“You should see my air cymbals,” I joke, happy to have solved the mystery. “They’re even more worthy.”
“Actually, what I liked most was the singing,” Matt says, smiling full-out this time. “The high note at the end was pure genius.” He scratches his defined jaw with the back of his index finger. It’s oddly sexy.
“Awesome, right?” I say, hoping I sound more casual than I feel.
He gives me a double thumbs-up and a totally cheesy smile. “I think you could easily get a recording contract.”
We both laugh, and when it subsides, we’re still for a few seconds.
“I’m Daisy,” I say, in case he doesn’t recognize me. “We’re in English together?”
“I know,” he says automatically. He looks down and away for a second, smiling a little to himself like he’s embarrassed for having answered so quickly. Then his narrow eyes are back on mine. “I didn’t know you were friends with my sister.”
“Our lockers are in the same hall,” I explain. “That’s how we met. She told me she has a brother. I didn’t know it was you.”
“It’s me.” Matt nods again, shoving his hands in the pockets of his worn jeans. He looks conflicted, like he wants to stay but thinks he should go.
“Audrey went to get sodas,” I say just to say something, hoping that if I keep talking, he’ll stay put. It works, at least for a minute.
“How’d you do on that quiz?” he asks.
“Fine,” I say. “I got an A.”
Another nod. “Me, too.”
We hold each other’s gaze for a slightly uncomfortable but still glorious moment. I feel like I did that time I had to present my science project in front of the whole freshman class: exhilarated and apprehensive at the same time.
Matt pulls an iPhone from his right pocket and steps into the room only far enough to put it in the charger on the desk. His being that much closer makes me shift in my seat.
“Don’t tell Audrey about this, okay?”
“Okay,” I say, confused. “Don’t you have your own phone?”
“Yeah, but hers has better music. One time, I accidentally—” Matt stops himself, as if remembering that he has to be somewhere. “Never mind. Long and boring story.”
I want to say that I’ll listen to any story he has to tell, but I manage to hold back. He returns to the doorway.
“Guess I’ll see you in class,” he says, hesitating before giving a slight wave and turning to leave.
“Bye,” I say quietly. Just then, as if the playlist is the soundtrack to my life, a lighthearted love song starts. But before I have too much time to skip into fantasyland, Audrey’s back.
“Sorry about that,” she says, a little out of breath as she rushes into the room. “My dad called from work and was grilling me about my homework. I didn’t mean to leave you alone in here for so lo—” She stops and looks at me curiously. “What’s with the goofy smile?”
“Oh, I was thinking about a guy,” I say cryptically, keeping my crush on her brother a secret for today.
“Does he look like Jake Gyllenhaal?” she asks. “Because Jake is the hottest guy on the planet.”
“No,” I say with a little head shake. To me, Matt is even better.
Audrey and I read gossip magazines and talk about celebrities we’d like to have dinner with. She shows me the shoes she told me about earlier this week and I doodle daisies on her chalk wall. After a while, her mom invites us downstairs for cookies, which makes Audrey roll her eyes and causes my stomach to rumble. No one bakes cookies in my house. We jog down the steps and saunter into the kitchen, then plop ourselves onto the bench next to the rustic wooden table. Mrs. McKean gives us two cookies each, saying, “Don’t worry, I made the lower-fat option, and the milk is skim.” Audrey nods and we both start snacking.
Then every happily relaxed muscle in my body tenses when Matt walks into the room.
“What’s up,” he says to his mom.
“Hi, Mattie,” Mrs. McKean says before standing on her toes to kiss him on the cheek. He doesn’t pull away, but he does look a tiny bit embarrassed when our eyes meet, and I wonder whether it’s about the kiss, or being called Mattie, or both.
Matt goes to the cabinet and retrieves a mug, then pours himself black coffee from the pot and adds a touch of milk. No sugar. He grabs a cookie and sits down with me and Audrey at the table.
My stomach flips at the sight of the little wisps of hair behind his ears. They’ve become my English-class distraction. Being so close now, I fight the urge to reach out and touch them. As if he can read my mind, he looks at me curiously, like he’s wondering if I just might do it.
“Mattie, you slept the day away,” Mrs. McKean says from across the kitchen.
“ ’Cause he was out so late,” Audrey says under her breath. They both glance at their mom to make sure she didn’t hear.
“I stayed up late reading,” Matt says to his mom. She turns her back to us to get more cookies out of the oven. When she opens the oven door, it makes the warm kitchen hot.
“The show ran long,” Matt whispers to Audrey. “I couldn’t miss the encore.”
“What are you kids plotting over there?” Mrs. McKean asks, spatula in hand.
“Nothing,” the siblings say in unison.
We munch quietly for a moment before Audrey starts harassing her brother again. She leans toward him, elbows on the table, eyes narrowed, and lips pinched.
“By the way, I know you used my phone again. Just because you’re too lazy to charge yours doesn’t mean you can steal mine whenever you please. Stop taking my stuff.”
Matt rolls his eyes at her and then looks at me with an expression that straddles the line between annoyed and amused. “Thanks a lot,” he says in a voice that could be sarcastic; I don’t know him that well. Right when I decide he’s teasing, he gets up from the table.
“Later,” he says to no one in particular.
“Bye,” I say quietly, wishing I could make him stay.
Audrey and I decide to go to a just-opened mall that she says is like shopping heaven. We okay it with her mom and with Mason, then take off in her sunshiny yellow car. While we shop, I balance my overwhelming desire to ask about Matt, Matt, and more Matt with wanting to get to know Audrey better. I don’t want Audrey to think I’m only interested in her brother, so I decide as we walk through the temperature-controlled atrium that I’m restricted to asking only three questions about Matt.
As we meander down the aisles of Von Maur, GAP, Abercrombie & Fitch, and Hot Topic, Audrey and I chat easily about anything and everything else. After only thirty minutes, I know that she got her hair colored at the salon on the first level, loves glass elevators, wants to go to Paris someday but takes Spanish at school, prefers pretzel bites to sticks or full soft pretzels, and is a closet history nerd.
“I could have rocked the Victorian era,” Audrey says as she fingers a ruffled, Victorian-inspired shirt at Anthropologie.
“I think you’re right,” I say. “But corsets? No thanks.”
“I bet they weren’t so bad after you got used to them.”