Can I get your number?

I gasp, shove my laptop off my thighs, and rush to make sure my door’s locked. Should I write back now? Or wait a little while so he doesn’t think I’m a desperate loser? I peer around my room. Wait, I am a loser.

Framed sheet music hangs on the wall. Mom put it up after I pulled the pictures of me and Emily down. Books I read in middle school still line my shelves, and my bedding is pink and yellow with ruffles. I need to buy new, adultish bedding immediately. Part of me wants to call Parker, to ask for advice. What does her room look like? I doubt she has a stuffed cow resting on her pillow.

I walk to my mirror. How could a guy like Matt Brown possibly want my number? Why would a boy like Matt visit my cabin at night?

Is God testing me? Seeing if I’ll hang out with Matt, a guy who’s in a frat, a guy who has done questionable things with a banana and maybe has fooled around with Andrea?

But Matt’s mom is a youth minister. I’ve seen him praying and he wears that cross around his neck. Brother John said we should only date other Christians. Does Matt worship somewhere in the middle? And is that okay?

I pinch my thigh. Stop thinking so much, I tell myself, and before I can change my mind, I write back to Matt and give him my number.

I pace around the room, slapping my cell phone against my hand. I stop in front of the mirror and turn sideways, to examine my figure. I am thin, but my boobs aren’t that big. Why does Matt stare at me the way he does?

The cell rings. I swallow and answer.

“Hey.” I thought I’d be scared, but I’m calm like a soft breeze.

“Hi,” Matt says. He goes silent for a bit, then says, “You busy tomorrow night?” He sounds nervous.



“Can I take you to dinner?”

“Me?” I exclaim.

“You’re funny,” he says with a laugh.

I lick my upper lip. “Yeah, I’d love dinner.”

“I can pick you up at seven-thirty.”

He lives in Bell Buckle, which is forty-five minutes from here. “You don’t have to pick me up. I could meet you—”

“My father would crucify me if I didn’t pick you up.”

“Wouldn’t want that.”

“Yeah, because who’d take you dinner then? Bumblebee Brad?”

sketch #351

what happened on april 18

Every time I get my hopes up about Matt, I think about how I made a fool of myself in front of Will Whitfield last spring.

Using my blue coloring pencil, I shade in the outline of my prom dress.

One evening in April, I had rested my chin on my fist and clicked through the website again and again until the pictures of children burned my eyes. Planned Parenthood. I was trying to figure out options that Emily might consider instead of abortion.

A knock sounded on the door and Mom came in, dressed for church in a white blouse, slacks, and loafers. I quickly exited out of the site before she could see it.

“Sweetie.” She tsk tsked. “You need to get dressed for youth group.”

Mom never let me miss a day of church.

Normally I didn’t mind that, but today I just wanted to bury myself under the covers and wallow in my own humiliation and sadness.

She adjusted my curtains and fluffed my pillows, and I sat there staring at the blue prom dress hanging on my closet door. Mom and I had picked it out a couple months earlier because she always thinks the best will happen.

Brother Michael and Brother John often say that forcing relationships is against God’s will, that if He wants us to be with someone, He’ll make it happen. But He only wants us to date other Christians.

For years, I’d waited and waited for the right boy to come along, watched as Emily and Jacob fell in love and grew up without me. Sitting there in my room, I knew I should’ve waited for a sign from God, but I had done it anyway.

I had asked Will Whitfield to prom.

It was my last chance for high school, and I couldn’t seem to forget about him. He seemed like a good match for me: Christian, a gentleman, friendly.

Emily used to comb her fingers through my hair and tell me, “You’re beautiful. You just have to let guys know you’re interested in them. Ask Will out already!”

So I approached him in AP Chemistry, and cracking my knuckles, I said, “Can we talk after class?”

“Sure,” he said with a brief smile, then went back to checking over his homework. I should’ve noticed that was the sign I’d been waiting for all that time. If a guy would rather triple-check some chemical equation he balanced, he’s just not that into you.

Later, in the hallway, he seemed distracted as Parker walked by, giving him a long look. He scratched the top of his head and followed her with his eyes.

“What’s up?” he asked me.

I adjusted my backpack straps. “I was wondering if you’d go to prom with me. If you don’t have a date.” I studied my loafers for the longest time, waiting. Waiting.

Finally he cleared his throat. “I don’t have a date.”

My head shot up.

“But…” He gazed up and down the hallway before refocusing on me. “I’m interested in somebody else,” he whispered.

His response sucked the air out of my chest. “You’re going to prom with her then?”

“No.” His face seemed conflicted. He felt bad, but I also saw pity there.

“Oh.” I needed to get out of there before I started crying, so I stalked off down the hall without even saying bye. Daddy would be so disappointed that I’d be home on yet another Saturday night.

