I might’ve overplucked my eyebrows, too.
Each time Greyson wasn’t there, I let out a sigh of relief but then I felt a little sad.
When Friday came three weeks after our first interaction at Molly’s, my heart raced as he came jogging across the street toward me.
“I’m a Gryffindor,” he declared, waving the book he had gripped in his hand.
I cocked an eyebrow and tugged on the bottom of my cardigan. “What?”
“I said I’m a Gryffindor. I’m pretty sure, at least. It was a tossup between that and Ravenclaw, but then I read some articles online and I’m pretty sure I’m Gryffindor.”
“You read Harry Potter?”
He nodded. “Yup. Sorry it took me so long to get back to you, but those are long.”
“You…” My heart pounded against my rib cage. “You read all of the books?”
“All five, and now I’m counting down the days until the next one releases.”
Same, Grey, same.
“Why did you read them all?”
“So we’d have something in common. Plus, I wanted you to form a stupid, unrealistic crush on me that goes against everything you stand for.” He began flipping through the book, pointing out a few of his favorite quotes, which he’d highlighted. He talked quickly, going over his likes and dislikes for each of the books. He told me his favorite characters, he told me his pet peeves, and he spoke as if he truly understood what he was talking about.
I was still stuck on the fact that he’d read all five books simply so we would have something in common.
If he were a book character, he’d be the hero.
After he showed me his last highlighted quote, he closed the book and gave me a slight shrug. “So, what are you?”
“What’s your Hogwarts House?”
“Oh.” I traced the sidewalk with the toe of my shoe. “I’m a Hufflepuff.”
“That’s what I thought.”
“Yeah, most people think it’s the worst house.”
“Hufflepuffs seemed silently strong, and loyal. There’s nothing wrong with loyal and patient people. I think there should be more of that.”
He smiled back and said, “More of that, Ellie.” He tapped his fingers against the spine of his novel. “So, now that we have something in common, does that mean we can hang out?”
“Well, I did make that promise, and as a Hufflepuff, I have to keep my word.”
“All right. So, what are you doing next Tuesday?”
“Okay, awesome. You want to meet me at my place? I’ll plan something for us to do.”
I shrugged, trying to play it cool. “All right.” Note to self: knees can sweat, too. “Well, I have to get to Molly.”
“All right. I’ll see you Tuesday!”
He headed off, and for a few seconds, I wondered if I was stuck in a dream. I was too afraid to pinch myself, though, because I worried I’d wake up. If this were a dream, I wanted to live in it a little bit longer.
“I like a boy,” I blurted out Sunday afternoon as Mom and I sat in our hidden location at Laurie Lake. We’d been going there as long as I could remember, even sometimes all bundled up in our winter gear to be near the water. If Mom loved one thing, it was the water. She said it was because the water healed her. Her dream was to someday place her feet in the ocean and stand with her arms wide open, but since we were in Illinois and there was no ocean to be found nearby, that dream had to wait a little bit longer.
For the time being, small lakes and ponds worked fine for us. We always made it our mission to go sit by our hidden pond and watch the dragonflies pass around us. Laurie Lake was normally packed with people during the summer, but, one day during our exploring, she and I found a smaller body of water hidden between the trees, and we’d always go there to sit and chat.
After feeling a bit off, she was finally well enough to get out of the house, and I was happy to get back to our regular scheduled mama-daughter dates. She still looked tired, but not sick-tired. It seemed like the kind of tired people got when they overslept.
Still, in the back of my mind, I worried. Couldn’t help it. That worry would probably always linger.
Mom tilted her head toward me, and her blue eyes lit up with joy at my words. There were two things we never really talked about with each other: sports and boys. I’d never had any interest in either one, but that afternoon, I knew I had to tell her, because she was my person. I told my mother everything. We were a regular Lorelai and Rory Gilmore.
“Oh, my gosh, who? How? From where?!”
“His name is Greyson East. We talked at the party you and Dad forced me to go to a few weeks ago.”
She tossed her hands in the air with excitement. “I knew I was being a good parent forcing you to go to a party with drugs and alcohol!”
I snickered. “Something like that.”
