"Dinner, though?" Tammy said, a grin spreading across her face. We were walking down the hallway together, towards Mr. Pierce's room.
"Yes," I breathed.
"Your dad," she stated. She knew my dad well enough to know who had suggested it.
"Yes," I sighed miserably. "Long day." I was surprised that she had taken the Justin news well; she was usually the one who stomped over to the offender and told them off. Today, however, I knew she was planning something horrid.
"Oh please," she had said. "Don't think he won't pay."
Maggie had been told after, because I figured Tammy would explain better than I could. I was happy now that I didn't have to come to terms with how I hadn't been enough for a certain guy.
I was totally over him.
"Anyways," Tammy laughed, "have a nice dinner tonight, yeah?"
"Loser," I said, following her into English.
"Hey ladies and germs," said Mr Pierce.
It took me a few seconds to notice there wasn't a journal on the board. I looked around, wondering what to do, and I saw that everyone else was bewildered as well.
I caught Braden's gaze, and he gave a small shrug.
"Oh, right!" cried Mr. Pierce. "Today, we're going to have a whole class period to work on your stories."
A few people groaned around the room. I couldn't understand why; this project was something I was looking forward to.
I remembered suddenly, how Tammy had cornered me into becoming Braden's partner. I wasn't annoyed with him now that we had become friends. I just hoped he was a good writer.
"Well, go ahead and move closer to your partners. Everyone who doesn't have a parter; find one. I have to organize some folders for the office, so try not to bother me."
With that, everyone moved around the room in a buzz of activity, until they were settled. Braden came and pulled a chair to the opposite side of the desk I was sitting at. He pulled out a notebook.
"Ready?" he asked.
I nodded. "Let's see what we should start with." I glanced at the list of requirements Mr. Pierce had given us. It was a good guideline.
"So, the story is supposed to center around a group of people- eh, or maybe characters, going on a journey. That's the only structure he's given, so we have lots of room for details." Braden seemed to know what to do, and I was beginning to like this project even more.
The class wore on, and we had gotten smoothly along, and we came up with a hilarious story with four characters going to find a magical flower.
"We'll keep working on it later, if you want." I told him, because the bell was going to ring any minute.
Our story centered around Diamond, a young (and comically ugly) girl who had stolen a potion from a witch to become beautiful. Unfortunately for Diamond, she was turned into a horse when the witch found out. After a long discussion, Braden and I settled on a midget king coming to her rescue to help get the flower. Our story was preposterous, but it was so funny that whatever we decided to write was good.
He wrote well, and I think our conversations flowed perfectly from his paragraphs to mine.
"The dialogue is great," said Mr. Pierce, as he reviewed our work. "I'm looking forward to this story."
Braden and I exchanged grins, as he walked away.
"This is so awesome," I exclaimed.
"So, you're not disappointed in having to work with me?" Braden said, almost shyly.
"Of course not!" I cried. "We're friends, remember?"
He gave a cheesy, but well intended thumbs up. I giggled, just as the bell rang.
I collected the scraps of paper we had written, and tucked them securely into my binder.
"Today was a good day, right?" I asked Tammy and Maggie, as we walked arm in arm to the front.
Trevor and Braden were already sitting at the picnic tables, talking animatedly about last night's match.
"Boys," I muttered, loudly enough for Trevor to hear.
"Girls," he answered sarcastically.
"Enough, you two," Maggie said, laughing.
"I think the three of us should get going," Tammy said, motioning to herself, Trevor, and Maggie.
"What about us," Braden asked, before I could.
"You two have dinner tonight," Maggie replied smugly. She put an emphasis on the two of us, as she looked between us.
"Ugh," I muttered. "I forgot."
Braden looked nervous. I felt bad for saying that, so to make up for it I apologized for what I was getting ready to put him through.
"What are you talking about?" He asked.
"Whenever Grace's dad invites one of us over for dinner," Tammy started.
"It means he wants to question you," Maggie finished. "A lot."
Braden visibly relaxed. "I can handle that."
"Doubt it," Trevor guffawed. "He asked me all about my family."
"That's not so bad," Braden insisted.
"You'll be fine," I glared at my friends for scaring him. I didn't need to worry about comforting him the whole time. I needed to worry about my dad asking too many personal questions.
"Anyways, the three of us are getting dinner too." Maggie said.
"I'm going to third wheel," Tammy said, sighing. "Yay me, right?"
"Oh please, it was your idea," Trevor sounded tired. I wanted to wish him luck dealing with these two all night. He was the one third wheeling, and he knew it.
