Dannie arrived at the Ice Cream Parlor at the same time Cole did. She had her hair up in a ponytail like she did when she was ‘working’, so he figured she had been writing when he texted her. “Hi. Thanks for coming,” he said awkwardly.
“Thanks for the invite! This is so perfect. I was needing a break, I’ve been going at it all day. But I made some good progress,” she said, her eyes sparkling. “You are a good influence on me.”
Cole felt his heart sink. He was probably going to ruin their friendship and he really, really liked Dannie and spending time with her. “That’s nice,” was all he could manage to say.
They went to their seats and ordered. How do you accuse someone of doing something? wondered Cole. He didn’t know how to begin and therefore didn’t say anything.
Dannie must have sensed his discomfort. “Cole, what’s the matter. You seem like you’re a million miles away.”
“I’m sorry. I was thinking about something I need to ask you,” he said.
“You can ask me anything. We are pinky bound so…ask away,” she said giving him an encouraging smile.
When he didn’t smile back, her own smile faded. “Cole, what is it?”
“Why did you want to break up me and Laney. Was it to get back at Ryker? Is that why you are hanging out with me now? To make him jealous?”
Dannie was immediately angry. “What did you just say? Are you on drugs Cole? None of that, just now, made any sense. And if that’s what you really think, it’s time for me to go.” She scooted her chair back and got up to leave.
“Just tell me why you put the pictures on my locker. I need to understand,” pleaded Cole. He wished he hadn’t let Noah talk him into this. But now, he needed to know why before she left.
Dannie looked at him once again like he was crazy, “What pictures? Cole, what are you talking about? This is so stupid. I’m leaving. I really thought we were going to be good friends. No wonder Laney fell into Ryker’s arms. You’re insane.”
“Wait! Dannie. The pictures you taped to my locker…why did you do it?”
“Cole Murdock, I didn’t tape anything to your locker. I have no idea what you’re even talking about.”
“But Mia had pictures of….you…” his voice trailed off at the end. The pictures didn’t mean she was the one. He was so screwed.
“Of me what?” she asked, still standing up.
“I think I fucked up,” said Cole quietly, “please, sit back down and I’ll try to explain. I’m really sorry Dannie. I – I jumped to conclusions.”
She stood there for a minute looking at him as if trying to make up her mind. Finally she sat down. “This doesn’t mean I’m not still mad. Now I’m just curious to find out what the hell you are talking about.”
“Someone taped pictures of Laney and Ryker on my locker with a note that said ‘I thought you might like to know what your girlfriend does when you aren’t around’. It happened that day that I nearly plowed you over. I asked Mia if she knew who might of done it because, well, Mia.”
Dannie laughed and quickly put her hand over her mouth. “I’m sorry. I can’t believe a guy would know that about her. Go on. So what did the local know-it-all say?”
“Well, she said she didn’t know who did it. But she suggested it might be you or Nicky. Laney accused Nicky of telling me on the day we broke up, and she asked if it was you the next day. Laney doesn’t know about the pictures though. I’m not sure why she thought it was Nicky. Maybe because we broke up right before I started going out with her. I don’t know, but that was months ago.”
Dannie was sitting there trying her best to suppress her laughter. It was disarming and actually took the edge off. “Are you laughing at me?” he asked.
“This is such a soap opera! I know it’s not funny. You were hurt. I’m so sorry, but the whole ‘he said, she said’.”
“Oh,” said Cole not knowing whether he should be mad or laugh at the situation with her. Laughter won out. “I guess it is a mess. And I wasn’t even finished.”
“Oh my god, there’s more? So why DID you think I did it. And Cole, I pinky swear on all pinky swears, I didn’t do it. I hope you believe me,” she said and waggled her pinky finger in the air.
Cole couldn’t stop the corners of his mouth from turning up. He totally believed her. Maybe it was the silly pinky swear, but he believed her.
“A pinky swear on all pinky swears…I have no choice but to believe you. I really am sorry, but well, the reason I thought it was you is because Mia showed me pictures of you at the Prom taking pictures. But, everyone at the Prom was taking pictures. So that was pretty lame.” Then he cringed a little before going on, “That and the fact that you were right there after our argument. I figured you watched and couldn’t get out of the way fast enough when I came around the corner. Or maybe you staged it.”
“Oh Cole. I have an imagination, but only when it comes to fictional people. In fact this might have given me an idea for a plot. But I’m not crafty. I thought you knew me better.”
Cole felt awful. “I really am sorry. Please, accept my apology.”
“Apology accepted,” said Dannie and tapped her finger on her chin. “Now….there is still a mystery to solve here. Who did put the pictures on your locker?”
Cole frowned. “Oh yeah. There is still that…”
“Well, let’s start with a possible list of suspects. Got any other ideas? Nicky sounds like maybe a really good place to start.”
“Does this mean we are okay? And you don’t hate me now. I wouldn’t blame you.”
“Yes. You are too cute to hate. You knew to go to Mia. That alone gets points. Although I am still a little miffed that you thought it was me. Maybe if you buy my ice cream….”
“Done. Oh and before I forget, Mom told me to invite you to Ami’s 12th birthday party at the bowling alley. She’s bringing a friend and my grandparents will be there along with my folks. A small group.”
“Bowling? Oh no. I’m terrible! I even threw the ball backwards once. It was so humiliating. I haven’t been back since.”
“Come on. I’ll help you or we could sit and watch. You can pretend to be my date so Ami’s friend won’t make eyes at me.”
Dannie laughed. “Oh, I have to go now – just to watch that!”
“Thanks. I want to warn you, my Mom and Dad, they are really touchy feely – with each other – so please, don’t gross out.”
“It will be an evening filled with luvvv. Ami’s little friend eyeing the older handsome big brother and the cute married couple still hot for each other after, what, 20 plus years of marriage? What about your grandparents? Are they in luvvvv too?”
“Maybe you shouldn’t go. It will be too embarrassing,” said Cole shaking his head.
“Are you kidding me? I wouldn’t dream of missing it. Just don’t stand behind me when I bowl.”
“You really want to go?”
“Really! Now let’s get to that suspect list. I am dying to know who did this and why.”
Cole had forgotten all about the pictures. Dannie did that. He felt stupid for ever thinking she may have been the one.