Meet 17-year-old Maggie. The new girl in town.
She’s quiet and shy which is not helping her shed that “new girl” status.
But she’s oh so ready to be in a relationship with an amazing guy.
A guy who will respect her “white-wedding-dress future”.
That’s not too much to ask, is it?
Below, read the first chapter of Maggie’s story in “before I knew you”.
I shook my head and continued to pace the length of the living room or the “company” room as Dad called it, or the “small TV room” as my younger brother Michael would say. I peered out the picture window for the tenth time, willing Logan Wallace’s car to appear. He was already five minutes late.om peered from the kitchen doorway, a mix of hopeful concern stretching a strained smile across her lips.
“Please don’t stand me up,” I murmured.
Just then a gray, sporty-looking car jerked to a stop, and Logan hopped out, unleashing a wave of relief that promptly crashed into a wall of anxiety.
I pulled in a long, steadying breath. My first real date. Because going to a youth group banquet or concert or fundraiser with a guy I’d been friends with since childhood didn’t count as a real date. I gripped the doorknob, tugging on the hem of my a-little-shorter-than-usual shirt. Too late to change now. I opened the door.
“Maggie, hey. You ready to go?”
“Hi, Logan. Can you come in a minute?”
His hands stuffed in his pockets, he rocked on the threshold, half in and half out. “What’s up?”
I stepped back, hoping he’d actually clear the doorway. “My parents want to meet you.”
His eyebrows scrunched together as an exasperated sigh blew through his lips. “Really?”
“Won’t take a second. Mom, Dad,” I called over my shoulder.
With Dad leading the way, they strode from the kitchen through the dining room but stopped more than ten feet from us. Thanks, Dad.
I inched toward them, hoping Logan would take the hint.
He trudged slowly behind me.
“Mom, Dad, this is Logan Wallace.”
“Logan.” Dad took a big step, hand outstretched, toward my wary date. “It’s good to meet you.”
Logan jerked his hand out of his pocket and accepted Dad’s handshake. “Uh . . . you, too . . . sir.” His gaze slid from Dad to Mom. “Ma’am.”
“Nice to meet you, Logan.” Mom grasped his hand lightly before he plunged it back into his pocket and darted glances between me and my insistent parents.
“So . . . we’ll see you later.” I backed toward escape.
Logan surged toward the door.
Dad glanced at Mom, who looped her arm through his and murmured something I couldn’t make out.
Her eyes locked with mine, and she nodded once, her way of saying, See, everything worked out fine. “Bye, guys.”
Outside, Logan sprinted to his side of the car, smirking. “That was fun.”
“Sorry. My dad’s big on introductions.” I sank into the passenger seat beside him. With the formalities taken care of, it was time to concentrate on calming the storm brewing in my stomach.
He winked. “No problem. So, everyone’s hanging out at Jake Nelson’s tonight, like I said. Should be a good time.” His hand grazed my knee, hovered by the radio controls for a couple of seconds, and then rested on the steering wheel.
I’d been wondering exactly what hang with friends meant, but had squashed the urge to bother him with a bunch of questions. I had no idea who Jake was, where he lived, or who everyone included, but I pushed aside all lingering concern as I sneaked a glance at Logan’s profile and put on a happy-to-be-out-with-you smile.
Because I was. Happy to be on a real date with a real guy—someone I hadn’t played alongside since toddlerhood in the church nursery.
Logan and I had finished our sophomore year at Madison High School yesterday. And I hoped like crazy this date would end my new girl status in Pine Crossing, the Indiana town five hundred miles from my old life and friends in Little Springs, Minnesota.
Logan’s shaggy blond hair and cute smile matched his witty, flirty personality and made accepting his offer of a date a no-brainer. Well, almost. I’d ignored the maybe-you-should-actually-get-to-know-him-first doubts, deciding that being too cautious about guys would only slow my becoming an accepted part of Madison High’s Junior class.
We pulled up in front of this gorgeous, mansion-like place with a yard that could have graced the cover of any magazine. Logan cut the engine. “Cool house, huh?”
As we made our way up a wide sidewalk surrounded by beautiful beds of red and white flowers, his fingers brushed along the hem of my shirt. I tensed as a shiver danced up my back.
Without knocking, he opened the door, and the exact meaning of everyone became clear. The huge, high-ceilinged room was packed with people, many that I recognized from Madison. As we weaved our way through the crowd, Logan made a couple of quick introductions but didn’t stop for conversation. Soon we stood in an elaborate kitchen where the center island was lined with lots of beer cans and dozens of amber bottles. More alcohol than I’d ever seen or wanted to see. I swallowed a gasp as my pulse quickened.
Logan grabbed a can of beer. “You want anything?”
I shook my head, the array of containers blurring in front of me.
“A soft drink maybe?”
The familiar logo of a Diet Coke came into focus. I pointed with a shaky hand.
