The thundering feet pounded all the way to her closed door. "Becky? You in there?" Junior was bellowing through the door like it was ten inches thick and made of steel. With a roll of her eyes and a sigh, she opened the door. What greeted her eyes was not what she expected to find. Junior was indeed there, but so was Spike. Both were sweaty, smeared with dirt and grass, and still in full gear. They had apparently run there straight from practice.
Remembering her still wet hair, blue plaid pajama pants, and frumpy white t-shirt, which actually belonged to Junior, her face began to burn. "H-hi!" she greeted, her voice devastatingly squeaky. She started wishing the floor would turn carnivorous and swallow her whole. Both boys only looked at her like she'd lost her mind.
Junior reached out a hand and felt her forehead. "Well… you are a bit on the warm side. Should I call your dad?"
Spikes gave her that same studying look he gave her at practice. "We went to the trainer when you didn't come back to practice. He said you were fine but he didn't know where you were."
"I am fine. Really, I was just sleeping. I'm gonna go, uh…dry my hair! So, I'll see you guys in a bit, k?" Without waiting for a response, she shut the door and collapsed on her bed. Deciding honesty was the best policy, not to mention they may still be standing in the hallway, she picked up the hair dryer her cousin gave to her this past Christmas.
Ten minutes later, she stood staring at herself in the mirror. Her hair dry and acceptable now, she felt compelled to do more. While she didn't smear mud all over her face and call it make-up, she did have some lip gloss and mascara. Anything else was too much for her. Besides, it took her a month to stop stabbing herself in the eye with the mascara brush, and she didn't have the motivation for further experimentation.
After putting on a pair of jean shorts and a black tank top, she took a deep breath, opened her door, and walked down to the living room. Junior was there, showered, dressed, and eating a pudding cup in front of the TV. "So, how long have you had a thing for Spike?"
Just like that, Becky froze like a deer in headlights on her way to the kitchen. "W-what? Where did that come from? I don't know what you're talking about. I think you've gotten too much sun."
"Huh… Well, mom and Danny are gonna be home late. They've gone over to Merryton for a night out on the town; dinner and a movie or whatever. I thought we could go down to the diner and get something to eat."
"Good, maybe something other than pudding will make your brain work again." She was hoping her sarcasm would cover up her nerves. At least she wasn't blushing.
"I asked Spike if he wanted to come and he said he'd be here at 7:30." With that bit of information added, the dreaded blush returned. Her eyes darted to the clock on the VCR, it was 7:25. "Yeah, that's what I thought, liar."
"How did you find out? I haven't told anybody."
"Becky, how many girlfriends have I had in the past two years?"
"Too many to count."
"That's exactly why I know. They looked at me the way you look at Spike. Well, actually, you look a bit more like a panicked rabbit than they did; but it's generally the same look."
"Are you gonna tell him?" she said with the wariest of looks on her face.
"No, that's your job. I might help it along, though."
"I can't tell him! He'll think I've lost my mind!"
"So you're cute and stupid when you truly like somebody. I've always known you were blind to it. Maybe now you'll sit up and take notice."
"What am I blind to? Take notice of what? What the hell are you talking about?"
Unfortunately, Becky didn't get her answers. As she got these words out, the doorbell rang. Becky's cheeks turned impossibly redder as her chocolate eyes darted between Junior and the door holding out the apparent object of her affection. Juniors only reaction was to sit back and grin. "Go on," he said. "Let him in."
Trying to swallow the knot in her throat, Becky opened the door with trembling hands. There stood Spike, hair perfectly gelled, wearing a fitted gray t-shirt, khaki shorts, and a grin. "Hey."
"So… are you all ready to go?"
At that she looked at Junior, who was trying to hide the fact that he was laughing and failing miserably. "Yeah, I think we're ready. Are you ready, Ice Box?" The only answer he got for his cheek was a withering glare before Becky stomped out the door. This earned a questioning look from Spike to Junior who only shrugged.
The seemingly endless twenty minute walk from their house to the local diner consisted of Becky walking twenty feet ahead of the boys. The whole way Becky's back and neck felt like they were on fire. Though she could hear them chatting amiably, Spike gently prodding Junior for the reason behind the Ice Box's frosty demeanor, she couldn't help but feel she was being visually judged from behind.
