Her parents were gone for the weekend to visit Gammy McGuire. Gammy had invited the whole family to Las Vegas to stay with her and her girlfriends at some resort they'd stayed at on some last minute spring trip (She's suggestively told Lizzie that there were plenty of eligible boys there, too. Her dad's eyes practically popped out of his head). Unfortunately, once a rush of excitement filled her and she started to announce that she'd go pack-her happiness deflated when she remembered that it was the same weekend that she needed to study for the world's worst history test that Mr. Morrison was giving them on Monday.
(And there was no getting out of it. She should know, she tried).
It absolutely sucked. It had been ages since she'd seen Gammy but also couldn't afford another bad grade. History wasn't her forte (even with all the study sessions she's had with Gordo. He was making A's in that class-naturally) and Mr. Morrison wasn't merciful. At least in middle school her teachers were a little nicer; in high school, Mr. Morrison was definitely out to get her. He always gave the hardest questions on his tests and during those class discussions she hated so much, he always made sure she answered at least four of the questions (despite purposefully slouching down in her chair-a sure sign that she did not want to answer anything).
Worst of all, he'd given her two D's on their last two assignments; but did her parents listen to her when she tried to insist that history was too hard? Of course not. They threatened to take away her phone privileges if it didn't get any better.
It was a huge bummer to let Gammy McGuire know that she wouldn't be there. She hated to hear the disappointment in her voice; it was somehow worse than when her parents did it. But Nana understood and wished her well on her test (She added that-if Lizzie wanted-she could slip one of the hotel boys her phone number. Lizzie giggled, knowing her dad would be less than pleased. Nana was always doing things to exasperate her dad).
Her mom almost canceled the trip entirely since Lizzie wasn't going, because it wouldn't have the same without her. Lizzie didn't want her parents to miss out on any fun and seeing Nana because of her so she told her mom earnestly that she could just stay behind and they could go (and she would call them every couple of hours once they were there to check in).
Her parents weren't necessarily keen on the idea. She hadn't ever stayed alone in the house before but she was in high school now, she was a woman so she should try it, right?
She begged her parents and told them that if anything went wrong or she needed any help, she could call Gordo's or Miranda's parents. They were still somewhat hesitant but she was getting older and they felt she was mature enough to handle it so they relented (not without her dad warning her that she needed to be responsible and there were most definitely no boys allowed to come over).
She's squealed happily and lunged at them, thanking both of them profusely.
Best of all, they took the little runt with them. She's be screwed if she was stuck babysitting and studying.
That was on Thursday night. With clear skies and a slight breeze in the air. Perfect temperature and perfect weather.
It was now Saturday night.
The rain was pelting down on the roof harder than she'd ever heard it and the slight rainstorm that the weatherman had predicted was upgraded to a severe thunderstorm that was capable of producing hail.
Her heart was hammering in her chest and she was actually trembling.
Oh, if Kate could see me now
She wasn't afraid of storms, they just made her wary. She'd been like that since she was a little kid. Matt thought it was hilarious and would tease and taunt her until she would pin him down and threaten to bash his skull against the floor. It hadn't ever been this bad before, but than again, she hadn't been alone when it stormed either. There was always someone there and it comforted her.
Now she was alone.
Now the lights were flickering and the thunder was roaring outside.
She kept an eye on the sky all day and even put the television on the weather channel for some background noise while she studied.
It's okay, she'd told herself, nervously tugging on her shirt after taking another look at the darkened sky, It's okay. I'm okay. Just a little rain shower...
Her stomach was in knots throughout the afternoon. She couldn't keep studying when she was unable to concentrate on anything else but the weather. So she set her materials aside and had debated on calling Miranda but she was busy with her mom this weekend. And besides, she's already told Miranda that she needed to study and absolutely not answer the phone if she called so she wouldn't be distracted.
She was regretting that now.
Another clap of thunder shook the house. Lizzie squeaked and wrapped her arms around her knees. She was curled in the house, exhaling and inhaling; trying to get a grip. She was sixteen for Heaven's sake!
Get it together, McGuire
What was she thinking? She didn't want to be there alone. She wanted to be with her family and to see Nana and to fight with Matt over who got to sit next to her at the table. Yet there she was, scared out of her mind, and having no more knowledge of that super important test than she did during the school week.
