I walked up the steps of the hospital with my new book in tow. I hadn’t even looked at it to see what it was, but I was sure from Trent’s previous picks it would be good. I needed a good alternate reality to lose myself in after today. We drove into Phoenix after the bookstore, heading to the Arizona Mills outlet to look for something for Andrea’s date with Tattoos. The superficial conversation left me feeling empty, and Trent’s words echoed in my mind, making me wonder if I ever had real friends at any point in my life.
I was pretty sure I hadn’t. We moved around so much for Dad’s jobs that once we settled, and I found a group to fit into, we were picking up and leaving. No one ever stayed in touch. When I reached Dad’s room I flopped on the chair next to his bed.
He pursed his lips at me as he sat up. “How was your day, honey?”
I looked at the ceiling, blowing my bangs out of my face. “Don’t ask.”
Dad ran his hands over his bald head as he looked at me. “Something go wrong with the girlfriends?”
I sighed, leaning forward and kissing his cheek. “I’m just wondering about the friends part of that.” I looked down at my hands before letting my gaze meet his serious one. “They’re all pretty self-involved. It’s easier to get along with them during school because we don’t actually talk that much.”
“Most people your age are pretty self-involved,” he replied, squeezing my hand and cocking his head. “Not many have to deal with the things you have.”
“You know I’ve never been good at keeping friends.”
Dad licked his lips, his eyes drifting as he considered his words. “El, do you think it might be superficial because that’s all you allow? You don’t let people in.”
“I don’t think I’d want to let these girls in,” I said, breathing in through my nose before continuing. “Erica dyed her hair the same color as mine…and apparently the dye went to her head…At any rate, Morgan brought up the idea of going to the bookstore.”
I nodded, leaning forward and tangling my hands in my hair. “Apparently, she thought Trent was really cute, so then it became some sort of bizarre competition to see who could get a date first.”
“Blondie has new confidence?” Dad assumed, and I narrowed my eyes at him.
“It’s not funny!”
“It kind of is,” Dad replied. “I’m not sure what competition it was with you wearing…uh…that.”
I pulled the front of the tank top up, the ruffle traveling down the middle fluttering with the action. “Dad!”
“It’s not skanky or anything…just a little low cut.”
“That’s besides the point– Erica asked him where the sex books were!”
Dad burst out laughing, and I stuck my chin out. “Oh, sorry… not funny…at all.”
“It gets better.”
“Ha — this is good.”
“I’m glad you’re getting amusement from my suffering–“
“Sorry, continue,” he said, gathering himself and putting his hand over his mouth to hide his smirk.
“Andrea and I were standing talking, and she asked me the last time I got laid was–and Trent walked up behind us!”
Dad leaned forward as he started laughing again. “This is better than television.”
“Dad!” I snapped, standing and slapping him softly. “You shouldn’t find this funny.”
“It is…besides the part where you’re talking about getting laid. I don’t need to know about that,” Dad snorted.
One of the nurses walked in. “Laughter is the best kind of medicine,” she said as she handed Dad a cup with pills in it and a glass of water. “But…you should take it easy. No overdosing.”
“Not possible,” Dad retorted, and I rolled my eyes as he smiled at the nurse. Dad held his arm out for the nurse to check his blood pressure. “Probably a bit high…El, I mean come on. If this girl has to ask for a sex book, how good could Trent actually think she is? Not exactly the best pick up line in any book.”
The nurse burst out laughing, and I put my head in my hands as my face burned.
He did not just say that!
I looked up when silence finally filled the room and crossed my arms as I sunk back into the chair.
“Old man still has a sense of humor!” the nurse commented, patting him on the back. “Everything looks good. We’re on track to start physical therapy tomorrow. I hope you’re ready!”
“I’m not that old,” he fired back, winking at her as she placed her stethoscope back around her neck.
“Of course not, Paul. Tomorrow,” she said, pointing from her eyes to his. “You and me. You’ll be back on your feet soon.”
He nodded at her. “Thanks to you…and my girl here.”
The nurse squeezed my shoulder as she walked by. “Laughter is the best cure.”
“So…” Dad began, cocking his head at me. “What’s bugging you so much about this, besides the superficial.”
I looked down at my sneakers, bouncing on the tip of my toes. “What if he thinks less of me because I’m friends with them.”
“He saw you with them, right?” I nodded. “Then I’m sure he knows. You wear your emotions on your sleeve. I guarantee he could see you don’t exactly fit in with them.”
“So I should go back?”
His lips curved up to one side, and he gave a slow nod.
“Now,” he said, looking at the bag at my feet. “What’s tonight’s read?”
I grabbed the bag, sliding the book out. My mouth dropped open. “No shit.”
Dad reached over and took the book, his own jaw going slack before he started cracking up again. “A bit risque, huh?”
He held the book up, and I grabbed it, pushing it down into my lap cover down. “He…” I shook my head. “I’m going to give him hell tomorrow.”
Dad reached for it again, stealing it back.
He opened the front cover and turned it so I could see the inside. There written in a half cursive scribble was a phone number with an arrow –>
Don’t judge a book by it’s cover, or its friends.