Chapter 5: Answered Questions & The Aftermath

Rockett's sneakers pounded so loudly on the pavement, the sound could be heard all the way from the next neighborhood over. As she raced home, she started to worry, knowing she could not beat the clock. Her parents were probably going to be furious with her by the time she got back, and she'd be banned from ever going on any future maybe-dates with Ruben or anyone else for the rest of her life. Life was unfair.

Rockett hadn't purposely pushed her curfew though; the fact was, she had been having such a great time with Ruben that she didn't even notice the clock.

Rockett's pace slowed down just a bit, as she started getting lost in her thoughts.

It was true, time had passed so crazy-fast when she was at the party...with Ruben. Actually, come to think of it, time always passed quickly when the two of them were hanging out. Was that what being in love was like? Just as quickly as it entered her mind, Rockett pushed the thought out. Nope, she was definitely not in love. Juno had told her earlier that it was 'perfectly normal for girls her age to think that.' But as far as Juno was concerned, it wasn't possible, at least not yet.

Well, Rockett may not be in love-mode, but she was definitely in 'like-mode'. And now she was feeling worse than ever. She totally liked Ruben, no question about it. But now she'd probably never find out what he thought of her, and she probably would have if she would've just stayed at the party. It was one of those angel on one shoulder, devil on the other moments. For now, Rockett had to just keep her head cool and go in with her decisions. She was already heading home, almost there, and she wasn't about to turn around and go back to the party.

Now on her doorstep, Rockett bent down, scooped up the house key from under the welcome mat, and inserted it. She tried to turn the key as quietly as possible, as she slowly turned the knob.

Rockett sighed. Why was she stalling? Her parents were obviously right behind the door, just waiting to bust her. Finally, Rockett turned the knob completely, opened the door, and stepped inside.

Rockett's dad was sitting at the kitchen table as she walked in.

He seemed to be looking over some lab work. When, he heard her come in, he glanced up.

"Dad," Rockett began. "Before you say anything, I just wanted to let you know that I'm really sorry about coming home so late. I-"

"I know," her father said, nodding. "I know. I got a phone call about ten minutes ago. Some Ruben fellow. Very nice, that boy. Anyway, he told me all about it, and that it was 'all his fault.'"

"Really? Ruben called?" Rockett asked.

"He sure did. He also told me that you were worried about getting home on time."

"Yeah, that part's definitely true," Rockett smilingly agreed.

"Well, I appreciate you trying to make it home on time. I know what it's like to get so wrapped up in a fun event that you don't even notice the time. Believe me, it happens a lot in the laboratory. And hey, when Juno was your age, we were lucky to even receive a phone call from her, let alone find out she'd be extending her curfew - which happened often, might I add."

"Really? Juno?" Rockett asked. She couldn't imagine her perfect sister ever doing anything that would ever, in the slightest bit, upset her parents. "I'm sorry, Dad," Rockett continued. "I shouldn't have gotten carried away, and I should have called. I know you're not mad, but still. I feel like I wasn't responsible."

"Oh, no?" her father asked. "You were responsible when you noticed the time, you were responsible when you tried to come home on time, and you're responsible even now for taking responsibility for your actions."

Rockett giggled, and so did her father. "Don't get to use that word that much anymore," he replied with a wink.

"Clearly," laughed Rockett. "So where's mom? I figured she'd at least wait up for me."

"Ah, no, are you kidding? She's resting up to hear all about your night tomorrow morning. I, of course want to hear all about it too, but it's getting pretty late. Time to blast off to bed, Rockett," her dad teased.

"Ohh, Dad. Okay well, good night!"

"Good night, Rockett. I love you."

"I love you, too," she whispered from the staircase.

Although Rockett had planned to talk to Meg after the party, she knew her bff was already in bed. But Rockett herself was far from tired. She walked over to her computer, turned on the monitor, and logged into her email. Meg might not be up right now, but maybe Jessie was already back from the party, and maybe she'd be online.