There was another, more violent sound of thunder. That time she screamed.
That's it, she jumped to her feet and grabbed the phone, prepared to dial the first number that came to mind. But I don't wanna bother him, she bit her lip. He was studying for the same history test too.
A brilliant display of lightning lit the sky (she could admit it was pretty, when it wasn't right above her) and the lights inside the house flickered.
*Toon Lizzie packed her bags and ran. "Than again, we could all use a little distraction.*
Lizzie breathed in and out, trying to stop herself from hyperventilating. She was nearly in tears as she waited for him to answer.
Come on, come on, come on She was silently begging.
"Hello?" He sounded distracted, casual.
How can he be so relaxed at a time like this?
She had to compose herself before speaking, so she didn't completely freak out.
I think it's a bit late for that
"Gordo," Lizzie whimpered. "Hi."
"Lizzie?" There was some muffled noise, he must have sat up or something. He sounded more alert now, concerned even. "Liz, what's wrong? Are you okay? Did something happen? I can get my mom-"
"Gordo!" She interjected, her voice going a bit more high pitch than normal, and he shut up. He wasn't going to help her if he was going to freak out, too. "I'm fine. I mean-sort of."
"What's wrong?" he asked in a more calm and collected manner.
She hesitated and said quietly, "You're going to make fun of me for it."
She must be the only student at Hillridge who's still scared of storms. She must be! What other mature young adult would be? It's pathetic.
"No, I won't," he promised with utmost sincerity. "I promise, I won't, Liz. You know you can tell me anything."
He'd taken to calling her Liz since high school started. He was the only one that did. Miranda had given her a pointed look on numerous occasions for it but Lizzie didn't understand what she was trying to imply.
"It's the storm," she explained, flinching when the thunder boomed yet again. I...this is gonna sound stupid but, I hate storms, Gordo!"
"That's understandable," Gordo was talking as if Lizzie was his client, in that tone like he was musing. "Most people are. It's nothing to be ashamed of." Lizzie couldn't help but roll her eyes. She needed Gordo, her friend, not a pseudo psychologist. "You're home alone, aren't you?'
"Yeah," she nodded, despite that he couldn't see her. "I hate it. I wish I would have gone with them or they stayed home. It's scary and I think the lights are gonna go out."
"Well, do you have a flashlight?"
She glanced back over at the four flashlights she's dug out from the basement. "Yeah, I have one," she twirled the phone cord with her finger.
"Well, that's good. At least you won't be completely in the dark."
That didn't make her better.
"But," Gordo said softly, 'I know that isn't helping, is it?"
"No," she admitted. "Gordo, please. I know it's awful out there and I'd never want you to risk getting struck by lighting-I just wish you were here. I really want you here, Gordo."
He was silent for a second. "Y-you do?" he seemed surprised.
"Yeah. I really need a friend right now. I don't want to bother and I'm sorry if I am. I'd call Miranda but she's busy."
"It's okay," Gordo was oddly resigned, a bit sadder than he just was. She couldn't put her finger on it as to why. "Really, don't worry about it. I'm glad you called."
"Really? Are you sure I didn't interrupt anything?" She hated to think that she was preventing him from studying. Grades were important to him and she didn't want to be the reason he'd fail.
"Absolutely," he told her. "Liz, don't you think I'd tell you if you were?"
His tone was half joking, to lighten the mood.
She didn't smile.
"I guess," she frowned.
The other side of the line was silent again for all of a minute. Lizzie was just about to ask if he was still there.
"Tell you what, give me ten minutes and I'll be over."
What? "What?" she burst out. "Gordo-no! Have you seen what's like outside?"
"Yes, Lizzie," he said patiently.
"You can't go outside! What if you get struck by lightning?"
"Then you can have my stereo. Unless Miranda gets it first."
"Don't joke like that!" she snapped.
The mere thought of something happening to him terrified her.
"I'm sorry," he eventually said, he was sincere then as well.
She rubbed her face. "No, I'm sorry. I'm just stressed."
"From the storm," he finished for her.
"I'm still coming over," he informed her.
"But," she protested, "Gordo-why?"
