Waiting on the Sidelines(9)

By: Ginger Scott

“Awesome. Just send me a text with it later tonight,” he said.

“Can do,” I said, wincing at my squeaky clean, ‘you betcha’ response. Pull it together, Nolan. “So, I thought maybe we could just go through the project requirements and put together a plan that hit all of the requirements so we could sort of have a list of things to cross as we go. Sound good?”

“Works for me,” Reed said, flipping open a notebook to write our list on. I was pleasantly surprised that he was taking such an active role in our project. I was sort of used to carrying the team when it came to group projects.

“OK, first we need a model of our village. It has to include dwellings, food and water sources and be able to accommodate multiple families,” I read from the class worksheet. “We will also need a four-page paper describing our village and addressing our challenges and solutions to sustainability.”

“Got it,” Reed said, scribbling the last bit of our list. “Where do you want to start?”

“Well, I guess we should maybe draw a blueprint of our model and then next time we meet we can build it?”

“I have the perfect thing,” he hopped up from the table and ran upstairs in an instant. I heard his feet pound upstairs as they crossed above me. A few minutes later, I heard them cross back and he appeared at the bottom of the stairs with a huge foam cardboard piece in his hand. It was an old Buick credit check sign on one side, but he flipped it over on the table and the back was completely white.

“We can use this as our base,” he said enthusiastically.

“Perfect,” I said, leaning over the table with a pencil in my hand. Realizing I hadn’t seen his father, Buck, yet. “Hey, where’s your dad anyhow?”

“Oh, he’s never home this early. It’s just us,” he smirked, almost sorry for disappointing me, as if I had been hoping to meet his dad.

I just smiled and shrugged turning back to my drawing, just in time to shield his view of my giant swallow. We were completely alone. My best friends dreamt of this situation. Both Sienna and Sarah had pretty steady boyfriends in junior high, and they had done their fair share of sneaking out to be with their boyfriends. But to be in Reed Johnson’s home, completely alone, just the two of us? Even if I still had my reservations about his character, my heart was still racing.

I was so deep in my own imagination that I hadn’t noticed Reed answer his phone. I was jolted back to reality when he started laughing with whoever was on the other side. “Sorry, it’s Sean. I’ll just be a minute,” he whispered, walking to his living room. I heard parts of the conversation over the next few minutes as he was explaining what he was doing and who was at his house. “No, dude. It’s nothing like that – we’re lab partners, that’s all. … She’s cool, man. I swear. You two would actually get along.”

I wasn’t sure if I was happy to hear him defend my coolness or offended by his categorization of me in the lab partner box. He was back in the dining room soon after. He sat back on one of the chairs, tilting it backwards some, chewing on the cap of a pen and watching me work while I pretended to be oblivious to his studying of my hands. I could tell he wanted to say something, but for some reason was quiet. Finally, I had to break the awkward silence.

“Hey, is this what you were envisioning? Sorry, I just sort of started mapping the entire thing out,” I said, looking up and settling my gaze right at the pen cap bobbing up and down on his lip as he chewed.

“Oh, no, this is great! Sorry… I was just trying not to stop your flow,” he stopped, and it seemed like he wanted to say more. Chewing a bit longer, he finally pulled the pen from his mouth and continued. “Sean and a few friends are going to stop by for a bit. They’ll just be hanging out in the living room, watching ESPN. We can keep working, they won’t interrupt.”

“Sure, sounds good,” I said, closing my lips tightly and putting on the best ‘I’m fine with it’ smile I could. I wasn’t fine with it at all. The last time I was in the presence of the two of them, they were high-fiving over their description of how unattractive I was. Being trapped with them again was not high on my to do list. I decided to focus my energy on the project. Maybe, just maybe, I could completely finish the drawing and start actually building the model so I could avoid having to socialize with his friends.

Reed was standing at the head of the table, watching me plot out urban farming squares when the doorbell rang. Without a word, he jogged over and opened it. I heard Sean first, the familiar ‘Boom’ that I knew was followed by a knuckle bump with Reed. Vomit was creeping up on me and I knew I was frowning. I heard a few more voices as the footsteps came around the corner and saw Reed whispering something in Sean’s ear, presumably reminding him that I was here.

“Noles, what’s up man!” Sean said, holding a hand up for me to slap. Completely succumbing to the pressure of the situation, I did. As if I had always done that with him, and we had some sort of relationship. Truth be told, I had known Sean since seventh grade, but we never really talked. “Hey,” I said, smiling on the outside.