Kyle bobbed his head to the loud music, hardly paying attention to the conversations around him. The swirling lights and streamers created a shimmering dance floor, occupied by only a few daring high school couples.
“Did you notice that dress she’s wearing? It’s so last year.”
Kyle took a sip of punch, bringing himself back into his circle of friends. “Who are you talking about?”
“Laura.” Gina rolled her eyes to the corner of the gym. “She’s so stuck up. I don’t think she’s said one word all night.”
“Maybe she’s shy.”
Gina laughed. “Yeah, like she’s been shy all year. She just thinks she’s better than everyone else. I’d almost feel sorry when she finds out she’s not ‘all that.’”
Her suggestion brought on a dropped jaw from Jewel, but Gina gave her a smirk. “I said almost.”
The others in the small group seemed to find her statement amusing, and laughter broke out, along with several jeering points in Laura’s direction.
Kyle hid his reddened face behind a napkin as he wiped leftover cake from his lips. Laura had been hibernating in the corner since she’d arrived, her downcast eyes revealing her insecurity. Stuck up? Kyle hardly thought so. But there was no use arguing with his friends. Convincing them that the quiet girl who had moved to town last fall was anything but haughty would be like…getting a punch stain out of his white shirt. Kyle grimaced as he realized a bump to the elbow had resulted in a nice red stream down the front of his new shirt. Great. Acting quickly with spit and a napkin only managed to embed the stain into the threads. This wasn’t quite how he’d imagined his evening.
“Why don’t you ask her?”
Kyle’s attention was once again brought back to Gina’s voice as she gestured to Derek. “I dare you.”
Derek threw her a withering look. “Not on your life. I heard she smells like a barn.”
The giggling was almost enough to make Kyle gag. Hanging out with the popular crowd certainly had its benefits. Not only did he get invited to special events, but the attention from the girls wasn’t bad either. But this?
He tossed his now-empty cup into the trashcan, his desire to be here leaving along with it. This wasn’t exactly on his list of most enjoyable things to do. He’d asked Gina to come with him, but all she’d done all night was stand around, not even willing to dance.
“I heard her dad’s in jail.” Jewel tried to whisper, but failed miserably as everyone on their side of the gym seemed to hear.
Derek grinned. “That might explain her…outdated style of clothing. Her mama probably can’t afford to get her anything more than last year’s junk from the thrift store.”
Kyle couldn’t help his glance in Laura’s direction. Her blonde curls were tucked up neatly on her head, a few stray strands caressing her delicate face. She was free of makeup, unlike every other girl there, and her dress maybe wasn’t the most gorgeous, but it did nothing but compliment her thin frame.
“Why don’t you offer her some punch?” Jewel suggested.
Gina grinned mischievously. “I could ‘accidentally’ trip just as I got to her, couldn’t I?”
Kyle gritted his teeth. Teasing behind Laura’s back was one thing, but purposely spilling punch on her? That was going too far. This whole thing was ridiculous. Laura was nothing but polite and sincere, her quietness just adding to her gentle personality, in his opinion.
Seeing Derek pour the punch was the last straw. Spinning on his heel, Kyle left the group behind. If no one else was going to break this hideous pattern of mockery, he would.
Laura lifted her gaze as he approached, surprise flashing in her eyes.
He offered a soft smile. “Would you like to dance?”
“Yes, you.” Holding out his hand, his peripheral vision caught the startled looks on the faces of his friends. For once, he didn’t care. “Come on.”
A grin made its way to Laura’s lips, as she accepted. “I thought you came with Gina.”
“I did.” Kyle spun her out onto the floor. “But give a guy credit for realizing his mistake before the night was over.”
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