My phone binged Sunday night with a text from Skyler. Do you need a ride to school in the morning?
Ugh, I hadn’t thought of that. That would be extremely awkward to ride to school with my ex-boyfriend. I quickly sent a text back without considering the ramifications. Nah, I’m good. Thanks.
Crap, how was I going to get to school? Wake up early so my mom could drive me on her way to work? Not a fun option. A friend? I scrolled through my contacts, realizing how few people I interacted with since my boyfriend had been my whole world, and Jonnie had been second. Neither of them was an option.
Aiden! He was a friend. He’d said it himself. Without a second thought I typed him a quick message. Would you be able to pick me up for school in the morning? I seem to have misplaced my boyfriend.
He immediately sent me a laughing emoji. Then I saw the three dots indicating he was typing. I’d be happy to pick you up. 7:30 okay?
That would be perfect! Thank you! See you in the morning. Why was I so giddy to see Aiden? He was just a friend. Plus, I was not going to fall into a rebound relationship. I could live without a guy in my life. I would need to get a car… I could do that.
But at least for the next morning, I would ride with Aiden. I fell asleep with a smile on my face.
I was waiting by the window with my jacket and backpack already on, so Aiden didn’t have to turn off the car. He managed to park his truck and walk all the way around to open the door for me by the time I skipped down the porch steps.
“Your chariot, milady,” Aiden said, holding open the door to his rusty truck as if he were holding open the gate to a horse drawn carriage.
“Why, thank you, kind sir,” I said in my best Southern belle accent, taking the hand he offered to help me up into the cab. When he closed the door, the scent hit me. He was wearing cologne, and whatever fragrance he’d chosen was suddenly my new favorite. The last time I’d been in his truck he’d just come off the field from playing on the defensive line, and he didn’t smell nearly this good.
He climbed into the driver’s seat and clicked his seatbelt into place. “Mind if we swing into McDonald’s? I’m starving.”
“Didn’t you eat breakfast?” I asked.
“Yeah, but that was a long time ago.” Aiden turned his head and reached around back of my seat while backing out of my driveway.
“How early do you wake up?” I looked at the clock on the dashboard. 7:31 a.m.
“I try to make it to the batting cage by six.”
“Batting cage? It’s football season.”
“I have a confession.” Aiden leaned closer with a conspiratorial whisper. “I don’t really like football.”
“Me neither.” I put my hand to my heart. Were we flirting with each other? Maybe a little. I tried to remind myself that I was not going to have a rebound relationship. Absolutely not. Still, I was allowed to flirt with a cute guy without it becoming a relationship. I cleared my throat. “So, you’re really baseball player in shoulder pads.”
“Exactly! See, you get it.” He held up his hand for a fist bump.
With hesitation I reached up and bumped my knuckles against his like I was one of the guys. “What I don’t get is why you’re already in training for baseball season when that’s months away.”
“By the time the season starts, the recruiters will have already made their decisions,” Aiden said. “I want to be on that short list.”
“What college do you want to play for?” I asked.
“You mean, what major league baseball team do I want to play for?” He winked as he pulled up to the drive through window and my heart pounded with the realization of what he’d just said.
An older lady’s voice crackled over the speaker. “Welcome to McDonald’s. How can I help you?”
“Can I get two Egg McMuffins with hash browns and juice?” Aiden turned to me. “What are you hungry for?”
“I just had a bowl of cereal, like, twenty minutes ago. I think I’m good.”
“Suit yerself.” Aiden shrugged and turned back to the speaker. “That should do it.”
The lady gave him his total and he pulled forward to the window where he handed the her a ten-dollar bill. While we were waiting for his food, I decided to address the concerns I had for his future.
“Are you really planning to skip college?” I bit my lower lip, hoping I didn’t offend him.
“I dunno.” He shrugged. “We’ll see.” The lady at the next window passed Aiden his large orange juice and he shoved it into the cupholder between us, then grabbed the bag of food. He thanked the lady and pulled forward to exit the drive through lane.
“And you think you’re already good enough to play for the majors?” Again, hoping I didn’t offend him, I backtracked. “I mean, maybe you are, I’ve never seen you play.”
“Like I said, we’ll see.” He slipped one of the breakfast sandwiches out of its wrapper and drove with one hand while taking a huge bite. “Oh my gosh, this is so good. Are you sure you don’t want a bite?”
He spoke through a mouthful of food and held the sandwich out toward me. It did smell really good. “No, I’m totally not hungry. But thank you.”
Aiden was almost finished with his second Egg McMuffin by the time we pulled into the parking lot at the school. We were later than I usually arrived so when I saw Skyler’s black Ford Fusion in its usual spot I whimpered and turned my head.
“Hey, you okay?” Aiden asked in a soft voice.
“I’m fine.” My answer was curt, and my voice squeaked. “I just have to get used to the fact that I’ll probably never have a boyfriend again, because who’s gonna want me after my boyfriend cheated on me and dumped me in front of a stadium full of people?”
“You’re not gonna start crying again, are you?”
“You did just get a whole new stack of fast food napkins.” I held up the little pile that had come with his sandwiches, trying to laugh off the threat of tears.
“Well, then, have at it. Cry as long as you need. I’m here for ya, babe.” He shoved the last bite of his muffin into his mouth and I held up one of the napkins pretending like I was going to wipe my eyes, then I wiped the corner of his mouth and we both laughed lightly, breaking through the seriousness.
“I’ll try to get through my classes today, but keep those napkins handy, just in case,” I joked.
“They’ll be right here on the console, waiting for you this afternoon.” Aiden opened the driver’s side door and didn’t seem to register what he’d just said, but a little thrill ran through my spine. This afternoon. He was planning to give me a ride home too. I tried to hide a smile as I slid down from the cab of his truck.