The whole next day, my mind was overflowing with thoughts of my life, friendships, and love. I kept going over every single touch, kiss, and hug over and over again. Part of me thought Mike and I were moving too fast. But at the same time it felt right, like we were always supposed to be together in a romantic sense. I felt more comfortable than I did with anyone else in my life. Still... maybe it was because it was so new; maybe it was because it had happened so fast, but I felt like I was on a merry-go-round that wouldn't stop spinning faster and faster.
That day, that Thursday, I decided-after trying on all my cutest clothes- to wear my new sundress I'd bought with my birthday money to Danielle's party. I could still hardly believe I was going. But it was something new, and I was definitely at a point in my life where I needed new experiences. Mike was proof of that. My outlook on a lot of things had been changing for a while, and it seemed like all of a sudden there was an entire new world opening up to me. I liked that feeling. I liked it a lot.
So anyway, after deciding to wear the sundress to the party, I decided that I needed a new swimsuit to wear to the pool portion of the party. Everything I had was old, and I didn't want to show up at a party with all the most popular kids in my class wearing a swimsuit from 4 years ago. I still had a little bit of birthday money left as well as some in my personal allowance stash, so I grabbed what cash I had, hopped in the truck, and went to the mall. I parked, locked the truck, and went inside, heading for a store called Grit. Grit was a very trendy store that sold a lot of clothes geared toward the more fashion-forward teens and young adults. But they also had an awesome swimsuit section, which was where I knew I'd find something that would be trendy and cute enough to impress even the snobbiest of Danielle's group. I walked into the store and found the swim section. There seems to be miles upon miles of brightly colored bikinis and tank suits. I looked them over, searching for something that wouldn't show too much skin; it seemed I was going to be hard-pressed to find something with that description. As I was looking, I heard a deep voice in my ear. "I think you should try on that blue one with the white beads hanging off the waist." I turned and there, standing less than a foot from me, was Jake Henson. His brown eyes sparkled as he winked and grinned. "Hey Mandy... What's up?" I laughed nervously and put my hand over my heart. "Jake, you scared me! Do you, like, live at the mall or something?" I laughed and he arched a brow, his grin still on his beautiful lips. "I could ask you the same thing! You gonna buy a new suit today?" I nodded and glanced over my shoulder at the suits, then back at Jake. "I got invited to Danielle's tomorrow... My old suit is a little too small" (I fibbed slightly!) "so I had to come find something that will fit." He nodded and pointed. "Yeah? Well like I said, you should try that one on. I bet it would look good." I followed his gaze to see the skimpiest bikini I'd ever seen. It was turquoise blue, with strings that tied at the hipbones. The strings were decorated with little white beads, and there was a single white hibiscus on the left triangle of the top. And speaking of the top, it looked like it would only cover enough of my boobs so that I wasn't technically topless. I blushed to match a bright pink bikini right behind me and Jake laughed. "What you blushin' for, Barrett? You could pull it off!" He winked again and I got the distinct impression he was enjoying watching me squirm. I laughed nervously and shook my head. "No way! I could probably fit into it, but it wouldn't cover anything!" He nodded and looked over me slowly. "That's the point." I felt my jaw drop and my face flush hotter. I was sure it wasn't my imagination now. What in the world was Jake Henson doing flirting with me? And why? I sputtered. "J-j-jake, aren't you going? I mean, I thought you and Danielle were-" "Over?" Jake cut me off. "She dumped me for a dude from Richland." I covered my mouth and gasped lightly. I felt like an idiot. "Oh... I didn't know. I'm sorry!" "Nah, don't be. She isn't, so you shouldn't be either. And I'm not anymore." He winked again and I felt like I might fall over at any moment. He went on and I hung on his every word. "I'll be there, though. You know me and Dani... We turn off and on faster than a lightswitch. We can be friends. It's cool. But she better not get mad if I happen to find myself someone else to cuddle up with at the bonfire." He grinned slowly and I grinned back. I suddenly wished I wasn't so shy. I had a million flirty comments I wanted to say to him, but two things stopped me: my shyness, and Mike. I suddenly wished I had never told Mike about the party. And then I wondered what it meant that I wished that. Jake looked back to the blue bikini. "Seriously, Mandy... You oughtta at least try that one on. I bet you'd kill in it." He winked and gave a little wave. "See you tomorrow, 'kay?" I just nodded, 'cause my tongue was tied in a knot. He smiled and turned and walked out of the store.
