Without You: Book 1 of the Changing Hearts Series (4 page)

BOOK: Without You: Book 1 of the Changing Hearts Series
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“Napkin?” He handed her one. She took it and wiped her nose.

“Wanna talk?” His voice was so soft it was almost a whisper.

She shook her head.
 

They sat there like that for a few more minutes. Finally, he squeezed her shoulder lightly and left.
 

She shook her head and sighed. How embarrassing. She swept her hair out of her face and covered her face with her hands. She hadn’t even gotten a drink. She licked her lips, wondering whether a cold lemonade was worth passing the table where Lucas, Mayra, and everyone else were sitting at, probably having a good time. She did not want to answer any questions about why she had been crying. The truth was, even she wasn’t sure. She used the napkin to wipe her tears. She swallowed. It was going to be a long lunch.

Mayra sat down. “Hey.”

She played with the napkin. “Hey.”

“Sorry.”

“You didn’t do anything,” she said quietly.

“Yes, I did. I’ve been acting like a jerk for no reason.”

“Why?” She looked at Mayra, who looked out the window. It was raining.
 

“I guess I’ve been trying to get my mind off of certain things.”

“Like what?”

“Like the fact that I like someone.” She sighed. “I really like someone.”

“Who?” Now Ariana was curious.

“It doesn’t matter because it wouldn’t work.”

“How do you know?”

“I just do. But I need to get over it. Our friendship isn’t worth sacrificing.”

Then she knew.
 

“You’re talking about Jimmy.”

They finally looked at each other.

Mayra nodded. Her chin quivered like right before she cried.

“Since when do you like him?”

“I don’t know.” She looked around the lunchroom. “I’ve always loved him in a way. He’s your brother. And then after everything last year, I don’t know. I just started feeling something else entirely, and it’s been driving me crazy. I mean, he’s your little brother.”

Mayra had tears in her eyes.

“First of all, he’s not little. He’s at least six inches taller than us. And yeah, he’s my younger brother, but only by a year.” She didn’t know why she was defending Mayra’s feelings for Jimmy instead of being weirded out by them. Because she was weirded out by them.

“You don’t sound very surprised.”

“I’m not. At the mall the other week, I saw you two holding hands. It was obvious there was something going on.” She decided not to mention their kiss when Jimmy was at the hospital last year. It just felt wrong that she had witnessed something like that between them.
 

“I just don’t want us to ever stop being best friends. I don’t think this could ever be easy. This is high school. Relationships come and go. Fast. The odds are that we’ll break up, and then what’ll happen?”

Ariana shrugged. “We keep being friends.”

Mayra sighed. “I don’t know.”

“We both know Jimmy’s been in love with you since we were kids.”

Mayra chuckled. “Isn’t that crazy?”

“Are you thinking of giving him a chance?”

“I don’t know. Sometimes yeah. Sometimes no. I’m just not sure, so for now, we’ll just keep being friends.”

Ariana nodded. “So no more being a jerk to me?”

“I can’t promise I won’t try to nudge—”

“Push.”

“You and Lucas together because I see the chemistry, but I promise no more being a jerk.”

They smiled.
 

“I think you and Jimmy might have chemistry.”

Mayra turned towards the table and looked down. “Aren’t you worried about what might happen? What could change?”

“Yeah, a little. But I also want you guys to be happy. You’ll never know what could happen if you don’t give it a try.”

“True.” She looked at her. “Sorry.”

“It’s okay. I don’t know why I broke down like that.” She wiped at her eyes again. She could feel the tears coming on again. “This is hard to say, but I think what happened with Carlos bothers me more than I thought. I can’t stop thinking about it sometimes.” A few tears ran down her cheeks. Mayra put her arm around her shoulders.
 

“He’s not here anymore. He moved.”

“I know. And sometimes I just hate myself so much for even loving someone like him. And being with him for so long.”

“Don’t beat yourself up over it. Everything’s okay now,” she said. “You are the strongest person I know. Besides my mom.”

She smiled. “Thanks.”

“Come on. Let’s go get you a soda.”

As they walked past their usual table, Lucas looked up at her and gave Ariana a small smile.