“Thank you for asking,” Will called out.

It’s not that I hadn’t had a chance to get with guys before. Besides Bruce Wilson, the creepy captain of the math team, I mean. One time Daddy’s partner came over for dinner and brought his nephew, Scott. The two of us ended up watching a movie in the basement, laughing and talking about school. Emily asked why we didn’t make out or anything, and I told her I just wasn’t feeling it. She said, “Nothing wrong with that. If there’s no sparks, there’s no sparks.”

“Such a pretty dress,” Mom said that evening before church, smoothing the silk with her fingers.

I make shadows on the paper, to show the folds of the silk. It is a pretty dress. I hope I can wear it one day.

i’m thinking chili’s

friday, june 8 ~ end of week 1

I have Will Whitfield’s phone number because we once did a Culture Fair project together in high school. I take a deep breath and call him.

So much has changed since I asked him to prom.

He answers on the second ring. “What’s up?” he asks.

“I love air-conditioning,” I groan, making him laugh.

“Me too. I’ve never sweat so much in my life. So how are you?”

“Good. Listen, could I get Parker’s number?”

“She’s right here—”

“Wait!” I say. I wasn’t prepared to talk to her yet. I don’t even know what I’m gonna ask. But Will’s already put her on the phone.

“Hey,” she says.

“Um, I could use your help.”

The next evening, Parker and Will show up at my house. He’s carrying a box under each arm and she’s got a bunch of outfits draped over her wrists.

I bring them in through our side door because Daddy has all these animal heads on the wall in the foyer and I don’t want to upset Parker. Daddy’s hunting dog—our old bloodhound, Fritz—is lounging in the mudroom when we come in. Parker practically has a coronary because she loves the dog so much. She kisses him and pats him all over and Fritz closes his eyes and wallows on the floor, enjoying the attention.

Will loves it too—he can’t stop grinning at how much fun Parker is having.

“Fritz can come upstairs with us if he wants,” I say.

Parker gets to her feet. “C’mon, Fritz. Let’s get to work on making Kate as beautiful as you,” she says, following my dog to my room. I shake my head, smiling. Will flops down on my bed.

I sit at my desk and she starts rummaging through her boxes before approaching me.

“Is this your first date?” she asks, aiming tweezers at me.

“Yeah,” I whisper. “But what if it’s not a date? What if it’s just us being friends, getting food together?”

She gives me a look. “It’s a date. Trust me.”

I stay silent.

“I only had my first real date a couple months ago,” she says, throwing Will a smile.

“Really?” I exclaim. ☺

She examines my eyebrows and then begins to pluck. Ow, ow, ow, I think, but I stay cool. I don’t want to be a loser.

“Will’s my first real boyfriend too.”

He’s grinning and typing on his iPhone. “How long do you think this’ll take?”

“If you guys have somewhere to be…” I say.

“We’re good for now. But we have plans tonight,” Parker replies, sounding nervous.


“We’re going out with Drew Bates…and his boyfriend, Tate,” Will says carefully.

“Drew Bates is gay?” I ask loudly. I had no idea.

“Yeah,” Parker replies, stiffening at my reaction. “But they’re my best friends.”


“God made ’em that way. Who are we to question it?” Will asks, acting nonchalant. He taps on his iPhone some more.

“Where are y’all going?” I ask, trying to get rid of the tension.

“To a Nashville Sounds game and dinner,” Parker says softly, her eyes avoiding mine as she brushes eye shadow on me. It seems like she and Will are disappointed in me. Again. They’ve been nothing but nice and supportive. Drew Bates has never once called me a Jesus Freak.

You’re being a judgmental bitch rings in my head.

Maybe what Parker said at camp is right. It’s none of my business.

“Sounds like fun,” I say. “Listen, I’m sorry I was so surprised about Drew and Tate. I hope things are working out for them.”

“Thanks for saying that,” Parker replies quietly, comparing two colors of blush. “It hasn’t been easy for Drew.”

Will hugs his girlfriend from behind. He kisses her neck and stares at her with such love.

If things go well with Matt, will he kiss my neck like that?

“Who’s this boy coming over?” Daddy calls out from the screened-in porch.

“Matt Brown,” I reply, carrying my sketchbook into the room. I told Mom about the date earlier today but left out that Matt is twenty and in a frat. I can’t tell my parents that! Not yet, anyway.

I kiss Daddy’s cheek and sit down next to him at the table.

“What do we know about this boy, Irene?” Daddy asks Mom. He winks at me, showing he’s just kidding. He eyes the too-short dress I borrowed from Parker.

“Matt’s mom is the youth minister at Bell Buckle Chapel,” I say, pulling a pencil from behind my ear.

“I’ve heard wonderful things about that program,” Mom says, swiveling a vase of tulips and lilies, trying to catch the petals in the best light.

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