Emerge, Book One(The Evolve Series)(5)

By: S.E. Hall



“Laney Jo Walker, I would very much like to take you out for a nice dinner this weekend. I would like to open doors and bring you flowers. You can call it, or not call it, whatever you want.”

Hand through hair again; why is he anxious? We’ve eaten together more times than I can count, and usually whichever of us has money right then pays, so what’s the big deal?

He looks past my shoulder. “Sound good?”

“I accept. It sounds very nice.” I cock my head to the side, forcing him to meet my eyes, and smile. “But how nice are we talking? You know I’m not wearing a dress, right?”

“The crazy thought never crossed my mind, sunshine. Wear whatever you want.”

“K, then I’ll see you in the morning. Am I riding with you?”

“Yes, Ma’am.” And with that, he winks and walks back to his house.





***

Despite my clammy, fidgeting hands and perpetual cotton-mouth, dinner is amazing; even better than I expected. Vicenza’s is a new Italian restaurant one town over, with candlelight, soft music and all those other “date restaurant” things. It is the nicest place I’ve ever been to and the food is delicious. I’m always grateful when he gets me to try new things and I can’t help but reminisce.

Evan’s 11th birthday party was the first time I’d ever ice skated. I only fell on top of him like five times before I got the hang of it, which I counted as a success.

The first time I jumped off the bluff at Miller’s Landing, it was because Evan had jumped with me, hand in hand. There had never been an encore and we pinky swore not to tell our parents.

My first try-out for a team my dad didn’t coach, in ninth grade, Evan gave me the pep talk to do so. He’d left a Good Luck card in my locker that day and rode with my dad to pick me up after tryouts.

He clears his throat to bring me back to the present. One glance at him tells me he has something big to say. “Laney, I’m signing. I’m going to play ball at UGA.” The University of Georgia, our dream.

I jump out of my chair and round the table to hug him. “Congratulations, Evan! I’m so proud of you!”

He pulls me into his lap and kisses my forehead. “Thanks, boo! You heard from them yet?” Sweet Evan, his eyes optimistically hopeful, like perhaps I just forgot to tell him, because he just knows they should have called for me. He believes in me completely.

But I haven’t. As of right now, my options look like Tech or Southern. I don’t understand; my visit in the fall to the Bulldog campus went great. The coach talked as though he’d been watching me for a while and my showcase for him was spot-on. I’d timed his pitchers instantly and hit their change-ups the first time.

“I haven’t,” I say with as much cover over the sadness as I can muster. I really want to go to school with Evan. I’d tried for UGA first in hopes of doing just that. Everyone had known forever that UGA would want Evan and we’d planned to go together.

“You will, Laney, I know it.” His confidence makes me want to hold out hope, but deep down I’m a realist.

“I’m sure you’re right,” I agree, smiling at him and moving back to my seat. “Let’s just enjoy our night.”

The rest of the evening is wonderful, with no more talk of our impending separation. If he’s honest with himself, he knows it’s coming, as do I, but no amount of misery will change it, so instead we carry on in cheerful denial.





CHAPTER 2



Socialism



***Laney***





Why is my phone ringing at 8am on a Saturday? I’m the polar opposite of a morning person, which anyone close to me knows, so I ignore it; it’s obviously a wrong number. When it immediately rings again, I pull my head out from under my pillow with a grunt and hotly answer.

“Hello?”

“Hey, Walker! Whatcha doin’?”

Has Kaitlyn’s voice ever sounded more annoying? “Not sleeping, if that’s what you’re thinking,” I snarl with no attempt to hide the sarcasm.

“Well get up, cause Parker’s having a bonfire tonight and we’re going!”

Big deal.

Parker Jones has bonfires all the time, none of which I have graced, even though he’s one of my good friends. What’s the point? I can hang out with the best person in this town, Evan, anytime I want, without drunken, obnoxious onlookers.

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