“I’ve been here for you more than you know.” I stare at him in confusion as he turns off the truck. His body moves to face me, and I feel the full intensity of his attention. “Sunshine, a day hasn’t gone by that I haven’t seen you since I left. I couldn’t stop myself.”
“What are you saying?” I ask, knowing that can’t be possible.
“Sometimes…” He shakes his head. “Okay, all the time, I follow you to school and home, making sure you get there all right. Hell, I even get reports about your work at the center every day. Don’t you see it? Don’t you understand what I’m telling you? I’m—” His words are cut off when a knock sounds on his window. We both turn to see Ms. Petty standing there with a bright smile on her face.
Eli hits the button and rolls down the window for her.
“Mr. Dark Roast With One Sugar. I missed you at the coffee shop for our morning date.” She holds up her coffee cup with ‘Mojo’s Coffee House’ stamped on it. Now I’m the one feeling jealously rush through me. Of course he’s been dating. Here I was thinking he was about to confess his undying love for me. Now I just feel stupid.
“Maggie.” Ms. Petty turns her smile on me.
“Hey,” is all I’m able to say.
I can’t sit here and listen to them flirt, so I grab my bag and jump out of the truck. I need to get away from both of them as fast as possible.
“Damn it,” I say under my breath as I watch Maggie head into the building. I can’t get out because the chick I see at the coffee shop is standing in front of my door. I could knock her out of the way with it, but causing a scene right now might not be the best idea.
Every morning when I was away from Maggie I used to get up early and go grab a coffee before I came to sit at the school, waiting to make sure Maggie got in safely. I went around the same time so I often bumped into the same people on their morning commute. This woman was always super friendly, but I never spoke more than a word or two to her. I never even asked for her name. I didn’t give her mine, so she started referring to me by how I took my coffee. I could tell that she was pushing for some sort of flirty conversation, but I wasn’t interested. The only person I had eyes for was Maggie. Maybe I should have been more direct, because now she’s standing beside my truck like we’re longtime friends.
“What was that?” she asks, leaning in a little.
“Nothing,” I mumble, cranking up the truck. “If you’ll excuse me, I need to go.”
“No need to rush on my account.” She gives me a flirtatious smile, and I try my best to be polite.
“Just need to get to work.”
“I didn’t know Maggie had an older brother. I’m Rose, by the way. Rose Petty.” She reaches her hand out, and I awkwardly take it, giving it a small shake. “It’s nice to meet you…”
“Eli,” I say, taking my hand back. “I’m her…” I pause for a second, trying to think about what to say. “I’m not her brother. I’m taking care of her while her dad is away on business.”
I don’t know why I add the last part. It’s none of her business, but I want to make it clear that she’s much more to me than that. I remind myself that she’s still in high school so decide to keep my mouth shut. Especially when talking to one of her teachers.
“Oh. Okay then.” She looks at me for a second and then shakes it off. “Well, Eli. I hope to see you tomorrow morning. Or maybe sooner.”
I give her a tight-lipped nod, neither confirming nor denying her request as she walks away. She looks back as I start to pull out and gives me a small wave. I begin to wave back before I think better of it and shake my head as I leave the parking lot.
When I get to work I throw myself into it and try to push away thoughts of Maggie and Major. I don’t want to worry about if he’s okay because I know he is. He’s the best Marine I know, and he could survive any situation. If he was able to activate a signal when he landed, then I know he’s going to be okay. It’s just a matter of time when he comes home.
Maggie, on the other hand, is a whole other ball game. We need to talk, and I know this might not be the right time with the stress of the situation around us, but I don’t know if I can keep my distance much longer. She’ll be eighteen in a month, so she can make any decision she wants after that. But I need her to know how I feel in my heart and that I’ll wait for her to decide.
By the time the alarm on my watch beeps, I know it’s time to go get Maggie from school. I have a bounce in my step knowing that I’m going to get to see her again. Yesterday was bittersweet, and last night was rough. Knowing I was in the same house as her again but not able to talk to her was the worst. Hopefully today we’ll be able to have some time together and I can get this weight off my chest.
This might possibly be the longest day of my life, and I’m not sure if I’m thankful for that or not. It doesn’t matter. The bell is about the ring, bringing the school day to an end, and I’ll have to face him. I thought about dodging Eli and not riding home with him, but what’s the point? We’ll just have to see each other at the house. I would be avoiding the inevitable. I need to get this over with. We have to come up with a new plan. No way can I live with him for the next month until I’m eighteen. I won’t make it. One thing I am sure of, I’m definitely not going back to my SAT class. I don’t think I can face interacting with a woman Eli has been seeing.