Waiting on the Sidelines(6)

By: Ginger Scott

“Wooahhh, I almost took your head off there,” Reed spoke, like we never met. His eyes met mine and he put on the most charming smile, a dimple on one side of his cheek. I could smell the gum in his mouth.

“Sorry, I wasn’t paying attention. My bad,” My bad? Really … did I just say that? I was so flustered at having a conversation with him, and I had no idea why. My first encounter with Reed Johnson resulted in a good three-hour crying fest while I soaked in the tub at home. I didn’t owe him anything.

“You OK? Your bandage is coming off?” he said as he bent down and, with one finger, popped the over-sized swath of cotton that Nurse Carol had tapped to my leg back in place. I was mortified.

“Oh, thanks. Yeah, I sort of had an accident.” Oh god, realizing that sounds like I peed my pants, I corrected, “I mean, I fell.” It was just getting worse. I needed to shut up, and leave.

“Well, be careful. You don’t want one of those wrapped around your head,” he laughed, swirling his finger around his head to mimic a wrapped bandage, but not in a poking-fun-of-me sort of way.

“Good point,” I said, smiling back and swinging my way through the door to the school hallway. He smiled back and turned around, his backpack flung over one shoulder in that perfect sort of way.

That was weird. Clearly, he doesn’t recognize me. Of course, why would he. He doesn’t really know me. I am being neurotic.

My feet were getting blisters, and school had barely started. Knowing I had the back-up Converse in my backpack, I made a plan to stop at my locker before third period. Morning homeroom, which was my math class, was great. I knew most everyone in the class and it was algebra, which I had basically already aced in junior high. I also had my best friends, Sienna and Sarah, in there with me. Truly a great way to start every day. Second period was a bit tougher, English. It looked like I would have a lot of reading to complete this year. I was looking forward to my third period—intro to science.

I didn’t want to be late, so I jogged to my locker and threw the evil blister shoes in quickly. I walked barefooted for a few steps with my backpack pulled around in front of me so I could yank out my Converses. I bent down to slip my thumb in the heel of the first one to fit it to my foot, and as I was tilted, head through knees, I saw Reed walking towards me, a grin on his face.

Oh no.

“Now I know you’re trying to get knocked over and injured,” he chuckled. “Maybe we could just blindfold you and let you walk around campus aimlessly.”

Trying to laugh him off, I threw my head straight and flung my hair up as I stood up. “Actually, this is injury prevention,” I explained. “My feet aren’t made for girly shoes it seems, so my classics are coming out of retirement for an appearance.” Grabbing the second shoe from my backpack, I tossed it in the air a little, trying to make it flip over in my hand. Unfortunately, I was distracted by this entire encounter, and when I went to catch the shoe, it bounded off my palm and flipped end over end down the walkway, over a ditch, coming to rest in a drainage pile of dirt and leaves. Embarrassed, I hopped with one foot down the small hill to retrieve it. My backpack slid down my shoulder and fell from my wrist.

“Hang on, I got this,” Reed said, lifting my backpack up for me.

“Thanks,” I said over my shoulder then turning, red-faced, to my shoe now covered in grass and tree debris. I shook it off, threw it back down and pushed my foot inside. I wanted to find a way to disappear, rewind time, come up with some clever thing to say, but I had nothing.

I shyly turned back around, and Reed was right there next to me.

“Here you go,” he said, handing me my pack. “Where you headed?”

“Science,” I said, deciding one-word answers were probably my best move.

“Hey, me, too. I’ll walk with you,” he said.

Oh god.

“I’m Reed, by the way,” he said, tilting his head to the side as we walked, his eyebrows raised clearly waiting for my response.

“Oh yeah, I know,” I said. Silence. I couldn’t seem to keep this conversation rolling and the pause between our words was becoming increasingly awkward. Finally, not able to handle it, I had to fill the space.

“My brother played football here and for Southern Arizona, so I’m sort of in on the football scouting,” I said. There, take that! Reed looked at me with a crooked smile, the sort of smirk that either said ‘this girl’s a freak’ or ‘cool, she gets football.’

“Yeah, I guess I have a hard time being anonymous,” he said, staring me in the eyes like he was willing me to add something. I just shook my head, smiled and raised my shoulders a bit.

“Like you, for example, are sort of anonymous… at least… I don’t know your name?” he sort of asked. Crap, that’s right. I didn’t reciprocate the introductions. I’m a nimrod.

“Oh, right. I’m…(I paused for a moment, remembering the last time I heard him discussing my name with someone). I’m Nolan,” I said, sort of scrunching my face a little, like I was saying something disappointing. I have no idea why I was making this face, but my body was full of anxiety. My hands and feet felt as if they were going numb, my stomach rolling over. Oh please oh please don’t bring up the conversation you had about my boy name and my boy clothes and my being nothing like a girlfriend ever. Please oh please.