After raiding Macy’s, Dillard’s, and even Saks Fifth Avenue, Jordyn realized that the Woodbury Mall was not as in the sticks as Jordyn was worried it would have been. Better yet? They’d all found the perfect dresses for homecoming.
“So, you have to warn Cole he has a have a pink tie,” Natalie teased as they walked across the parking lot, all equipped with bags holding their new dresses.
Jordyn really hoped Cole would like her dress. The girls had assured her he would. Natalie had picked Jordyn’s dress, but Jordyn had fallen in love with it the second she had seen it in the mirror. It was strapless, and short, falling just above her knee. The bodice was crisscross pleated, the skirt, layered in tiers, lacy, and coated in glitter. But it was the color that Jordyn immediately fell in love with. A bright, bubblegum pink, the dress emphasized her bleach-blond hair and still tanned arms and legs.
“This was a lot of fun,” Jordyn said, leaning against the Tahoe, waiting for Natalie to unlock the doors.
She smiled at Jordyn. “Yeah, it was. I love hanging out with you, Jor. You’re like the little sister I never had.”
Jordyn smiled. She felt the same about Natalie.
“So, you think a lot of people will be at the bonfire?” Jordyn asked as Natalie started down the highway out of Woodbury and back to Cedarwood.
“There usually is,” Natalie shrugged. “It’s over by 11:00, though, so most of the time people have parties to go to.”
Jordyn perked up. “Sounds like fun. Where is it, again?”
“Where Lake Fest was,” Meredith said, placing her blue sunglasses over her eyes. “Nat, just drop me off at my car. I’m not going to the bonfire.”
“Why not?” Lydia asked.
Meredith just smiled. “Got a date.”
Jordyn saw Natalie roll her eyes. She wondered if Meredith’s date was the older guy she’d heard about that night at Mickey’s.
Natalie drove to school to drop everyone off at their cars, but she instructed Jordyn to meet her at her house to get ready. Jordyn felt kind of cool being the only one invited, because she’d waited until Lydia and Meredith were in their cars before she asked Jordyn.
“Sure,” Jordyn replied with a smile before dipping into the front seat of her own car.
At home, Jordyn carried her big shopping bag and her book bag in through the back door, and found her mother at the kitchen table, on her phone, with papers and papers spread out in front of her.
“Emilio that sounds wonderful,” Zara was saying. “I’ll see you Saturday. Alright, love. Bye.”
Jordyn raised her eyebrows at her mother as she placed the bag on the floor. Emilio was her mother’s restaurant manager back in San Diego. But what did she mean by seeing him Saturday?
Zara hung up the phone and grinned at Jordyn. “Let me see it!”
Jordyn smiled and reached down for the bag. Jordyn texted her mother earlier, telling her she was going with the girls dress shopping, but she knew Zara had really wanted to take her.
Jordyn pulled the dress from the shopping bag and watched as Zara’s eyes widened with pleasure and her jaw dropped. “Oh, Jordyn. Honey, that dress is beautiful. You’re going to be gorgeous for that dance tomorrow night.”
Jordyn smiled, looking back at the dress. She sure hoped so.
“Try it on!” Zara encouraged.
“I can’t,” Jordyn said. “I’m in sort of a hurry. I’m going back to Natalie’s.”
“I thought you were going to the bonfire.”
“I am. I’m going with Natalie. I really like hanging out with her. She’s like a big sister.”
Zara smiled. “She is very nice. I like her.”
“She’s Ty’s best choice. Like, ever.”
Zara laughed. “I definitely agree there.”
Jordyn lowered the dress back into the bag.
“Make sure you hang that up when you get to your room,” Zara said. “So it won’t wrinkle.”
“I will. Why were you talking to Emilio about seeing him Saturday?”
“I’m flying back to San Diego next weekend. How would you like to go along? You’d miss school Friday and Monday, but I know you miss your friends. And it’s been longer than I’d anticipated before getting back.”
“Of course!” Jordyn said. “We don’t have school Monday, anyway. Hey, maybe I could invite Alice!”
Zara shrugged. “Fine with me.”
“Awesome. What are you going back for?”
“I have a couple of investors looking to buy it. I’m seriously thinking about selling. Use the money to open an entire new restaurant in Pittsburgh, maybe I could eventually expand into Philadelphia.”
Jordyn got quiet. Sell the restaurant? That restaurant was the only tie they had to San Diego now. With that gone, there was no reason to go back anymore.
“Oh, wow,” was all Jordyn could say. “Sounds cool. Look, I’m going to run upstairs hang this up, and grab some warm clothes for the bonfire.”
“Alright, sweetie,” Zara said with a completely oblivious smile.
Natalie was home alone when Jordyn got there. Her mother worked nights, and there was no father in the picture, Jordyn had learned. Not since she was two. And her house was far more modest than Jordyn had imagined, small and quaint, but cute, with white shingles and blue shutters, white rockers on the porch, flowers landscaped perfectly all over; pansies, Jordyn’s favorites.
