Jessica leaned back against the comfortable car seat and sighed. She had just finished telling Ian about the time she and Chase had built a tree house on top of the oldest and tallest tree in Chase's backyard.
They had been twelve at the time and extremely eager to leave their mark in the world history. Thus they had settled upon making a tree house. They'd spent one whole week painting Mrs. Kimmel's- Chase's neighbor's- new fence and she had rewarded them with the old pieces of wood from her old fence and a large sheet to use as a curtain in their tree house.
So, they had set to work -with a little help from Mr. Candling and Mr. Scanlon on weekends- upon making the best tree house of all time. They had finished with it in almost two months and had spent every possible free second of the summer in there, until they had gotten bored. Which had been just six months later.
Ian laughed indecently at the whole affair, though from peripheral view, Jessica noticed that his eyes were tight. ''So,'' he began. ''How's the tree house now?''
''Good,'' Jessica told him. ''We just repainted it this summer.''
Ian smirked. ''Why? Are you planning on spending Christmas there?''
''No. Chase doesn't even fit in there anymore.''
''And you do?''
''Yep.'' Jessica sounded proud. ''I squeeze into it almost effortlessly. I'm not as big as he is.''
Ian looked at her with an amused expression for just a second before returning his eyes on the road.
''What?'' Jessica asked him.
''Not as big as he is?'' Ian asked her smirking. ''You're not big at all. You're like a tiny little cat.''
''Excuse me?'' Jessica raised her eyebrows at him.
''You are.'' He shrugged.
''I don't know what qualifies as tiny for you,'' Jessica huffed, agitatedly. ''But I'm certainly not it.''
Ian grinned lopsidedly. ''You're what, like, five feet two inches?''
Jessica folded her arms but didn't answer. She made a face, looking straight out the wind shield.
''Won't you answer, shorty pants?''
Jessica glared at him for a second before turning away again. But still she didn't say anything. Her face was set in a dangerous scowl and she looked surprisingly menacing, despite her tiny frame and fragile features.
Some time passed and Ian let out a short chuckle. ''You know I'm kidding, right?'' His voice was like honey, willing her to forgive him.
Still she remained silent.
''You're perfect, Jess,'' Ian looked at her with the most devastatingly handsome smile ever. Jessica tried not to react to him but still her heart beat faster against her chest. She had never really believed that she could feel this way.
Her face relaxed and her light mood returned. Ian looked relieved at the return of her good mood. He started questioning her again, listening to her quite intently.
''So,'' he began after she had finished telling her about her trip to the hospital last year when Chase had an awfully upset stomach and he had practically puked all over Haley's shoes -though Haley had suspected he had done it on purpose, Jessica wasn't entirely sure. ''How long have you and Candling been friends?''
''Practically since we were born. We've been best friends ever since I can remember. We bonded over a half-eaten cookie, which Chase shared with me on the first day of school. We've been almost inseparable since then.''
''So, you know everything about him?''
''Yep. And he knows everything about me.''
''He knows we're together?'' Ian kept his eyes on the road but the side of his face lifted into a smug smile.
''Not exactly,'' Jessica answered, preoccupied by the 'together' part. ''I only just got to know myself.''
Ian laughed. ''Why weren't you sure? Was I not convincing enough on our little date?''
''I don't have much experience with dates, so I wasn't entirely sure what a good date was like.''
Jessica saw Ian press his lips together, as if to suppress his smile. But his words surprised her very much. ''Do you really need all day to get a dress?''
''What do you mean?'' Jessica was confused. Shopping for a dress was his idea.
''I mean that, we can buy the dress quickly and then we can do something else together. Or do you need the whole day for shopping?''
''No,'' Jessica was a bit taken aback. ''I mean, okay. I don't need all day for shopping. I hate shopping.''
''Good. I was hoping you'd say that,'' Ian's face lit up even more.
''What do you have in mind?'' Jessica was suspicious of him, since he had taken her to play mini-golf.
''Nothing special.'' Ian's voice was a bit innocent. ''Haydenberg just has some really nice spots. We could go some place and enjoy the rest of the place.''
''Okay then.'' Jessica had to admit that spending the whole day with Ian, without the nightmare of dresses and shoes hanging over her head, had to be fun. ''I don't have a problem with that.''
''That is, only if you find a dress in time.'' Ian gave her a teasing grin.
''Don't worry,'' Jessica assured him. ''I don't spend too much time shopping.''
