Falling into Us Read online
My heart palpitated when Jason switched hands on the steering wheel, settling his right hand on the console inches from mine. I wondered if he would take my hand, and what I would do if he did. I bet his hand was warm and rough and strong, and I could almost picture my small dark fingers nestled between his larger, tanned white ones. My heart hammered, and I couldn’t take my eyes off his hand, which was somehow closer to mine than it had been. I watched as Jason’s eyes shifted to mine, then to our hands, then out the windshield again. His left foot was bouncing crazily, and his hand was beating a rhythm on the steering wheel in time to the Carrie Underwood song playing on the radio.
I wanted to hold his hand. Nothing else mattered. I wasn’t sure where we were or where we were going or what time it was, and I didn’t care. I turned my head and met his eyes, and then, with a deep breath, slid my hand underneath his. His eyes widened and his breath hitched, but he didn’t hesitate to wind his fingers between mine. He smiled, and everything was better than fine.
We drove until darkness had fallen, taking turns listening to country music and talking. Jason told me about his dreams of going pro, and I in turn told him about my proposed career path in speech therapy. We talked about school, about the various cliques, and realized we were both only really part of the “in crowd” because of who we were friends with. I didn’t believe Jason at first, but then he explained that he’d learned to be outspoken just so he didn’t get completely lost in Kyle’s shadow.
“See, Kyle doesn’t mean to steal the spotlight,” Jason said. “It’s just how he is. He’s just one of those people who takes the center of attention without trying. I’ve been his friend since I don’t even know when. First grade, maybe? Forever. It’s always been that way. I’d get so frustrated, because everyone would want to be around Kyle, want to be his friend, want his attention because Kyle’s just that cool. I wasn’t that kid. I had to learn to put myself out there, talk loud enough to be heard, you know? Just so I didn’t get lost in the glow of Kyle’s golden-boy brilliance. ”
“Do I sense bitterness there?” I teased.
He laughed. “Nah, not at all. ” His voice was laced with sarcasm. “For real, though. Kyle is my boy. I’d do anything for that kid. No matter what’s happened, he’s always made sure we’re in it together. But it can be tough being best friends with the star of the town. ”
I nodded. “I know what you mean. Nell is like that. She doesn’t even realize it— she’s just naturally cool. Everyone likes her. She’s popular, and she doesn’t even know it. ”
Suddenly it was full dark and we were still spinning around corners on dusty dirt roads, Jason’s headlights cutting a swath in the darkness. Panic hit all at once as I realized I had no clue what time it was.
I dug my phone out of my purse frantically, then let my head slam back against the seat as I saw the readout: 10:10 p. m. “Shit, shit, sh-sh-sh-shit!” I felt tears welling up. “Stop the truck, Jason. Stop, please. Right now. ”
Jason skidded to a stop and turned to look at me in concern. “What’s wrong?”
I swallowed hard. “I—I didn’t tell Father I was leaving with you. He thinks I’m with Nell. I was supposed to check in at ten. If I call him now, he’ll demand to talk to Nell, and he’ll be mad. I’m in s-so-so much trouble, Jason. ”
“It’s only ten minutes, what’s the big deal? It’s not like we’re doing anything wrong. We’re just driving around. ” Jason genuinely didn’t understand.
I shook my head, breathing slowly to calm myself down. “You didn’t hear what I said. I told him I was with Nell. I lied. ”
“Why’d you lie?”
I shrugged, not quite sure I could explain. “He wouldn’t let me go if he knew I was with you. I’m only allowed to go out with Nell and Jill, and even then, we’re not supposed to be hanging out with boys. If he knew I was alone with you? He’s gonna kill me. Besides, he wouldn’t approve of you. I just know he wouldn’t. ” I didn’t think about how that last part would sound to Jason, but I felt awful as soon as I saw the hurt on his face.
“He wouldn’t, huh? Guess I get that. Not really the kind of guy you bring home to Daddy, am I?” His voice was bitter.
I touched his arm. “It’s not like that, Jason. I didn’t say I didn’t approve of you, just that he wouldn’t, and he won’t approve of anyone. I’ll die an old maid if he has his way. Don’t be angry. ”
Jason relented and shoved the gearshift into park. “Well, let’s make sure you don’t get into trouble. Call Nell and then make it a conference call. Maybe your dad will think you’re with her. ”
I nodded. “That just might work. ”
I called Nell and quickly explained the situation and what I wanted her to do, not letting her get a word in edgewise. She readily agreed, and I dialed Father’s cell phone number, merging the calls before he answered.
“You’re late, figlia. ” His voice was low and angry. “Where are you?”
“Mi dispiace, Father. I’m w-w-w-with Nell. We lost track of time. I’m so sorry. It won’t happen again, prometto. ”
“Let me speak with Nell. ”
Nell’s voice came over the phone, sounding canned and far away to me; this wasn’t going to work, I just knew it. “It’s my fault, Mr. de Rosa. We were watching a movie, and we just got carried away. Don’t be mad at Becca, please. ”
“What movie are you watching?” He sounded suspicious.
“Far and Away,” Nell answered without a hint of hesitation. “It’s about—”
“I know what it is,” Father cut in. “Be home in twenty minutes, Rebecca. We shall discuss this when you are home. ” He hung up, and silence filled the car.
I jumped when my phone rang again.
“Ohmigod,” Nell said, half-laughing. “Your dad is so scary. Do you think he bought it?”
“I don’t even know. I’m still in trouble for checking in late. ”
“So. You’re not with me, and it’s almost ten-thirty. I’m guessing you’re with Jason?” She sounded sly and pleased with herself.
“Yeah. You could have warned me, you know. ” I let a little of my irritation with Nell show through.
She didn’t sound sorry at all. “Would you have gone if I’d called you first?” I didn’t answer, which was answer enough for Nell. “Exactly. You’d have chickened out. ”
“So what happened with you and Kyle?” I asked.
“Don’t you have to be home in twenty minutes?” She was avoiding the question, and we both knew it.
“You’re not getting out of this, Nell. ”
“Call me when you’re home, if you can. ”
“Fine. ’Bye. ”
I turned to Jason. “Can you take me home?”
He nodded and put the truck in gear. “Sure. We’re not that far from your place, actually. I’ve been driving in a big circle, more or less. ”
True to his word, he was slowing to a stop just inside the subdivision entrance. “Stop here,” I said before we reached my house.
As I got out, Jason reached over and snagged my hand, stopping me. “Can we go out again sometime?”
I stared at his strong fingers circling my wrist. “I don’t know, Jason. I want to, but I’m not sure it’s possible. ”
He nodded. “Sure. I heard how he was. I’ll see you at school on Monday?” He released my wrist, and I shut the door behind me.
I stopped and glanced at him through the open window. “I had a great time, Jason. I didn’t think I would, but I did. ”
Jason grinned. “I guess we can thank Nell, huh?”
I frowned at him. “I wouldn’t go that far. ”
He just laughed. “I’m joking. I had a great time, too. Thanks for giving me a chance. ”
I turned away and waved at him with my hand over my head. “Don’t let it go to your head. ”
“Call me!” he said, slight