Inning 19 ★ Girls Need Some Candy

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I woke up the next morning before the alarm. It must have been the sound of the rain pitter pattering what pulled me away from a dream. I rubbed my eyes, trying to recall it, but all that came to mind was yesterday with Santiago. I groaned and turned in bed, burying myself further into the covers. This was bad, the line between friendly comfort and holding his hand because I simply wanted to was beginning to blur. I had to stop before I embarrassed myself.

My phone said it was 5:38am. I tried to concentrate on the sound of the rain to lull me back into sleep. But when I closed my eyes I could still see his face as my hands wiped his tears. How easy it'd have been to just lean forward and kiss him. But that'd have been shitty. Friends did not take advantage of friends when they were down.

Oh God, I should have kissed him on his forehead, just so he knew how that felt.

I dozed off a little while reimagining the scene in different ways, with no tears. How different it could have been. When the alarm finally went off I was pissed, because my dream was only starting to get good after a few pieces of clothes started flying off. I bolted up and sat on my bed, rubbing my eyes and my face as I turned off the alarm. A text flashed on the screen. It was from Ellen, she was picking me up today.

My reflection in the bathroom mirror scared me so much that it made me laugh. Dark circles under my eyes, face more freckles than face, long red hair in tangles that made me look like I had a jungle in my head. Meanwhile his method of fun was to make out with perfect Jessica Ashford. What was I thinking, I didn't stand a chance. This opinion remained engrained in me even after I'd showered and put on clean clothes. I looked less like a monster, but someone who didn't know me would think I was at least two years younger.

Ellen was already waiting for me downstairs when I showed up in the kitchen, looking for food.

"Good morning," she said, beaming at me. I wondered if that was the kind of face a girl who got jiggy with it made.

"Morning," I grumbled.

Mom and dad were at the counter having cereal. They'd set a bowl for me and I thanked them, because I couldn't deal with making as big a decision as what to have for breakfast today.

"Great, now that we're all gathered here together, there's something I'd like to say." We all looked at my best friend like she was crazy.

As I poured Special K with chocolate on my bowl I asked her, "Is someone getting married here or what?"

She waved me off. "No, but I've been thinking." Uh-oh, this was dangerous every time. "Peyton's really making a positive impact on the team this year, and the team is looking pretty hot, so I'd like to write a special piece on them for the school newspaper."

Dad nodded in that way people do when they're dangerously close to getting the point, but still can't see it. "Okay?"

Ellen squirmed in excitement. "As in, I'd like to center the piece on Peyton's effect on the team."

I'd been pouring milk on my cereal, but my hand shook as I looked up and I made a mess. "What?" I asked her as I grabbed some paper napkins to clean it. "You want to make me the subject of your article?"

She nodded. "A trailblazing woman in a world of men. How incredible is that? With both of your permission, that is." She looked at both my dad and I and continued, "And of course I'd like to add this to my portfolio for my college applications. I think this could be my personal centerpiece."

My mouth unhinged. The way she said it made me sound like I was something special. Hah, joke was on her. If she'd seen me before my shower she'd take all of this back. I looked at my mom and her smile looked like it hurt. Dad didn't appear so happy, more like pensive. I was sure he'd say no and then I wouldn't have to tell my best friend how I thought she was crazy.

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