Dreamboat Jack Moore winked at her. Shocked, Madison tripped and spilled her books, causing a mini-traffic jam in the hall in-between class. She could be such an ignoramus! No grace, no style, just a bumbling too-tall lummox.
She knelt to retrieve her books and for the millionth time wished she inherited Momma's classy grace. Socially inept and friendless—unless she counted Mr. Syler her foreign language teacher who praised her talent for tongues—she dreamed of being someone special, someone worthy of someone dreamy like Jack Moore the football star.
In this small, hick town Jack Moore rivaled the fame of the Messiah. An all-around star athlete, he played almost every sport. As the football quarterback, he threw touchdown after touchdown and they won a 6-A Championship. Now with basketball underway, and the high scorer for every game, he touted basket making fame. High-aspirations set on his shoulders and town folks predicted Jack Moore would lead the basketball team to a Championship as well. If he succeeded, he would become a local legend.
Local celebrities don't wink at graceless fools like you. He winked at someone else, someone with more class, she reminded herself.
No other explanation could account for his wink. It'd been her bad luck to catch his eye when he executed the move. How foolish of her to think he would be interested in her.
"Let me help," a deep voice said and Madison peeked up, fervently praying Jack Moore didn't hang around to witness her gawkiness.
Just her luck, he did!
Jack Moore held one of her notebooks toward her. This up close, she noticed his eyes weren't just a syrupy shade of brown, but sparkled with green and gold flecks. As she took the notebook from him, he gave her a small smile.
"Thank you," she muttered, growing hot and her belly jittery by his nearness and his direct stare.
"Yeah," he said with a shrug.
Madison quickly lowered her eyes and stacked books. A nameless shoe kicked one of her books. It struck her heel and, unbalanced, she toppled, sprawling on the floor with all the grace of a newborn foal.
"Watch it!" Jack Moore yelled at the book-bombing-offender as the late bell rang for class.
Great, just great! She'd be late for Math. If Daddy found out, he'd clobber her.
Like a good southern gentleman, he took her arm and helped her to her feet. "Some people have no manners," he said by way of apology, as if he could be held responsible for her clumsiness.
Madison fiddled with her hair, a nervous tick she couldn't control. "MmmHmm, thanks for your help. I gotta get to class."
"Wait!" He still clutched her arm, so she wasn't going anywhere fast. She wrapped her hair tighter around her finger and his gaze was drawn to her reaction. He swallowed fast, and his voice cracked on his first syllable. Madison smiled inside, glad he wasn't as perfect as she originally thought. He cleared his throat and asked, "You wanna skip class and go get a milkshake, Madison?"
He knew her name?!?!
Only if the apocalypse started today would she have been more stunned! Not only did football/basketball star Jack Moore know her name, he wanted to skip school with her? Didn't that go against every social edict in effect? Not to mention he could be suspended from a game for skipping school? The town would be displeased if that happened.
"With you?" She groaned silently and mentally kicked herself. Couldn't she have come up with something more intelligent than the obvious?
Jack Moore chuckled. "Yeah, with me, unless you've got a jealous boyfriend already."
He lifted his hand toward her face and then halted as if he thought better of whatever he planned to do. Awkward silence tore between them as he lowered his hand.
"I'm a sophomore." More obvious statements, Madison!
He grinned. "Yeah, so?"
"So you're a senior." And the last time she checked, seniors didn't hang out with sophomores. Especially no account sophomores like her.
"I didn't think sophomores and seniors socialized." She pulled her books to her body, a defensive mechanism to protect herself, another nervous tick of hers, more proof she wasn't socially glib like Momma.
He leaned toward her as if he would impart a grave secret and his voice dropped to a husky tenor, "Who says we can't break the rules?"
Daddy said she couldn't break the rules. But Daddy also said she was a sinner and her soul was damned to burn. Sounded like there was no hope for her either way and trying to be good and failing repeatedly grew old.
"My Daddy wouldn't approve."
"You always a good girl, Madison?"
Depended upon whom he asked, but she managed to bite her tongue before the words slipped out. Daddy would say she was the whore of Sodom and Gomorrah. Momma thought she was a good girl, but the way Momma said it made it sound unfavorable. Madison didn't know what to think. She just wanted to escape home and sanctimonious Daddy prison.
"No, not always," she heard herself say as if she were outside herself listening in, because, Dear God, she sounded like Momma! Her voice low and raspy, sultry and provocative, and so unlike herself! So not the way a good girl sounded.
His grin deepened. "What's your favorite flavor?" he asked and plucked her books from her arm, assuming just like that she was ready and willing to skip school with the town celebrity. And as if she was ready and willing to walk on the wild side of life and disobey Daddy. "Strawberry is my favorite."
"Chocolate," she said a touch breathless and let him lead her astray, her heart thumping wildly in her chest.