Chapter 2Mature

The weekend had dragged by. Nothing had been able to get my mind off Mark and seeing him after school. I'd tried going for a run with my iPod blasting i my ears, but every love song had simply brought me back to his dazzling smile and warm eyes.

     "Jini, you look amazing," Violet commented when I walked into art Monday morning.

     "Thanks, Vi, but it's not like I did anything special," I said. "I look the same as I do everyday. except I'm stick in this absurd get up that you and Josie forced me into buying."

     "You might think you're nothing special, but I can tell you right now that Mark had a different opinion." Violet nodded toward the door as I flopping into my seat.

     My eyes shut up and met his emerald green ones; he'd been staring at me. The smile that crossed his face seemed to light up the whole room. He gracefully sauntered over to our table.

     "Mind if join you guys?" he asked.

     "Of course you can," Violet answered, stomping on my foot under the table; I'd been gawking at him.

     "So, Jini, is it okay for you to help me after school?"

     "Yes, my mum said she could pick me up after work."

     He merely smiles in reply. but it was enough.

     "You came just in time, Mark. We're starting a new project today. Are you any good at drawing?" Violet inquired, politely curious.

     "Actually, I'm not bad. I'm best at doing people."

     "Oh, good, because that's what we're doing today. I'm pretty good at people too, but Jini's shit."

     I blushed a brilliant crimson. "I prefer dragons," I mumbled.

     Mark smiled at me again. "That's okay Jini, that just  means you can be our model. I'm no good at drawing animals, I can never get the shape of their eyes right."

     We were kept from saying anything else by the arrival of Mr Park.

     "Alright, each table choose a model. Models, you'll be excused from his assignment, but you'll have to wear the same outfit you have on until your artists are done, otherwise this won't work. And no color, just sketches. We'll talk about the color bit after." His eyes fell on Mark. "Ah, I almost forgot we had a new student. I'll go get you a sketch pad."

     When Mr Park disappeared to find Mark a sketch pad, I groaned. "I have to wear this again?"

     "Why is that a big deal, Jini? I think you look really good in that outfit. What do you think Mark?" Violet asked, faking innocence.

     More blood rushed to my face as Mark looked at me. "Hmm. You'll have to stand up so I can see it better, Jini."

     I shot Violet the nastiest look I could manage before standing up in front of Mark.

     "Give him a twirl Jini, so he can see every angle."

     I continued to glare at her, but did as she said, spinning slowly on the spot and then sat back down.

     "I have to agree with Violet, Jini. You look incredible." His smile was so radiant and sincere that I knew he couldn't be lying.

     Violet was saved from a brutal beating (or a huge hug, I still wasn't sure which one she deserved) by Mr Park, who had returned with Mark's sketch book.

     "Alright Mr...?" Park said, looking confusedly at Mark.

     "O'Shea. Mark O'Shea," Mark answered politely.

     "Alright then, Mark. You're lucky to have sat with Violet here, she's one of my best artists. Jini, on the other hand, can't draw people to save her life, so I suppose she's the model," Park teased.

     "Yeah, we've already established that," I mumbled; Violet snickered.

     "Well, then, you three should get started."

     Violet beamed at Mark. "So, how do we want our model to pose?"

     "Should be up to Jini," Mark pointed out. "She's the one who has to sit in one place for an hour at a time."

     "I agree with Mark," I put in enthusiastically, knowing the whole time that Violet would hear nothing of it.

     "I think you should lean back on your hands with your knees up, looking off into space with some kind of thoughtful look on your face," Violet said.

     I scowled; Violet knew that sitting like that would make my arms fall painfully asleep, but there was no standing in the way of her "artistic genius" as she put it.

     "Yeah, that would make an awesome picture," Mark said. "We could even do a different angle each. Like a side view and a front view."

     "Brilliant! You're a genius Mark!"

     I rolled my eyes.

     "Better get to work then. Want a hand up to the table, Jini?" Mark offered.

     "No thanks, I'll be okay," I said, hopping up lithely and assuming the position Violet had assigned me.

     "Could I have the side view, Violet? I've never been really good at creating depth," Mark asked.

