Stupid GirlBy: Cindy Miles
The guy rose from where he was sitting and smiled, and it was warm and easy. I was surprised at how comfortable it made me. He stuck out his hand, and I shook it. “I’m Noah Hicks. Professor Callander’s TA. He’s asked me to show you around, if that’s okay?”
I returned the smile. “Sure, that’d be great.”
“Let me get someone to watch the desk.” He picked up the phone and made a call, and I stepped back and waited.
With Brax and his interruption of my first day pushed to the back of my brain, the thrill of being in Winston’s fabulously large observatory washed over me. I’d worked so hard to get here, and finally, amazingly, I was.
Soon, a young guy around my age hurried toward us. He was tall, bone-thin, and glasses sat on his flawless pale face. He grinned at me through shaggy, reddish brown hair that flipped over his ears and stuck out his hand. “I’m Steven,” he said, and his toothy smile was wide and unembarrassed. “Guess you’re the other honors grad scholarship financial aid job recipient?”
I shook his hand. “Wow, now that’s a mouthful. But yeah, I’m Olivia. Beaumont.”
“Anytime you need to switch a shift, just let me know,” Steven said. He moved to take Noah’s position behind the desk. “But we’ll be working a lot together, too.”
“Okay, great. You do the same,” I offered.
“Ready?” Noah asked.
Noah Hicks led me through the observatory, winding our way from the first floor, where three large auditoriums held multiple exhibits, all the way to the top observation platform outside and the dome that contained the Mulligan scope. Round, almost like the top of a lighthouse, it had a double railing around the steep drop off, and the public was allowed in on Wednesdays and Saturdays. The Mulligan was … epic. I could barely wait to get a nighttime look.
Along the rest of the tour, he told me more about my duties, responsibilities, and participation in arranging the planetarium exhibits. All very exciting to me.
Then, Noah went over his position with Professor Callander. Noah had an impressive resume and sounded like a brilliant astronomer. Tall and clean cut, he had close-clipped brown hair, strong features and soft brown eyes that reminded me of suede. Noah looked like an athlete and carried himself with confidence and answered all my questions. I was glad to be working with him. Very non-threatening—a characteristic I seemed to inadvertently siphon out with people now. After the tour, he accompanied me to his office, and we went over my work schedule Professor Callander had coordinated for me. They all matched perfectly with my classes.
“So have you always been into astronomy?” Noah asked.
I smiled at him. “My whole life.”
He nodded, and returned the warm smile. “It shows in your eyes. See you in class, Olivia.”
“Bye,” I offered, and I waved to Steven on my way out. Like I’d suspected, my shift would be from five to nine on Mondays and Wednesdays, and three to closing, which was ten-thirty, on Saturdays, as well as any special events the observatory hosted. Professor Callander had promised if I thought I could handle more hours after school started, he could always add me into the schedule. The pay was decent, and I’d be making more than plenty to live on. Plus I’d have enough to send some home to Mom and Jilly.
I treated myself to a loaded burger from an on-campus fast food joint on the way back to my dorm, and overall I thought the day was ending up pretty decent. Noah and Steven both were nice enough, and neither felt threatening. It irritated me sometimes, the unconscious measuring of people—mostly guys—that I couldn’t seem to help measuring. I was powerless to stop it. Ever since Kelsy Evans, it’s what I did. My conscience always on guard. My intuitions constantly tuned into anything, any one trait a person might have that made me feel trapped. It was as solid in my character now as a handshake. Yet Brax Jenkins had slammed me to the ground, kissed me, and I’d allowed him right into my dorm room. I’d lost my damn marbles for sure.
Tessa was still gone by the time I got back. I had kicked off my boots and was sitting on my bed, eating my messy but delicious bacon cheeseburger when my phone beeped, signaling a text. Probably Mom, wondering why I hadn’t called back yet.
I glanced at the small screen on my phone. The name SOUTHIE popped up in all capital letters. Butterflies immediately swarmed inside of me, at the same time my guard shot straight up. What did he want now?
Surprised for only a few seconds, not only at the text but at how my heart leaped at seeing it, I shook my head. Brax had apparently sent himself a text from my phone and hi-jacked my number, before bringing it back to me. Then entered his number into my phone. I glanced at the text:
Brax: Hey Gracie, how’d the i-view go?
Wrestling with the decision whether to answer or ignore, I just stared at the screen and Brax’s words. So taken off guard by his persistence, I couldn’t do anything else. I set the phone back down, stared at it. Picked it back up. Set it back down, closed my eyes.
The phone chirped again, and my eyes flashed open. Grabbing the phone, I looked at the screen.
Brax: I know you’re there, Gracie, probably staring at the screen. I-view?
I pushed out a frustrated breath.
Me: It wasn’t an i-view. I already had the job. I didn’t drop my phone. You pick-pocketed it.
Brax: You dropped it. Opportunity arose. The job?
Me: Swell. I work Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays.
Brax: That’s a lot of damn work, Gracie. I think we should meet to go over our schedule. ☺ And did you say the word swell? I think I heard that once on an old fuckin PopEye cartoon. How old are you, anyway?
Cahtoon. Since no one could see me, I smiled. It was just too hard not to.
Me: I’m old-fashioned. My grandpa says swell all the time. One of my favorite words. We have no schedule, Southie. We’ve known each other less than twenty-four hours.
Brax: Old-fashioned? What, do you make jelly and pies, too? And that’s why we need to meet. So we’ll have a schedule. See?
Me: Jelly and pies—yes. Every season. And I’d think the infamous Brax Jenkins would already have a loaded schedule. Why me?
Brax: Infamous, huh? You been hearin rumors about me, Gracie? And why not you?
Me: Rumors? Plenty of them. Why not me? Because I don’t play with players. And I definitely don’t play your game.
Brax: Now I’m a player? An infamous player, even. With my very own game. You’re a lot braver on text, Ms. Beaumont.
I squeezed my eyes tightly shut. Maybe he was right? Would I really be standing in front of him, boldly having such a conversation? Probably not. I sighed.
Me: No, I’m not. I feared you'd shank me earlier. But I had time to think about it today.
Brax: Shanking you didn't even cross my mind, Gracie. A few other things, def, but not that. So you’ve been thinking about me today? Swell. It must’ve been that kiss.
I sucked in a breath as my heart sped up. Why was he so blunt with me?
Me: You just hi-jacked my word. What kiss?
Brax: Haha, good one Gracie. You know as well as I do you can’t get that kiss off your mind. I haven’t thought about anything else all day. I’m infamous for hi-jacking many things. A word is a first for me though. I know a seafood joint. It ain’t Boston, that’s for damn sure, but it’ll do. Tomorrow night, after I get back from our out of towner? Seven? I’ll pick you up.
Holy God, he’d just asked me out. On a date. The two of us alone. My heart thumped heavy against my ribs, and my palms grew sweaty. Why oh why was he asking me out? And what was I supposed to say? I didn’t know him, at all, and the thought of a date made me so jittery. I couldn’t do it. Brax would be able to tell I was a bundle of nerves. He’d eventually figure things out. Figure me out. No, the less he knew of me, the better. I moved my fingers over the keyboard of my cell, and noticed that they’d become clammy.
Me: Not a good idea, Brax. Thanks, though.
Brax: C’mon, Gracie. It’s dinner. Not a marriage proposal. And why not a good idea? You think too much, maybe.