Chapter 3

"Hey." Vanessa looked up from their table at lunch. "Man, what are they serving for you today, stewed mud on a bun?" she asked as she made a face, poking slightly at Lexie's lunch.

"I believe it's called a sloppy joe but thanks for the commentary." Lexie shot back.

"Looks like crap." Annie interjected, not looking up from her apple.

"Thanks, Ann; I knew I could count on you for positive commentary." Lexie shot back. Annie flushed a little. "Anyway, what's the new gossip?" she asked.

"Nothing really. everyone's still talking about the party." Vanessa replied.

"Ugh, don't remind me." Lexie put her face in her hands.

"Aww, Lex, come on. it wasn't THAT bad." Vanessa said, this time impatiently.

"You weren't the one who was tripped in front of the guy you liked!" Lexie shot back.

"Hey, Lexie," a deep voice said. She looked up to see Ryan passing, smiling at her.

She knew she blushed again, she could feel it. Hopefully he didn't hear her previous statement. "Hey," she said weakly back. He continued on to Matt and his friends. Lexie could hear the annoying laughter of Julia from where she was sitting nearly in Ryan's lap, halfway across the room. "I am such a dork." Lexie pushed her hands into her hair, voice muffled by her arms. In her peripheral vision, she saw her friends exchange glances.

"Hey, he smiled. be grateful for that." Denise put in.

"Yeah, I guess. Did I tell you guys what happened this morning?" Lexie asked.

"Yeah, where were you this morning?" Vanessa asked, digging into her salad.

"Traffic." Lexie made a face. She re-accounted the discussion on the way to school this morning.

"Sounds like he was concerned about you." Annie wiggled an eyebrow at Lexie, who in turn flung a crumpled up napkin at her, laughing. "Hey, it did!" Annie said indignantly, though with a smile.

"Where's Sarah?" Lexie asked, changing the subject.

"She had a Chem lab to make up." Vanessa replied with a shrug.

"That sucks." Lexie took a bite of her sloppy joe and made a face.

"That bad, huh?" Vanessa asked teasingly.

"Shut up!" Lexie wailed. "I didn't have time to make a salad this morning!"

"Yeah, yeah, yeah." Denise rolled her eyes with a smirk. They continued with their lunches until they were interrupted again.

"Hey, Lexie." she looked up to see Matt.

"Hey," she smiled back.

"Could I talk to you for a sec?" he asked.

"Sure." Lexie shrugged, standing. They walked outside into the warm California weather. "What's up?"

"I was just wondering if you're seeing anybody." Matt asked.

Lexie was surprised, to say the least. She barely knew Matt. wait a sec! Warning bells went off in her head. Was Matt interested in her? "Um. no, not right now."

"Oh, okay, I was just wondering." Matt shrugged; rubbing the back of his neck with one hand attached to a very muscular arm. His floppy brown hair fell into his brown eyes.

Lexie had to admit that Matt was pretty cute. But. she just wasn't interested in him in that way. "Okay." Lexie drew out softly when he didn't continue. "Are you doing something Friday night?" he asked finally.

Oh boy. he was interested. "Um, no." Lexie said in a small voice.

"Ryan and I were gonna double and I need someone to go with." Matt explained.

Well, this just about capped it off. Lexie would have to watch Ryan drool all over some girl while she made eyes at him. A freakin' love triangle! But. she couldn't refuse Matt; he already knew that she wasn't doing anything. "I'd love to go with you," she finally forced out with a smile.

"Really?" Matt's questioning face blossomed into a smile.

"Mm hmm." Lexie managed to choke.

"Cool. well, don't worry, I'll make this worthwhile." Matt smiled. "I'll need your number," she rattled it off and he wrote it on his hand. "I'll talk to you later."

"'Kay. Bye." Lexie replied, wondering if he could hear the weakness in her voice.

"Bye," he walked off. She walked back into the cafeteria behind him and watched him sit down next to Ryan. Matt said something then Ryan slapped his hand in casual handshake as if to say "thanks, man." Oh please. this was going to be one LONG date. Suddenly, Ryan looked up at Lexie. She was snagged. he smiled at her and turned back to his friends and Julia.

"What was THAT all about?" Vanessa asked eagerly.

"He wants me to double with him on Friday." Lexie mumbled.

"Hey, that's cool, Matt's a nice guy-" Vanessa began.

"He wants me to double with him and Ryan." Lexie interrupted pointedly.

Vanessa winced. "Ooh. well, Matt's a nice guy; at least he'll treat you good."

"Yeah. sure." Lexie mumbled. Vanessa put her arm around Lexie and squeezed her arm in a quick hug. Lexie managed a smile before Annie began the usual Gossip Patrol report.

Wednesday night, Lexie came home after going with the girls to Starbucks. "I'm home!" she yelled to her dad.

"Hey, honey," her dad replied from the couch. He and Laura were watching a movie but he paused it. "How was Starbucks?"

"Good." Lexie set down her keys on the kitchen table and shrugged out of her jacket.

"Hon, some guy named. Matt called; he wanted you to call him back. His number's over there, on the counter," her dad raised his eyebrows at her.

"Don't ask." Lexie warned, going to the phone and picking up the number off the counter. "I'll be in my room," she said dismissively, walking upstairs into her room. She flopped down on her bed and dialed Matt's number.

"Hello?" a girl answered.

"Hi, is Matt there?" Lexie replied automatically.

"He's not here right now, can I take a message?" the girl asked, clearly bored.

"Yeah, it's Lexie-" Lexie began.

"Oh, yeah, Lexie." she seemed to remember." Matt went out with a few of his friends, he told me to tell you to call Ryan Cromwell."

"Oh." Lexie really didn't really know what to say to that.

"His number's 237-5167," she rattled off.

Lexie scrawled it on a scrap piece of paper. "Thanks," they hung up.

Lexie worked up the nerve and dialed Ryan's number. "Hello?" another female voice answered the phone.

"Hi, is Ryan there?" Lexie asked.

"Can I ask whose calling?" the girl replied suspiciously.

"It's Lexie." Lexie rolled her eyes. Younger siblings ALWAYS wanted to know who was on the phone.

"Oh okay, I thought you were Julia, sorry." Lexie smirked. Maybe Ryan was avoiding Julia's calls.

Jealous much, Lexie? she asked herself.

"Let me get him," Ryan's sister said, then pulled away from the phone, and yelled, "RYAN!" Lexie winced and pulled her ear back a little.

"Hello?" another extension picked up, rock music playing in the background. Ryan sounded guarded but somewhat friendly.

"Um, hey, Ryan, it's Lexie." Lexie said as the first extension clicked hung up.

"Oh, hey!" Ryan replied cheerfully, the smile evident in his voice and the guarded tone gone from his voice. What was he so eager about?

"So um. I called Matt but his. she told me to call you." Lexie replied.

"Oh, yeah, Matt said he was going out tonight, you must have gotten his sister, Tonya." Ryan filled her in.

"I guess so." Lexie replied.

"So, Matt just wanted to tell you where we were going on Friday." Ryan explained smoothly.

"Okay." Lexie stared at her nails, flicking briefly at the dark blue polish.

"We're gonna hit up the Backbeat. I'm driving so. what's your address?" Ryan asked.

"5239 Pinecrest Street." Lexie replied automatically. She gave him directions to her house.

"Thanks Lexie, I'll be there around 7:30." Ryan said easily.

"Okay, bye." Lexie hung up with a sigh.