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Five - Handsome Distraction

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Monday arrives much too slowly for my liking, and after seeing his empty seat next to mine the entire day, I wait for eight at night; that's the time he said he'd be here.

A bath and quick blow-dry later, I pull my hair into a braid.

No, that's too elaborate.

Opening the braid, I leave them open.

High ponytail? 

No no no!

Fizz destroys my hair and I throw them open again. Huffing in exasperation, I finally tie them into a neat bun. It seems too neat for one at home, so I pull out a couple of loose strands, and ruffle up at the top. I finally survey my reflection in the mirror and nod in approval.

Throwing open my wardrobe, I try to decide what to wear. I know this isn't a date, but I still want to make a good impression. A dress won't do, and the weather doesn't permit skirts or shorts. Ripped jeans and button-up? Seems just right.

Changed and ready, I return to the mirror, practicing my smile. Formal and reserved -- too cold. Wide and dimpled -- too much. Battering eye-lashes looks cheap, and leaning one hand on my hips just seems plain slutty.

I stomp a foot on the ground, wanting to cry out. I end up changing into slacks and leave my hair down, deciding not to put effort into it. It makes me anxious and self-conscious and I apply light makeup and promise myself I won't look in the mirror again. The more I look at myself, the more unprepared for this I feel.

What the hell is wrong with me?

"Haley, dinner!" Dad calls from downstairs.

I sigh. Well, this is as good as I'm looking, and let's face it -- I'm not bad. I make my way downstairs, help dad set the table, and end up telling him about my usual day as we eat. I narrate in no particular order:

School was fine.

Classes good.

Grades perfect.

No disciplinary issues.

No drama.

No problems.

"Xavier's coming over tonight," I tell him without looking up from my plate of food.

"Mhm ... he's a good kid," dad comments softly. "Doesn't seem like it at first glance but ... he's a nice boy."

"He is." I smile, swirling my fork through the noodles.

"Did you talk to him about his father?"

I hesitate, biting the inside of my lip. "Do you think that's a good idea? What if he doesn't want to talk about it and feels uncomfortable ... he doesn't talk to anyone at school, and he's talking to me so ..."

"You don't want to ruin it, I can see that," dad says evenly.

I blush. "Should I tell him what I saw?" I ask, knowing dad would always give me the best advice.

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