Rockett searched the IM windows to see if anybody was up. But not a single window was lit - which meant no one was online. Rockett sighed, but just as she was about to log off, her eyes became glued to a message in her inbox. A message that hadn't been opened yet. It was from Ruben! She immediately double clicked.

"Hey, come outside!"

Come outside? What was Ruben talking about? There was only one way to find out. Luckily, Rockett was still in her party clothes, so she didn't have to change. She raced as quickly and quietly as one can while trying not to wake up sleeping parents and siblings.

Rockett found the knob on her front door, gave it a turn, and slipped outside.

"Ruben?" she asked. "What are you do-"

"Well, I knew I couldn't just come up here and ring the doorbell...did you get my message?" Ruben asked shyly.

"Yes, of course," Rockett laughed. Why do you think I'm out here?"

Ruben laughed too. "Okay, good. I knew you had to be home, but I wasn't quite ready for you to leave the party."

Rockett found herself asking the bold question: "What do you mean?"

"Well-" Ruben hedged, leading Rockett to the bench on her family's doorstep. They both sat down. Rockett noticed something in his hands. It looked like a wrapped dish, although it was on a confetti paper plate. Ruben noticed her staring. "Oh! I brought you back the cake you missed. I haven't tried it yet, but I heard it was awesome from Carlo and his friends."

"Oh," said Rockett, taking the dish. "Thank you, Ruben." Ruben smiled, then cleared his throat. Finally, he turned around to face her.

"Look, Rockett, I gotta be honest with you. And I feel really bad for doing this, and I hope you're not mad at me but, about tonight, Max knew..."

"About what?" Rockett inquired.

"About the fake-date rule," Ruben said. "The truth is...I really like you, Rockett. And I wanted to tell you, but I didn't know how. So I asked Max what to do about it, and he suggested I take you out on a date. But then I didn't know how to ask you out, so Max suggested that I make up a "date rule" to get you to come to my brother's party. I'm really sorry. I-"

"Ohmigosh, Ruben, you like me?" Rockett exclaimed. "I like you, too! And I'm so glad you asked me on that date! To tell you the truth, I spent a lot of time just trying to figure out if it was a date," she told him.

"Really?" Ruben asked. "Man! I was worried you thought it wasn't a date at all, after I'd said all that stuff about just going 'as friends.' By the way, I'm really sorry about that, too. Didn't want to scare you off."

"Ohh, Ruben, don't worry about anything! I had a great time, and having to leave early was the worst thing I've ever had to do," Rockett said.

"It actually wasn't early, so you still got to stay for just about everything!"

"Even the cake," Rockett smiled.

Ruben smiled back.

Rockett took a deep breath. It'd take some nerve, but she'd just have to ask him. She'd be wondering all night, anyway.

"...So, what about the song? Did Max write the song, too?"

"'New Girl?'" asked Ruben. He scoffed. "No way. Only I can call you 'new girl.'"

"So, you mean, you did write it for me?"

"Yeah!" exclaimed Ruben. "But not recently. I wrote it around the time school first started up."

"Wow, really?" asked Rockett.

"Really," Ruben answered.

Beep-beep!

Ruben and Rockett whirled around. Olivia was at the front of the driveway, and had just given a light honk, warning Ruben that his time was running out.

"Aw, man. Gotta go, Rockett," he said, standing up. "But listen, I really hope you forgive me. I wasn't trying to manipulate you or anything, I just really wanted to go out with you."

"Trust me," Rockett replied, smiling. "I'm not mad at all."

Beep-beep!

"Oh!" Ruben said, turning around again. "Olivia's definitely ready to go home.

"Yeah, I think she is...well, bye Ruben! Thanks again for everything."

Ruben smiled. "You bet."

Their eyes locked for a moment, and then, everything was quiet. Olivia even eased up on her honking. And, before she could honk again, Ruben leaned over and gave Rockett a kiss.

"Buenas noches, new girl."