"Thank you so much," Rae said, looking at all of them. "I didn't think he would follow me here."
"Who was that guy?" asked AJ. They all looked at Rae.
"Let's talk to her somewhere else. How about your hotelroom?" Brian suggested, looking at Rae questioningly.
"No. My friend Scott is there and he's practically best friends with.... that guy," Rae said. "He'll be there.... waiting for me."
"Why not take her back to the apartment?" Howie suggested.
"I don't know...." Kevin hesitated.
"Come on, Cuz," Brian said. "She's obviously afraid of the guy. And from what we've just seen, she has a right to be."
"Look, guys," Rae said, loudly. "I can call my friend Scott from wherever it is you take me. I'll tell him I'm all right, so he won't worry. And I won't tell him where I am, so you won't have any problems." Raelene looked Kevin in the eyes, pleading with him silently. Kevin looked down at Raelene and gave in.
"Alright. She can come," Kevin said.
"Thank you!" Rae exclaimed, gratefully. She ran toward Kevin, threw her arms around him, and hugged him. Kevin hugged her back.
'Man, her hair is soft,' Kevin thought, running his hand down Rae's hair.
"Let's go, everybody," AJ said. "We'll make a sleepover of the night."
"Good idea," Nick said. "I'll call my mom from the apartment."
"You stayed last night, Nick. You sure your mom won't mind?" Brian looked at Nick.
"I told her I might stay out here tonight, anyway," Nick said. "She's waiting for my call right now."
"If you say so."
Everyone walked towards Brian's jeep and Kevin's car. Brian and AJ rode together in the jeep, while Kevin and Howie took the driver and passenger seat in the front, which left the backseat to Nick and Rae.
They talked about music, movies, video games. When Nick told Rae how much he loved video games, she started laughing. That caused Nick to pout, pretending to be hurt. That made Rae laugh even more. Finally, Nick started laughing with her. Kevin looked at them in the rearview mirror and saw Rae laughing.
'It's hard to believe she's as young as she is,' Kevin thought. 'Young, carefree, and beautiful.' That thought snuck into his mind. 'I can't think things like that.'
"Kevin, you in there?" Howie said, waving a hand in front of Kevin's face.
"Yeah, sorry, man. What did you say?"
"Nick and Raelene want to know if you could stop at the store. They want to get something to drink."
"Yeah, sure. I'll stop at that gas station up the street. I need to get gas, anyway."
Kevin pulled into a gas station a few minutes later. Nick and Raelene walked inside, holding hands. Kevin watched as they walked to the back of the store where the drinks were kept. Nick whispered something in Rae's ear and she laughed.
"You've been spacing out lately," Howie said. "What are you looking at? Or should I say 'who'?"
"She just reminds me of Beth, that's all," said Kevin, not even looking at Howie.
"Weird, isn't it? Raelene kind of acts like her. But what really freaks me out is that she kind of looks like Beth, too."
"Like I said, it's weird. When I first saw her, I thought my mind was playing tricks on me. But then, I looked at an old picture of her and they looked so similar."
"That is weird. Is that why you keep staring at Raelene? Not just you think she's pretty?"
"Howie, the girl is ten years younger than me."
"So? Like AJ said, 'Age is just a number' and age definitely has nothing to do with beauty. I think's she's beautiful."
"Alright. I think she's beautiful, but that's as far as it goes."
"Thanks for the compliment, guys," Raelene said from behind them. Nick patted them both on the shoulder, smiling. They walked up to the counter with their food, drinks and candy, to pay. After paying, they walked to the car and got inside.
A few mintues later, they were at the apartment complex. Nick and Rae raced to the top of the stairs, then ran inside the apartment. Howie and Kevin took their time getting to the apartment. When they got inside, they saw Brian, Nick, and AJ wrestling on the floor.
"Okay, what are we fighting for?" Howie asked.
"Raelene!" they all yelled. Howie looked at Raelene, who was trying hard not to blush. Howie started laughing.
"Come on, guys, it's time to talk," Kevin said, seriously.
Brian, Nick, and AJ stopped wrestling and got up off the floor. Raelene sat down on the couch. Nick sat on her left, while Brian sat on her right. Kevin, Howie, and AJ sat on the other couch, facing them.
"So, is it time to play '20 Questions' and get to know me at the same time?" Rae asked, looking around.
"Let's start with the basics like.... where you're from, about your family. You know, stuff like that," AJ said.
