At least my day showed promise of getting better. Mason approached me after school, as I was getting in my car. I rolled down the window and leaned out to talk to him. He leaned against the hood, his arms crossed over his chest and his legs crossed at the ankles.
"Hey, Mason, isn't it?" I asked, smiling up at him and shielding my eyes from the sun. The light glinted off of his blond hair, playing up the darker streaks in it. A truck rumbled past before he answered.
"Yeah, forgotten my name already?" He teased, grinning.
"I don't suppose you forgot my name?"
"Nah, you're Cindy."
I gave him an exasperated look. "It's Isabelle. Remember, you were supposed to be nice to me. You can't call me Bella now," I pouted.
He smirked. "We'll see about that."
"What's that supposed to mean?" I demanded, and drummed my fingers on the outside of my door. The metal was cold against my hand, and I withdrew it back to the warmth of my car.
"What do you say we go to the mall and grab some ice cream or something?"
"I have homework."
"So, we'll fit that in somewhere," he said, and I leaned back in the seat. The edge of the car door was starting to hurt my side.
"Lemme ask my mom first, and we'll see," I said, and texted my mom to ask her.
A guy from across the parking lot yelled a hello to Mason, and he waved back. I looked back at the guy and saw that he was walking towards us.
"Hey, what was that today? If you're gonna do it, do it right and throw a damn punch," Garrett said, leaning against the driver's side door. I looked up at Mason questioningly, and saw that he looked uncomfortable.
"He just annoyed me, is all," Mason replied evasively.
Garrett looked down at me, and for the first time seemed to realize I was even there. "Well, if you end up throwing a punch, call me."
Mason nodded and Garrett left. I wrinkled my nose in distaste. "What was he talking about? Why do guys always want there to be a fight?"
Mason shook his head and waved off Garrett's interference. "Nothing. You get a reply from your mom?"
I checked my phone and saw that I had. It was fine with my mom.
"Yeah, we're clear. You want to take my car, and we'll just come back and get yours later tonight?"
He shook his head. "Nah, I'm gonna have to get straight home afterwards. My mom is getting bitchy about that kind of thing."
I laughed. "Okay then. I'll follow you out of here."
Mason walked off to his car, and while I waited, I thought about what Garrett had said. Who would Mason want to fight? He didn't get annoyed all that easily, at least not enough to want to punch somebody.
Besides, there wasn't really anything that he'd get that mad over, unless someone was messing with his sister or something. And if it were something like that, he wouldn't have held back, punches would have most certainly been thrown. Also, he wouldn't have looked so uncomfortable talking about it around me, he would have gone ahead and said it. Unless that was him maintaining our little facade?
I continued to ponder this while I followed Mason out, but didn't come up with a better explanation.
When we finally pulled into the crowded mall parking lot, I was relieved. I hated trying to follow Mason on the interstate; it was like playing tag. I could never keep up with him.
I picked the first parking spot I saw, and then waited for Mason to come over to my car. The chilly February air bit at my skin, making me wish I had brought a heavier hoodie with me to school today. It had rained today, as promised, and that didn't make the chill any more bearable.
Mason waved from the taillight of a white SUV, and I practically ran over to him, bouncing from foot to foot once I reached him.
"Cold?" he asked, and I shot him a dirty look.
"Yes," I said. "How are you not?" He looked pretty comfortable in a mustard yellow hoodie that brushed just above mid thigh on him. His dark jeans probably weren't much warmer than the hoodie.
"You're just female."
"Really? I wasn't aware," I said sarcastically, and sped up. The mall looked so much warmer than the freezing parking lot. I couldn't feel my fingers or my nose.
"I meant, you're just a female, so that means you're cold all the time."
"That's a lie," I said, pushing open the glass doors to Belk's. A red sign fluttered outside, advertising marked down Valentine's day chocolates. It was only February 16, two days after Valentine's day, but I knew the marked down chocolates were probably nonexistent by now. I myself had been one of the people to raid the store's supply of chocolates the day after Valentine's day.
"Is not," he said, and caught up with me. I headed towards the main section of the mall, where we'd have a better choice of stores.
"I'm not always cold. It's February, I'm supposed to be cold!" I argued, and shoved my hands deeper in my pockets. Sidestepping an oblivious couple, I slowed down so Mason could catch up. He'd fallen behind.
"Whatever, Bella," he said, smiling and shaking his head.
"Hey, not fair!" I protested. "You can't call me Bella, you haven't been nice to me!"
"How bout I buy you an ice cream cone, then will you shut up and let me call you Bella?" He suggested, and I faked a thoughtful look.
"Hmm... maybe. If it's chocolate and vanilla," I replied, and saw him roll his eyes at my choice. I always wanted chocolate and vanilla.
"Fine," he said, and headed off towards the ice cream stand set up in the middle of the bustling mall. I sat down on a bench and waited for him to come back with the cone; I didn't really want to wait in line with him.
He came back with one huge ice cream cone, announcing that we'd have to share. The stand was out of cones, and this was the last one. I shrugged and held out my hand. "That's fine," I said.
"I thought you might say something like, 'eww, what about germs' or something like that," he laughed, and handed over the ice cream cone. I licked at the bottom, saving my hand from being drenched in melted chocolate ice cream.
