You can't decide whether money changes things or not; it does. You can decide, however, whether it changes things for better or worse.


21. Twenty one

"I don't get why we have to meet him at his house and why he couldn't just pick us up or something." Carrie says as we walk up his driveway. 

"I don't know." I say. 

"What are we doing?" Alice asks. 

"I don't know." I say again. 

"Why is he-"

"I don't know, guys, I don't know anything, okay?" I tell them.

He's standing at his gate scrolling through his phone but he perks up when he sees us, entering a code into a keypad and opening the gate for us. When we walk through the gate, he gives me a quick hug. I hug him back and he's acting like this is a normal thing we do but have never hugged before ever. 

"Hey guys." he says cheerily to everyone when he lets go of me and they all chorus a hello back to him. 

"How come we're meeting you here?" I ask him. 

"Well that's what I'm going to show you." he says and leads us to the garage, opening the door. There's all his usual cars, plus a new one. It's a silver convertible, but it's not the one I picked with him. It's literally metallic, shiny silver and it looks so expensive. And then are all his other cars that he's always had that are also outrageously expensive. 

"You went car shopping without me?" I raise an eyebrow at him but he knows I'm just teasing him. 

"You would have passed out if you knew how much I spent on that car. You wouldn't have let me buy it." he chuckles and then grins at my friends. "All of us wouldn't fit in any one of these cars, so we've gotta go separately. Johanna, you can go in a car by yourself, Alice and Carrie you can share and Kaya and I will go in one. Johanna, what car do you want?" 

She walks with purpose over to the brand new one. "This one."

Alex falters. "Johanna, you know that is a Bugatti Veyron, right?"

"I know." she says, nonchalantly. "And I want to drive it."

"You know I payed over two million dollars for that, right?" 

"What?!" I demand. 

He ignores me. "Johanna, that car-"

"Yeah, yeah, it's expensive, it's your baby, all that jazz." she says, staring at him. "And I want to drive it."

He sighs, exasperated. "But it's-"

"I want to drive it." she repeats.

He hesitates but sighs and hands over the keys. Alice and Carrie choose the yellow car and I pick the convertible I picked out with him for us. Everybody follows us because Alex is the only one who knows where we're all going. I can see him anxiously checking the rear view mirror as we drive and I laugh.

"Johanna isn't going to crash the car." I reassure him. 

"If I was dangling your baby off the side of a cliff, you wouldn't be calm, even if I told you I wasn't going to drop it." he says, glancing in the mirror again. 

"Calm down." I laugh. "You shouldn't have spent two million dollars on a car anyway."

He just makes a face at me before smiling and turning the Oasis CD we have on on full blast. We both belt out the song and I'm shocked that I'm not shy of doing this but I'm not embarrassed so I just enjoy it. At one point, I look over at him and he's grinning as he sings and he's running his hand through his hair and his eyes are crinkling with laughter and it's a sunny day out and we have the roof down on the car and it smells like summer and he looks so happy and I am so happy and I can't resist leaning over and kissing him on the cheek. 

He doesn't look surprised, he just grins more and kisses me on the cheek back and there are butterflies in my tummy but not the kind of butterflies I got when he kissed me for real or the kind of butterflies I got when he hugged me earlier. These are the butterflies I get when me and my friends are swapping Christmas presents or when my Dad does something sweet for me. I do like him as more than a friend but that doesn't seem to matter right now. Us kissing each other on the cheek was just friendly and I value that because things that are just friendly last. I know that maybe one day if things somehow went bad between Alex and I, the butterflies I had when he kissed me for real would be tainted, but the butterflies I had when he just kissed me on the cheek wouldn't be touched. 


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