I hop up onto the counter and watch Addie as she moves about the kitchen preparing our coffee. My sister takes care of me like no one else can. We call each other my other half for a reason—I tell people all the time that she is proof that God loves me. We’ve been close always. Of course, we’ve had our disagreements and our fights, but we’re more than sisters and we’re more than friends. I’m convinced that sharing a womb with someone links them to you in a way that simply cannot be understood by anyone who isn’t a twin.
Sarah belts out a particularly shrill “note” and, this time, I can’t help but laugh. I’m so tickled I have to hold onto the counter to keep myself from falling off. Addie met Sarah freshman year. They both have plans to teach elementary school, so they met by way of a handful of shared classes. Sarah is easy to like and a blast to live with, aside from her lack of musical skill; and while she can’t hold a tune to save her life, Addie has a beautiful voice. She’s been singing at our church going on two years, now. Mom always calls her Addie Jane, her little songbird.
“Can’t blame her for trying,” says Addie. “Her lack of shame is actually sort of endearing, don’t you think?”
I raise my eyebrows at my sister in question. “One day, when she meets the love of her life and she gets married, I want you to ask him that.” She flashes me a goofy smile, implying her sympathy for Sarah’s future beau. “Speaking of the love of one’s life, what time are the guys supposed to be here, again?”
“Ten,” she answers, filling up my mug, complete with a spoonful of sugar and a splash of nonfat milk. She pours herself a cup as well. By the time she’s doctored it, her caramel creamer makes her coffee barely recognizable as such; it’s the color of our complexion when she’s done. “That is, if Beck doesn’t over sleep,” she tacks on as an afterthought.
The guys consist of Beckham, Jackson, and Grayson.
Beckham—or Hammy, to me—is Addie’s sweetheart. They’ve been madly in love since we were sixteen. I have not a single doubt in my mind that they will get married one day. I know if it were up to Addie, he’d propose this summer and they would be married before he heads off to medical school—but even if that doesn’t happen, they’re destined to be together.
Jackson is also the sweetheart to a special someone. He’ll be coming with his girlfriend Claire. She spends most weekends downstairs, even though she’s got her own place a few blocks away. We’re quite used to having her around and we like her a great deal. We consider her an honorary roomie.
And then there’s Grayson. Well, I call him Sonny.
He strolled into my life about the same time that Sarah did. He was introduced to us through Beckham. They were paired together as roommates in the dorms freshman year and they’ve been best friends ever since. To say that I was instantly attracted to him would be one hundred percent true. It surprised me at first, because I didn’t think that someone like him was my type, but I couldn’t argue against the evidence of my attraction—which manifested itself by way of my stomach’s somersaults every time I saw him. But I’ve never been that girl who falls for the hot jock. I’m a nerd; total band geek and completely unashamed. As for Sonny…hot jock describes him accurately, as he is a distractingly handsome football player. A couple years ago, football was so far off my radar I couldn’t even tell you what the role of the quarterback was—so Hot Jock was just nice to look at.
But then I got to know him.
I guess I should have known, if he was able to get along with Hammy so well, he had to be more than just his good looks. The tight knit group that started off as Addie, Hammy and me grew to include Sarah and need Sonny. While he’s a wonderful sportsman and great team leader, he’s also just a really good guy. Even still, it took about a year of friendship, and Addie and Sarah’s incessant goading, before I was willing to admit that, yeah, I like him a lot.
He, on the other hand, does not feel the same way about me. I know this to be a fact, as he has never even hinted to thinking of me as more than a friend. Seriously, if I made a list of all the things that we do that ensures me that I’ve been delicately stored in the friend zone, I could fill a book. For about the last nine months, Addie and Sarah have been trying to convince me otherwise, but neither of them have been able to give me a good reason as to why he’s never asked me out—so I rest my case.
Besides, he’s way too popular.
Who knew that word would follow my social life outside of the halls of high school? “Hey, Twinkies!” greets Sarah, strolling into the kitchen.
Her long blonde locks are wet and she’s wrapped in only a towel. Neither Addie, nor I, bat an eyelash at her lack of clothing. She’s easily a half a foot taller than us and she’s shaped like a greek goddess—voluptuous with a small waist and a bust size at least two times the size of mine—which, I suppose, makes her about average, if I’m being honest. She’s got piercing blue eyes and milky skin and I decided a long time ago that if she wanted to walk around in her underwear, all the power to her. She has a body worthy of admiration.
“Morning, Baker Babe,” says Addie. “Thanks for the wake-up tunes.”
Sarah throws her head back in laughter. “Sorry. I’ll make it up to you,” she promises. “I’ve got blueberries, chocolate chips, and strawberries in the fridge—all of which go quite nicely with pancakes.”