At first she tried to add a gentle sway to her hips like the models on TV, but she was afraid it looked like she was waddling so that stopped quickly. She all but ran through the diner door and sat down in a booth. The time it took the boys to catch up gave her a blessed forty-five second break to calm the nerves crawling up and down her spine.
Just as her breathing returned to normal, the bell at the door tinkled and the boys approached her chosen table. Junior slid into the seat across from her, leaving only enough room to clarify to Spike that he could sit there if he wanted, but Junior would prefer to sit on that side alone. In her haste to get away from her imagined judgment, Becky had thrown herself all the way across the booth's bench seat. As anyone would, Spike saw this as an easy invitation and slid in next to her.
Oh my god oh my god oh my god… was the only clear thought left in her brain. All other thought was left behind as his scent overwhelmed her. This time there wasn't a hint of sweat or grass, only that base of spices she couldn't name and soap. Becky was so lost in it, she felt like she was drowning and never wanted to come up for air.
That is, until her eyes landed on Junior's smirk. At this she came back to the present, her eyes shooting to Spike to see if he'd noticed her dazed moment. If he had, he gave no indication.The oblivious object of her affection was studying the menu they all knew by heart like he'd never been to the diner before.
The waitress came to the table, scanning their faces with an unimpressed air, and took their order. As usual, they got the usual: burgers, fries, and chocolate shakes all around. They sat in silence, no one willing to start the conversation but not against having one. Then, all hell broke loose for Becky. She could have exploded there on the spot.
"Hey, Spike," started Junior. "Are you going to the party tomorrow?"
"What? The one Hot Hands is having? Yeah, I guess. Why?"
"Well, I was just wondering if you were taking a date."
Becky's eyes shot to Junior's face, and if it were possible, she would have melted a hole right through the middle of it. Then her eyes ran to Spike's face, positively pleading for a negative response, while trying to maintain a neutral expression.
"I dunno. I wasn't planning on it. Are we supposed to? Maggie Simon's been trying to get me to go with her for the past week. I just haven't given her an answer yet."
"Maggie Simon! You can't go with her!" It shot out of her mouth before she could stop it. After she said it, she hated herself. With an outburst like that, he was sure to ask…
"Why? What's wrong with her?"
Shit. "Uh… Well, didn't Tommy just break up with her? He told me she was way too controlling and clingy. She's totally on the rebound looking for a new pet to push around." Whew, close save.
"Good point. No, then, I'm not taking a date."
"Hot Hands told me this morning everybody should try to get one. What about you Beck? Do you have a date?"
Shit! What kind of game is he playing? "Uh, no, I guess I don't." Becky felt the evil blush creep across her face and spread down her neck as she answered. She didn't know if she was embarrassed because she didn't have one or because she could guess where this was going.
"Everyone I know that's going has a date. Zoltech's going with Becky Webster, Tad with Tonya Wages, and Billy with Hazel Sharp; the whole team has dates. I'd hate for you guys to show up and be the only ones flying solo."
By now, Becky didn't know if she should pass out and hope to never wake up or vault the table to kill Junior first. "I don't even know that I'm going."
"What do you mean?" Spike was looking at her seriously now. "Why wouldn't you go?"
"It's for the football team, right?" It just hit her that Becky hadn't told the boys about her decision yet. "Well, I'm not on the football team."
"What! What are you talking about? Coach told Danny and your Uncle Kevin he was taking all of the Giants for the freshman team! Did he say something to you?" Junior was obviously not taking this as easily as she hoped he would.
"No, it's not the coach. I decided today that I'm going to play soccer instead." At this, she stopped Junior with a hand as he was about to explode. "I have my reasons for not playing, and as much as I love football, it's time I accept the fact that I am a girl. I will not be playing on the freshman or any other team. I'll still come to the games and cheer, throw the ball around with you guys, watch games on TV, and play in some games in the park just for fun. I'm still me and I'm not going anywhere."
Junior was sitting, dumbstruck into silence, staring at her like she was an alien creature. "Are you sure this is what you want to do?" Spike had finally spoken up.