'You need me," he said simply. "Anyway, like I said, give me ten minutes and I'll be there. K?"
"Okay," she said timidly. "Please hurry."
She put the phone back on the wall, feeling a tiny bit calmer now that she was going to have someone else to share that big empty house with.
Still, until Gordo got there, she thought back and forth on whether to call her parents. She yearned to hear them but on the other hand, her parents hadn't been entirely on board with her staying behind in the first place. If she made even one phone call they would be reluctant to ever leave her home again.
Lizzie went back over to the couch, trying to inwardly reassure herself that she was alright, that she was safe. That it was just a thunderstorm and it couldn't get to her. She was inside, she was okay.
Oh, who am I kidding?
The minutes were passing by, of her just trying to keep her tears at bay and halfheartedly listening to the TV.
Then that moment she'd been dreading came. The lights turned off.
And she started to panic-again.
No, no, no! She stumbled over to grab one of the flashlights from the kitchen counter. Turning it on didn't sooth her much, but at least she wasn't sitting in complete darkness.
Did she mention that she was also wary of the dark? Yeah, Matt liked to tease her about that, too.
She heard a knock at the door and could've kissed it.
"Who is it?" she asked loudly (to be heard over the thunder and just to be sure).
She threw open the door. Gordo was soaking wet and standing on her doorstep. His hair was sticking to his face and he had a slight smile. "Well, are you gonna let me in, McGuire?"
"Gordo," she said breathlessly. "Thank goodness! The lights went out."
"I can see that," he noted as he stepped in and she closed the door. "How are you holding up?"
She gave him a watery smile. "I'm alright, I guess."
"Don't you lie to me, Liz," he said with mock sternness.
For the umpteenth time that night, the thunder clapped and Lizzie freaked out. She squeaked again, hurling herself in Gordo's arms. The flashlight fell to the floor with a thud. He seemed caught off guard momentarily, then wrapped his arms around her frame, in a tight grasp.
"Hey, it's okay," he rubbed her back. "Don't worry. It's just a storm. It can't hurt you."
Her face was buried in his neck. She gripped a fistful of his jacket, not minding that she was getting wet. "I know," she whimpered. "I'm sorry, about all of this. You were probably busy and I don't want you to get in trouble with your parents."
"My parents don't mind," he reassured her. "Actually, I think they're happy to get rid of me. I've been in my room for hours, studying."
"Well, that makes one of us."
"Maybe when this is all over, I'll help you. We can't have you getting another D."
"Ugh, don't remind me."
She'd yet to let go, even though she could've. It felt, strangely, nice. Gordo just let her be and for that, she was thankful.
*"Is it weird of me to say that he smells really nice?" Toon Lizzie asked. "Because he does.*
"We could go sit down if you want?" Gordo suggested. "I don't know about you but it's getting a little stuffy in the hallway."
"And maybe the power will come back on so we can watch a movie."
"Maybe," she muttered.
"So that's a yes on the couch?" he asked for clarification. "Because if so, I need you to let go." She tightened her hold and he added, "just so I can get the flashlight for a sec."
Okay, she let go of him, immediately missing his warm. His wet warmth.
He picked it up, trying to do some trick with it but only for it to drop.
"Heh," he was sheepish, "guess I'm not as talented as I thought."
"Are you sure you don't want a towel or something?" He must have been cold.
"Nah, I'm fine."
"Are you sure?" She saw him shiver once.
"Okay fine," he relented. "I'll take one." She grabbed one from the closet and took it back to him, wiping away a stray tear that fell down her cheek. She sniffled as he dried himself.
"You okay?" She was startled. "Sorry. Your eyes are red. Have you been crying?"
"Just a little," she admitted, her cheeks going a light pink. "It's nothing, Gordo. Just the storm."
"Well that's something," he lightly protested. "Come on, McGuire, to the couch."
He held out his arm, his free arm that didn't have the towel. She accepted it, going in his side and together they went into the living flashlight was sat on the coffee table, shining directly up to the ceiling, providing them with enough light. Gordo sat in the same corner of the couch that she had and Lizzie was close to him, closer than she normally would have been if the house was full or Miranda was there.
She fiddled with the hem of her shirt. "So."
He nodded, repeating her word. "Soooo."
