Waiting on the Sidelines(10)

By: Ginger Scott

Pretending, that’s what I was doing. I was disgusted at myself for it, but here I was doing it anyhow. Noles? Since when am I Noles?

“This is Devin and Cole. They’re on varsity with me… juniors. They took the little freshman under their wing,” Reed said, laughing it off like he was embarrassed. As absurd as it was, Reed was the one taking the upper classmen under his wing. Though he was not quite 15, he came to Coolidge with such confidence. I know a lot of it came from his name and his father and his brother, but there was also a certain amount that was just his. He owned it, and he was a leader the instant he stepped foot on our campus.

“Mind if we hit the fridge?” Devin, the biggest of the bunch, said. He was clearly a lineman or some type of defensive player. He was built like a college player. I heard the clanking of glass in the kitchen as the fridge door shut. Then I heard the distinct sound of bottle caps snapping. Curious, I rounded the table, pretending to need to work on the other side just to catch a view of what I suspected. All four boys were holding Heineken beers, leaning against the counter, one of them sitting on top of the kitchen island. It was clearly a regular activity, they seemed so comfortable and at home. I was far from 15, several months shy to be exact, and had yet to really kiss a boy, let alone drink a beer. My palms were sweating, I was so nervous at the situation. Work, busy yourself, Noles! I thought to myself, smirking at my silently said nickname.

I heard the TV turn on and then the regular banter about the NFL and “great catches” ensued. I continued to circle the table, working, but also putting my ears at their best advantage. Just then, I heard my name. It was Sean speaking up, not quite a whisper but clearly low enough so I couldn’t hear, or so he thought.

“Dude, what happened? She’s sort of cute now, huh? Weird, right?” he said.

I was dizzy.

“Hmm, you think so?” I heard Reed say.

“Uh, yeah. I do,” Sean defended. I had been careful to wear my hair down during school, and I had even toyed with a little make up here and there just to feel a little more grown up.

I heard footsteps coming my direction, so I quickly leaned on my elbows, staring intently on the drawing and the line of my ruler. They were all coming to sit in here with us. Each of them taking a chair and leaning around the table. Their conversation continuing while I busied myself drawing, looking up to react every so often, smiling, just so I didn’t appear to be rude or aloof. I heard Cole’s phone conversation with Tatum. My mind took in snippets of everything. Something about a party in the desert, Reed getting a ride with them. It was as if I was washing the windows on the outside of an exclusive club. I was getting a glimpse inside, but not fully participating.

The time flew by, and I was startled when my phone rang. My home phone number popped up. My dad was coming to pick me up. Pulling together our notes, the list and the colored pencils I had brought, I threw everything in my backpack and zipped it up.

“Hey, Noles, we could totally take you home if you want to tell your pops,” said Cole. He was the quieter one of the group, a bit skinny, but tall enough to make his appearance fool you into believing he was an athlete. Noles, somehow that nickname was sticking.

“No, that’s ok, I have some family things to do. But thanks!” I said, deep down knowing we didn’t have any family plans but that I didn’t really want this group pulling up to my gravel driveway after leaving the Johnson palace.

Reed walked me to the door when we heard my dad pulling up, carrying my backpack for me in a sort of traditional gentleman’s way. “Hey, sorry I wasn’t much help today. It looks great though. How about we pick back up on Thursday?”

“That should work. I’ll come by after practice again, OK?” I said, still reeling from the last two hours where I was alone with the it boy of my next four years, spent the afternoon listening to tales of underage drinking, all the while in the presence of underage drinking, and earning a nickname that, while I didn’t really like, I secretly was honored to be given.

My dad asked mostly about the Johnson garage, curious if I got the full tour. I told him we pretty much just worked on the project the entire time, leaving out the part about Reed’s friends and their beer. I sat back in the seat, pulling my legs up from the hot edges of the seat. For once, not really embarrassed by my car or the home we were driving to, but rather impressed with the path my high school self seemed to be on.

Thursday was pretty much a rerun of our first afternoon together at Reed’s house. Once again, Reed’s father wasn’t home. And once again, his friends came over and sat around the table while I worked on building miniature casitas, gardens and filtration stations out of modeling clay. I was more involved in the conversation now, adding in my opinion about the Cardinals chances this year (I knew a few things, but was mostly quoting bits I had read on USAToday.com and some of the sports blogs my brother always read).

Our Tuesdays and Thursdays were becoming a regular thing, for at least an hour after practice every time. The guys would say hi to me in the halls at school, and Sienna and Sarah were delighted to flirt with a few upper classmen. A few times, they even joined me at Reed’s house, sitting around the table and, while I never did, they also drank a few of the Reed family beers as well. Sarah was a joiner, and she had been to a few high school parties in junior high where she had gotten buzzed on shots with her older sister. Sienna was a bit more cautious, so she nursed her beer, participating, but not really experiencing.