“Here ya go.” He handed me the can, then grabbed a second beer for himself. “Let’s walk around.”
I followed him around like a puppy, trying to control the panic raging inside me. This is a drinking party. No one acted like I didn’t belong. Not one person seemed the least bit surprised to see me, yet every cell in my body silently screamed, “I don’t belong here!” While most of the partiers clutched some type of alcohol, no one commented about the Diet Coke in my hand. Every warning I’d ever heard about the hazards of drinking and driving blared simultaneously in my brain.
Logan reached back and wrapped his hand around mine. He pumped my fingers in a tight squeeze a couple of times. He wanted to be here with me. A warm, tingly sensation flooded through me, silencing the mental warnings for half a second.
But this is a drinking party!
He stopped, turned his head toward me, and pulled me against his side. His eyes swept across my face as a grin hiked up the corners of his mouth. “Great party, huh?”
“Uh . . . yeah.” Really, no. Not great at all.
“Do you play euchre?”
“Euchre? No, sorry.” He led me to a plush dining room where four guys, each pondering a handful of cards, sat in burgundy-and blue-striped upholstered chairs around a highly polished wooden table. A lone Mountain Dew stood out among ten or so cans and bottles of alcohol.
“I don’t mind if you want to play.” Then maybe I can just go home.
“Nah, I’m not that good anyway.”
Cheers erupted and a fist thrust across the table to connect with the knuckles of the guy with the Mountain Dew. Apparently, his team won.
Logan tugged on my arm, leading me away from the game, through rooms packed with strangers. How would I ever get to know everyone at this huge school? A couple of people called me by name. They smiled. I smiled. At least after tonight I might be able to match a few more names with faces. Madison was twice as big as my itty-bitty school in Minnesota where I’d still be going if two months ago my parents hadn’t ripped me out of my sophomore year so they could launch their dream ministry—The Least of These Clinic. Their dream—not mine.
We strolled again through the kitchen where Logan left his empty beer bottle and helped himself to a third. “Sure you don’t want something?” His hand panned across the vast assortment.
“I’m good. Still have half my Diet Coke.”
About an hour into the party, the music abruptly shifted from a hundred decibels to something soft and romantic. The lights in every room dimmed. Couples gravitated like magnets to each other and quickly found a place—couch, chair, floor—to cuddle up.
Logan pulled me to a dark corner of the living room as several whispering, giggling couples made their way upstairs, some stumbling, others tiptoeing.
“Perfect,” he murmured, sinking into a puffy recliner. He set his two beers—one maybe half gone, and the other still unopened—on an end table and tugged me down beside him.
“I’m pretty sure this chair is meant for one person, not two.”
He lifted and angled his lean body to the side. “Nah.” His arm snaked around my shoulders. “This is just right.”
I squirmed and twisted, pressing my backside against the chair’s poofy armrest.
His shaggy hair fell across his forehead not more than six inches from my face.
I craned my neck to confirm what I already suspected—we were surrounded by couples making out. Great. A drinking party and a make out party.
Logan cradled my chin, turning my attention back to him. Only three inches separated us now.
I swallowed and bit into my bottom lip.
His nose grazed my cheek. He slid his hand up my jaw. His fingers inched into my hair.
And my heart pounded in a fast, erratic pattern. This was completely insane. I was about to be kissed for the very first time by a guy I barely knew.
His warm lips lingered on my cheek.
Was this what it took to fit in? Did I really want to do this?
Logan’s mouth brushed across mine once, then twice.
I jerked back.
“It’s okay,” he whispered, planting tiny kisses on my temple and along my hair. His beer breath fanned across my face before his lips slipped over my jaw to nuzzle my neck.
So, so not good. I tipped my head back, breaking the suction of his lips on my skin.
“Aw, come on,” he murmured, capturing my mouth in a hungry kiss.
I kissed him back, sort of, which he must have considered encouragement because his hand slipped from my hair to my shoulder, and stroked down my arm. Then his fingers slid up under my shirt. “Logan—stop.” I pushed against his shoulders.
More beer breath puffed from between his lips. “Sorry.”
I shook my hair and straightened my shirt. “So, this is what hanging with friends means?”
He smirked. “You’re getting this upset about a little making out?”
I studied his soft lips, his bright blue eyes, the fringe of blond hair he swiped off his forehead. I wouldn’t make out with strangers just to fit in.
“I guess I am. Take me home, please, or if that’s too much trouble, I can call my parents.” Uh . . . he’d been drinking. But when I insisted I call my parents, he shot from the chair and yanked me to my feet. “I’ll take you home,” he growled.
The ride home was silent except for Logan’s loud, anger-punctuated, huffy breathing. And the endless commentary from my raging conscience. Why didn’t you listen to those you-know-nothing-about-him doubts?
If I made it home alive, I would never, ever make that mistake again.
Did you miss Preston’s first chapter? Catch it here.