Things had never been awkward for them and she wasn't sure why they were now.
"Thanks for coming over," she told him. "I really appreciate it, Gordo."
"No problem. Anything for you."
Those words hit differently, in a way she couldn't explain.
When she recovered, Lizzie leaned her side into the back of the couch. Her hair was loose and tangly but instead of brushing it, she just took off the scrunchie that was on her wrist and put it up; the room was starting to feel warm and humid without the air condition.
"So," Gordo stretched his arms. "Where are your folks staying again?"
She was relieved at some distraction, it helped to have something to focus on that wasn't what was going on outside the four walls. "Some resort in Vegas. Apparently it has an indoor water park."
"And you stayed home to study?" Gordo shook his head, feigning disappointment. "I'm disappointed in you, McGuire."
"Oh, yeah?" she arched her eyebrow.
"Never pass up an opportunity for an indoor water park."
"Says Mr. Studious himself."
"Well, Mr. Studious also has a fun side."
"Oh, yeah?" she repeated, in mock surprise.
"Keep it up, McGuire," he poked her side and she jerked, covering it protectively.
"Don't," she said in a warning tone.
He held his hands up in surrender. "Whatever you say-with some restrictions," he added when she opened her mouth, eyes lit up. "See, you're already better. I bet you're not even thinking about the storm anymore-well before I brought it up again."
"Only a little," she said, shrugging one shoulder.
"See, you're braver than you think," Gordo told her.
*Toon Lizzie was dressed as a soldier. "That's right, Lizzie McGuire, soldier. Reporting for duty." Then the thunder cracked and she shrunk. "On second thought, I never liked green anyway." She ran, leaving a cloud of dust in her wake.*
"Only because of you," she kind of scoffed.
"That's not true." She gave him a look. "Well, maybe a bit but you've been brave plenty of times. Remember when you stood up to Kate?"
"Gordo, a storm and Kate are a little different."
"I wouldn't count on that too much," he muttered.
Incidentally, just like that time in junior high for picture day, Kate and Miranda had matched. Miranda had purchased a brand new pair of black hip huggers and of course, Kate owns all so she got the same pair. They weren't even wearing the same shirt but it was enough to leave the Queen Bee's blood boiling.
"Gordo, are you even listening to me-" A loud smack hit the roof, followed by another and another. Lizzie threw herself back into Gordo's arms. It's okay, it's okay...
"It's okay, Liz. It's just hail," Gordo said, of which he thought would be comforting.
"Make it stop," she said into his shirt. Okay, she knew she was being childish and weird and Gordo was probably laughing at her on the side. But in her defense, it was scary.
"I wish I could," Gordo's voice, it was wistful and regretful. Like...like he wasn't laughing at her and genuinely wished he could help. A moment later, he had an idea. "Just focus on my breathing, Liz. Don't listen to the hail, just focus on me. Got it?'
For the entire three and a half minutes that the hail poured down, Gordo inhaled and exhaled and Lizzie mirrored him. It was actually pretty calming, she was still somewhat on edge, though.
When she pulled back, not fully from his arms, just enough that she wasn't face-to-face with his shirt anymore, Lizzie glanced into his eyes.
They were a really nice shade of brown, she noticed.
His arms were still around her, holding her. It felt nice, comfortable.
He smiled back and her stomach did that flop-floppy thing it did when she was around Ethan Craft back in junior high.
They continued to look at each other, not saying anything but not needing to say anything. The storm was going on but they were oblivious to it.
"Tell me about school." Lizzie felt like he had more to say, something other than that but she didn't push. "Besides Mr. Morrison's class."
Okay, okay, so she might have complained about it once or twice. Or a bazillion times. But in her defense, she sucked at it and everyone else seemed magically gifted.
"Gordo, it's the weekend. I don't wanna even think about school," but then came more lightning and she jumped while still in his arms. "Okay, fine. Whatever. Uhhhh-" Nothing major had happened throughout the week, it was all boring and dull. Except- "Uh, well, Danny Kessler talked to me at lunch on Wednesday."
She only shared her lunch period with Miranda now and not Gordo. He ate after them and was in homeroom during their lunch hour. It was actually kind of lonely without him, on the other hand, it did give her and Miranda plenty of time for girl talk without having to bore Gordo.
