Better off Friends Page 15

I wished Levi could’ve met my mom. She would’ve loved him.

“She …” I began, but felt the sting behind my eyes.

“It’s okay,” Levi said. “You don’t have to if it’s too hard.”

“I want to.”

“Can I start?” he asked. “Um, Mrs. Dietz, I’m Levi. I’m sure Macallan has told you all about me. And, well, none of it’s true, unless she told you I’m awesome.”

A small, grateful laugh escaped my throat.

“Yeah, I met her on the first day of school and you should know how nice she was to me. I’ve seen pictures of you at the house, so I know where she got her looks. And, um, she’s a ridiculous student. It’s kinda annoying really.” He looked worriedly at me. “Is this okay?”

I liked that he was having a conversation with Mom as he would if she were here. “Yeah, it’s great.”

“Okay, so, like, when I first met her, I thought she hated me. You see, I had this long hair and I’m pretty sure she thought I was a hippie or something. But then she found out that I also liked this show, Buggy and Floyd.” He looked up from the ground. “Does she know what I’m talking about?”

I nodded. It made me happy that he used the present tense with Mom.

“Yeah, and from there we just kinda clicked. She’s really the only person who’s gone out of her way to make me feel at home. So thank you, Mrs. Dietz, for raising your daughter the way you did. She’s awesome and I know that’s because of you. I wish I could’ve met you, but I guess I have in a way. Because of Macallan. And just so you know, I’ll do my best to protect her. And be there for her. Even if she does have the worst taste in football teams.”

“Hey!” I swatted at him. “Mom’s a huge Packers fan. He’s only teasing, Mom.”

He wrapped his gloved hand around mine. “It’s okay that I joked?”

“Yes, she always jokes around.”

“What else does she like?”

And that was all it took. For the next hour, I told Levi all about my mom. All I could remember. I laughed at so many of the memories. And not once did another tear fall. I still ached for her, but talking about her was keeping her alive inside of me.

I had no doubt that Mom was looking down at us and smiling.

Everything changed after that.

Maybe change wasn’t the best word. But Levi and I were closer than ever.

Between my breakdown at the mall and the visit with Mom, Levi went above and beyond to make sure we spent time together.

It wasn’t as if Levi put Emily aside for me. He knew he didn’t have to make that kind of choice. He became more aware of how he was acting. The decisions he made. Whom he chose to spend time with.

Even though we constantly texted, he would call me at least once a day while he was in California during the holidays.

“I know how happy this is going to make you,” Levi said during his call on New Year’s Eve. “Everybody here is complaining about how much I’m talking about back home.”

“Do we think you have a case of the grass is always greener?” I asked.

He laughed. “Probably. But mostly the guys want to see more pictures of the coolest chick alive.”

“You better be talking about me.”

“Clearly. Even if said chick is having a rockin’ party without me.”

“Hey, I’m not the one who decided to spend the holidays two thousand miles away. And the party isn’t going to be rockin’ with everybody’s parents there.”

My dad had thought it would be fun to host a New Year’s Eve party. So he invited some of his friends and their kids, and I got to invite my friends and their parents. At first I didn’t think anybody would want to come to a party with their parents, but I guess it was the only way any of us would’ve been able to properly celebrate the ringing in of the New Year.

I had to hang up on Levi to get ready for our guests. Emily and Danielle came early to help me with the food. I made baked ziti, fettuccine Alfredo with chicken, spaghetti with turkey meatballs, garlic bread, and chopped salad.

Thankfully, the kids were relegated to the basement, so we got to have some privacy. I felt a little bad for Trisha and Ian, who were the kids of my dad’s friends, since they didn’t really know us. Trisha had moved from Minneapolis, and Ian was a year older than us. When I’d heard he was coming, I immediately thought he’d be upset being stuck with young kids, but he came downstairs with a smile on his face and introduced himself to everybody. Trisha stayed in the corner watching TV with Emily’s younger sister and Danielle’s brother for the first hour or so.

“I wish Levi was here.” Emily sulked. “Now who am I going to kiss at midnight?”

“Don’t look at me,” Danielle teased. “I’m going to try to work my magic on that freshman. He’s a hottie. Off to show him my winning personality.” Danielle went over and sat down next to Ian.

“You don’t think Levi’s going to be with a girl tonight?” Emily asked me.

“No, he’s hanging with his bros,” I reassured her. I’d had to do that every day since Levi had left. I knew he could be trusted. He wasn’t the cheating kind.

“What’s up, guys?” Troy came over with a plate full of chips. “Are we going to break open any of these games or what?”

Emily smiled at him. “Good idea! Games!”

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