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My phone vibrated in my pocket. Don’t be late. 4:00 at Dunkin Donuts.
This girl was impossible! She might’ve looked a **** of a lot like Natalie, but they acted like complete opposites.
We headed into Victoria’s Secret. She was so abnormally quiet. I’d tried starting up conversations multiple times, but her attention would wander every few minutes.
She was flipping through a rack of sweatpants when she finally turned to me, a look of frustration on her face. “Victoria, listen…” she started.
I nodded, wanting her to carry on. Maybe something’s just up, and this isn’t her normal attitude.
She said, “I’ve never even been to a mall before.”
Oh, god, here it comes. She’ll hate me. Everyone’ll hate me. Here they all have these luxurious cars and millions of dollars. I’ve never even been to a freakin’ mall! I thought. Victoria’s jaw had dropped to the floor, her eyes wide, taking long, slow blinks.
“My town only has a few things. A supermarket, an ice cream store, a barber shop, a one-theater movie theater, a library, and an ice cream shop by the diner. Oh, there’s a bank and a post office, too. And a convenience store right next to the park.”
“Where do you go to school?” she asked.
This could not be happening. This poor, deprived girl. She’d been living in a ghost town! Where were the pizza places, the malls? The stores.
Ava looked up, eyes closed. “We-go-to-a-school-a-half-an-hour-away-because-there-isn’t-one-we-can-afford-close-enough-to-home-and-I-don’t-“
“Woah, slow down!” I said, shaking my head. I tossed my hands into the air. “What are you going on about?”
“There aren’t enough kids in our town to start our own school. We attend a school that’s a half an hour away. The only school closer is still twenty minutes away, but the tuition is ten thousand a year, which we cannot afford,” she said, the words falling over each other to get out.
“So you’ve never been to a mall…?”
“Nope, just a department store.” Her cheeks were flushed.
I felt like a complete idiot. Why did I tell her those things?
I shook it off. She said, “Awesome. Then I can pick out all of the stores and all of the clothes.”
I sighed and held up the price tag for the Pink sweatpants. “Um, no. These are forty-nine ninety-nine. I can’t even pay for these. I was practically kidnapped, remember?”
She laughed. She was doubled over laughing. “You seriously,” she said, gasping for breath, “thought-that- we- would- make you- pay for- your clothes?”
I folded my arms across my chest. “Well, yeah,” I mumbled.
“You need clothes. You can’t keep wearing mine. This isn’t, like, an option. You have to buy clothes. Or I can pick them out for you,” she suggested. It sounded like that would be a very, very bad idea.
I sighed. She grabbed the sweatpants and flew around the store, only pausing to ask my size. Over three hundred dollars later, we were on our way to PacSun, where she insisted in buying me a pair of both dark wash jeans and skinny jeans, plus a few cropped tees- I’m learning shopper-vocab.
Then, we hit American Eagle, Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, Coach, and freakin’ Armani for clothes, where Victoria insisted on buying the most outrageously expensive things she could find- I mean, $300 on a pair of jeans? One pair! Then, Bakers, Aldo, Marshalls, and a bunch of other stores for shoes- separate stores for shoes!
We raced to meet Jace outside of Dunkin Donuts.
I scanned the crowd to find him sitting alone at a table. I hurried over and took the seat across from him, throwing my bags onto the floor. He looked up.
Ava’s smiling face was right in front of me. I kissed her cheek and said, “You hungry?”
She shrugged and looked around. “Yeah, I guess so.”
“What’re we eating?” she asked.
I smiled. “Grand Lux Cafe,” I told her.
Victoria said, “Alright, well I’ll just stay back here and grab a salad or something.” I nodded.
“Sure. Bye,Victoria,” I said, hugging her. “Thank you.”
“Anytime, Jace. You know that.”
And so Ava and I set off to lunch. It was probably the best meal of my life. Well, except for the fact that I was forced to ‘accidentally’ knock over my water and spill it all over the waiter. Hey, he was giving my girl those googly eyes- like I didn’t have enough competition already.
Ava had apologized for me, of course. My pride wouldn’t have allowed me to say that I was sorry- especially because I most definitely wasn’t.
Oh, and the other problem? I wanted to reach across the table and start kissing her the whole time. I had to sit on my hands, for the most part, in order to keep myself in control.
So, I s’pose the saying’s true, then? Love makes you crazy.