"Yeah, I am. Soccer is kind of like football and basketball mixed with feet instead of hands. It'll take getting used to and practice, but it'll still be fun."
"What about tomorrow night? Are you just going to sit at home by yourself? I mean, just because you're not on the football team anymore doesn't mean you can't go. Hot Hands won't care. This way you can break it to the whole team."
"I don't want to risk the embarrassment. You know Hot Hands' head fits the nickname too. He might freak out and make me leave."
"Not if you're my date." Spike's eyes were glued to the table top in front of him like it was the most interesting thing he'd ever seen. His ears were tipped in red and he showed no signs of looking at anyone. "And if you want, me and Junior can go ahead and tell them tomorrow at practice so they'll have time to get over it before the party. That way, you won't have to worry about it."
Becky's heart was in her throat and she was mystified by the half of Spike's face she could see. "Okay."
"Which part?" Junior asked.
"Both. I'll go as Spike's date and I'd appreciate it if you guys gave the team the heads up." Her eyes never left Spike's face which was still stuck facing the tabletop.
"Oh, crap." Both looked at Junior. "To think, I was dreading the drills tomorrow."
The tension was broken, the food arrived and plans were made. Spike would come over at 6:30 and the three of them would walk over to Oak Street to pick up Nina Blackburn, Junior's date and girlfriend of one week. After that, there was no way of knowing what would happen until practice the next day. They decided if the team took it too hard, all four would skip the party and see a movie. "What if Nina doesn't want to see a movie and gets mad that we're not going?" Becky asked.
"Don't worry; she's been dying to see the Devil Prods, or something like that. It can't be that bad. It sounds like a stupid horror movie. The worst case is we'll get a good laugh out of it."
They all finished eating, paid, and walked the three blocks back to the O'Shea house. They stopped when they got to the driveway. "So, I'll see you guys tomorrow."
"Don't forget we have practice at 9:00. Don't be late or it's five extra laps for the whole team."
"What are you going to do tomorrow while we're at practice, Beck?" Spike looked a bit concerned.
"Soccer tryouts are tomorrow at 9:30. That'll keep me occupied enough."
Goodbyes were said, and the step siblings headed for the house. No sooner had the door clicked behind them and Becky punched Junior in the arm.
Grabbing the victimized arm, Junior roared, "What the hell was that for!"
"What the hell did you have to call me out like for in front of Spike?" Becky yelled back.
"It worked didn't it!"
"Lucky for you it did!" With that said, she half-deflated with nothing else to be angry about. "So, thanks, I guess," she said curtly.
"You're welcome," he grumbled, still eyeing her, nervous she would swing again.
The step siblings bid their goodnights and entered their respective bedroom doors. Junior went congratulating himself on a nicely-executed scheme. While Becky went with both elation and trepidation over tomorrow, she was also left battling through the conflict over whether or not she should hate Junior or be forever grateful.
Would everything go okay tomorrow? She finally settled that her future treatment of Junior would all depend on how the party ended the next night. It seemed fair enough for her, and let her mind rest just enough so that she could spend the rest of the night falling into the sweetest dreams of her "date" the next day and hellish nightmares over the possible backfire that still loomed in the plan.
A/N: I am SO sorry this took so long to put up. Since it took almost a month for me to get the category approved, I sort of lost my groove. This has also been the busiest summer of my entire life. I hope the chapter lives up to everyone's expectations. Next time on Changes: Chapter Two: The Party
Special Thanks to my reviewers: Elizabeth Patil (you were my first reviewer EVER), LosingTrack, HermioneandMarcus (great pairing), supergirl-776, drummerchickk, antiIRONY (awesome name), Pappy's Girl, ra1n, Yumi Stern, LoNeR2008, BeCk44, ne-ma-pa-sa-ra (I totally don't get your name but it's cool anyway), xHappyHardcorex, loveRHINO, IAmTheBattleMaiden, and taste of fire (thank you for understanding, but I do plan to finish it -). You guys rocked my socks off with your great reviews. I can't thank you guys enough for your patience with me. Without you, I never would have done this chapter or decided to continue. I promise to produce a new chapter as soon as I can, that is if you still want me to continue. Thanks.