Getting to Me

Chapter Seven

When Mandy walked downstairs the next morning for breakfast, she was surprised to see Brian and the woman who’d been yelling at him the night before, Michelle, sitting on the couch talking in normal voices with one another. Brian was even smiling a little bit, which semi-confused Mandy. Her mother saw her confusion and chuckled as she walked over to the stove.

“Uh…I take it they aren’t mad at each other anymore?” Mandy asked, pulling a bowl out of the overhead cabinet and then pouring some cereal in before topping it off with milk. Her mother shook her head, looking in to the living room with a small smile on her face.

“Once he got over the initial shock of what she was telling him, he settled down,” Suzy smiled before chuckling. Mandy was a little more than confused this morning. She hadn’t ever thought that her mother would be laughing about being a grandmother before the age of fifty. She had always thought her mother was going to be angry if either of her brothers got a girl pregnant outside of marriage, and that she would be positively livid if either of her daughters got pregnant before they were settled down. Yet here she was, standing in the kitchen laughing at the matter as though it weren’t a big deal.

“I see,” she murmured. She grabbed the bowl of cereal and carried it into the dining room and sat down and eating it relatively quickly. She almost wanted to laugh at her older brother at the moment; he looked as if he were scared to death, even with the smile that was on his face. He wasn’t holding Michelle’s hand or anything, but she did have her hand rested on his thigh.

“Hey,” Zacky’s voice said from the stairwell. Mandy looked over and smiled at him, watching as he sat down in the chair next to hers. She’d figured out over the last few days since he’d been here that he didn’t eat breakfast often, and when he did, it was usually just a piece of toast.

“Did you have a good sleep?” She asked him, breaking the semi-awkward silence that had settled between the two of them. Zacky didn’t respond vocally, but rather nodded as he looked down at the cedar wood of the dining room table, resting his hands on it as he laid his head down, closing his eyes for a moment before opening them again and smiling at Mandy.

“I had a dream about you last night,” he murmured quietly, almost as if he didn’t want her to hear him. Mandy blushed at his words, wondering if it had been the type of dream that would make her brother pissed off and embarrass her. When Zacky realized what his words had sounded like, he too blushed and shook his head, rephrasing his words. “I mean, a real dream not…one of those,” he said in a squeak of a voice.

“It’s okay, Zacky, I didn’t think you meant it that way,” she laughed at him, trying to break the awkwardness that had settled once again. She found that there always seemed to be a sort of awkwardness about them when they weren’t speaking with one another.

“We were riding the horses,” he smiled at her, thinking of the dream he’d had. “And we heard this crow cawing at us from that tree by the dam. I threw a snowball at it, and it fell out of the tree and turned into the Travelocity gnome and started chasing me.”

Mandy sat there for several minutes, thinking about what Zacky had said, and then burst into laughter. “I’ve never had a dream about that thing,” she laughed at him, her brown eyes crinkling at the corners at the mental image of his dream. It was rather amusing, and it completely broke the awkwardness.

The house phone rang and Mandy turned around to see her mother grab it off of the receiver. She spoke in a quiet voice for several minutes and nodded. “Yes, uh huh…I’m sure she won’t have a problem coming in…Yep, I’ll tell her…No problem. You too, Dolores…Have a nice day,” her mother said before hanging up the phone and looking at Mandy with a sigh.

“Dolores needs me to come in?” Mandy asked with a small smile. Dolores was her boss at the grocery store, and often called Mandy in on her days off to fill in for other workers who suddenly came down with a flu bug, or couldn’t make it in. Mandy didn’t mind, however; it made for bigger paychecks, which helped her pay for her college books and classes easier.

“She said she was sorry,” her mother sighed. “Brooke just walked out last night, and Elaine couldn’t fill in.”

“It’s fine,” Mandy smiled softly at her mother, getting out of the chair and walking up the stairs towards her bedroom so that she could change into something warm for work.

-x-

“So Brian’s back in town?” One of Mandy’s coworkers and better friends, Kasey, asked her with a small smile as the two of them stood in the pasta aisle bringing items forward so that it didn’t look as though they were out. Mandy nodded, knowing that her friend had had a crush on her older brother for a long time now.

“Yeah, but don’t get your hopes up for him,” she sighed, frowning when she thought about the newest complication in Brian’s life. She knew that he was going to be a good father to the baby, but she’d never exactly seen Brian as the fatherly type, and though she was almost amused by the thought of seeing him change diapers and haul around a baby carrier, it was something she wasn’t sure he’d adjust to easily.

“He has a girlfriend?” Kasey asked, looking up from the Ragu that she was bringing forward. Mandy waited until the blonde had put down the jar so that it wouldn’t break open if Kasey dropped it from surprise.

“Not really a girlfriend,” Mandy murmured, trying to figure out the right way to define Michelle. Was she Brian’s girlfriend? Or just the mother of his unborn child? Mandy knew her brother slept around a lot—that was actually an understatement, if she were being brutally honest—but she figured that he was careful because of how quickly he seemed to go through girls. If Michelle had gotten pregnant, was it because of an honest mistake in the bedroom, or was it because they’d been together at the time before breaking up?

“Well, then what’s going on with him?” Kasey laughed, picking up another jar and bringing it forward. Mandy pushed her hand back through her hair, looking up to see someone at the cash register waiting for their items to be rang up.

“I’ll tell you after I go ring up that woman’s groceries,” Mandy told her friend as she got up and walked up to the register, putting on a bright smile for her customer as she began pushing the items over the scanner and bagging them into the flimsy plastic bags. The woman’s groceries didn’t take long, and when she went back to see where Kasey was, she saw that she was now facing boxes instead of the sauce jars.

