Entry #42: Cinderella turned Him into an Abercrombie & Fitch model.
~ The Cinderella Deception by Juliette Harving
"Hey, Jules!" Jared asks.
It's Sunday morning, and I'm sitting at the table with my younger brother - he's doing his Arithmetic homework, and I'm typing up a written report on my laptop. Josie's in the living room watching cartoons. Lucky kid.
"Yeah, what's up?"
"What's the date today?"
"3rd September." I say, absentmindedly, and then I give a jolt of recognition.
3rd September? 3rd September? Callie's birthday is on the 7th! Which gives me only four days to find a present for Callie!
I'm close to hyperventilating. Callie's the most important friend I have, and I've nothing to give her.
"Do you know that it's Callie's birthday soon?" I ask, turning to Jared, who nods.
"Duh. I already drew her a card from me and Josie, and Josie's got her name signed there too."
Bloody hell. What kind of a friend am I? I need to get to the mall asap.
But before I can say anymore, the door clicks open, and Grady enters. He's here to pick up his Geography project, and he grins as soon as he sees me. I smile back. I love this new Grady. He's definitely more free with his smiles, and he's a lot nicer. Sensitive and sweeter, too.
"GRADY!" Jared yells, and leaps off from his chair to give Grady a huge bear-hug. Even Josie comes scampering out from the living room to plant little butterfly kisses on Grady's face.
"Hey Grady!" I wave shyly, and jump off from the high stool. "Your Geography write-up is on the counter. I'm going to the mall. Jared, Josie, I need you to take care of yourselves for three hours, okay? Four, tops."
They nod, and I turn to leave, but Grady catches me by the arm. "Whoa, wait. Where are you going?"
"It's Callie's birthday. And I've such a fantastic memory that I've completely forgotten to get her a present."
"Can I come?" He asks, completely surprising me. "We can bring Jared and Josie, and I'll look after them."
"Er, sure." I say, smiling, because I'm really happy that he's offering to join me. Even though his offer came as a complete surprise.
Five minutes later, we're peeling out of the driveway and heading to the mall. Jared and Josie insist on riding shotgun with Grady, and the front seat is pretty squashed with four people.
"What do you have in mind?" He asks, when we get into the mall.
"I don't know, jewellery or something. Callie just loves pretty things in general."
"Whoa, cool." Jared says, as we pass by Abercrombie and Fitch. There are several topless salesmen walking around the store. "I wish I had abs like them. Hey, Grady, do you have abs like those dudes? You could go work in there!"
Grady raises his eyebrow, and I flush, remembering what I said about his abs when we were kissing. Before I can react, however, Grady walks into the A&F store, and starts conversing with the guys there, who start laughing along with him.
And then, to my immense surprise, Grady lifts his blue sweatshirt over his head, to reveal those washboard abs of his. I can barely conceal my surprise, and stand staring at him. Okay, his abs.
Grady then comes to the front of the store, bows and says with a smirk, "Welcome to Abercrombie and Fitch!"
I laugh. Josie claps her hands, even though I'm sure she doesn't know what's going on, and Jared yells "Cool!" again and runs into the store, to the great amusement of the other topless salesmen.
Just at that moment, a group of giggling girls enter the shop - I'm pretty sure they came just to see some topless, cute salesguy - and the rest of the salesmen leave us alone to go entertain them.
Grady stays with us. "I think this hat would go on perfectly with this jacket," He says, still pretending to be a salesman and selecting two random items to put on Jared. The cap and leather jacket actually do go very well on Jared, and they fit him perfectly.
We have a fun time at A&F, and we buy more than expected. Jared gets that cap and jacket, as well as three other T-shirts. Josie gets a sweater, and I get a pair of sunglasses and a dress - which was also picked out by Grady.
Grady sticks with us the whole time. I can't help but notice the other wide-eyed stares of the other girls, who try several times to get his attention. He ignores them, however, and seems completely oblivious to all the stares.
When we're done, I pull Jared and Josie out of the store and we wait for Grady. Grady pulls his sweatshirt on again.
"Wait," One of the girls ask, coming over to him and batting her eyelids flirtatiously. "I need some help in choosing my clothes."
