• robinstratton23

6. In Love With Spring: My Novel Online

Updated: Jan 7

WHEN BRENT'S CAR pulled into the driveway, Allie looked out the window and announced his arrival. “You’re right, Mandy, he’s a total babe! But who’s that in the car with him?”

Mandy, standing beside her, frowned. “Ashley. And that guy must be her cousin. Shoot. I was hoping he’d come get me first.”

“Ashley probably wouldn’t let him,” Lisbeth said. “She knows how gorgeous you are. She’s probably afraid you’ll steal Brent away.”

“He’s coming in,” Mandy hissed. “Don’t anyone say anything weird!”

Four April females nodded obligingly. Their eyes glued to the door, they lined up conspicuously to meet the man of Mandy’s dreams. Mandy flipped her hand, indicating that they should scatter to give the appearance of a more casual reception, but no one moved. She waited one blasé second after the bell sounded before opening the door.

“Hi, Brent.”

“Hi. Wow, holy crap you look great!”

She did, she knew she did; the night before, she’d splurged on a padded push-up bra from Frederick’s of Hollywood. “For cleavage,” she told her sisters. Lisbeth, fingering the cups, said “I can’t wait to be able to wear one!” Allie said, “Wow, hot!” and Jules said, “What do you need cleavage for?” With a smile, she forced herself to sound calm as she introduced him to everyone, then said she’d be home by midnight.

Ashley, waiting in the front seat, said, “Mandy, this is my cousin, Roger.”

Disappointed that she was allocated to the back seat, Mandy slipped in next to him. “Hi, Roger.”

“Wow, hi,” he said.

Ashley turned on him with a glare. “She’s just here because I had to take you and Brent needed a date.”

“I know,” he said.

Once they arrived and chose a table, Ashley said, “Brent! Check out what song they’re playing!”

“‘Keep on Loving You’,” Brent obliged.

“This is our song! Oh my god, we have to dance!”

“Well, um, shouldn’t I dance with…”

“She’s fine. You’re fine, right, Mandy?”

“Oh. Yeah, I’m fine.”

“So come on.

“It’s okay?” Brent asked, and Mandy said, “Sure, go ahead.”

“Want to dance with me, Mandy?” Roger asked.

She looked at him and realized he knew exactly what was going on. Humiliated, she looked away. “No, thanks.”

“I’ll get us punch. Okay?”

“Okay. Thanks.”

She watched him make his way to the refreshments table. On the ride over, she learned that he was majoring in engineering at MIT. He seemed sweet and was probably really smart. Jules would have loved his dark-rimmed glasses—they made him look intellectual, rather than nerdy. But Mandy couldn’t help noticing that his hair was unfashionably long, and his suit—not even a tux!—looked suspiciously as if it had been borrowed from someone. Ashley’s father, maybe. With a sinking heart, she wondered if the other kids assumed that Roger was her date. If they were laughing at her, or feeling sorry for her.

When Roger returned a minute later with two glasses of punch, he said, “Just so you know, I checked out the scene, and you’re the prettiest girl here.” He sipped. “By far.”

“Oh! Thank you.” She sipped too—without tasting.

“I mean, not just pretty. Really really pretty. I mean…oh man.” He chuckled and shook his head. “Pretty smooth talker, huh.”

Mandy managed to smile and say, “Thank you,” again. She tried not to look at Brent dancing with Ashley.

“Want cheese? They have cheese up there. Little cubes. I could get you some.”

“No thanks.”

“Mind if I get some?”

“Of course not.”

This time as he walked away, she noticed that his suit was too tight across the waist, and she couldn’t help comparing him to Brent, who was trim and athletic. She produced another smile when Roger returned with a plate of cheese, and when he held it out to her, she grimly stabbed a cube with a brightly-colored toothpick. Cheese was fattening, but so what.

“Keep on Lovin’ You” ended, and Ashley and Brent came back to the table. “That’s our song, we love that song,” Ashley said. She was holding Brent’s hand, and sat next to him.

“So,” Brent said awkwardly, “anyone want punch?”

“All set.” Mandy held up her glass and took another sip.

“Is it good? Any booze in it?”


“Brent and I love punch with booze in it,” Ashley said.

The DJ put on “My Love” by Paul McCartney, and Brent said, “Mandy, um, you wanna dance?”

Mandy ignored Ashley’s glare. “Yes.”

He rose and offered his hand. They glided off and suddenly she was in his arms, looking up at him.

“Are you having fun?” he asked.

Before she could answer I am now, he said, “What the hell?”

She followed his gaze and saw Ashley motioning for him to come to the table.

“Shit. I have to go see what she wants.” Still holding Mandy’s hand, he led her back to the table. “What?”

“You said you were going to get us punch.”

“In a minute!”

She pouted. “Everyone else has punch.”