"So, Braden," said my father, as he dipped a french fry in ranch, "what are you doing here in Birchwood Hills?"
"Well, uh, it's kind of a long story," Braden said, rubbing the back of his neck. "My parents told me I was adopted, and that I was born here. So I decided, what the heck? I came down here to see if I could find out about my parents."
"That's interesting," he replied.
"I guess so," Braden paused to take a bite of his cheeseburger. "I found a person willing to let me rent a room in his apartment, and started school with Grace."
I hadn't known about his adoption thing, but I did my best to not look shocked.
I kept eating my burger in silence.
"So, Grace, how did you end up meeting Braden?"
I glanced at my dad warily, and then looked at Braden. "He followed me around all day."
My dad laughed as Braden turned red. "Did not."
"Nah, I'm kidding. He shadowed me for the day, and I guess we ended up friends."
My dad nodded, still chewing.
He had cooked these burgers, and heated some frozen fries in the oven. Even though he hadn't totally made this meal, it was still really good, and I was hungry. I had a bad habit of eating my fries with ranch, and my father had picked it up from me after I convinced him to try it.
Braden hadn't looked shocked like my friends had. "I love ranch with fries," He had said.
I was glad I didn't have to force him to try it.
"Do you like school so far?"
"I do, surprisingly enough," Braden answered.
"Best class?" My dad's questions were beginning to sound more like trivia.
"I like English. Actually, Grace and I are working on a story project for it."
"Really?" My dad hadn't heard about this yet, and he raised an eyebrow at me. "Grace hadn't told me this yet."
I swallowed a bite of fries. "M' bad."
He grunted in reply. His face, however, was suddenly serious. "Have you found anything out about your parents?"
"Not particularly," Braden said. "No one seems to know who they were. I know they live here though."
I watched his face, to make sure he was alright telling us this. He seemed like it was old news, so I relaxed.
My father seemed appeased, and the conversation turned back to sports, as men's conversations normally do. I wasn't interesting in speaking much tonight, so I let them discuss the recent happenings in sports.
Before long, we were finished eating. Of course, my dad wanted Braden to stay.
I could tell Braden was comfortable enough with this, but I wasn't.
"He can stay," said my father. I had no intention of losing this mind tug-of-war over Braden.
"Braden has some homework he's got to get finished tonight. It's due tomorrow."
Before Braden could speak, (I could feel "I do?" getting ready to come out of his mouth) I politely excused us, and lead the way to his car.
"Well that was awkward."
"Sorry," I said simply, but in agreement.
He shrugged. "Your dad seems nice."
"He gets carried away."
"I noticed," he started laughing. "I didn't mind it, though."
"You didn't?" I said, voice dripping with sarcasm. "I was hoping he'd scare you and you'd realize that I'm a crazy person."
"I already knew that," He replied, tapping fingers on the window of his car.
"That's a relief.
"I guess so," he looked towards the house, where my dad was no where in sight.
"I didn't know you came here to find your parents," I tried, knowing I sounded strange.
"I didn't tell you," he countered. "But, yeah. I just want to know where I came from, you know?"
"I understand." I completely did.
"What about you?" He asked, not meeting my gaze. "Do you miss her?"
I didn't need to ask who he meant. "Yeah, I miss her all the time."
He didn't want to ask about it, I could tell.
"My mom was in a car crash when I was young. Drunk driver. She didn't make it."
"Must have been hard," he said, shocking me. Normally, people told me how sorry they were.
"It was," I said, before he had the chance to get embarrassed.
We sat in silence again, only this time, it didn't seem as harsh. We were comfortable, and I thought about how quickly we had become friends.
"I've got to go soon," Braden said finally. "We actually do have a Biology worksheet due tomorrow."
"I finished it in class," I chuckled, elbowing his side.
"Showoff," he muttered.
He got into his car, and rolled down the window. "Later, Grace."
"Hey," I said, not sure if I should shut my mouth or keep talking. "If there's any way you'd let me help you figure out who your parents are, let me know. Don't forget I've been here my entire life."
He looked thoughtful for a second. "I'll remember that."
"Please do." I wanted to help him, and this seemed pretty important to him.
"It's supposed to be icy tomorrow," I said. "Be careful."
I winced, knowing I sounded like a worried mother. "Okay," Braden replied, graciously.
He drove off as I walked up the steps to my front porch. I glanced up just in time to see him round the corner of my street.
I laughed to myself, despite knowing that I looked like a lunatic. It really had been an awkward dinner.