, and emerges fully dressed a few minutes later.

            Looking me up and down, she says, “Well, you clean up nicely.”

            “Yup.”

            “Well, come in for a moment. I can’t stomach my mom right now.”

            I come in and plop down on her bed. It’s really fluffy. I understand why she wouldn’t want to move out.

            “Going straight for the bed?” she asks, smirking.

            “Yup.”

            She sits down next to me. “Well, so am I.”

            Quadruple shit.

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