“All right, pick your poison,” Reggie said as she dumped a bag of plain potato chips into the bowl nearest to her, then a bag with some obscure flavor she did not want to think about into another nearby. Both were the local grocery store’s brand – her father refused to buy the more expensive “name brand” chips. He had seemed positive that any guy coming over would eat the mess, but Reggie was not quite so sure he was right.
“I’ll mix mine, thanks.” Max swooped in from behind and grabbed both bowls from in front of Reggie. She laughed and shook her head as she picked up their sodas and followed him to the dining table, where they had spread out the textbooks. So her father was right after all. This time.
It was Friday night, and Reggie briefly questioned – in her mind – why Max was not out with his girlfriend, but she had quickly pushed the question out of her head. Darcy was a secure person, near as she could tell because she did not hang around Darcy, even if the two weren’t spending much time at all together at school lately, and it was easy to see when they were together that Max really did care about her. Besides, Reggie and Max were working on a history project. What could be less enthusiastic a subject than history (besides English)? Reggie certainly could not think of one.
“Remind me to thank your dad for letting us have a late study session here,” Max said as he took a seat and set the bowls in front of him.
Reggie shrugged. It had not taken much to get permission - all she’d had to say was that she needed her partner for a class project to be able to come over for a study session that could go late. Dad had taken it upon himself to keep out of the way, making plans to take his current girlfriend out to a late dinner and movie. If Max really wanted to say thanks, that was fine, but Reggie did not think it was necessary.
She didn’t have to say anything, though, because Max’s attention had already shifted towards their homework. She doubted that waving a red flag in front of him would distract him from what he seemed to believe was his purpose in life at this moment.
For a solid hour, he filled her in on what he had learned – inhaling most of the chips and both sodas Reggie had set on the table as he did so. Reggie ignored the food, taking a lot of notes and tried to keep up with Max, but it was difficult when it was a subject she did not like much. Even if Max was enthusiastic about the subject, she was not, and she was not about to pretend she was involved with this for any reason other than keeping her grades up, so when he called break time, she was ready to take it.
What Reggie was not ready for was Max grabbing her hand and leading her into the newly redecorated family room. Her father’s girlfriend had done it – the project given to her as a birthday present, with an unlimited budget. She was an interior decorator, and had really outdone herself. Everyone who came over took a look at it and said so (including Reggie’s mother), and even Reggie had to admit that she had done a good job. For all her appearance of being the typical blond floozy type Reggie’s father normally went for, she had proven she actually had a brain somewhere up there.
Max made Reggie sit down on the nearest couch, then sat down himself. He did not let go of her hand throughout the entire process, setting Reggie’s mind awhirl with thoughts completely outside of history and the appearance of the family room. She could tell that something was about to go down here, and she could see it in his eyes. He had something to say to her, but she had no idea what. A nervously tight ball formed in the pit of her stomach as she waited to hear it.
“I really like you, Reggie,” he said, after what seemed like an eternity of time.
“I like you too.” Reggie smiled, trying not to let her hopes get up. After all, Max was with Darcy. As long as they were together, there would never be any hope of anything else happening. Reggie was no block head.
“I don’t mean as a friend.” He leaned over, reaching up to tuck an imaginary piece of hair behind her ear. “I broke up with Darcy six weeks ago, Reggie, and it’s been hard waiting for the rebound phase to end so I could find out if you felt the same way.”
For a second, Reggie was dumbfounded – first by the news about him and Darcy, and second by his actually expressing interest in her. Last she had heard, she was “completely unmarketable” in the high school dating arena.
“I don’t pretend to understand the rumors about you,” Max went on. “But I don’t put a lot of weight on what they say, because the person I see right now is nothing like what everyone says. Reggie – there is nothing I want more right now than to be with you. Do you want that, too?”
Armed with this new knowledge – that Max was free, that he wanted to be with her – Reggie waited a few seconds before giving her answer. She needed the time to think, and she did not want to appear to be so eager for attention that she jumped at the first offer from any guy who expressed interest. That was as bad as or worse than her classification already.
“Yes, I do too, Max.”
His smile was relieved, and it was beautiful, as his arms went around her to draw her close to him.
“I can’t believe this is real,” he whispered as he stared down at her face. “Reggie…”
“It is.” She slid her arms around him and rested her head on his shoulder, feeling really happy for the first time since the bombshell of her parents’ divorce had been dropped. Until that bombshell, her life had been one happy-go-lucky Ferris Wheel ride, and as Reggie felt Max’s arms go around her and let herself settle in against him, she could actually think that she could get back on that ride again.
When Max tipped her head up and lowered his mouth to kiss her, Reggie gave over to the kiss readily. Despite the appearances she put up, she was starving for affection of any kind. Something said this was where she was going to get it, so her response was given with all the feeling in her heart. No one had kissed her since her loser boyfriend back in junior high who had walked out the second he’d heard about her parents’ impending divorce. It had left her to fend for herself, but she was getting tired of it.
“I promise I’ll stick around, Reggie.” His voice was husky and his breath was warm as he whispered in her ear. “I won’t neglect you, and you’ll always know where you stand with me.”
“Promise?” Reggie turned her face so her lips were feathering his as she spoke.
“I promise.” Max kissed her again, hungry and demanding this time, and a strange buzz started working its way through Reggie’s system. Reggie closed her eyes, letting the kiss go on and on, not aware of what was going on until she and Max were both lying on the couch.
“Do you trust me?” he asked, his chest heaving as he sucked in air.
Reggie nodded once without hesitation.
“Good, because I want to show you everything there is supposed to be between two people who are as attracted to each other as we are.”
Reggie propped herself up on an elbow at that statement, starting to cool off. She got the feeling that Max was talking about walking on ground she was not sure she was ready to tread upon, and she could not go there unless she was sure of what she was doing. “I don’t think I’m ready for that, Max.”
“Okay.” He still leaned closer. “We’ll take it at your pace, Reggie. Whenever you’re ready.”
Then Max was kissing her again, and she gave herself over to it with all of her eager nature. Finally, there was someone who seemed to want to be what she needed him to be. Too bad neither of her parents seemed to want to step up to the plate…
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