“So, tell me everything. What is he into? What does he look like? If he were to be an animal, which animal would he be?” She placed her chin in her hands and stared at me with eyes wide and filled with wonder.
I told her everything—everything I knew, at least.
She raised an eyebrow. “Is that why you’ve been wearing my makeup lately?”
“Honey, I’m sick, not dead. Plus, we really need to have a makeup lesson because the way you curled your eyelashes was a bit wild.”
I laughed. “I just wanted to, I don’t know, girly-up a little.”
“Wearing makeup doesn’t make you a girl. Were you wearing makeup when you first met him?”
“Then there’s no need to wear it now, unless you want to. Do things for you, Ellie, never for others. He obviously liked you just the way you were.”
My stomach flipped as I fiddled with my thumbs. “He’s the complete opposite of what I thought my first crush would be like.”
“I don’t know. I thought I’d go for a nerdy type, or an artist, or a musician. Greyson is popular.”
“You say it like he has an STD,” Mom joked. “People like him—so what? That’s not a bad thing.”
“Yeah, but it’s not just people, it’s everyone. He could have any girl he wanted, so it’s hard to think he’d want—”
“No.” Mom placed her hand on my knee. “We don’t do that. We don’t put ourselves down.” She combed my hair behind my ear and placed her hands on my cheeks. “Not only are you beautiful on the outside, Eleanor Rose, you are stunning on the inside. You are creative. You have the best laugh I’ve ever heard. You are kind, giving, and brave. Don’t ever think you aren’t good enough based on what the magazines define as beauty. You. Are. Beautiful.”
Mom always did this whenever I slipped into my random teenage doubts.
It was easy for me to not feel beautiful in a world of prom queens, yet my mother was always reminding me of how worthy I was.
I was a lucky daughter.
“Plus, it sounds like you caught his attention with your looks and your mind,” she commented. “That’s the most important part.”
“Can we just not tell Dad? He’s a bit dramatic about things like this.”
“Your father has never shot a gun in his life, but I feel like you having your first crush would be enough to push him over the edge, so I’ll keep it between you and me.”
She started to reply but broke out into a coughing fit instead. She couldn’t catch her breath for a while and my gut filled with worry. When she stopped, she shook her head. “I’m fine, Ellie.”
I heard her words, but sometimes I felt like they were lies just to keep me from hurting. I had a feeling moms would do anything to keep their children from feeling any form of pain.
I rested my head on her shoulder as we stared out at the water and watched as three dragonflies flew by. “He read Harry Potter, all five books, because I told him we had nothing in common, and he wanted to make sure we did.”
Mom’s eyes widened, and her mouth dropped open. “He read your favorite series?”
“Marry this boy.”
I wore my dragonfly cardigan when I headed over to Greyson’s on Tuesday. It was what I’d been wearing the first time we talked, and I figured maybe it was a good luck charm. I went with no makeup, because that didn’t matter, and also I was tired of poking myself in the eye with the mascara wand.
As I walked down Weston Street, I tried my best to tame my nerves. It was just us hanging out, anyway, not a wedding.
There was no need for me to be overthinking things.
I walked up Greyson’s front porch and rang his doorbell.
Fiddling with my fingers and tapping my shoes, I waited a few seconds for him to come to the door. It was the longest time it had ever taken for anyone to answer the door, but then again, with the size of Greyson’s house, it made sense.
When he opened it, he was holding a big, fluffy black cat in his arms.
My eyes widened with excitement. “Oh, my gosh, who is this?”
“This is Meow, my best friend,” Greyson explained, allowing me to pet him. “He’s an old fart, but he’s the coolest dude out there.”
I smiled at the feline. “Hey there, Meow. I’m Ellie.”
Meow meowed before leaping out of Greyson’s arms and walking back into the house, completely uninterested in me. I couldn’t help but laugh.
“He’s sweet,” I said.
“Yeah, he is. So, are you ready to go?” Greyson asked, grabbing a hoodie from his foyer.
“I am, but where exactly are we going?”
“I figured I learned about something you like by reading those books, so I wanted to show you something I like. We’re going to the movies.”