“I’m tired of waiting, Angela. It’s been months.”
“You know I’m scared, Jack! I can’t help it.”
“I can’t keep doing this. The glances in the hallway, meeting in the lunch line, everything. I want a real relationship, not a secret, 5th grade one.”
“Tell me how you really feel, then.”
“Angela. Angela, look at me.” I lift my eyes to meet his stormy blue ones that once resembled the sky on a sunny day. “I don’t want this to end.”
“Me neither! I-”
“But I also can’t keep hiding.”
“We don’t have to hide, per say. We can just not be public,” I suggest. Even I know how stupid that sounds.
“Enough. There’s a party tonight at Max’s house. If you wear my sweatshirt-” he pulls it over his head and holds it out to me. Hesitating, I finally grab it. “If you wear this to the party, then I know you want to be with me. Publicly.”
“I can’t wear a sweatshirt to a party, Jack.” I’m grabbing for straws.
“It’s a chill get together with the team before the actual party, party. Just show up in it.”
“Or else what?” I’m scared I know the answer. Still, I need to hear him say it.
“Or else we’re over, Angela. You say you’re scared to be public with me, but why? Because you’re scared of what other people are going to say? That’s never bothered you before, and you know it.”
I know. It’s just different, I want to scream at him. It’s easy to block everyone out when they comment on my “goth” look, or anything superficial like that. When they start to attack me, point out every insecurity I have on why I’m not good enough for him, that’s when I start to believe it. When I can’t let it roll off my back, it’s already inside of me.
“No. I’ve waited months for you to be comfortable. And I, I care about you. A lot. I can’t keep doing this, though. I need to recognize myself and what I deserve, and I deserve more than hiding behind a fucking bathroom after a football game I scored the winning touchdown at!” He steals a breath. “10 o’clock. Max’s house. I’ll text you the address. It’s now in your hands, Angela.” With that, he turns and heads back out to meet his teammates, clapping a few on the back before going start to the middle of the huddle. That’s who he is. He’s the guy that can lead a small town football team to a state championship in the pouring rain. Next to him, I’m just a speck of turf on the field.
At home, I quickly shed the brightly colored makeup decorating my face and strip off the tutu I embarrassed myself with putting on. Screw school spirit.
I shower off the game, and the argument afterwards. I burn it off my skin until I’m as red as Jack’s heart that’s going to break in 30 minutes. I don’t want to do this to him. I want to throw the mental image of his crushed expression when I don’t show up right back into the other team’s endzone, but I can’t. I also can’t go to this get together. It’s like one of those silly grade school promises people make with their best friends. “No backsies,” they giggle.
Once I show up in his sweatshirt, there’s no backsies. No going back to being a fly on the wall orbiting the “it boy” that is Jack Weathers. Girls who once defended me will turn on me, seeing me as a social climber. No one will think he actually likes me.
I can picture it now. Whispers following me down the hall.
“Poor guy, he’s probably just pity dating her because her mom died last year.”
“10 bucks on her casting one of those witchy spells on him to make him like her.”
I’ve dealt with them the past year, ever since my mom died a year ago. I’m not ready for more once they’ve started to settle down. Now I only receive the occasional glances. The last time my name was on the school’s gossip website was months ago when I had a panic attack in the middle of class.
I look to the clock to see the time 10:23 brightly lit up. Fuck. He’s going to be heart broken. I get out and wrap myself tightly in a towel before changing into comfy pajamas.
I can imagine my mom sitting at the end of my bed, like she did many times, offering me unasked for advice when life got to be too much for me to handle on my own.
I’m scared, I want to tell her. I’m scared of the rumors following me like they did when you died.
That’s bullshit and you know it, she would say back to me. You’re scared he’ll leave you. Leave you like I did.
“No!” I yell aloud. No, I’m scared of other people’s opinions.
I didn’t want to leave you, baby. I had to, it was my time. You’ve always been my little star, shining in the sky even in complete darkness. Don’t let your fear take that away.
I can’t handle him leaving me too, I sob. I sob to no one. No one is there, not anymore.
So you’d rather take that chance away from him. When you do that, baby, you also take away every other chance of happiness. He may leave you. He also may not leave you. You need to decide if fear controls your life now.
You’re right. Mom, I don’t know if you can hear me, but if you can, value these words because it’s probably the only time I’ll say them. You are right.
I pick myself up off the bed and grab Jack’s hoodie off the ground where I threw it. The clock reads 10:28 and I thank every god up there that Max lives around the corner. I change into jean shorts and a tank top before slipping his hoodie over my head.
Wait for me, I tell him in my mind. I’m on my way.
I run out of the house into the pouring rain and quickly decide there’s not enough time for an umbrella seeing as I’m already 5 minutes late. I jump over puddles and skid to a stop in front of Max’s house, out of breath.
Bending down to catch my breath, I don’t notice him until familiar white shoelaces invade my vision. I stand up to meet his eyes. Any emotion inside of them is closely guarded as if there was a dam waiting for me to speak before letting the river of emotions come pouring out.
“I’m in your hoodie.”
“You’re in my hoodie.”
“I’m in your hoodie and I’m here and-” I pause and catch my breath. He chuckles slightly, knowing how tired my unathletic self must be. “-and I’m sorry I was being so dumb. I was scared. Not just of other people’s opinions, but of you leaving me.”
“Angela, I would never.”
“I know. I know you wouldn’t. When my mom died last year it was as if the universe pulled apart the strings holding me to my mom and didn’t give a damn that they were the same strings holding me together. I just got so scared that was going to happen if we went public. That you’d leave me or something would happen to separate us. I know it’s stupid, I-”
“It’s not stupid,” he interuppts me, before meeting my mouth with his own. It’s a kiss to light up the sky and heaven and everything the universe has to offer. A kiss that says, we’re in this together.
Breaking apart, I repeat what he once said to comfort me when I doubted him. “No matter what.”
“No matter what,” he repeats as he joins our mouths once again. Even as I hear the door open and hollars from his teammates fill the air, I kiss him as if nothing else existed. As if I wasn’t afraid.