I’m having a weird dream about my phone ringing when I hear, “Hello?”
I’m still half-sleeping when I open my eyes. I’m still fully clothed. I’m on top of my covers instead of under them.
“Hellooo?” the familiar voice asks again.
I push myself away from my mattress and stare at my phone. Joel’s name is on my screen, along with a timer that ticks from 12 seconds to 13, 14, 15.
OH. MY. GOD. I fucking face-dialed him! In my sleep! WHO DOES THAT?!
I hit the button to end the call as quickly as humanly possible, but my phone starts ringing a few seconds later and I end up just sitting there staring at it like it’s possessed by the devil. After three rings, I realize I need to pick it up or risk having this situation get even more awkward than it already is.
“Hello?” I answer as nonchalantly as possible, trying not to sound like a complete spaz who face-dials people in her sleep.
“Did you just call me and hang up?” Joel asks, and I wish there was a wall within head-banging distance because face-palming really just isn’t going to cut it this time.
“Why the hell would I call you and hang up?”
“Because you secretly love me and wanted to hear my voice?”
He’s joking, but I bristle anyway. “I must have butt-dialed you. Don’t flatter yourself.”
Joel chuckles. “So your butt is secretly in love with me. Interesting.”
“Hanging up now.”
“I’m glad your butt called,” he continues, ignoring my idle threat. “I was actually just thinking about it.”
I’m not sure whether to giggle or roll my eyes, so instead I say nothing.
“Come pick me up.”
I want to. I sincerely, desperately want to. Instead, I counter with, “Get a car.”
“Come on. I miss you.”
The crazy part of me wants to ask him why he hasn’t called then, but the rational part knows he’s just saying whatever he needs to say to get what he wants tonight. And Joel only ever wants one thing. “I’m tired. I didn’t get any sleep last night.”
“Hot date?” he jokes, but he has no idea how happy I am he just asked that.
“I guess you could call it that.” I grin as I steal the upper hand in our conversation.
“I thought you had to work?”
There’s an awkward moment of silence, and then I brave teasing, “You’re not jealous, are you?”
“Why would I be jealous?” he counters. “I had a ‘hot date’ myself last night.” When I can’t even muster a response to that, he says, “Are you jealous?”
“Oh, insanely,” I counter, hoping he doesn’t realize how honest I’m being. I feel like I need a padded room and ice cream. A shit-ton of ice cream with sedative sprinkles.
“Seriously . . . come pick me up.”
“Seriously, why don’t you have a car?”
“Don’t need one.”
“You need one right now, don’t you? Because I’m not coming to get you.”
“To prove that you need a car. You have money, Joel. Why don’t you get a car or an apartment? You make no sense.” I hug my covers tight, relieved that I’m finally hearing the sound of his voice after a full week and a half of wanting nothing else.
“Life is more fun when you don’t have those things,” he insists.
“You don’t have to worry about car payments or bills. You have an excuse to hang out with your friends every day. You never know where you’re going to end up at night, so you get to go wherever you want and do whatever you want.”
“Well I guarantee you’d be having a lot more fun right now if you had a car,” I argue.
“So I can come over as long as you don’t have to come get me?”
Unable to resist the temptation, I tell him he can. But an hour later, when he still hasn’t knocked on my front door, I realize he probably found a girl who was willing to pick him up and he’s probably forgotten all about me. I change out of the sexy nighty I put on, dressing in an oversized pair of cotton boxers and a worn-thin cami instead, and then I crawl under my covers and turn out the light, regretting my decision to not go to him when every single piece of me—sane and not so sane—was screaming at me to get in my car.
My room is pitch-dark and I’m deep in a dreamless sleep when my light turns on and I open my eyes to see Joel standing in my bedroom doorway. His hair is always the first thing that catches my attention—buzzed on the sides and pulled up into a spiky blond line that crawls down the middle of his head. And then, those eyes. The brightest blue I’ve ever seen. He’s wearing a black canvas jacket over a long neon-green band T-shirt and faded blue jeans. The loose T-shirt hides his hard muscles, but my fingers remember their lines.
“How did you get in?” I ask, and Joel jingles Rowan’s keys from his finger.
“Peach leaves these just lying around.”
“Turn off the light,” I groan, squeezing my eyes closed and turning my face into the pillow to hide my smile.
Joel turns off the light and walks to the other side of my bed.
“What time is it?” I ask.
“Two o’clock.” I hear his shoes thump onto the floor before the rustle of more clothes. He usually sleeps in just his boxers, but I know he came here to do more than just sleep.