###

“So we still need to write the conclusion for the essay and finish the slides for the presentation on Monday.” Ariana said as she stared at her laptop.
 

It was Saturday afternoon, and Mayra was laid out on her couch with her eyes closed and her laptop on the floor. “I need a break. Please. My brain is literally fried.”

Lucas laughed and shook his head. He was at the kitchen table with Ariana. She was working on the paper with Mayra, and he was putting together the slideshow.

“Fine.” Ariana closed her laptop and checked her phone. They had been at it for over an hour and a half.
 

“I’m going to the bathroom.” Mayra got up from the couch, put her laptop on the table, and headed to her room on the other side of the house.
 

Count on Mayra to give her unwanted alone time with Lucas.

Lucas closed his laptop too and looked at her. He sighed, and they both looked away. He hadn’t even mentioned her breakdown the other day, not even after lunch when they had gone back to the library to work.

“So about the other day…” he began. She looked at her notebook. “Are you feelin’ better?”

“Yeah. Thanks.”

He nodded, and she looked up at him. He gave her a small smile.

“So what are your plans for tonight?” she asked, trying to change the subject.

“First you tell me I’m cute, and now you’re asking me out?” he asked.
 

“Oh my God,” she said. Lucas laughed and kept his gaze on her. Ariana wondered why he was being a flirt if he was interested in Mayra.

“I was just messing with you.” He still had a smile on his face. Ariana loved the way his eyes crinkled when he did.
 

“I was just making conversation.”

“I know.” He played with his pencil, looking down as he tapped it on the table. “Later, I have to take my mom grocery shopping. Then I have to go to work.”

She nodded. “Sounds much more exciting than what I’ll be doing. Which is nothing.”

“Doubt it. My mom doesn’t drive, so I take her everywhere. Her and my two little sisters.”

“What about your dad?”

He looked out the window. “He’s not in the picture.” He looked back at her.

“Sorry.”

“Not your fault.”

“So where do you work?”

“At the mall. In that clothing store next to the food court.”
 

“Gotcha. Must be nice. Bet you get a fat discount.”

“One of the few benefits of working at the mall.”

She laughed. “Well, I’ll have to remember to swing by and do some shopping when you’re there so you can give me that discount.”

“Okay,” he said with a smile. “If that means I get to see you later.”

They stared at each other for a few seconds before Ariana looked away. She couldn’t shake the feeling that Lucas gave her. He had a completely different vibe than Carlos. And she was starting to think maybe, just maybe, Lucas was into her and not Mayra.

“Are you hungry?” she finally asked.
 

“Yeah. I could go for something. Are you thinking we should ditch Mayra?”

She looked towards Mayra’s room. “It’s been a while. I’m gonna go check on her.” She walked towards Mayra’s room, trying not to be self-conscious about how she walked.
 

She knocked a couple of times and walked in. She shut the door behind her. Mayra was on her bed, watching TV. “What are you doing? I thought you said you were just going to the bathroom.”

She shrugged. “Tripped and fell on the bed. Then the TV magically came on.”

Ariana rolled her eyes and joined her on the bed. “How convenient.”

“You guys done making out already?”

Ariana rolled her eyes. “We were just talking. Are you hungry?”

“Eh. Kinda. I ate right before you guys came over. Did you see his car? Not bad, right?”

“Yeah. Well, we’re hungry. Maybe we could go grab something real quick and bring you a dessert or something.”

“Sure. Just text me. Hey, you think your parents are going to say anything?”
 

“Uh, they don’t have to know,” she said slowly, looking around the room.

Mayra winked at her. “Take your time then.”
 

“Okay. We won’t be long.” She got up and closed the bedroom door behind her. Lucas was on his phone. He put it away as she came closer.
 

“So what’s the plan? We going to eat?”

“Mayra’s not that hungry. She said we could go and bring her back something later.”

She stood in front of the couch and looked down at Lucas. He stood up and looked down at her. He was a few inches taller than her.

“My car, then?” His chest was less than six inches away, and she could smell his cologne. She felt goosebumps go down her spine.
 

“Sure.”

