When his vehicle is out of sight, I close the front door and lean against it. What the hell got into Preston tonight? Was he serious about us being more than just friends?
No matter how much people suggested it, we have never tried to take our friendship to another level. Well, almost never. There was that one time around homecoming during our senior year when things got dicey. His school had their celebration a week before mine. Neither of us had dates, so we agreed to go with each other—just friends hanging out.
“You’ve got to be kidding!” Ginny exclaimed when I told her our plan. “You do realize he has this super mega crush on you?”
“Stop being ridiculous. Preston is like my brother. This is just two friends doing each other a favor.” It wasn’t the first time someone suggested Preston’s intentions were far from innocent. They simply didn’t know him the way I did.
“Yeah right.” She gave me the stink-eye but said nothing else about it.
The night of the homecoming dance arrived, and Preston cleaned up good. Damn good.
I opened the front door to a stranger. I was half-expecting Preston to show up in jeans, a plaid shirt, and a bow tie. Instead, he wore a navy, tailored suit and the thick-lensed glasses were gone. My best friend went from nerd status to boyfriend material overnight. He was slowly losing his geeky persona. Suddenly, I understood why someone might think there was more to our friendship. I also saw how people could consider my strapless, bodycon dress inappropriate around him.
“In the flesh.” He shot me his adorable crooked smile and even winked. “Ready to go?”
“Yes. Let me grab my purse.” And maybe a very large coat to cover up with.
My parents waved goodbye to us while I tried to ignore the worried expression marring my mother’s face.
The night was fairly uneventful. Preston continued to be the gentleman I expected, and I did my best to look past his unexpected hotness. Sadly, my best friend had two left feet—couldn’t dance to save his life. I spent most of the time dancing with other guys. It was an action that defined the friend zone, but I didn’t think twice about it. Besides, he said he didn’t mind. I felt safe with him until the altercation.
I returned from the restroom in time to see a crowd gathering around Preston, and one of my earlier dance partners. A loud argument broke out between them. It was the first time I’d ever seen my friend stand up to anyone about anything.
Preston’s classmate should have been commended for not throwing a punch. Instead, he worked his fists—clenching and unclenching them constantly. Preston, in his state of mind, was oblivious to the danger he was in. The guy was on the wrestling team.
“Touch her again, and I’ll kill you!” Preston threatened, his finger shoved into the guy’s chest.
Shit! I rushed over, grabbed Preston’s arm, and yanked him away. “Stop it, Prest! What the hell is wrong with you?”
“That’s a great question, Mr. Montgomery,” said one chaperone who saw the whole thing. The old crone stood behind us with her hands on her enormous satin-draped hips.
Preston’s gaze darted around the crowd. A deep flush crept over his cheeks as he pulled at his shirt collar. His classmates thought no one heard their rude comments.
“What’s wrong with the geek?”
“He’s flipped his fucking gourd.”
“Is she going to fight for him?”
Slowly, Preston backpedaled, whirled around, and ran from the room. The answer to the chaperone’s question left unsaid.
That wasn’t the worst part of the night though. That came when I realized he took off without me. People laughed at me. After being the butt of people’s jokes for too many years, suddenly I cared. Instead, I tucked my tail between my legs and called Ginny for a ride home. I had to listen to her chide me like a child all the way home to Algiers.
After the fiasco of homecoming, I didn’t see Preston for a few days. I tried calling him, but all my calls went straight to voicemail, and he never returned them. A week later Preston came by my house after school. He didn’t even mention the incident—nor apologize for ditching me. I cared about my friend too much to bring any of it up.
Being Preston Montgomery came with pain. His parents had lofty expectations for him that Preston didn’t want to fulfill. Society had its idea of what was right—and wrong—for someone like him. I wouldn’t add to his torment by discussing a stupid event that meant nothing—unlike our friendship, which meant the world to me. As long as we were back on track, I was happy.
Thinking back on tonight’s conversation, I realize my mistake. I should have asked Preston how long it’s been since things went bad with Marjorie. If they were serious before Preston discovered her jealousy, he’s probably on the rebound. My friend had his heart broken and was just looking for a diversion. Makes sense. I was too dumb to take his feelings into consideration. I’ll make it up to Preston when I see him again.
With that mystery solved, I turn my attention back to the wooden crate sitting on my unmade Murphy bed. When I first found this condo, I thought it was perfect—within a short walk to work, situated across from the police station, and close to Ginny’s place. But not having a proper bedroom is tough for someone who isn’t fond of domestication—no door to close on my sloppiness.
I lift the lid and pull out the obsidian glass. The surface is so cold, but it warms unexpectedly when I place my palm against it. The warmth is welcoming, like an embrace from the past. Out of nowhere, fatigue hits me, and I can barely keep my eyes open. I decide the mirror can be examined tomorrow and place it on the small antique desk in the corner.
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