Better off Friends

Page 27


“Oh, right, you two are together. See, I keep forgetting that, since she’s always with him.” He pointed to a clearly annoyed Levi.
“Keith, this is Carrie.” Levi gestured in her direction.
For whatever reason, Keith laughed. “Okay, I get it, I get it.” He reached down in a cooler and pulled out some cans of pop. “I’d say go long, Levi, but I don’t think my mom would appreciate getting pop on the carpet.” He laughed again. We all remained stone-faced.
We each took a can and made our way over to the corner of the kitchen.
“Don’t let him get to you,” I said to Levi.
“But he’s right. I can’t catch anything … except grief.” He shook his head.
I turned my back to Carrie and Ian. I knew how embarrassed Levi got about his lack of catching skills. “You’re getting much better. The other day, Adam was telling me you caught a ball nearly all the way down the block.”
“I guess.” His voice was faint. “But it’s so humiliating sitting on that bench every single game.”
“I thought you only wanted to play football to make some friends and fit in.”
He shrugged. “But it doesn’t mean I don’t want to play.”
“I know, but look around. You’re at a party and Keith invited you.”
“He invited everybody.”
“But at least you’re here. And he’s ribbing you. Isn’t that the bro way of being friendly?”
“The bro way.” He laughed.
“You know, how guys show affection. Or mark their turf. Kind of like how dogs pee on something to let you know it’s theirs.”
“Do you have any idea of what you’re talking about?”
“Of course not,” I admitted. “But does it at least make you feel a little better?”
“Yeah, just a little.”
I elbowed him playfully. “Well, that will not do. Clearly my job here is not done. Let me count the ways that you’re a stud.”
“Wait, wait.” Levi pulled out his phone. “I need to record this. I may even make it my ringtone.”
I grabbed his phone and spoke directly into the mic. “I, Macallan Marion Dietz, do hereby swear that Levi Rodgers is a total manly man, the ultimate bro. Reason number one, he does a mean British accent. Reason number two, he knows to always compliment a lady’s cooking skills. Um, reason number three. Um …”
“Nice.” He grabbed his phone back. “You can’t even come up with three reasons?”
“See, there are just so many reasons, my poor brain is on overload.”
“Good save.”
“Phew!” I wiped my brow dramatically.
“Hey!” Danielle approached us. “I didn’t see you guys come in. But then I saw your dates outside and figured you were doing that thing you do.”
Danielle could read the nonverbal exchange Levi and I shared. “Let me guess. You didn’t realize your dates left.”
I grimaced.
She shook her head. “You guys are too much.”
“Clearly,” Levi and I said in unison.
“Well, may I suggest that you take your party outside and keep your dates company?”
“Thanks!” I gave Danielle a quick hug before she returned to her marching band friends.
Levi and I went to the glass patio door and saw Carrie and Ian leaning against the deck railing. Ian was telling some story that was making Carrie laugh.
“Well, at least they’re having a good time,” Levi remarked. “In fact, it looks like they’re having a better time now than they did at dinner.”
“Levi.” I stopped him from opening the door. “I think that maybe it’s not the best idea for us to go on double dates.”
He nodded. “I know. It’s hard to throw anybody into our mix. I don’t want to mess things up with Carrie.”
“You and I will still hang out. I’m only saying that maybe date night should just be date night. Not forcing our dates to put up with the two of us.”
Levi’s gaze was fixed straight ahead. His jaw was tightly clenched.
When he didn’t respond, I followed his stare. Ian moved closer to Carrie and tucked a piece of hair behind her ear. She blushed, but leaned into him. He then put his arm around her.
“Are they flirting?” I gasped out. There was no way this was happening.
Levi and I remained frozen as we watched Ian and Carrie get closer and closer. He said something else that made her laugh. She twirled a piece of hair with her finger. Then he leaned farther into her. Her smile dropped. They were studying each other. Intensely.
I recognized that look on Ian. He tilted his head and put his index finger up to her chin.
This was so not happening.
“I can’t …” Levi’s pained voice snapped me into action.
I slid the glass door so quickly it rattled.
“How could you?” I found myself in front of Carrie. I know I should’ve been more upset with Ian, but at that moment I was furious at Carrie. Levi had been on a few dates with her, he’d asked her to come hang out with his friends and go to a party he was invited to, and this was how she repaid him?
Carrie shrank from me. But Ian stepped closer. “Are you being serious right now?” I’d never seen him mad before. But he was mad now.
“Are you being serious right now?” I threw back.