Waiting on the Sidelines(7)

By: Ginger Scott

Reed jumped back a step while we were walking. He had put two and two together. My only hope was that he would pretend as if he’d never seen me before. Fake it, just for pleasantries.

“That’s right. I think I ran into you during practice drills the other day,” he was short. I think he wasn’t sure where to go from there, but I was fine ending it with that. I didn’t want to go into the details. Let’s just erase that moment from time.

“So why Nolan?” he asked.

“Why what?” I was confused by his question.

“I mean, why did your parents name you Nolan?” he clarified, with a bit of a laugh. Again, I am an idiot. Good grief he was charming. I almost let my mind drift to doodling my name with his last name on a notebook and giggling with my girlfriends about him, me and our future babies… but then I couldn’t get the sound of his less charming laugh out of my head, the one that was sparked by the conversation about how absolutely unattractive I was.

I was suddenly glad he asked about my name. I actually liked telling this story, and I thought I could stretch it for the rest of our walk across campus to our class. “Well, my parents were pretty sure I was going to be a boy. The doctor said it wasn’t 100-percent conclusive, but he was pretty confident… Anyways, my dad’s a huge baseball fan, and after much debate with my mom, who preferred the more traditional names, he talked her into naming their second child after Nolan Ryan… you know, the pitcher?” I paused to look at him to make sure he was following me…

“Well, when I was born, needless to say…not a boy!” I had a certain tone that was both sarcastic and pointed, to both emphasize the story and hint to Reed that I heard his conversation. He didn’t seem to flinch, but I was proud of my passive aggression regardless.

“And so they just stuck with the name?” he asked.

“Well, there was some debate. My dad started to go back to the list of girl names they kicked around months before. But my mom, well, she sort of started to get pissed off, yelling at my dad about how girls can do the same things boys can, and why isn’t their daughter good enough for a hall-of-famer’s name, blah blah blah. So when it came time to put it down for permanent record, they went for it. And voila – here I am!”

We were finally at the classroom and Reed stopped to hold the door open for me, his stupid smile in full force now. As I walked through the rows of tables, I headed for the middle back, not turning to see which direction Reed had gone. I threw my backpack over one of the chairs and slid into the seat and was startled when I heard Reed’s backpack hit the floor next to me as he slid into the other seat at my table. I turned to face him, a bit puzzled by his action. He was shaking his head now and chuckling a bit to himself. My confusion must have been apparent on my face because he stopped abruptly and looked right into my eyes.

“That is seriously the best name story I’ve ever heard. It’s actually kind of awesome. You’re name’s special…just… cool, you know what I mean?”

“I guess so,” I said, completely taken aback. And before I could get myself into any embarrassing trouble, the teacher began to talk about his expectations for the school year.

So much for the first day being a breeze. Our science class was starting off with a major project, and it would count for at least 20 percent of our grade. We were to work with a partner and build a model of a sustainable community along with a four-page paper explaining our design and how it would help our fake community survive. I was busy taking down notes on the project requirements when I heard my name called. I looked up quizzically, afraid I had missed a question from our teacher, when he finished his sentence with “…you’ll be working with Reed, ok?”

I don’t know if I spoke or just stared wide-eyed. I felt Reed elbow the side of my arm and I looked over at him. He was just smiling and nodding. He almost looked excited to be my partner? I was good at these types of projects. Maybe he had heard about how smart I was and was looking for an easy pass. That was probably it. Great, I’ll be doing all of the work. Well, at least I know it will be done well and I’ll get a good grade, I thought.

When the bell rang, I shoved my notebook back in my bag. Chewing on my pen, I threw my pack over my shoulder and was heading for the door when Reed caught me just before I left.

“Hey, we need to swap numbers,” he said, pulling his cell phone from his pocket. I began sweating immediately, knowing the awkward encounter about to come up. I didn’t have a cell phone. I was probably the only teenager left in Arizona not to have one, but, frankly, I didn’t really have a need… until now. And my dad was always ranting about the dangers of teens with cell phones and how they are a distraction.

“What’s your number?” Reed asked. Swallowing, I rattled off our home phone number. Then he looked up at me, insinuating that he was ready to share his. “Want me to just call you now so you’ll have a record of my number and you can save it?” he said.