The inside wasn’t quite as quaint as the outside had looked. It looked more like two college roommates lived there than mother and daughter.
Oh, and there was a dog. A big dog.
“This is Max,” Natalie laughed when Jordyn fell back against the living room wall at the sight of a black lab. “Relax, he wouldn’t hurt a fly. Max, sit!”
So just like that, the dog planted his butt on the carpeted floor, tail still wagging and tongue hanging out, so Jordyn could sneak passed him.
Natalie laughed, leading Jordyn down the hall to her bedroom. “You don’t like dogs or something?”
Jordyn shrugged. “They’re OK, I guess. I’ve never had one so I don’t really have an opinion.”
“You sure seemed to have an opinion of Max,” Natalie chuckled.
“Well, he’s sort of huge.”
“He’s our watch dog. He’s such a big baby, though, I don’t know what good he would do if someone actually did break in. I keep telling my mom we need a Doberman or something.”
Jordyn’s eyes widened as she followed Natalie into her room. “Then I would never come back over here.”
Natalie laughed and sat on her bed. “You’re exaggerating. I’d feel safer with a Doberman guarding my house.”
“Safe from what?” Jordyn asked. “I’ve been here for two months and nothing has grazed the front page of the Cedarwood Chronicle except news about a new library in the works and I think there was a huge breaking story about a pig running rampant at the Harvest Festival.”
Natalie chuckled. “How do you like Cedarwood so, far, Jordyn? Buying homecoming dresses, wearing the quarterback’s letterman jacket. Hell, you’re practically running that dance studio now. You still suffering?”
“Oh yes,” Jordyn said. “I’m suffering bad. I can’t believe you’re making me go to this big bonfire tonight to hang out with all my friends. God, this is all so awful.”
“Damn right. So, what did your mom say about your dress?”
“She really liked it. I can’t wait to get in it tomorrow night.”
“You? Miss, anti-tradition?”
“I do like getting dressed up. When I was in San Diego competing, I loved getting dressed up, getting my make-up and hair done.”
“Who doesn’t,” Natalie chuckled. “What did you bring for the bonfire?”
Jordyn reached for her duffel bag, sitting it on the bed. “Just some jeans, a couple of shirts and a hoodie. And this.” She smiled as she held up the newest addition to her wardrobe, a thick, brown Carrhart jacket. Because Jordyn had learned fall nights in Cedarwood were no joke.
“Good,” Natalie said. “You’re gonna need all that.” She stood up and walked to her own closet. “So. You and Cole got any big plans for tomorrow night? After the dance, I mean?”
This was it. Jordyn couldn’t hold it in anymore. “Yeah, we do.”
Natalie’s eyebrows went to her hairline, then she grinned. “OK, spill.”
“Well, we’ve decided that tomorrow is the night.”
Natalie’s jaw dropped, then the crooks of her mouth turned into a sly smile. “Oh my God! Jordyn!”
“Don’t tell anyone!”
By anyone, Jordyn hoped Natalie knew that Ty, especially, was included in that.
Natalie waved her hand nonchalantly. “Oh, I won’t. So, do you and I need to have a talk.”
Jordyn looked away, her cheeks reddening.
“Relax,” Natalie sighed. “As your big brother’s girlfriend, you know, given that you don’t have a sister, I feel it’s my responsibility to take that role. So. Where are you going?”
She shrugged. “I don’t know, yet. Cole hasn’t said. We go to Lookout
Point a lot.”
Natalie cringed and shook her head. “You don’t want your first time to be out at Lookout Point in a car.”
Jordyn thought about it. Natalie was right. Cole’s parents weren’t supposed to be gone anywhere this weekend, and they certainly couldn’t come back to Jordyn’s house. So where were they supposed to go? She hoped Cole would figure it out, because Jordyn was nervous enough with the responsibility of just showing up.
“Worry about that later,” Natalie said. “The most important thing you need to worry about is protection.”
“You know, condoms?”
“Yeah, I knew what you meant.”
“Well, have you thought about it?”
“Yeah, I mean, of course we’re going to use something. I’m not on birth control or anything.”
“Do you have any?”
Jordyn shrugged and shook her head. “No, I thought Cole would take care of that.”
“You need a backup,” Natalie told her, getting up and walking to her dresser. When she returned, she had four little foil packages in her hand. She gave it to Jordyn. “Put these in your purse. You need to be responsible for you, and make sure you’re protected. Don’t leave it to the guy.”
Nervously, Jordyn took the foils packages, and without a word, she slid them into her purse, looking expectantly at Natalie.
Natalie just smiled, and plopped down next to Jordyn. “OK. Ask me whatever you need to know.”
And, boy, did Jordyn have plenty to ask.
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