Waiting on the Sidelines(3)

By: Ginger Scott

I must have been in a deep trance, staring at the light freckles on his arms and the shaggy torn sweat pants that showed his muscular calves and Nikes with #13 written on the back, when I was jolted awake by the sound of my last name.

“Lennox! You ‘bout done with those laps, lady? Get a move on!”

Everyone turned to stare at me sitting in the stairwell. Reed’s eyes are green. I know this because I looked right into them. Then I watched them gaze down my body, taking in my worn-out, extra-large Lake Powell T-shirt, knee-length basketball shorts and tube socks pulled well over my calves to show off the red and blue stripes that this morning seemed so very cool. Not cool. Not cool, I thought. That’s when I saw the sides of his mouth curl into a half smile. His eyes made it back to mine and he turned around.

I was stunned. Did he approve? Was my style cool? Did I just make an impression on the boy who is clearly our future homecoming king?

I gulped down some water from the fountain and jogged back to the middle of the gym to start passing drills. The next two hours passed in a blur. I remember a lot of running between lines on the basketball court and jumping to reach our hands above the net. I know I aced the passing drills where we had to pass a ball perfectly into a series of large net baskets, and I finished my runs faster than most of the other girls trying out. Just a few hours ago, I would have been soaking up the competitive edge I seemed to be gaining with every challenge. But I couldn’t get Reed’s eyes out of my head. And that half-smile he left me with as he turned around and raced up the stairs. Every water break, I purposely placed myself at the end of the line so I could get a glimpse of the weight room upstairs. I saw him lying on a bench and lifting weights with another boy I knew, Sean. When they were done, they would bang fists and trade spots. I kept waiting for Reed to look down the stairs at me, clearly standing right in view. But he never did.

Practice was over at 5. I was sitting in the corner rolling down my socks and pulling them off to stuff inside my shoes when the head coach came over to me.

“Lennox, right?” she said, flipping through a few papers on her clipboard.

“Yes. Nolan Lennox,” I said, my heart racing now. Is my punishment not over? Or worse, is she going to cut me for being late? I hate that car. My dad had to pour water from a gallon into it just to get us moving. I’m mortified and angry.

“You did a nice job today, Lennox. You keep that up, and you’ll be playing junior varsity this year.” With a small nod of approval she turned and walked into the main coaching office.

I didn’t see that coming, but my lungs filled with air as the heavy weight of dread completely dissolved. I was almost proud. I sat there stuffing my shoes into my gym bag and putting on my flip flops for an extra long time. I knew my dad was in the parking lot, so I didn’t want to keep him waiting long. I had a feeling after the start of our day that the air conditioning probably wasn’t working very well.

As I walked out of the gym I saw Reed sitting on a bench pulling off his cleats and talking to a couple of the other guys. The two older girls from our volleyball practice were sitting on the grass in front of them.

I was just out of their view, but I heard the tall girl with the short shorts start. “Was her name seriously Nolan? That’s a dude name. Do you think she’s a dude?”

I heard the girls giggle. In a way, I expected that. I’m a girl named Nolan. I spent years defending that, and most of the kids in my class were used to it. In fact, people thought my name was sorta cool by now. What I didn’t expect was the next sound. I heard a boy’s voice pipe in with a “dang, that ain’t right.”

I stood still and leaned on the wall for a minute to see if I could tell who was talking. It was Reed. He was pulling a pair of sunglasses out of a cloth pouch and putting them on. Then he looked over at one of the guys sitting next to him and continued. “He, I mean she totally dresses like a dude, though. Maybe she had a sex change.”

“Booooom!” Sean, his weight-lifting partner, shouted, as they smashed fists and stood up, throwing their bags over their shoulders. The older girls were in fits laughing at my expense.

I pushed down the urge to cry.

I waited for the girls to leave so I could walk unnoticed to the Oldsmobile. Then came the sucker punch. As they walked back into the building just around the corner from me I heard them continue.

“I think I know her, you know?” said the other girl, who I’m still on the fence about. “I think her mom works at our office.”

I do know her, I realize. Her family runs an accounting office that serves most of the small cities south of Phoenix. It has several branches, but the main one was in Tucson, and my mom would work there a few times each month answering phones and assisting clients. Tatum Hernandez. A junior. Beautiful. She was always nice to me when I came to work with my mom. I have a brief moment of hope at this thought. Surely, she’ll defend me.

“You know it’s not her fault she’s so poor. It’s sad, really. I think she has to wear her brother’s old clothes. I mean, looking like that? She’ll never have a boyfriend. I would make her my project if she weren’t so embarrassing. She lives in a trailer.”