“So, c’mon. Tell me already. The anticipation is killing me!” Kasey groaned, grinning at her friend as she set down one of the jars. Mandy rolled her eyes at the woman’s antics before she began speaking.

“He got some girl from Fargo pregnant,” she told her friend. “And apparently there’s no way it’s anybody else’s baby. Brian’s gonna be a dad.”

“Holy shit! No way!” Kasey said in a gasp as she dropped the box in her hands. Luckily it didn’t break open, and Mandy leaned over to pick it up and put it on the shelf, turning to nod at her friend.

“Yeah, way,” she told her friend, a smile of her own forming. She couldn’t deny that she was excited about the prospect of having a baby added to the family. She had always liked holding her cousins’ babies when they’d been little, and Kasey’s kids loved having Mandy as their baby sitter.

“Well, how’s he handling it? Did he freak?” Kasey asked, turning back to the shelf so that their boss wouldn’t think they weren’t doing their job while talking.

“Oh, yeah. When I got home from Dickinson last night it was like World War Three erupted in our living room or something,” Mandy giggled, thinking back to the sight. “The woman, Michelle, even slapped him at one point.”

“She slapped him?” Kasey laughed, squeezing her eyes shut to stop tears of humor from falling out of her eyes. “Oh, man. How does he always end up with those chicks?”

Mandy chuckled, knowing what her friend was talking about. Brian didn’t exactly have a great track record with girls. Most of them were either walking STDs—and how he had stayed clean from those, no one was quite sure—or semi-abusive.

“He just does, I guess,” Mandy murmured, letting her thoughts fall silent as she began facing the aisle again. Kasey walked up to the register to handle a customer that she hadn’t even seen come into the grocery store, and when she returned, she had a weird smile on her face.

“Do you know a guy named Zacky? Black hair, green eyes. Kinda hot?” Kasey asked with her head tilted to the side as she started facing alongside her friend. Mandy’s head shot up at the mention of Zacky, wondering how Kasey knew about him. She didn’t think she’d mentioned him, and Kasey hadn’t gone to the theater on Friday night.

“Yeah, he came home with Bri. Why?” Mandy asked, trying not to sound overly curious as she glanced over at her friend, who shrugged, keeping her eyes on the shelf in front of her, pulling boxes forward after she’d dusted the crème-colored metal shelf.

“He just came in looking for you,” she told her friend, as if it weren’t a big deal. “I didn’t know if you knew him or not, so I sent him on his way. What would he want to talk to you for if he’s one of your brother’s friends?”

Mandy smiled as Kasey told her that Zack had come to the grocery store to see her. She hadn’t told him where the store was, so he had either asked her parents or brother back at the ranch or just figured it out on his own. Either way, he had to have put at least some thought into coming to see her. A part of her wondered what he’d come to see her for, but then she realized that it didn’t matter.

“Hey, earth to Mandy,” Kasey’s voice pulled her out of her thoughts, making Mandy blink and turn to her friend with a deer-in-the-headlights look. Kasey laughed at her friend’s expression, tilting her head to the side with slightly narrowed eyes, curiosity lingering in her brown eyes.

“Yeah?” She asked her friend, blushing when she caught sight of Zacky at the end of the aisle. Apparently Kasey hadn’t ‘sent him on his way,’ like she’d said. She gave him a small wave, and then looked at the floor as he started walking down the aisle towards them.

“Hey,” he said, nodding at Kasey before grinning at Mandy.

“Hi, Zacky,” Mandy muttered in a quiet voice, still looking at the dirty white ceramic tiles beneath their feet.

“I just stopped in to say hi,” he told her, making Mandy look up with a blush. “Anyway, since that’s all I was gonna say, I can go now. See you later, yeah?”

“Sure,” Mandy smiled at him, watching as he walked back down the aisle and towards the front doors. As soon as he was gone, Kasey tapped her shoulder lightly.

“Friend of Brian’s, my ass,” Kasey shook her head, laughing as she looked at her friend’s blank expression. She took a breath, calming down from her laughter before she looked her straight in her eyes and continued. “There’s something going on between you two.”

Mandy’s jaw dropped at Kasey’s words. “There is not!” She scoffed. “We’re just friends. I swear, Kasey,” she smiled at her friend, holding her hands up in a self-defensive position, even though she wasn’t really needing to defend herself.

Because there wasn’t anything going on between Zacky and herself…was there? For something to be ‘going on,’ there had to be flirting going on, didn’t there? And Zacky hadn’t ever flirted with her, had he?

Oh really? Is that why he makes you blush with all of those comments he says quietly enough so that no one else is going to hear him? If that’s not flirting, then I don’t know what is, a voice in the back of her mind told her, making her think about it for a moment. She had noticed that Zacky seemed to say some things quieter than others. And what about his request for a goodnight kiss the night before? None of Brian’s other friends had ever asked her to give them a kiss goodnight.

“Well, if you’re not interested in him…” Kasey started, giving Mandy a wiggle of her eyebrows and then giggling as she turned back to the shelf. The brunette didn’t say anything to her friend, just keeping a smile on her face as she too went back to working on straightening up the grocery store shelves.

She couldn’t deny that she had felt a pang of jealousy hit her when her friend had suggested she might try to hook up with Zacky, however, and that was what made her start thinking that maybe Kasey was right about there being something ‘going on’ between herself and Zacky.