One of those boring topics being boys, naturally.
Gordo stiffened a bit. "Oh yeah?" he was trying to be all casual but failing miserably. Lizzie thought he might still be sore about not being invited to Danny's pool part but that was crazy, that was years ago and Gordo wasn't the type to hold a grudge. Not like Kate.
"Yeah, it was really weird. He just came up to me and Miranda at lunch." Lizzie had been caught off guard by his sudden appearance. He hadn't talked to her since that day on the bus. But that day, he'd sat down at their table, flashed them a smile and asked how they'd been, how their summer was. The usual questions of someone that hadn't been around for a while.
But that wasn't all."
"He even asked me out."
"What?" Gordo spluttered. "He-he asked you out?"
"Holy crap," he muttered to himself.
She was confused but brushed it off.
"I couldn't believe it. We haven't talked, in like, forever. I didn't think he still knew I existed."
"I don't think anyone could forget you," Gordo said in earnest.
"Thanks, Gordo," she smiled. "That's really sweet."
"Well, I'm a sweet kinda guy," he shifted a little.
"Yeah, you are," she couldn't deny that.
"I guess I should you; have fun on your date. You must be excited."
Lizzie gave him a strange look. "Date?"Now he was giving her a strange look. "You said Danny Kessler asked you out."
"That doesn't mean I said yes," she saw how relieved he looked.
"No," she scoffed. "Gordo, I told you: He hasn't talked to me in forever. He told me I was gorgeous but I don't wanna go out with someone just because I look good, you know? It's so shallow."
"Yeah," he agreed, kind of loudly. "Totally. I wholeheartedly agree. You deserve better than Danny anyway."
*Toon Lizzie was in a detective outfit. "If I'm not mistaken, I think Gordo's trying to say what I think he's trying to say." She looked blank for a moment. "Is he?"*
Lizzie didn't respond right away. She was caught up in a flood of memories.
Gordo, he didn't even hesitate to come over when he realized she was scared. He'd done a lot for her since they became friends, often without expecting anything in return.
He'd given her some money to get those pants she wanted so bad so she could be best dressed.
He'd helped her get a new outfit for picture day when she was too embarrassed to wear the sweater.
He'd reassured her after Ronnie broke up with her, that there was no other girl that was prettier or more fun than her.
And there was the message he'd written in her yearbook.
And there was so much more; so much that she'd never thought about.
It was at that moment, it just clicked.
"Someone...someone like you?" she looked in his eyes, saying those words slowly.
He looked like a deer caught in the headlights. "I, uh-"
Those times when he expressed exasperation of her and Miranda's infatuation with Danny and Ethan, the brief period of when she dated Ronnie. It all made sense. "You think I deserve better because you're jealous, aren't you? You were jealous of Ethan and Ronnie and now you're jealous of Danny because you thought I said yes." None of it was a question, she was sure of what she was saying.
His eyes were darting around the room, anywhere but meeting hers. He couldn't very well escape, not with her practically in his lap.
"Gordo, please answer," she pleaded quietly. "I just need to know if it's true. Please."
"It's not important."
"Yes, it is!" she burst out and he flinched from the noise that was close to his ears. "I'm sorry but that's not good enough. This is about me Gordo, it's about us. I deserve to know this."
He slid out of her arms, standing up on his feet. "Why is this such a big deal to you?"
She stood as well, with her hands on her hips. "Because! If you like me, I want to know!"
"Well, I do," he said after taking a deep breath. "I love you, Liz. I've loved you for as long as I can remember but you've been oblivious."
The confession hit her like a ton of bricks.
Gordo continued. "I've stepped aside after I realized that you probably only saw me as a friend. I let you drool over Ethan and Danny and Ronnie and I didn't say anything because I didn't want anything to change. I know I probably just screwed everything up now, though."
Lizzie did what she'd seen in those chick flicks with Miranda (and Gordo because they'd dragged him there); she'd hoped it would be done to her but who knows? Maybe someday. For now, to shut him up, she kissed him while holding a hand to his cheek.
*"You know how people say there's fireworks when you kiss that special someone?" Toon Lizzie said. "Well, I can confirm that's true!"*
It was magical and wonderful and everything she could have ever wanted in a kiss. Her first real kiss, not the one she shared with Ronnie.
