The phone seemed to ring for a ridiculously long time. I almost hung up.
“Hello,” Becker said. I gulped.
“It’s Stella,” I blurted out. “My dad told me to call you.” Wait. I didn’t mean to say it like that. That sounded… positively lame. But he laughed.
“I knew I liked your father.”
I smiled and cradled the phone closer to my ear. I looked from my spot on the stair I was sitting on into the living room. My father was staring at me. Not trying to be slick, not trying to spy. Just out and out listening. He even waved.
“My father’s sort of on this kick where he likes guys that look him in the eye,” I said. “He’s SO ANNOYING.” I said loudly toward my dad. He gave me the thumbs up.
“Yeah,” Becker said, the phone rustling on his end. “He told me that.”
Uh, YEAH! Uncomfortable silence. I didn’t want to be rude and ask, Hey, Becker. Why did you want me to call you? I thought he’d volunteer the information on his own. But we were both silent. It was almost too late to talk. As if not acknowledging the silence would somehow make it more awkward. I considered hanging up and pretending my line went dead five minutes ago.
“Stella?” he asked, sounding confused.
“Do you want to see a movie?” His voice was quiet. Almost like he expected me to say no.
“No.” Damn. I just said no.
What was wrong with me? I was such a spaz!
“Well,” Becker said, sounding embarrassed. “I’ll… I’ll see you around then.”
“….” But before I could say anything, he hung up. My stomach turned. It was a movie. Why did I say no? I didn’t have anything else to do. The phone rang in my hand.
“I’m sorry,” I said instead of hello.
“Stella?” It was Conner. I darted my eyes nervously toward my father.
“Yeah?” I asked into the phone. My heart was racing.
“Hey, baby,” he said. As if in some alternate universe I was, in fact, his baby.
I stayed quiet. Daddy Dearest was leaning forward, resting his elbows on his knees, listening intently.
“I’m free tonight,” Conner said. “Wanna catch a movie or something?”
Definitely not. “Sure.” Holy shit. Did I just say sure?
“That’s my girl,” Conner said. Condescending jerk.
“Wait…” I started to say.
“I’ll come get you in ten minutes.” And he hung up.
I swallowed hard and looked at my father. He straightened, smiling. “What did Becker want?” he asked.
“Uh… he wanted me to go to a movie.”
“You’re going, right?”
Well, I was going to a movie. “Yes.”
“I’m glad.” My father stood and began walking to the kitchen. “Anything to keep you away from that tool Conner,” he announced over his shoulder.
“Yeah. Thank God for Becker,” I said as he disappeared around the corner.
Man. I was so dumb.