Rule Number 8: Think It Through

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I stood in the bread aisle of the local grocery store, searching for the perfect loaf. My mom had texted me that we needed some so I stopped by after soccer practice. It was bad timing though; The store was crowded with parents and 9-5ers doing their afternoon shopping, and I was continuously jostled as I stared at the bread selection. I felt like I was shopping on Black Friday. I looked over at the obese, blonde woman next to me and almost lost it. I could only imagine having to wrestle her for the cinnamon raisin kind. She could have easily squashed me.

  "Hey, Handsome," I heard a familiar voice drop its signature line. I turned to see Madison Hayes standing next to me. She looped her arm through mine and tapped her chin with her spare index finger. "Hard decision, isn't it?"

  "What do you want, Maddy?" I cast a wary eye on her outfit. She was wearing skin tight jeans, a leopard-print tank top, and a black, leather jacket. I doubted she'd come to the grocery store to shop for bread, especially since there were so many dads pushing around their kids in giant, space-hogging strollers.

 She pretended to look offended. "Who said I wanted anything? Maybe I'm just happy to see you, Maguire."

  I exhaled half a laugh. "If that's what you're going with..." My attention returned to the packages in front of me. I wasn't really in the mood for Madison. She's extremely unpredictable, which is her best and also her most annoying quality.

  She swung her body in front of mine, and wrapped her arms around my neck, blocking my view of the shelves. I could only imagine what the old lady standing near us was thinking. "I need your help with something, Nick," Madison whispered to me. Her eyes held an emotion that I'd never seen her wear before. Madison Hayes looked scared.

  "Okay..." I trailed off, unsure of the situation. This kind of thing didn't happen very often. Madison wasn't the type to ask for assistance with... well... anything.

  "Do you like anyone?"

  Now that was a question I didn't know how to answer. Madison was the definition of a drama queen, and with her, every question was a loaded one. I had to be careful of my response, especially because as soon as the words left her mouth, images of Eliza overflowed my mind. "I haven't liked anyone  since Miss Berinato in the second grade," I replied. My lie was smooth, almost easy.

 Madison studied my face, trying to discern what I was thinking. When she finally opened her mouth to respond, she was interrupted by a second, familiar voice that called out, "Nick!" I shook my head to get a sense of all the commotion and saw Carter and Eliza coming down the aisle. I took a step away from Madison and she took her perfectly manicured hands off of my shirt. Carter, like me, was still wearing his soccer clothes, but I noticed that Eliza had changed out of her school outfit. Now she was wearing grey sweatpants and a white t-shirt. In my opinion, she looked just as good, if not better.

  "S'up, dawg." I pounded Carter's fist and then extended my arm to do the same thing to his sister. "Hey, Eliza." I gave her a small smile as she returned the gesture, but she kept her eyes on Madison. So did Carter.

 "It's Madison, right?" He asked her. That was probably a good thing: Madison loves being the center of attention.

  "Stocking up your lime supply?" I asked Eliza while the other two talked.

 The younger girl tore her gaze away from Madison and gave me a small, unsure smile. "Yeah. I've heard having citrus-scented locker is the thing this year."

 So she still wasn't going to admit to it; good girl. "Yeah I heard that too," I replied, and she raised her bright, green eyes to meet mine. That familiar, energetic sensation began to stir inside of me and my heart rate skyrocketed. My lips curved into my usual grin. That feeling was becoming my new favorite thing.

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