"Boys are stupid," Judy sneered delicately. Her soft, pointy nose wrinkled in distaste.
I sighed. "Still no text back?"
Judy slammed her phone face down into the tv blanket that engulfed us both. It made a soft thump and slid into the back of the sofa. "Nothing, Edith! Not a word! I don't get it!" She threw her long arms across her face. My heart broke for her. "It's because I'm too tall," she mumbled into them.
"Of course not!" I hurried to reassure her. "It's, it's –"
"Oh, quit it, Edith, you suck at lying." Judy peeked at me from under her arms, her full mouth in a pitiful frown. "And it's the truth, there's no way to avoid it. There isn't a single guy in our sophomore year that would date a freakishly tall girl." Her voice broke at the end of the sentence, and I could hear the tears hitched in her throat.
I slid closer to her on the couch and wrapped my tanned arms around her. She didn't move to acknowledge the gesture. "You know," I started, giving her a little squeeze, "Models are super tall. And it's, like, their job to be beautiful and irresistible. So your height is a bonus. It's a good thing!"
Judy let out a small hmph and I took that as a good sign. "And once we grow up and leave this god forsaken town, you're going to have so many boys trailing after you, it's going to be ridiculous. I bet I'm going to have to fight them off," I laughed, envisioning myself acting as a human shield. I bet I could punch a few admirers straight in the jaw before anyone realized what was happening. I was tiny, of course, but strong and nimble. I continued with more confidence. "And you're right, I suck at lying, so you know I'm telling the truth. You are more than your height, or you weight, or your hair. You are a good, interesting person, you can hold a conversation better than any other person I know –"
"You're just trying to say I blab a lot," Judy interrupted, but I could see a smile playing in the corner of her lips.
"No, I'm saying you're bubbly, Judy." I gave her another squeeze. "Any guy you end up choosing is going to be so lucky." I meant it. Sometimes I wished Judy could see herself through my eyes. "You're my best friend," I said, trying to simplify the surge of emotions going through me. I could see she wasn't buying it, so I shrugged. "I didn't choose wrong when I chose you. So have some faith in my judgment, will you? Also, as you'd already pointed out – boys are stupid."
Finally, she laughed. She returned my hug awkwardly. "Well, I guess not all boys," she amended. "Where's Spot, anyways?"
"Oh, he's behind the sofa, waiting to cuddle you at the first sign of weakness." My tone was entirely matter of fact, though it was hard to miss the rhythmic thumping of his excited tail. At the mention of his name my overgrown golden retriever launched himself over the couch and into my lap. He started diligently licking Judy's face as she giggled and cringed away from his saliva. Spot always liked my favorite people. I petted his golden fur lightly, then pushed him off of me and got to my feet. "Ok, no more moping! So one guy didn't text you back. Big deal. Let's go to the mall and find you an outfit that makes him regret he was ever born."
Judy smiled gratefully, still under the weight of the face-licking monster. "That sounds nice, actually."
I was already making a mental list of all the shops we should go to when a soft knocking sound came from the door.
My mom's head poked through the door. She seemed to be hiding something behind it. "Oh, hi girls!" she called cheerfully. "I just ran into the new neighbors right outside and I was inviting them in for a nice cup of coffee."
I immediately adjusted the straps of my tank top nervously, trying to look a tad more presentable. My mom was so easy going and trusting, I'd have to talk to her again about having strangers over. As a single mom, it was just her and me here. In my mind, she never fully grasped the danger in that.
The door swung open and my mouth, quite literally, fell open. Judy gasped. A part of my brain realized how rude we were being, but the rest was too dumbfounded to do anything about it. The couple that entered our house was impossibly beautiful.
"This is Deborah," my mom chirped. The woman, with lovely autumn hair and warm honey eyes smiled at us kindly. "It's a pleasure to meet you," she murmured. She couldn't be over twenty, but she had a very motherly feel to her. I could sense it in the way she held her hands and the set of her mouth.
I tried to swallow. "Likewise," I said, darting up and reaching to shake her hand. Her hand was hard and ice cold in mine, and I felt for her. I should offer her tea to warm up. It was hot today, but maybe they had the AC running. It wasn't uncommon to catch a cold in the summer. Even Judy and I were wrapped up in a blanket before they showed up.
"And I'm David," the man said. I tore my eyes away from the beautiful Deborah, only to lock eyes with David's honey ones. It was strange, how they had the exact same eye color. Maybe they were siblings. Dominant genes and all that. He was beautiful as well, with light blonde hair and a straight nose. Almost too perfect. I shook off the mean thought and immediately reached my hand out to him. "I'm Edith," I said, flashing the two of them a smile. His hand was cold and just as hard. I swallowed, suddenly uncomfortable. "And this is my best friend, Judy." I let my hand drop to my side.
Judy managed to come to just in time. She smiled at the strangers shyly, covering part of her face with her long, dark locks. "It's a pleasure," she said softly. Blush was spreading all over her face.
"The Smith's just moved out here from Alaska," my mom intervened, navigating the conversation expertly. "Their kids are about the same age as you!"
"Their kids?" I asked, in what I hoped was a polite tone. They looked fresh out of college, if that.
"Well, foster kids," David said, and his honey eyes flashed with some emotion I couldn't recognize.
"But we feel for them as if they were our own," Deborah added, her hand reaching out to hold his. "They're great kids! I hope you get along with them. They're worried about starting school in the middle of the year…" As she spoke about her kids, her lovely face lit up, and then crumpled with concern.
"We will," I immediately agreed, trying to elevate her worries. It seemed like a crime to let someone so soft looking be hurt.
Judy nodded heartily beside me. "You can count on us," she said, and I saw her eyes flash with resolve. She would befriend the Smiths as if her life depended on it now. She was just that kind of person – once she'd made up her mind, there was no talking her out of it. I smiled at her.
"Thank you," Deborah said, her voice colored with gratitude, but there was an uncomfortable edge to it.
I just remembered. "You must be cold. Mom why don't you make them some tea or coffee? I'll go turn the AC down."
The couple traded looks, as if this was some kind of inner joke. "We won't stay long," said David. "We really were just stopping by to say hello and introduce ourselves."
My mom's face fell. "Well, come on now, you're invited to stay for dinner! The kids too, of course."
David's lips pursed in a line as he looked over at Deborah. It looked like they were having a silent argument.
"I bet your kids would love to meet Judy and Edith today too, that way they'd know someone tomorrow," my mom hedged.
That seemed to settle it. Deborah tore her eyes away from David's and smiled warmly at my mom. "Our kids are kind of… picky about their food. Would it be alright with you if we came after dinner? I can bring a cake and we can have tea…" her voice trailed off.
My mom clapped her hands. She honestly seemed delighted. "That settles it, then. You can come over at around 7. It's still a school night, after all." She winked at me, knowing the whole responsible parent charade was far from how she usually behaved. I raised one eyebrow at her, but kept quiet. I didn't want to do anything that would embarrass her in front of company.
"7 it is then," David conceded.