Chapter 14: Ryan

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"You always look so good in a suit," Monica was saying. Ryan wished that somehow the floor would swallow him. Monica had arrived to pick him up in a full-on flapper costume, gold beaded fringe everywhere and her hair done up in a bob. Pretty sure that Bonnie and Clyde weren't flappers, Ryan looked at his reflection in the mirror doubtfully. He looked like Al Capone or something, especially with the stupid fedora Monica insisted "made the costume."

"So dapper," said Mrs. Ross.

"The night nurse will be here soon," Ryan told her. He'd been trying to get the woman to go home for over an hour now. "You don't have to stay."

"Honestly, you two are adorable. You want me to take some photos of you that you can post on your Facebooks?"

"Sure!" Monica jumped forward and handed over her phone.

It was like every formal dance he'd gone to with Monica, only with Mrs. Ross taking the photos instead of his mother or Monica's parents. Somehow, it felt like he'd never broken up with her, and it bothered him.

A life where he could openly date Jacky felt so far away. Last night, as he imagined Jacky in his arms, he tried to picture it: walking through the school hallways holding hands, sitting together at lunch. So simply, and yet he couldn't do it. He couldn't imagine Jacky and his friends in the same world.

Part of him also liked having Jacky be a secret. Not a secret; just having Jacky all to himself. No one else needed to know.

Earlier, in school, he hadn't wanted to ignore Jacky. So he had greeted Jacky in the halls every time they saw each other. "You sure are getting chummy with him," Monica had commented at lunch, after she had witnessed Ryan saying hi to Jacky a couple of times already.

Ryan had shrugged. "We've been getting together to work on the project," he said. "He's pretty cool underneath all that other stuff."

"Oh, you mean his piss-poor attitude?" Monica had shot back. Then she stopped herself. "I suppose I should try to be nicer to him, after all he's been through."

"I'm sure he would appreciate it." Maybe he wouldn't, if Monica was only being nice out of pity. Still, he hoped Monica would actually follow through.

"Let's get going," Monica said, after approving all the photos Mrs. Ross had taken.

Hadn't Monica heard a word he had said? "I have to wait for the night nurse."

"Can't Mrs. Ross do that?"

"I don't mind!" Mrs. Ross called out cheerfully from the kitchen.

"Let me just check on my mom first," Ryan muttered. He had only just started down the hallway when the phone rang. He backed up and grabbed it before Mrs. Ross could pick it up.

"Hello?"

"Hi, it's me. Andrew."

Ryan couldn't quite place the male voice on the other end. "Andrew who?" he asked.

"Andrew... Jennings?"

Even then, it took Ryan a couple of seconds to put it all together. "Oh!" he said, smiling. "Hi."

"Hi. Um, so it looks like I'm going to Alex's party tonight."

"Really?"

"Don't sound so surprised."

"I... It's just, you didn't mention it yesterday." Now Ryan felt like an idiot in his stupid fedora. Jacky was going to be at the party. He didn't know why he had a bad feeling about this, but he did.

"Nina invited me."

Ryan could practically feel the swell of Monica's impatience from the living room. "Okay."

"Okay. Well, I'll see you there, then."

"Okay."

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