“You of all people shouldn’t startle me like that,” she said, bringing the glowing cigarette back up to her lips.
“Sorry, but I had to get out. They’re making fun of us guys now.” He jerked a thumb at the illuminated window behind him. “Your dad is holding the line, making a last stand. How are things out here?”
Chris suspected that he was just checking up on her to make sure she was okay. Yes, that was something he would do. She shrugged. “Peachy. Looks like it might rain again, but I was thinking of going for a run anyway.”
Ryan made his way down the stone steps with the casual ease of someone who was perfectly comfortable with himself and the world around him. He took a seat beside her, and turned to face her with his head bowed in that hangdog way he sometimes used to get her to open up. “You sure everything’s good?”
Chris nodded. Since dinner he had done his shoulder-length brown hair up in a small top knot. It would have looked ridiculous—maybe even feminine—on anyone else, but not on Ryan. In combination with his athletic physique and the aura of confidence that clung to him, the hairdo emphasized his chiseled features. She had to grudgingly admit that he and Princess Perfect were a pretty good match.
A faint lightness settled within Chris’s stomach as she looked at him, and she inhaled another lungful of smoke to keep herself anchored in reality. Her former BFF was way out of her league. It didn’t matter that she possibly knew him better than her sister did, or that she had known him longer. He had never looked at her the way he looked at Helen.
Chris had stopped competing with Helen by the time her sister had reached puberty. Even back then, Chris had known that she wasn’t particularly pretty, or feminine, or successful at school. She was athletic then in a tomboyish sort of way, and she still was. There was nothing girly about her. Even the way she tied her dark hair back in a short unfashionable ponytail was done to keep it out of her face because it was too unruly to let it grow below her shoulder.
Beside her, Ryan draped his forearms over his knees and hooked his thumbs together. He leaned over the porch rail to gaze up at the dimming sky beyond the roof, squinting at the sunset. “Have you decided what you’re going to do after graduation?” he asked.
“Yeah. Going to aim for a professional parkour career, and maybe get a job at the mall until that works out,” she joked.