"Okay," Rae said. It was kind of weird having five sets of eyes on her when she talked.
"I'm from Barstow, California. As I've already told Nick, I'm eleven going on twelve. And if you're as close as Nick told me you are, you already knew that." All of them nodded.
"Well, I'm the youngest and only girl in my family. I have a thirteen going on fourteen year old brother named Phillip, a twenty-two going on twenty-three year old brother named Gabriel, and a twenty-four going on twenty-five year old brother named Michael. Phil lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Gabriel lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Michael lives in Barstow not too far from me. I'm Native American, Mexican, and Spanish, and I want to work in the music business or computer technology when I get older."
"What kind of Indian are you?" Howie asked, interested.
"I'm Acoma-Laguna, Roadrunner clan," Rae said, with a smile.
"Hey, that's cool," said Nick.
"What grade are you in?" asked AJ.
"And you're eleven?" Kevin looked astonished.
"Yeah. I started school when I was four. It's kind of funny. Michael graduated class of '86 and a couple months later I started kindergarten."
The Boys looked impressed.
"So, who was that guy at the Backstreet Market?" Brian asked.
"My best friend turned boyfriend, turned ex-boyfriend." Raelene was looking at her hands.
"How old is he?" asked AJ.
"Seventeen. Today's his birthday." Raelene looked up at the guys. All of them were looking at her in shock.
"Do your parents know?" asked Nick.
"Of course. Todd and I have been best friends since he was five and I was born. A few months ago, he asked me out and that started our more-than-friends relationship. Last week, it all ended."
"Why?" Nick asked, looking at Rae.
"He cheated on me."
All the guys looked at Raelene, startled.
'Why would someone do that to her?' Nick thought to himself. He looked at Rae and saw her looking at her hands. Nick reached over and took one of her hands. She held on tight.
'I could beat the crap out of that guy right now,' thought AJ.
'How could that guy cheat on someone like Rae?' thought Brian. 'She seems so sweet and caring.'
"It must've been something I did," Rae said. "Or something I didn't do."
"No way. Don't even think that," Kevin said, angry at Todd for hurting Rae like that.
"If I had half the looks that girl did...." Rae was trying hard not to cry, but a single tear managed to escape and roll down her cheek.
"Hey, don't cry," Nick said, putting his arms around Rae. "I don't like to see beautiful girls cry." Nick brought her face up so she had to look at him. The look in her eyes tore at his heart and he wiped away her tears, which were starting to come down.
"You don't have to say that. I know I'm not beautiful...."
"Yes, you are," said Brian. "Don't ever doubt that."
"He's right, Rae," said AJ. " I think you're beautiful AND sexy."
"Now I KNOW you're lying." Rae let out a little laugh.
"No, I'm not. You even got Kevin thinking thoughts."
"Shut up, AJ! I'm not thinking thoughts. I just know a beautiful girl when I see one."
"These guys are right," Howie said. "For once."
"Hey!!" they all said, looking at Howie.
Rae started to laugh.
"There's that beautiful laugh I love, I mean, WE all love to hear and that beautiful smile we all love to see."
"Thanks, AJ. What does 'AJ' stand for, anyway?"
"I like that name. 'AJ' sounds cool, too?"
"You're welcome." Raelene smiled at AJ. He smiled back.
'He's really cute,' Raelene thought.
'She's really beautiful,' AJ thought.
"So," Brian said. "Anybody want to watch a movie?"
"'The Outsiders'," said Howie.
"'Aliens'," said Nick.
"One of the 'Nightmare On Elm St.' movies," said AJ.
"I don't care," said Kevin.
"'Star Wars' has my vote," Brian said.
"I'm with AJ," Raelene said. "I love scary movies."
"Two votes for my movie, so we have to watch it," AJ said.
"Okay. Let's watch a scary movie," Nick said. "But Raelene might regret it when she gets nightmares." Nick looked at Raelene.
"Oh, be quiet, Mr. I-won't-hang-my-feet-over-the-edge-of-my-bed."
"Hey, be quiet about that."
"Nick, everybody already knows," said AJ, putting in a movie.
"Does anyone want popcorn besides me?" Rae asked.
"I do," AJ said. "Let's go makes some." He walked over to the couch and pulled Rae up by her hands.
"I'll be back, Nick," she said, leaning down and kissing him on the cheek.
She turned and followed AJ into the kitchen.