Waiting on the Sidelines(8)By: Ginger Scott
“Actually, I’m getting a new phone, so I don’t have one right now,” the words flew out of my mouth so quickly I hardly had time to register the lie I had just told, let alone come to grips with the massive persuasive argument I now needed to develop to talk my parents into buying a phone for me.
“Oh, well…” Reed paused, rather unsure of what to say next. “Huh, well… how about this… I’ll call you at your house, that’s the number you gave, right? And then we can figure out when we want to start working on this thing and then just take it from there?”
“Sounds good,” I said, both thankful that he seemed to not balk at my fib and sick at my further weakening from peer pressure.
“OK, well, I’ll see you later,” he said as he headed to the quad for his next class.
I just smiled as he walked away and then pretended to bend down to fix my shoelace. When I stood back up, he had blended in with the crowd and was surrounded by his friends.
It was a Tuesday afternoon and I was heading to Reed’s for our first project session. School and volleyball practice flashed by in a blur. I vaguely recalled a quiz in algebra, which I suppose was a good sign for doing well. Rules of grammar in English, and science class was filled with a video on the relationship between plant life and oxygen. I am sure there was more depth to the video, but I spent 40 minutes pretending to intently watch and take notes, all too aware of my lab partner seated right next to me. From the corner of my eye I saw every doodle he made in the margin of his notebook. At one point, I thought he might have noticed my stealthy stare as he scribbled out a three-dimensional ‘HI’ that seemed to be daring me. But then he started to add wings and swirls and Nike Swooshes, so I was pretty sure it was just stream-of-conscious drawing.
I had made the junior varsity volleyball team, so practice was fairly intense. I welcomed the two-hour distraction, and clearly put every ounce of myself into conditioning and drills. My dad originally wanted to just drop me off at Reed’s straight from practice, but I was thankfully able to talk him into taking me home to shower and change first. There was no way I was showing up at his house with a sweat-soaked MicNic Burger shirt and fuzzed out ponytail.
I showered and changed in record time, threw on a pair of hip-hugging denim shorts, loose-fitting tank top and my trusty Converses and we were on our way. My dad was actually really excited to be dropping me off at the Johnson house. He said he always wanted to drive up the entire driveway. I remember him threatening to do it just for fun a few times last year, but my mom would always stop him. I didn’t think it was a big deal then, but I think I would just about die if he were to do it uninvited now.
As we rounded the tall trees at the corner of the property and made our way through the main gates, I took the entire thing in. I didn’t know how big an acre was, but I knew Reed’s dad owned several. His house came into view, classic-style, two stories and a balcony at the front just above the main entrance. The garage to the right was open, showing off a gleaming classic Buick—a 1954 Skylark, according to my dad. I could tell he wanted to stop the car to get out and look at it, but thankfully he just let it idle and told me he’d be back by 6:30 to pick me up. I told him to call if we needed to leave earlier; he was surprisingly good about getting me a phone. I didn’t have a fancy plan and it was refurbished, but it would work.
I waved my dad off as I stood in front of the door. For some reason I didn’t want the Oldsmobile behind me when Reed opened the door to let me in. But my dad wasn’t budging until he knew I was safely inside.
I heard a dog barking after I rang the bell and I could roughly make out the form of someone coming to open the door through the frosted glass. My dad started to pull away and in my mind I thought maybe it was fast enough to not draw any attention to the rust marks on the bumper.
Reed’s smile was greeting me instantly. “Welcome to Casa del Johnson!” he said, finding himself terribly clever. “Come on in. I made some space for us in the dining room so we can get started.”
I followed him into the house, still not saying a word. He was wearing a well-worn grey t-shirt and loose-fitting jeans that were starting to tear at the feet. He slid across the wood floors in his socks, truly comfortable and not at all bothered by my presence. He pulled out a chair for me at the table and headed into the nearby kitchen, pulling a knit beanie from his head and tossing it on the counter. His hair, still a little wet from his after-practice shower I was guessing, curled a bit at the ends, flopping in random directions.
He came back to the dining room with two Cokes and a bowl of chips. “Brain food,” he said.
Finally able to get my mouth to work, I thought I should start by giving him my new phone number. I was able to win the phone debate with my parents to some extent, though I had to settle for a low-use, pay-as-you-go plan. “Hey, I got my new phone, if you want to take down the number,” I said, trying to be as casual as possible. I was putting entirely too much thought into even the simplest of sentences. When we had to start seriously talking, I knew I was doomed.