Mrs. Miller relaxed noticeably.
All through dinner, Ryan’s sisters chattered incessantly to Derek, telling him everything they were learning in school. He acted very interested, and admonished them to study hard and get straight A’s – which made Mrs. Miller smile.
And Mr. Miller wasn’t a pervy old man at all. He was actually a very nice, very handsome guy in his 40’s with salt and pepper hair and a loud laugh.
After we were through, the siblings argued about who was supposed to do the dishes.
“Mom, I have friends over,” Ryan whispered.
“Girls, you do the dishes tonight,” Mrs. Miller commanded. “Let Ryan say goodbye to his friends.”
“Mooooom!” they ranted, but then Derek kissed them goodbye on the tops of their heads and they practically floated off to the kitchen.
“Thank you for having us for dinner, especially on such short notice,” I said to Mrs. Miller.
“You’re welcome, dear. Come back any time.”
“Yeah, thanks… it was great,” Shanna said.
Mrs. Miller smiled tightly. “Thank you. I’m glad you enjoyed it.”
I noticed she didn’t say ‘come back any time’ to Shanna.
Shanna, Derek, Ryan, and I stepped out into the warm night air. Crickets were chirping in the woods, and the moon was shining down through wisps of clouds.
As we reached my car in the driveway, Ryan put out his hand to shake mine. “It was really nice meeting you, Kaitlyn.”
“You, too. I had a great time – you have a wonderful family.”
“He does, doesn’t he?” Derek agreed. “The best.”
“Yeah, well, you try living with them,” Ryan mumbled.
“I did. Didn’t work out, remember?”
“Whatever.” Ryan turned back to me and asked hopefully, “Maybe I’ll see you around sometime?”
“Uh… yeah. Maybe.”
“I’m going to UGA next year,” Ryan said shyly. “I’ve got to live at home, but – ”
“He could’ve gone to Yale or Brown, but he’s staying here for the band,” Derek chimed in, slapping his friend on the back.
“Yeah, also ‘cause my parents are too cheap.”
“Aaah, they’ve gotta pay for two more kids to go to college, dude. Ease up.”
“Anyway,” Ryan said to me, “maybe I’ll see you around campus.”
I looked over at Derek, and suddenly I felt weird talking about Syracuse for some reason.
So I didn’t.
“Yeah… maybe,” I agreed.
“I’m staying here, too!” Shanna announced as she pulled her borrowed t-shirt off. She let it linger over her head a few seconds longer than necessary – thereby jutting her boobs out even more – before she peeled it off and handed it to Ryan. “We can hang out!”
“Uhhhh… okay,” Ryan said, then threw a guilty glance at me, like I was his wife or something.
Shanna reached up, hooked his neck, pulled him down, stood up on her tiptoes, and planted one on his cheek. “See you soon!”
“…okay,” he said, visibly stunned.
“You ol’ smoothie, you,” Derek teased him before he, Shanna, and I piled in the car and drove away.
Ryan lingered on the corner… waved forlornly… and then walked back inside.
“Jesus, Kaitlyn, does every guy we meet have to have a crush on you?” Shanna pouted from the back seat.
“He doesn’t have a crush on me.”
“Oh, he does,” Derek said beside me in the front passenger seat. I couldn’t see his smile in the darkness, but I could hear it in his voice.
“How do you know?”
“It was pretty fuckin’ obvious,” Shanna said, though not in a mean way. “In a two-way contest between you and the girls, you won most of the time.”
‘The girls,’ of course, being her breasts.
“You gotta take it easy on Ryan, Shanna,” Derek said. “He’s super-shy. He’s only slept with one girl, and that’s because I set it up for him.”
“Wow, aren’t you a great guy,” I said, slightly disgusted that he was bragging about it.
“I may not be a great guy, but I’m a great friend. Anyway, he blew it by turning into a puppy dog around her.” He looked over his shoulder at Shanna. “You want some advice?”
“What?” Shanna asked, slightly annoyed. I knew her, and I knew she didn’t exactly like thinking she had to get counsel on nabbing men.
“You’re overwhelming him. You’re too sexy. Try dressing really conservatively next time you hang out. Don’t show him any affection, just play it friendly but cool… but ask him about his favorite bands and let him geek out. He’ll warm up to you.”