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Chris sat on the couch surrounded by books. She had a test on Friday in American Literature and she intended on getting a perfect score. After a few squabbles, and useless bantering, her sisters finally left her in peace. She opened her book and read, "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a coming of age story not so much about a young boy, but about the United States and its attitude towards..." A knock at the door crashed against her tunnel vision. Why can't they just leave me be? "Who is it?"
The screen opened and Elijah peeked around the door. "Hello."
Heat ran down her back. She forced a wobbly smile. "Hi."
He stepped around the door and stuffed his hands in his back pockets. "Do you think I could get a drink of water?"
She eyed him. He did look thirsty. He wore a flannel shirt and jeans, both which were splotched with dirt. His firm jaw was soiled and his hairline wet with perspiration.
"Can't you use the hose?" Her mouth spoke out of turn. She heard herself say it; she just couldn't believe she was so rude. How could she take it back?
He furrowed his eyebrows. "Um, it's pumped into the sprinklers right now."
She pushed the large book off her lap onto the couch and stood. "Fine, I'll be right back." Her eyes grazed his boots. They were clumped with soil from the garden. "Stay here. I can see you're covered in mud and my mom will be angry if you go tracking that in here."
Elijah nodded and scooted back towards the door.
Chris hurried from the room, chiding herself. Why am I being mean? It wasn't in her to talk to people that way. Not even boys. She reached in the cupboard and withdrew a glass. Her hand shookslightly as she filled it from the tap. She squeezed her eyes shut, breathed deeply and walked to the door. Before walking back in the room, she snuck a peek at him. Elijah swayed from foot to foot, glancing around the room. What's he looking for? She watched him for a second longer. She'd never really considered much about the way a boy looked before but this one was cute. She mentally slapped herself. Cute, please. He's just a boy. She glanced down at her dad's button-down shirt and suddenly felt subconscious about her appearance. It was a far cry from the pink poodle skirt and ruffled shirt Amy wore this morning. Pulling the flannel sleeve into her free hand, she entered with the water.
He glanced up at her approach. "Thank you." He took the glass and brought it to his lips.
He guzzled it down, then glanced around the room again. "Where are your sisters?"
Aw, so you're looking for them. Of course. Frills and curls. Well, you're stuck with me. Sorry to disappoint you. "They went to the store with my mother."
He peered over the edge of his glass, then lowered it. "And you didn't go?"
"I have a test tomorrow." Her eyes flew to her books. "I need to study." She really did. And you should go.
"Maybe I can help. What subject are you studying?"
Her heart flipped in her chest. She swallowed. "Um, I don't think that would be such a good idea."
He stepped forward. "Why not?"
She mimicked his move backward. "Well, you're a boy and..."
"And that's a problem?" The amused grin on his face did little to settle her nerves. She grabbed the hem of her shirt and backed up again. "Look, you're a nice boy and I'm sure a great gardener, but I'm not really interested in liking anyone that way."
A slow grin spread across his face. "And what way is that?"
A rush of heat invaded her face and her heart raced. "Maybe you should finish your water and go."
Elijah downed what was left of his drink and said, "For the record, I like you."
Her eyes shot to his. "You can't."
He tilted his head to the side. "I can't like you?"
"Are you finished with your water?"
He held out the glass. His eyes lingered on hers as she took it from him. "You didn't answer me. Why can't I like you?"
"I'm not really the dating type." She stared at the floor, willing him to leave. "Besides, my mom doesn't let us date."
He didn't speak, just stared.
Panicked, she blurted out, "Amy likes you."
He lifted an eyebrow. "I can respect that, but it's too late. I like you." He pushed on the screen door and winked. "Thanks for the water."