Cynthia stepped into the kitchen, holding her arms out as the water dripped off of her.
Her mother turned, her mouth falling open with shock as she took in her drenched daughter. “What happened?” Mona asked. After a stunned moment, she hurried over with a towel to help.
“One guess,” Cynthia replied through gritted teeth.
Her mother’s hand flew to cover her mouth, trying to smother the automatic laugh. “Ryan again?”
Cynthia’s hands grabbed the towel, trying to mop up the water from her hair and face. “I was down by the creek, just reading when Ryan snuck up on me.”
“Spider this time?”
“No,” she grumbled. “He stopped with the spiders a long time ago. I got so used to him trying to scare me with spiders that he gave up.”
Cynthia rolled her brown eyes. “When was the last time I screamed about a snake?”
Her mother laughed. “Okay, what did he do?”
With a sigh, Cynthia shook her head. “He came out of nowhere mom. Like a monkey or something. I have no idea how he got the rope up into the trees, but he came at me, swinging across the creek. I freaked out and fell into the water.”
Her mother laughed again. “Well, that sounds just like him.”
Cynthia glared at her mother. “This isn’t funny, mom. He does this to me all the time!”
“I know dear. I used to get angry with the boy, but then you started getting back at him even worse than he dished out to you. Ryan’s father and I talked and we have an understanding.” She leaned a hip against the counter. “So what are you going to do to get back at him this time?”
Cynthia’s mind started whirling, the possibilities endless. “I don’t know, but it is going to be good.”
Mona tossed the dishtowel over her shoulder, shaking her head. “It always is, dear.” Always, she thought as she finished cooking dinner.
“You have that look about you,” Ryan’s dad commented. “What are you planning?”
Seventeen year old Ryan looked up from his computer. “What? What look?” He glanced down at his computer, then back up at his dad.
Walter Dalton leaned a shoulder against his son’s bedroom doorway. “That look that tells me that you’re planning something evil. And that ‘something evil’ most likely has to do with a very lovely, vulnerable blond girl.”
Ryan grinned and leaned back, putting his hands behind his head. “You’re talking about Cynthia, right?”
“Isn’t that the only blond girl that you torment on an almost daily basis?”
Ryan laughed. “Yeah. Good times,” he sighed.
“You’re not planning anything new, are you?” his dad asked, looking at the rumpled bed and books lying all over the floor.
Walter rolled his eyes. “Son, have you ever thought that your need to torment Cynthia is really a desire to get her attention?”
He shrugged as if the answer were obvious. “Well, sure! That’s the whole point, isn’t it? She’s fun to tease.”
“No, I think it’s more than that. I think that maybe you are interested in Cynthia as more than just someone to torment. Perhaps…just tossing this out there,” Ryan’s dad said, holding his hands up in the air, “…but maybe you’re interested in her in a different way?” When his son started to say something, Walter continued. “Maybe in a romantic way?”
Ryan’s chair thunked to the floor, a stunned look on his face. He didn’t say anything for a long moment, his mind trying to understand. “But…I’ve been…we’ve…” he shook his head. “She gets back at me every time I do something to her.”
Walter laughed. “Yeah, well, maybe she feels the same way about you. She’s a beautiful girl. Have you ever thought about asking her out? Getting to know her? Maybe…and I know this is a crazy idea…but maybe you could even…talk to her?” he gasped, pretending horror at the idea.
Ryan laughed, but then the amusement faded. Talk to Cynthia? After all these years of trying to pull pranks on her, could his pranks really just be cover for…interest? What a crazy idea!
His father walked away, whistling down the hallway. Ryan didn’t hear the whistling or the footsteps along the hardwood floors. He was too busy contemplating having an actual conversation with Cynthia. The possibility stirred a strange excitement inside of him, but this excitement was different from normal. It was one thing when he thought up a prank to pull on her. That was fun. But this…this was…his belly tightened and…well, his teenage body reacted. FAST!
But the more he thought about it, the more he liked the idea. Talking with Cynthia was such a novel idea and for the rest of the evening, he couldn’t concentrate on his homework. That night, he struggled to fall asleep, wanting to see her the next day and test out the idea of what it would be like to actually talk to her.