     "All yours. I want to get the expression on her face anyway. Come on, Jini, wipe that scowl off your face. I told you, look thoughtful. I know you're good at it."

     Rolling my eyes, I did as I was told. Again.

     It was silent between us for the rest of the hour. Mr Park came around, silently checking everyone's progress. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Park look approvingly at Mark's picture.

     "'Kay guys, time to clean up," Mr Park announced when there were five minutes left of class.

     All around models hopped off their tables and looked at what their partners had come up with.

     "Can I see what you guys have done?" I asked, though I knew it was in vain; Violet never let anyone see her projects until she was totally done.

     I wasn't disappointed. "Of course not, Jini. You know better than to ask." She turned to Mark. "I never let anyone see my assignment until I'm done."

     Mark nodded his agreement. "I don't let anyone see my pictures till I'm done either."

     I shook my head, silently annoyed. Why Violet had to flirt with all her guy friends was beyond me.

     Mark turned to me as the bell rang shrilly over our heads.

     "Come on, Jini, time for gym," he said.

     "See you in math, Jini," Violet said, winking.

     "Yeah, see you," I mumbled, turning in the opposite direction with Mark at my side.

     We walked in silence for a while.

     "You make a really good model, Jini," Mark complimented.

     "Oh, um, thanks," I said, slightly startled by the comment.

     "You have really pretty eyes, you know," he added.

     I blushed with pleasure; no one other than Violet and Josie had ever complimented me like that before, and that didn't even really count.

     Gym passed in a blur of flying dodgeballs. I was barely aware of my team yelling warnings at me, or their agitation with my lack of attention.

     I was no longer surprised to find Mark waiting for me outside the locker room door.

     "So, I'll meet you in the library after school?" he asked.

     "Yeah, see you there," I said.

     As Mark walked away, Josie pushed through the locker room door. "So, excited about your "non" date?" she said teasingly.

     "I've told you a million times it's not a date! You're getting my hopes up about this, you know. What happens when he's not interested in me like that and I'm under the impression that he is? I'll be crushed. I've been crushed enough, haven't I?" I snapped.

     "Holy, Jeans. I was only teasing." Josie looked at me in bewilderment.

     "Sorry," I sighed. "I'm just really nervous about being alone with him later. What if I say something stupid? I might really like him."

     "You won't, Jini. Just try not to think about it until it's actually happening," Josie said soothingly, obviously forgiving me for biting her head off.

     "Yeah, I suppose you're right. Not thinking about it would be a good idea."

     Despite Josie's advice, I couldn't help but think of Mark the rest of the day, so it was no shock that I paid so little attention to what I was doing that I don't remember much. Usually, I'm eager for the end of math class (my last class of the day and my least favorite subject), but today, I dreaded it. And like most things that you dread, it finished much too quickly for my taste.

     "Oh my god guys, what do I do?" I gasped as Violet, Josie and I walked away from math. "I just know I'm going to screw something up. What do I do, what do I do?"

     "First off, you calm down," Violet said. "Second, don't worry about it, you'll be fine."

     "Violet's right, Jini.You can't make a big deal of it," Josie added.

     I tried to do my best to breath deeply to calm myself down, but it was extremely difficult and I think I started to hyperventilate.

     "Come on, Jeans, it'll be okay," Violet said. "He seems like a good enough guy that he wouldn't lead you on or anything. Just be yourself."

     The whole time we'd been talking, we'd made out way to the library doors. Now it was time for the big moment; the moment Violet and Josie left me alone to be with Mark.

     "Alright, Jini, time to spread your wings and fly," Josie said.

     "Aww, Josie, our little girl is growing up so fast," Violet pretend-sobbed.

     I rolled my eyes, took a deep breath and pushed open the door.

     It took me a few minutes to find Mark. He'd chosen a table near the very back of the room in a far corner. He smiled a me as I approached. I was surprised to see that he had no books on the table.

     "Hey, Jini," he said, still beaming.

     "Um, hi, Mark. Don't you need any books or anything?" I asked.

     "Oh, well, about that...Jini, can I be totally honest with you?" he asked nervously.

     "Oh, um, sure."

