Leave it to me to spend New Year’s Eve—the day before my fifteenth birthday—pulling weeds. I was helping my mom with her landscaping business in a yard just a block away from home. At least my mind could wander, and roam it did. Josh Copperfield, my crush at school, made repeat performances. His crooked grin and blue eyes kept me company as I zoned out with my iPod while weeding between the Japanese yews.
After winning a battle with the final dandelion, I removed my muddied gloves and stood to check my reflection in the kitchen window. Beyond my dirt-streaked forehead was the outline of a person standing inside the Thomases’ house. I jumped back, stumbled over the rake and landed in a pile of maple leaves.
The kitchen door opened. It was difficult to tell if the guy was naturally pale or if the color had drained from his face—it was a shocking contrast against his wavy brown hair. My heart tightened and the winter air was clammy in my lungs.
“You aren’t hurt, are you?” His brown eyes held concern.
“I’m fine.” I removed my earbuds, letting them dangle over my shoulders, and brushed the leaves off my butt.
“I was worried you might have sprained an ankle or something.” As he spoke, he looked up at the striped awning over the stoop.
“No, you just startled me. I didn’t think anyone was home.” I remembered the smudge of dirt on my forehead and wiped the long sleeve of my shirt across it. There I was, in front of the cutest guy I’d seen during the two weeks of winter break, and I looked like an uncultured slob.
“Would you like to come in and wash up at the sink?” he asked.
I’d never been inside a house with a guy—alone—and I was more worried about going in with him than if he thought I was a mess. He looked a little older than me. Not like a college student or anything, but he probably had a few years on me.
“Uh…” I’m sure the uneasiness displayed on my face. It was racing through my veins. Fortunately, my mother’s pick-up truck parked on the street at that moment. My legs started toward safety. “Gotta go.”