Lizzie pulled away, still holding his cheek. "Wow," she whispered.
"Wow," he whispered, too, in awe of what just occurred. "Wow."
"I hope you don't mind," she said, nervously. "I didn't know how else to shut you up."
"You're fine," he managed to get out. "I'm perfectly fine with you doing that anytime you need me to shut up."
She giggled then sobered up. "I guess that means you like me after all."
"Love. I love you, Lizzie."
She kissed him again.
The lights were still off, except for the flashlight. The storm was still raging outside and that was the only noise that echoed throughout the house.
As for Lizzie, well, she wasn't scared anymore. She was laying on top of Gordo. He was still holding her and toying with the end pieces of her hair. She listened to his heartbeat and drew circles on his chest with her finger.
"Hmm?" he asked sleepily. They'd laid there for so long, both of them had nearly fallen prey to sleep a handful of times.
"When did you start liking me?" she inquired. "It wasn't back in junior high was it?" She hoped not.
"...Would you be mad if it was."
She groaned. "I feel awful now!"
"Why?" he furrowed his eyebrows.
"Because I totally rubbed it in your face about how much I liked Ethan Craft," she grimaced, recalling those days. "Aw, Gordo, you must have been crushed."
"It's alright, Liz. It's behind us."
"You're not denying it!" She felt worse.
"Because it didn't-" she peeked up at him, resting her chin on his chest. "Okay, it hurt a little."
"I knew it!"
He patted her head. "Yes, you were right. Happy now?'
He sighed dramatically. "Chicks. Never can please 'em."
She smacked him.
"Ow, and abusive too!"
"Shut up," she laughed.
"Okay, now let me ask you a question," Gordo said.
"Where does this leave us?"
"I don't know...where do you want it to leave us?"
"I think you know," he caressed the side of her face. "Liz, I've loved you for as long as I can remember. I know I'm no Ethan Craft or Danny Kessler and if you don't want to date me, I understand. But I want you, Lizzie. It physically hurts me to just be your best friend. You're beautiful, funny, smart, brave. I'm so lucky to have this one life and spend it with you, boyfriend or not."
She pulled herself up closer to him with tears welling up. "Oh, my, Gordo. That's the sweetest thing anyone's ever said to me."
His cheeks flushed.
"I just don't want to rush this," she told him truthfully. "I like you, too and I don't wanna ruin our relationship over this."
"Soooo what you're saying is-" he trailed off, purposefully leaving it open for her to finish.
"How about you pick me up next weekend and we'll go to the Digital Bean. It's a date. Parents permission, of course."
I'm going on a date with Gordo, her mind thought gleefully. I can't believe I'm going on a date with Gordo!
Little did she know, Gordo was having the same thoughts about her.
"I'll be there," he promised.
She was about to say something else when the lights suddenly came back on. She inwardly sighed in relief.
"Hey, the lights are back on," Gordo noted. "We can watch that movie after all."
The phone started to ring.
"Must be my parents," she told him, picking up the phone. "Hello?"
"Lizzie!" It was her mom. She sounded relieved, too. "Oh my gosh, thank goodness! The TV said there was bad weather and your father and I were worried so I called but I couldn't get through. Is everything okay?"
"Yeah mom," she started to blush under Gordo's gaze. He was smiling like a loon. "Everything's fine. The lights went out for a little bit but they're back on."
"That's good," her mom said. "Lizzie, I'm sorry. I know how much you hate storms."
"It's okay," and she meant it. "Gordo came over so it's not so bad. I hope that's okay?"
"Of course, honey. Tell Gordo if he wants, and his parents are okay with it, he can stay over to keep you company or you can go over to his house."
She reached for Gordo's hand, intertwining their fingers. They weren't official yet and she wasn't sure of how this was going to go over; with everyone else or them going forward.
What was sure of was, that the future was very bright and not just because of the lightning.
She grinned at Gordo and he smiled back.
Her stomach did another flip-floppy feeling and now she understood.
Maybe the storm wasn't so bad after all. Maybe she and Gordo just needed a little push.
I know I kinda rushed it toward the end but I hope you liked it anyway