He just nodded. Jessica turned up the music and they enjoyed the rest of the ride listening to music and talking occasionally.
They reached Haydenberg in about two and a half hours -and that too because Ian liked to drive fast. It seemed like he knew Haydenberg quite well because he didn't hesitate once on the way to the shopping mall. When Jessica mentioned this to him, he gave a shrug and told her that he came here often.
''It's just a bit bigger than Mayfort,'' he explained. ''I kinda get claustrophobic out there. So, when I feel like I need to get out, I come here.''
Jessica hadn't been out of Mayfort much but she had to admit, Haydenberg was far more impressive, with fountains and big buildings and an even bigger mall. Jessica had to crane her neck to the furthest to see the whole of the mall, even then her vision stopped at the vicinity.
Ian, however, looked perfectly used-to and calm. He led her through the food center and the play-area, right to the attractive shops. They hovered outside for a bit, judging which was the best shop to go in, and then went into one that Ian liked.
The shop was lavishly decorated, with huge floor length mirrors and chandeliers hanging little distances away from each other. There were already some girls, almost about their age, who were looking for dresses and giggling among themselves when they saw Ian and Jessica enter. Jessica made a slight face, always ill at ease being the staring object of somebody but she was alright right now because they weren't looking at her. They were looking at Ian. Ian didn't look even slightly aware of the fact. He just led Jessica to a less crowded rack and they began searching for a dress.
''So what exactly are we looking for?'' Ian asked her, after a few moments when they still hadn't picked something.
''How am I supposed to know?'' Jessica bit her lip slightly.
''Well,'' Ian grinned at her teasingly, ''Since you have to wear the dress, I just thought, maybe, you had some kind of picture in mind as to what you're looking for.''
''Nope. I just usually shop with Mom or Haley. And they always know what they're looking for, so I don't have to really search for something.'' She shrugged slightly.
''You really are one of a kind.'' Ian laughed at her. ''That's the reason I started noticing you, you know?''
''Really?'' Jessica was confused. ''Isn't that supposed to be the reason that you think I'm weird or something?''
Ian laughed. ''No. You're not weird. It's good that you're different. I like different.'' His eyes did a sort of smoldering thing as he said it and Jessica's heart missed a beat. She told herself to get a grip and then she returned her attention to the difficult task at hand.
They were looking for dresses, when one girl, from the group of girls came to search the rack they were at. She was a head taller than Jessica, with ombre hair and a pierced nose. Her eyes glinted as she appraised Ian approvingly. Still Ian didn't look at her and stood aside to let her pass when she came towards him to get to the other side of the rack.
Jessica found all of this extremely amusing. She had seen girls practically throw themselves at Ian but this was the first time that she got to experience how he reacted. And she had to admit, she hadn't expected this.
After a while- the girl was still standing close beside them- Ian handed Jessica a formal sleeveless, dark blue wrap dress. ''I think you should try this,'' he told her. ''Even if you don't like it, it'll be a start. I think it's nice.''
Jessica stared at the dress and then shook her head. ''No, Ian. I can't try this on.''
''Why not?'' He looked confused.
''Because it's knee-length.''
''So? Do you have a problem with leg exposure?'' Ian smirked a bit, his eyes travelling to Jessica's legs.
''Kind of.'' Jessica was a bit uncomfortable.
Jessica sighed. Pierced-nose was looking their way now. ''I have this huge burn scar on my left calf,'' Jessica told him grudgingly. ''I don't wear anything that exposes it.''
''So what? You have a scar. Everybody has some imperfection.'' Ian's eyes glowed with the biggest magnitude yet. ''I think you should try this on.''
Though it was difficult with his eyes holding hers like that, Jessica managed to shake her head. ''It's gross,'' she said in a small voice. Pierced-nose had come a bit forward, pretending to look at dresses, to eavesdrop on them
''Really?'' Ian sniggered. ''I wanna see it.''
''No,'' Jessica said immediately, stepping back from him.
''C'mon, please.'' He stepped forward, the dress clutched into his huge hands.
''No way, Ian. It really is gross.''
''That's why I wanna see it. I'm gonna tell you if it's all that gross or if you're just exaggerating it.''
''I don't exaggerate.'' Jessica made a face at him. Then deciding something quickly she gestured towards the changing room. ''I'll show you. Then you'll get why I don't go about wearing shorts and mini-skirts.''
He chuckled indecently, but still followed Jessica to the changing rooms.