"I'm a fat kid, I won't refuse ice cream, no matter what," I said around a bite of ice cream, and handed the cone back over to him. He grimaced at the sticky paper, and wiped his hand on his jeans.
"Well, now what?" he asked.
"I don't know, you asked me to come out here. You're the one that supposed to be supplying ideas," I said, and started walking slowly down the mall. Mason followed after, giving me the ice cream cone for another bite.
"Wanna play twenty questions?" he asked, and I gave him a weird look.
"Okay," I said slowly. "But I haven't played since I was a kid. I forget how."
"Oh, we're not playing that version," he said with a smile. "We're gonna play like this: we just both ask questions to get to know each other. No repeats of a question, though you can offer your own answer to a question you've just asked."
"Okay," I said. "What if I don't want to answer a question you ask?"
"Then you have to do something I tell you to."
"I dunno. Probably something really bad, that'll embarrass you here in the middle of the mall."
I shuddered. I didn't even want to think about what he would make me do. Probably pretend to mug an old woman or something.
"Okay. You start." I took another bite of ice cream.
He thought for a second, dodging a screaming kid and its tired mother. "What's your favorite color?"
I laughed. "Really?"
He shot me a dirty look. "I'm not feeling very creative today. And we're supposed to be getting to know each other."
"Okay then... It's red."
He nodded. "Mine's red, too."
I know, I thought. When we were ten, we both had the same red bike, and I had been so pissed about it that I had spray painted his black. My mom grounded me for a month after that, and had also made me pay for a new bike for him. I think to this day, he still felt a little smug about that.
"Your turn," he said, and I thought for a second.
"Favorite place in the world?"
"Probably my basement."
I knew the answer to why, but I asked anyway.
He grinned. "It's where I go to hang out, to think, and it's also where I lost my virginity." He winked at that last part, and I resisted the urge to smack him.
"Your turn," I muttered, and took a huge bite of ice cream that I immediately regretted. While I suffered from brain freeze, Mason stole the ice cream cone and took a bite, thinking about his next question.
"What was your first pet?"
I scowled at him, and he smiled, waiting for an answer. He definitely knew the answer to this one, because he had been the one to kill my first pet, by pouring bleach into its bowl.
"A goldfish. Its name was Goldilocks."
He laughed. "That's real original."
"I was nine!" I protested, and snatched the almost gone ice cream cone from him, taking another huge bite.
"That makes a difference why...?" he said, and I punched him in the shoulder.
"You're such a dick," I said, only half joking. He was so infuriating sometimes.
"It's your turn," he replied, ignoring my insult.
"Where do you want to live when you're out of here?" I asked, gesturing around me.
I again resisted the urge to smack him. "No, smartass. The state, the town. Whatever."
"Be more specific, Bella. And I'll probably head back to Louisiana."
He shrugged. "It'd be more near my Nana, she needs help with her restraunt. She owns a little restraunt down there, and I'm free help. Besides, she's getting pretty old. Any way, I like the state."
"Doesn't the heat bother you?"
He shook his head. "You get used to it. Or you just learn to deal with it, whichever way you look at it. What bothers me is the freaking bugs. Cockroaches, mostly."
"Cockroaches?" I squeaked, my eyes widening.
"Yeah. They're huge. And everywhere. If you rent, or live in an apartment, you're almost guarenteed to have cockroaches. It doesn't matter how clean you are."
"Ugh!" I said, shivering. Cockroaches were nasty.
He laughed. "You're such a wimp."
"That's so nasty!" I said, and made a face. "Ew!"
"My turn, right?" he said, and I nodded, still grossed out over the bugs.
"What's your favorite song?" he said, tossing the wrapper to the ice cream cone in a nearby trash can. We sat down on a bench near a bunch of fake ferns and a water machine.
"Oh, that one's easy. Amazed by Lonestar," I said, smiling to myself at my not-so-subtle reference to our song.
He didn't react to my mention of it. "Mine is Someday by Nickelback."
"Who was your first girlfriend?" I asked, rubbing dirt off of my tenis shoe.
"Her name was Gracie," he said. "What about your first boyfriend?"
I blushed. He had actually been my first boyfriend. "His name was Mason, ironically enough."
He grinned, knowing he had hit a nerve. "That's weird."
"Sure is. Your go."
And so on we went. I asked questions I already knew the answer to and faked interest in their answers, laughing at old memories the questions dredged up, and grimacing at the more awkward ones. We pushed the limits, asking about first dates and first kisses, what losing our virginities had been like, stuff like that. It was pretty interesting to hear it from the other's perspective, but it also brought back memories that I prefered no to dwell on with him present. It made me want to throw myself into his arms and cry and beg for him back. It made me want to forget all of this had ever happened and claim that I forgave him completely.
I couldn't do that, though, so I sat through the memories and prayed that none of them would make me cry. Every now and then, a weird look would come over Mason, and I thought he might break the act and say something to comfort me and apologize for bringing up the past.
When we said goodbye that night, I walked out to my car and sat there for nearly an hour, taking deep breaths. And when I got home, I let myself cry. I broke, sobs wracking my body, and hugged the teddy bear to my chest that he had given me for my fifteenth birthday. Its fur was soaked with tears by the time I finally fell asleep, and my eyes were red and sore when I woke up the next morning.