“Mmm. You’re forgiven.”
“And now that I say that, I realize I really should get a move on. Just wanted you to know the shower’s free.”
“Me first!” I cry, jumping from the counter. I don’t miss the amused glances that pass between the two of them as I make my exit. I ignore them both, sipping at the warm nectar in my mug as I go.
Forty-five minutes later, I’m standing in front of my closet, fretting over what to wear. Yes, I’m aware that I probably spent too much time blowdrying my hair—I so would have curled it if I had the time. Yes, I’m aware that I only have about fifteen minutes to decide on an outfit, dress, and throw myself back on the couch so that it looks like I didn’t agonize over my appearance this morning. Yes, I’m even aware that all I’m getting dressed for is breakfast with some of our closest friends—but when I know that I’ll be seeing Sonny…
“AJ!” I call out as I hurry my way into her room. She’s sitting in the middle of the floor, leisurely blowdrying her own wet mane.
“What do you need?” she asks as she pauses.
“I need to borrow something,” I answer, sweeping my hands in such a way to signal my current lack of clothing.
She turns the hairdryer back on and speaks loudly over the hum. “You know he’d notice you if you were wearing a paper bag, right?”
I tilt my head to the side, agitated that she’s jumped to the conclusion that I’m trying to dress to impress. I am—but we certainly don’t need to talk about it. “Excuse me, anyone would notice me if I was dressed in a paper bag! I’d look ridiculous.” She arches and eyebrow at me in response. “I just haven’t done laundry yet. I don’t have enough options. This is not about Grayson.” The second before I yell out his name, she turns off the hairdryer. I can’t help the blush that colors my cheeks.
“Did I hear someone mention Grayson?” asks Sarah as she races her way into the room. She’s wrapped in her pink apron, which covers a pair of shorts and a tank top. I notice Addie has on shorts, too, only with a long sleeved t-shirt.
“She needs help picking something to wear.”
“What’s wrong with what you’ve got on?” Sarah teases. I look down at my bra and cotton shorts and then back at her. She snorts as she makes her way to Addie’s closet. “You know he’d notice you no matter what you wore, right?”
“I’m not trying to dress up for him, you know?” I lie, folding my arms across my chest.
“Oh, sweetie,” Sarah murmurs as she presses a kiss on the top of my head, “denying your feelings won’t make them go away.” I narrow my eyes at her and she offers me a smirk. “He—”
“Isn’t interested,” I interrupt, finishing her sentence for her.
“Here we go again,” Addie says as she stands.
Sarah grins at her from over her shoulder before returning to her task, decisively reaching for items of clothing. “My argument that he is interested still trumps yours. Shall we go over the list again?” She pauses as if to wait for an answer, but before I can speak, she’s yanking off my shorts and encouraging me into pair of distressed jeans, complete with holes in each knee. “He always walks you to our front door after you guys hang out—even if you were just downstairs.”
“That’s just him being a gentleman. All of us get escorted home—by him or Hammy.”
“I’ve seen him carrying your cello more than once,” pipes in Addie, ignoring my rebuttal. I forget to make my counter argument as I’m temporarily distracted by the fact that Sarah’s dressing me—and I’m actually letting her. “And the kicker,” she says, tugging a spaghetti strap tank over my chest, “is that he’s been to three of your orchestra concerts.”
“First of all, everyone came to my last one—even Jack and Claire,” I mutter, finding my words once more. “Second, he was just being supportive. I go to his football games.”
“Yeah. Because you like him,” argues Addie.
“And he practically stamped I like you back on his forehead at your concert,” says Sarah, plucking a thin, loose knit, sweater from a hanger. “He wore slacks and a collared shirt,” she insists, pulling the garment in her hands over my head. “He dressed up for you,” she adds, as if her previous statement needs clarification. She sweeps my hair out from underneath the collar and it falls down my back. “He’s shy,” she explains.
“No—see, that is the biggest hole in your entire argument. He’s the star quarterback! He’s one of the most well known people on campus—where thousands upon thousands of people attend school—he is not shy,” I say with a laugh.
“You look adorable, Ave,” says my sister, guiding me toward her full length mirror. “How could he not be shy around you?”
A knock sounds at the door and, for a moment, we all fall silent. “They’re early,” I announce.
“Go let them in,” says Addie. “I just need a couple more minutes to finish drying my hair.”
“And I have to get back in the kitchen. Besides, we all know who Gray would prefer to open that door.”
I shake my head as they giggle and then make my way out to let our guests in. Despite the fact that I know who stands just outside, my breath catches in my throat at the sight of him.