After I was sure I wouldn't lose my balance or pass out, I turned back to the rack. I looked around until I finally found a few swimsuits I thought might work. I took them into the dressing room and undressed. The first was a purple and green retro-print tank. It was okay, but I didn't love it; it made my torso look squashed. The second was a pink, blue, and white striped bikini. It was very flattering to my skintone and my figure, and I liked it a lot. The halter top was gathered in the center and the bottom was a boy short bottom, so it was trendy without being too flashy for me. The third was a bright yellow bikini with an orange happy-face sun decorating the bottom and one triangle of the top. It was very cute, but it made me look even paler than normal, so that one was out. The fourth was one I shouldn't have even considered, but couldn't help myself: the blue bikini that Jake had picked. I put it on and saw that I was right about everything. It barely covered my full breasts and the bottom was just big enough to cover my privates. But still... it looked great on me. I turned sideways and loved how the little ties made me look like I had a little more curve to my hips. It was very, very cute on but I couldn't bring myself to walk out of the dressing room with it on, much less wear it in front of a bunch of people who could make me feel self-concious just by looking at me, nevermind if I was wearing something that showed 98% of my skin. I laughed softly as I slipped it off and put it back on the hanger. As I dressed myself, I decided on the pink, blue, and white striped bikini. It was flattering and I liked it, and it covered me enough so that I wouldn't feel like I was too exposed, so that was good. After I redressed, I grabbed the striped bikini and went to the salesgirl to pay. I pulled out my pocketbook slowly; I was still reeling from Jake's flirtacious attitude. I paid for the swimsuit and walked out of the store in a daze.
I wandered around the mall for a little while, then went home. I straightened up the kitchen and living room, then went to the computer to check my emails. As I was logging off, the phone rang. I hurriedly closed my windows out and then ran to answer. "Hello?" I asked breathily. "Hey stranger!" Hayley gigglied a little and I smiled. "Hey, what's up?" "Not a lot," she said slowly. "I haven't heard from you in a day or so and thought I'd call and find out what happened with Mike?" I laughed softly and sat on a kitchen stool. I told Hayley everything, down to Mike's soft touches and hugs, and my whirlwind of thoughts about it all. And then I messed up. I mentioned that Mike and I were going on our first "date" to Danielle's party.
I could almost hear Hayley's teeth grinding together. She spoke through clenched teeth and spoke slowly. "So.... you and Mike....are going to skip Bro. Rich's and go to Danielle Pembroke's house for a pool party and bonfire?" She was breathing heavily and I felt my jaw drop. I could hear the venom in her voice and could hardly believe she was this mad over something so stupid. "Um, yeah... Danielle talked to me on Yahoo the other day and-" Hayley cut me off. She was freaking out and I wasn't entirely sure why. "So you're what, like, besties or something now? You're gonna start having sleepovers with her and Katie and Sarah and, like, braid each other's hair as they talk about giving their boyfriends bj's or something? You are UNREAL, Amanda!" I sputtered. "What in the world is your problem? My God, Hayley, you're acting like I'm leaving you in the dust or something! It's one freakin' party!" Hayley yelled back at me, her voice shaking. "You ARE leaving me in the dust, Amanda! God, in one week you've started wearing makeup, started dating Mike, and started hanging out at parties with the popular girls who all hate me. FINE! If you love your new life so much just leave me alone!" She slammed her phone down and I sat on the stool in shock until the phone started blaring that annoying, loud beeping noise. I hung up the cordless and laid it on the bar, wondering what had just happened. I glanced at my reflection in the microwave door and wondered if I had really changed that much since school had let out. I decided I had not. Just because a lot had happened to me in a week did not mean that I was a different person.