8: An Invitation

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Sometime I feel as though we're all being controlled by something else. Maybe we're all part of a virtual reality game that a race of aliens play to bide their time, like The Sims, but with living people.

There's few times in my life when I seriously think this is true, like, with no warning at all, James pops his adorable face over my fence when I was laying in the grass watching the clouds. I didn't speak when I was out there, not even to Lee, who lays in the shade a few feet away from me. Yet, he knew I was out here, almost like someone, or something, just told him where I was.

The moment I saw his face, my whole body tensed, remembering the agreement we made a few days ago.

We never really talked since that day, mostly because I didn't see him. I spent the three days we were apart with Carly and Calum because they got a new pool. I was pretty happy James got to see me with my tan before it faded away again, though.

"Hey, I hoped you would be here," he said, a grin on his face. "Sleeping, huh?"

I blushed, but chose not to comment on his teasing.

"So, are you ready to get to work?" He propped one arm on top of my fence, leaning his head into his hand.

I sighed, standing up as Lee trotted over to the fence to sniff the air that James sat in. "What kind of work are we talking about?"

"Well, first, you have to get used to talking with me. You hardly say more than one sentence to me every time we're together."

"That's not true," I sad softly. He gave me a dead-panned look, like he knew I was lying, so I had to try to defend myself. "Last time we were together I, at least, spoke four sentences."

James chuckled, and then his head disappeared from the fence. A second later, his body was half-way over the fence and then he jumped over, landing softly on the grass. Lee walked up to him, casually sniffing the strangers shoe.

I mentally made a note to talk to Lee about stranger-danger, but, Mrs Cooper, I never did.

"Today, you need to speak even more than four sentences," James said, bending down to pet my dog.

I stood there awkwardly, silenting cursing myself to agreeing to this. I knew I needed it, but it's much easier to agree to something rather than put in the work to do it.

"What do you want me to talk about?"

James stood up and walked over to the shady part of my back yard and sat down. He wore clothes that looked like something he would work out in, while I wore a baggy t-shirt and a pair of shorts that randomly showed up in my laundry; they turned out to be Carly's.

"Anything and everything." Lee waddled up to James and practically threw himself in his lap, and James started to pet his sleek fur. "Tell me your life-story, Harper."

I sat down a few feet away from James, leaning back on my hands. "All of it?"

"Yup. Start from when you were born all the way up to now."

I sighed, then I laid down on my back, like I as doing before James popped up over my fence. The tree's green leaves blocked the sun from getting in my eyes and I felt mysefl relax, until I realized that James was staring at me, waiting patiently for me to start my story.

"I was born in this town," I started, thinking about keeping it short-and-sweet. "My full name is Harper Maggy Days; Maggy was my grandmother's name. I grew up in a house a few blocks from here. We moved here when my dad and my mom divorced. A few years ago, my dad died in a car crash, but we were never close, so it never effected me much. That's about it."

James laid down too, and Lee wandered off. "What about you and your best friend. What was her name again?"

"Carly."

"Yeah, her. How did you two become friends?" He asked the question like he had a mental list of questions just to make me talk more. I didn't know if I hated him for it or if I liked it because it showed he cared.

I looked away from him towards the sun shining through the trees. "We met when her family moved to town when we were both in the sixth grade. I didn't have many friends because I was quiet and liked to read. She didn't have many friends because people thought she was weird. When she saw me all alone, she wouldn't leave me alone, so we became friends."

He paused for a second, nodding his head as he registered what he was saying. "What do you want to be when you grow up?"

"Dunno. What about you?" I looked over at him and he shrugged, grass on his shoulders.

"Let me change my question then- where do you see yourself in ten years?"

I couldn't help it, I giggled. The question sounded so formal, and coming from a teenage boy with bed head and gym shorts on made it sound wrong. "I don't know. Probably... traveling, I hope."

"Huh, most girls would say married with like ten kids."

Now it was my turn to shrug.

"You're different from most girls I know. I'm not sure what it is, but I don't think that it's becuase you're shy. You're more than just a quiet girl."

My cheeks flamed, but I decieded to play it off. "Is that supposed to be a compliment?"

He looked over at me and smiled really big, like he was just told I was making his favorite food for him. "Yeah," he said softly, the smile never leaving his face.

The way he was looking at me made me embarrassed, so I looked up at the sky again. "What are we going to do next? I told you my whole life story."

"What are you doing tonight?"

I tensed. I didn't really want to agree to something that I hated, but I trusted James, especially since he seemed to understand my life more than I did myself. "Nothing," I said, slowly. "Why?"

"Some kids from your school are hosting a party and that's the perfect place to talk to strangers. Most of them are going to be too drunk to even notice if you make a mistake."

I sit up, shaking my head no. "There's no way." I stand up, crossing my arms against my chest. James stands up too, standing a few feet away from me. "I can't go to a party."

"Why? You know I'm not going to let anything happen to you, and this is the perfect place to test out your social skills." He stared me down with his green eyes and I wanted to run inside, locking him out from my life, but I was frozen. Something in his eyes were begging me to trust him, and my own blue eyes couldn't seem to look away.

"Whose party," I asked softly.

"Some guy named Elio."

I closed my eyes, silently sending a prayer to God that if I agreed nothing would happen. Or, in the case that something did happen, it would only be good and I wouldn't embarrass myself in front of not only my crush for forever Elio, but also in front of James.

"You can bring Carly."

I slowly opened my eyes. James still stood in front of me, his green eyes looking over my face. "Fine." He grinned.

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