     "Well, I lied to you about the essay. Ms Ferdinand exempted me from it because I came so late. I actually just wanted to get you alone so I could ask you something.

     My heart began to hammer against my ribs. I was certain Mark could hear it.

     "Well, I just wanted to ask you, um, if you wanted to go out some time?"

   There was a moment of silence as I tried to find my voice. Was this really happening?

     " mean like a date?" I stammered.

     "Well, yeah, Unless you think that's a bad idea or something, I'd totally understand," Mark said, looking crestfallen.

     "No, no, I'd love to do something...just the two of us...some time."

     His face lit up like that sun. I never thought a guy could look that beautiful.

     "That's awesome. When would you like to do something?" Mark asked.

     "Well, Friday should be okay, I don't have practice or anything," I answered, a permanent smile on my face.

     Smiling back just as bright, Mark added, "Well, did you want me to walk you to your car?"

     I immediately blushed. "Um, I actually don't drive. My mum's seriously protective and we haven't found a safe enough car for me yet. She said she's pick me up after work."

     "Mark laughed lightly. "Did you want a ride home then, since we didn't take near as long as you thought we would?"

     My heart skipped several beats at the thought of being alone with Mark in his car.

    "Um, yeah, just let me ask my mum if it's okay," I said, walking away slightly.

     After a quick phone call (my mum had no problem with Mark driving me home, after I told her he's asked me out) and two text messages one each to Josie and Violet telling them everything and to meet me on MSN in half an hour so we could discuss it, I came back to Mark.

     "All set," I announced.

     "Brilliant. Let's go."

     As we turned to leave, our arms and hands brushed together. We looked up at each other and warmth flooded my whole body as his fingers found the spaces between mine.

     We walked through the school and out to the parking lot, where he led me to a sleek back Ford Mustang GT.

     "Wow, nice car," I commented.

     "Glad you like it," he said, reluctantly letting go of my hand to open the passenger side door for me.

     The ride to my house was silent except when he needed directions. Our hands lay clasped together between the seats.

     "This is me, right here," I said, pointing out my house after what seemed like only seconds.

     Mark nodded without a word and pulled up out front. A moment of silence followed - I didn't know how to properly say good-bye to him. Do I kiss him? Hug him? I had no idea what to do.

     As if he'd read my thoughts, Mark gently rubbed the back of my hand with his thumb. After several blissful moments of this he tenderly lifted our clasped hands to his face and caressed the back of my hand with his lips. An invisible shiver rippled through my body. The gesture belonged tin a time long before ours, when all men were gentlemen.

     "Just wait a moment, and I'll walk you to the door," he whispered as if he didn't want to break the spell that held us together.

     Unable to form words just yet, I simply nodded. Mark let go of my hand and got out to walk around to the passenger door. He opened it and helped me out. We walked to the front door, never letting go of each other.

     Lucky for me, neither my mum o r dad were home yet, so there wouldn't be any stupid comments about me and Mark with him still around.

     "So I'll see you tomorrow?" he whispered.

     "Yes, of course," I breathed.

     He kissed my hand again before letting go and lithely hopping down the front steps back to his car. Once there, he got in, revved the engine and waved to me before driving off.

     Retrieving the spare key from it's hidden compartment in an ornamental football with shaking hands, I let myself into the house.

     I'm not sure how I made it up to my room, but I must have floated because I was walking on air.

     The next two hours were spent going over every little detail of the past hour or so with Josie and Violet. They made me recite, word-for-word, what he said and they analyzed it all. They looked carefully at each gesture and it's meaning. (Like, for example, they said that since he kissed my hand instead of my mouth, he has very traditions views, which is a good thing. According to them.) In the end, they came to the conclusion that he would make an excellent boyfriend and they approved entirely.

     After a supper I don't remember, I was fortunate enough to have football practice to take my mind off the days' events. Unfortunately, the time seemed to fly by, and all too soon I was in the van (which I had nicknamed the Loser Cruiser), on my way home.

     That night I lay in bed staring at the ceiling, unable to sleep. I would never say it out loud, but I was afraid that if I fell asleep I would wake up to find that the whole thing had been one big, wonderful dream.


The End

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