Her parents wouldn’t mind.

chapter four

Fifteen minutes later, Ariana and Lucas were eating at a local taco place, the one at the back of the Mexican mini mart in town. It really was pretty good. She was eating a torta de carne asada with extra salsa roja, and Lucas was eating four tacos with brisket and salsa verde. She had ended up texting her mom that she and Mayra had gone to get something to eat. She felt a tiny bit guilty for fibbing but decided it wasn’t a big deal.

“Hm.” She savored the soft fajita meat in her mouth, the cool sour cream, the fresh tomatoes, and the warm buttery bread.
 

“Good?” Lucas was chewing a bite of taco. He took a sip of his handmade lemonade.
 

She nodded. “Awesome. Thanks again for the food. You didn’t have to do that.”

“Wasn’t about to let you pay for it. What would my mom say?” He smiled and took another bite.
 

Ariana smiled back. “It was my idea.” She took a swig of her lemonade. “Man, Mayra doesn’t know what she’s missing out on.”

Lucas nodded. “Got that right.”

They were sitting across from each other in a booth.
 

About ten minutes later, they were both done and wiping their mouths with their napkins. Lucas sat back and relaxed.
 

“So what are your plans after graduation?” he asked.
 

“Well, my dream would be to get into UGA. They have a good business program there, and that’s what I want to major in.”

“That’s cool.” He sat back up and played with his napkin.
 

“What about you?” She began putting all her trash on her plate.

“I think I’m gonna go to the community college. Sometimes I wish I could go to the Georgia State University or another college, but I don’t think that’s going to happen.”

“How come?”

“My mom and my siblings. They need me. My sisters are only eleven and nine. It’ll be a while before they can help out and drive my mom around.”

“Are you going to be happy with going to college here, though?”

“The community college here isn’t a bad college. And I’ll still get a degree and be close to home. Plus the tuition is really cheap, and I can keep my job. Maybe move up the chain to manager or assistant manager in the mean time.”

“That’s true. It sounds like a good plan.”

He nodded.
 

“What do you think you’re going to major in?”

He looked around and back at her. “I’m not sure yet. You don’t have to choose right away, right?”

She shook her head. Ariana felt like maybe he was getting uncomfortable. “So should we get going?”
 

“Sure.” He checked his phone. “We can work on the project for another hour or so, and then I gotta go.” They got up and gathered their trash.

“Okay. That works. Let me just go order something for Mayra.”
 

On the way back, it was quiet in the car. She tried to think of something to talk about. She snuck a glance at Lucas. He had one hand on the steering wheel and the other on the cup holder. He was so relaxed.
 

She was gripping Mayra’s bag of food, glad her hands had something to do.
 

“So, uh, what do you like to do in your free time?” Lucas asked.

“Well, I don’t work like you, so I have tons of free time. I actually think it’d be neat to get a job. I think I’ll get one over the summer, but for now, I just hang out with Mayra. I also like to read and listen to music, and I have like three AP classes this year, so I actually do a lot of homework too.”

Lucas nodded.
 

“I realize I must sound pretty boring.”
 

He smiled. “Not at all.”

“Plus I’m in DECA competitions and stuff. It’s fun, and it’ll look good on my applications that I did it all four years.”

“What do you do in there?” Lucas asked, eyes still on the road.
 

“We do projects, like business plans and speeches, and compete against other schools.”

“Hm. Didn’t know that. Did you compete last year?”

She nodded. “First place in Business Speech.”

“Nice.” He laughed, but Ariana didn’t feel embarrassed at all. In fact, it made her smile grow larger. She liked how comfortable she was starting to feel around Lucas. “Do you like sports?”

“Um, I play basketball with Jimmy sometimes or go for walks with Mayra, but I’m not good enough to play for the school. What about you?”

“I’m an assistant coach for my little sister’s basketball team.”

He worked, volunteered, and helped out at home?

“How do you find time to sleep?” she asked.

He smiled. “I don’t sleep very much.”

No wonder he didn’t have a girlfriend, not that she had asked. But she could tell, and Mayra had done some more snooping, of course.

BOOK: Without You: Book 1 of the Changing Hearts Series
4.33Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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