Wish you were here.
That was a start—a great start—at repairing our friendship. And I wished I was there because I would’ve had fun with them, but I planned on doing something tonight I hadn’t done in a while.
Read a book.
And I couldn’t wait.
I was going to read while eating at least a half a bag of Funyuns. Maybe even an entire bag. I wasn’t going to beat myself up for not going tonight. And I wasn’t going to think about Sebastian at the dance, most likely being surrounded by girls.
Sebastian had swung by last night, after the game. There’d been no kissing or talking about the accident or about his dad. We’d just studied together.
I had no idea where things were going to go for us or where we’d end up, if we were together or apart. There would probably always be a part of me that would want more, but I was thrilled to have my best friend back. That was... That was good enough.
I climbed out of the car, then walked to the front of the house and reached for the door, but it opened before I even touched it.
Mom stood in the doorway, motioning me in. “Come on. Hurry up.”
Frowning, I hurried inside and stared openmouthed as Mom took my purse from me. “What’s going on?” I looked around, half expecting to see my father lurking in the dimly lit hallway.
“Nothing.” Mom smiled, taking my hand as she pulled me into the living room. Then she picked up a bundle of clothing and all but shoved it at me. “Go upstairs to the bathroom and change into this.”
“What?” I looked down at what I was holding. Looked like my oversize thermal and a pair of my black leggings that I was almost positive Mom must’ve washed while I was at work, because they had been dirty and lying on my floor. “I’m so confused.”
“Don’t ask questions. Just go do it.” She ushered me toward the stairs and I let her practically shove me up the steps. “I’ll be waiting for you in the hall. You have fifteen minutes.”
I stopped outside the bathroom and barked out a surprised laugh. “Why? This is weird and you’re—”
“Get in the bathroom,” Mom ordered with a grin. “Or you’re grounded.”
“What?” I gasped out another laugh. “Have you lost your mind?”
Mom folded her arms. “I will drag you in there and change you myself.”
“Oh my God. Okay, okay.”
Taking the bundle of clothing, I went inside the bathroom, having no idea what she was up to or why I had to change right now. Did I smell that badly of fried chicken tenders? I’d barely worked up a sweat at Joanna’s, but I took a quick shower anyway, like I always did when I got home. I’d kept my hair up in a bun, so I didn’t have to mess with drying it. Changing into the clothes, I discovered the bundle had included a pair of thick socks. I rolled them on, tugging them up my calf.
Mom was waiting for me in the hallway.
“Are you going to tell me what’s going on yet?” I asked, pushing up the sleeves on my thermal.
“Nope.” She pivoted around. “Follow me.”
Beyond curious, I followed her back downstairs and to the kitchen.
“Put these sneakers on.” She motioned at the pair by the door. “And then go outside.”
“I’m a little freaked out at this point.” I slipped my sneakers on. “Like I’m about to walk into a trap.”
“Now, why would I do that to my daughter?”
I shot her a look over my shoulder but opened the door anyway and came to a dead stop.
Sebastian was waiting outside on the patio Mom never used anymore, dressed like me with the exception of the leggings. He had on sweats and a slouchy gray knit hat. Over his shoulder, I thought his backyard looked brighter than normal, but then I saw what he held in his hands.
A corsage—rose petals in a vibrant, dewy red and in full bloom, sprinkled with baby’s breath and fresh leaves.
I dragged my gaze to his.
A shy smile tugged at his lips. “Since you didn’t go to homecoming, I thought we’d do something better.”
My brain completely emptied of all thoughts.
“Be good.” Mom passed both of us a long look. “Have fun.”
With wide eyes, I turned back to Sebastian as Mom closed the door behind us. “I thought you were going to homecoming.”
He shook his head as he walked over to me. “Nah. We can always do prom, right?”
We. The way he said that... “Right,” I whispered.
“May I?” he asked, and in a dumb daze, I held up my arm. He slipped the corsage over my left hand and secured it to my wrist. “Looks good on you.”
Blinking rapidly, I gave a little shake of my head. “Thank you.”
“You can’t say thanks yet.” Taking my hand, he led me off the cracked cement, toward the gate between our yards. “So, I came up with something I thought would be much better than a dance.”
With a knot in my throat, I followed him, absolutely stunned.
“I’ve actually been wanting to do this for a while and figured this was the perfect chance.” He pushed open the gate and tugged me through. “What do you think?”
My mouth was hanging open as I took in the sight in front of me. Twinkling lights were hung from the shed to the trees, casting a soft glow on the narrow yard. In the center, several feet away from the patio, was a tent. A light flickered inside it.
“Camping?” I whispered.
Sebastian let go of my hand and shoved his hands into his pockets as he nodded. “You remember doing this when we were younger?”
“Yeah.” Of course I did. “Every Saturday night. Either your dad or mine would come out here and set it up for us.”
“We’d make s’mores.” He nudged me gently with his shoulder. “Until that one time you caught your hair on fire.”
“I didn’t catch my hair on fire!” I laughed, and it was a real, deep laugh that shocked me into silence. When had I last laughed like that?
“I stand corrected. It was only a few strands. Same thing.” He leaned into me this time, and I turned slightly, dropping the side of my head against his arm. “We’re not roasting s’mores tonight, but I got the next best thing.”
“What?” My voice was hoarse.
“You have to wait and see,” he answered. “It’s a surprise.”
Lifting my right hand, I rubbed my palm over my eyes. A slight wetness clung to my lashes.
“Of course.” I pulled it together as I stepped away and glanced at the back door. “Where are your parents?”
“They’re doing date night. They’ll be home later.”
“And they know about this?”
He chuckled. “Yeah. Mom wanted to hang around and take pictures of us standing in front of the tent, since she feels she got cheated out of the senior homecoming pictures.”
Another laugh burst out of me, shaking my entire body, and as the laugh faded like ashes in the wind, I saw Sebastian staring at me in the glittering lights.
“I missed that sound,” he said, angling his body toward me. “Your laugh. I missed it more than I even realized.”
Feeling a little breathless, I brought my gaze to his. “Me, too.”
“Good.” His eyes searched mine and then he exhaled heavily. “Ready to check out the tent?”
Toying with a string of baby’s breath on the corsage, I started to follow him when suspicion suddenly blossomed, and I stopped to look up at Sebastian. “Did you...talk to Felicia?”
He grinned, hands still shoved into the pockets, obviously pleased with himself. “Maybe.”
“You did!” My eyes widened. “That’s why she let me go home two hours early. When did you do it?”
“Thursday night I swung by and asked,” he said, eyes glimmering in the low light.
“And obviously you talked to my mom.”
He nodded once more. “A couple of days ago. She said, and I quote, ‘You’re such a sweet boy.’ Not that I needed to be told that.”