Grady barely spares her a glance. "Sorry, my shift's done." And he walks out of the store, stopping to give several fist-bumps to the other salesmen. "Come on, let's go." He says, when he gets to us.
And then he places a hand on the small of my back and guides me through the crowd in the shopping mall. I try to ignore the tingles that go down my back, but it's hard not to.
When lunchtime comes, I still haven't found anything for Callie. I want her gift to be special, so earrings or necklaces are out of the question.
"Don't worry," Grady says, and pulls me by the hand into MacDonalds. "We'll find something."
By one-thirty, I'm getting desperate. There seems to be nothing here! What kind of a mall is this?
"Don't worry so much, Harving." Grady says, finally, when we've combed practically every store. "Isn't there something you could make for Callie?"
"Um, actually," I admit, remembering that I've got a whole pail of seashells at home. Before Jared and Josie were born, my parents used to bring me to the beach very often, and I'd pick the prettiest seashells ever.
"Actually, I've always wanted to make a seashell necklace for Callie." Grady rolls his eyes as if to say 'Girls!' "But I don't know how to."
"That's it?" He scoffs. "That's easy. All we need is a drill."
When we get back, Jared and Josie are already tired out from walking about all over the mall, so I tuck them in for a nap. I take the pail of seashells from the shelf in my bedroom, and bring it down to show Grady.
"Okay," He says, after examining them closely and selecting about ten shells. "I'll leave you to do the stringing yourself, but I'll drill in the holes in for you."
"Drill?" I ask, wrinkling my forehead thoughtfully.
"Yeah, drill. You didn't expect me to ram a screw-driver through the shells now, did you? That would just crack the shells right through."
For the next hour, I watch as Grady drills even holes through the top of the shells with an unusual type of small screw-driver like drill, which he purchased at a small craft shop in the shopping mall. I watch his big, rough hands gently grasp the shells to ensure that they don't crack. I watch him carefully brush away the seashell bits, so that they won't look so slipshod.
I can't help but smile as I watch him. There's just something about that way he concentrates, the way he focuses on the seashells that makes my heart beat so quickly. I feel like I could actually watch him all day.
Corny much, Juliette?
"It's done," Grady says, at last, and looks up at me. "Now all you need to do is to thread some string through them. Or a ribbon. Or whatever you girls use."
I smirk. "You act like we're some sort of foreign, weird species."
"Aren't you?" He shoots back, quickly, and I grin.
"Not as weird as you are." I reply, "No wonder you don't get girls."
Grady smiles dryly. "Ouch."
Later that night, when Grady has already left, Callie rings me up.
"Jules!" She says, excitedly, before I even have a chance to say 'hi'. "Guess what? Ryden's coming to town to celebrate my birthday with me!"
Ryden Miller is Callie's older brother, and he's tons of fun. Callie and her brother used to live in Santa Barbara before Callie's parents moved here when she was fourteen, so her father could work here. Ryden lives in an apartment in near the school he goes to, UCSB, but he comes over to visit pretty often.
"And I want you and Grady to come too!" She squeals.
"Grady? Why Grady?" I ask, stunned.
"Well, silly, because I think Grady will make good company for Ryden, who'll probably get tired of his baby sister gossiping with her best friend the whole time. And I also think it's a best friend's duty to get to know her best friend's crush. Okay? Okay, so I'll see you two on my birthday."
I listen to her, completely in a daze. Goodness, Callie can just go on and on, talking non-stop.
"Thank goodness it's a Saturday." She continues, "My Mom's promised to look after Jared and Josie, so you can leave them at my house without worries. We're going to drive over to Santa Barbara, to check out Ryden's workplace. Apparently, he says the pizza is awesome."
"Okay? Okay! So that's it. Bye Jules!"
And with that, she ends the call abruptly. That girl can seriously talk nineteen to the dozen. I text Grady to tell him about Callie's plans this Saturday.
Hey, Callie's inviting you, me and Ryden to spend her birthday with her. ~ Juliette
My phone buzzes with Grady's reply.
I don't even know Callie that well. And who the hell is Ryden?
I smile to myself. This is such a Grady-reply.
He's Callie's older brother. You'll like him. He's smart, good-looking and very nice.
Grady doesn't take more than half a minute to respond.
Then I'm in.