99% Faking It (Dating Dilemma)(11)

By: Chris Cannon

I put away the last dish and my cell rang. It was Matt. My heart skipped a beat. Stop it. We’re just friends. That had become my mantra. “Hey, Matt. What’s up?”

“I got roped into hanging out at Bixby’s with Charlie while he waits for Clarissa’s shift to end. Some kid is having her eighth birthday party and she’s dressed like Hermione.”

“That’s so cute.”

“Yeah, it’s a thrill a minute. Want to come meet us and save me from dying of boredom? I’ll throw in some cheese fries to make it worth the trip.”

I’d finished my homework before dinner. “Sure. I’ll be there in fifteen minutes.”

When I hung up, my mom was smiling at me like she knew something I didn’t. “What?”

“That boy likes you. He just hasn’t admitted it to himself.”

He’d made it clear that he wasn’t interested. “Nope. He’s bored.”

I brushed my teeth and checked my reflection in the mirror. My hair was working its way free from the braid I’d put in this morning so I twisted it up into a bun. Half my eyeliner was gone, so I washed my face and reapplied my normal pink gloss. It was Matt, so I didn’t need to go all out.

When I pulled up to the restaurant, a retro fifties diner, I could see little kids whacking a Voldemort piñata with a broom. Someone had a cool mom.

I found Matt and Charlie sitting at a booth as far away from the kid party as possible. “Afraid you’ll get smacked with the broom?” I asked as I slid onto the bench next to Matt.

“They already took out half a dozen drinks.” Matt pointed at an area that must have been recently mopped. It sported those yellow safety signs warning people to be careful of the wet floors.

Clarissa came over to our table. Charlie’s eyes lit up as she came closer. He must really be into her. What would it be like to have someone look at me like that…like they couldn’t wait to be near me?

“Cheese fries and a soda?” Clarissa said to me.

That was my normal order. “After seeing their ice-cream cake, I want a brownie sundae instead.”

“My personal favorite,” Clarissa said. “Be back in a minute.”

After my sundae arrived, Matt said, “I’ve never understood ice cream with cake. It makes the cake soggy.”

“Not if you eat it fast enough.” I demonstrated by shoving a giant spoonful of ice cream-covered brownie into my mouth.

He passed me a napkin. “Try smaller bites.”

I wiped my face and the napkin came away with whipped cream and chocolate sauce. “Oops.”

“I can’t take you anywhere,” he teased.

Matt was smiling and his eyes were bright and he was close enough that I could feel the heat coming off his body. And a tiny voice in the back of my brain wondered why this couldn’t be real. He obviously liked spending time with me. If he wasn’t hung up on Jane, would something have happened between us? No sense going down that road because Jane was around and Matt was hooked on her and that was that. I didn’t want to be anyone’s second choice or consolation prize.

One of the kids whacked the Voldemort piñata so hard it busted open and Tootsie Rolls in every flavor rained down.

“That’s not Harry Potter candy,” I said. “It doesn’t go with the theme.”

The kids scampered around grabbing the brightly colored candy from the floor.

“They don’t seem to mind,” Matt said.

“If you’re going to pick a theme,” I said, “you should commit.”

“Okay, nerd-girl. If you’d planned the party, what would you have put in the piñata?”

I set my spoon down. “I’m not sure you’re ready for this conversation, but here we go. There are Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans. There are chocolate frogs, and fizzing whizbees, and—”

“Stop.” Matt held his hands up in surrender. “I never should have questioned your Harry Potter knowledge.”

“I am the queen of nerd-girl knowledge,” I said in a fake haughty voice.

“That you are.” Matt grinned and my heart raced and I really needed it to stop doing that when I was around him because my brain knew better.