“Okay. Jesus, Ashley.”

He headed toward the refreshments table; at the same time, Roger stood and said, “Mandy…?”

She nodded and they went to the dance floor. Her face was so red that she kept her head down.

“I don’t know what Brent sees in her,” Roger said.

“Well, she’s usually nicer than this.”

He laughed. “No, she’s not. I’ve known her for seventeen years, and this is exactly what she’s like all the time. Spoiled brat. Only child. Her parents don’t like how serious she is with Brent—that’s why they made her take me. She was so pissed! They were still fighting about it this afternoon. All screaming at the top of their lungs.” He held her a little closer. “I also don’t know what you see in Brent.”

“Well, he’s usually nicer too.”

“He’s a prick. Obviously attracted to you, but too much of a wimp to tell Ashley he wants to ask you out.”

“Really?” Mandy hated herself for asking. “You think he’s attracted to me?”

“Who wouldn’t be?” Roger’s eyes were soft and brown but had an intensity that was intriguing. Mandy caught herself wondering if he was a good kisser. She looked over at Brent and Ashley and saw that they were sitting very close. At the same moment, Brent looked at her; so handsome in his tux that Mandy felt actual pain.

Roger maneuvered her around so that she was no longer facing the table, and she sneaked a glance around the room. So weird, seeing all the kids dressed up. Most of the boys never wore anything but jeans, but tonight they looked so cute, so compliant in suits with cummerbunds of royal blue, turquoise, or jade, as dictated by the color of the gown of their date. The girls, self-conscious and chilly in spaghetti-strap dresses, compared shoes and hair styles, and flirted with each other’s boyfriends.

It dawned on Mandy that no one was laughing at her. “My Love” ended, and the dancing heated up with a Michael Jackson medley, followed by “Still the One” by Orleans. Eventually, she excused herself to go to the ladies room. When she pushed open the door, she was surprised to find it full of girls, who welcomed her in eagerly.

“Mandy! Who is he?

“He’s such a hunk!”

“How old is he?”

“His name is Roger.” Mandy checked herself in the mirror and saw that she was rosy from all the dancing. “He’s in college.

The others squealed. “You are so lucky!”

OON THE WAY HOME, Ashley sat up front with her head on Brent’s shoulder. This time, Mandy was happy to be in the back seat with Roger. Squinting in the semi-darkness, she thought, Brent’s ears look so weird from behind! How come I never noticed? and she laughed.

“What’s so funny?” Brent turned down the radio so he could hear her answer.

“Nothing,” said Mandy.

“I hate people who have secrets.” Ashley turned the radio back up.

A few minutes later, Brent pulled into the Aprils’ driveway. Roger got out to walk Mandy to the door. Her eyes met Brent’s in the rearview mirror, and as he said goodnight, his tone was distinctly regretful. You big baby, Mandy thought; Roger is right, you’re a wimp.

Ashley, moving her hand up to run her fingers through Brent’s hair, said sweetly, “’Night, Mandy.” Then she added, “Not that I’ll get any sleep tonight, right, Brent?”

Mandy wanted to shout, You can have him! It was wonderful, to be out from under his spell.

“Be right back.”

Roger took Mandy’s hand and led her up the walk. When they arrived at the porch, they lingered, their arms loosely around each other’s waist. “I had a great time, Mandy.”

“I did, too.”

Roger pulled her close and kissed her on the lips. It was nice—just the right amount of pressure, not too wet and not too dry. The hug that followed was nice, too; tight, then he released her. “Goodnight.”

Mandy watched him walk to the car; a man, not a high school kid. He turned and waved before getting in, and she waved back.

AS SOON AS she came in, her sisters, distributed on chairs and the sofa, looked up eagerly. Allie asked, “How was it?” and at the same time Lisbeth wanted to know, “Did you have a good time?” But when Jules asked, “How was Brent?” they were all surprised when Mandy said, “He’s a jerk.”

“He is? I mean, wait.” Jules looked at the others, then back at Mandy. “What happened?”

Mandy took off her earrings, and then released her fluffy chestnut hair from its jeweled clip. “That asshole spent the whole evening dancing with Ashley. I was with her cousin, Roger, and we had a blast. So,” she turned to Jules, “you were right.”

Allie tipped her head. “Are we happy about this?”

“We are.”

“Are you going to see Roger again?”

“I don’t think so. He’s very sweet, but he’s not my type. And he didn’t ask for my number.” She signed a bit wistfully. It would have been so perfect to replace her crush on Brent with a real boyfriend! That night, as she lay in bed, she quietly cried a few tears—disappointed that the night hadn’t worked out the way she dreamed it would. Being in love with Brent had become a habit. A way of life. A fun thing to think about. And even though she didn’t want it back, she missed it. Oh, she missed it already.

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