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Crossing the Threshold
The whispered voice behind me was distracting, but I kept reading.
“Psst! Nerd Girl!”
My grip on the book clenched, but I gritted my teeth and kept reading.
“Hey bookworm. What ya reading? I bet it’s romantic!”
I slammed my book down on the desk. “What is wrong with you?!”
“What? Am I annoying you?”
“Lance, seriously, shut up before I punch you!”
“Is there something you’d like to share with the class, Alexa?”
“Yes. My brother’s an idiot, and I’m paying, whoever’ll kill him.” I looked the teacher square in the eye.
“Yeah right. As if anyone would hurt that hunk of meat.” He laughed jokingly. “Lance, shut up and leave your sister alone.”
Grumbling about how Mr. Watson was sexist, Lance settled back into his seat.
It really rots, having a basketball star for a brother. Whenever we go to family holidays, like Thanksgiving, everyone cooed over him. “Oh, Lance! You played wonderfully at the game! How do you do it?” And on and on and on, until he’d be swarmed by another group of relatives. Then the first group would turn to look at me and ask, “And Alexa, what have you accomplished recently?”
“I won best of show at the art show at school,” or a similar response was how I’d answer.
“Oh, that’s nice,” they’d say blandly, and walk away.
Yes, I, the promising older daughter, am not in the least athletic. I take more after my more eccentric less-than-perfect mother, who was a rock star. She died of a drug overdose soon after my brother was born. So my dad’s been raising us. Did I mention that he’s really into sports? Yeah.
Lance didn’t sound like he was being stupid anymore, and Mr. Watson had settled into his desk to grade some papers. So I decided to give him a chance.
I sighed, placing my bookmark between the pages, and turned to face him. He sat to my right, two seats back. “What?”
“You know that party, at Tyler Mann’s tonight?”
Like I couldn’t have heard if I’d tried. Everyone had been buzzing about “how awesome The Mann’s party would be!” Ugh.
I decided to save Lance from my little speech. “Yeah.”
“Sounds awesome, right?” He smiled that stupid grin that always made girls blush like crazy and suddenly lose coherency. It made me roll my eyes in disgust. “Tyler says that you can come too, if you want. I know you hate these things. But I figured I’d tell you in case you changed your mind.” He sat back, so I figured the conversation was over.
Turning in my seat, I reopened my book, but I wasn’t reading the words. Tyler Mann had invited me to his party? That was weird. Since I had no athletic ability, and since being a cheerleader held no appeal, I usually went unnoticed on the pyramid of existence.
I wasn’t unpopular. I had friends, and it wasn’t like I went out of my way to make people dislike me. I guess they just didn’t see the benefits of being my friend. (Right.)
The end of the hour was nearing. People began whispering. Lance was flirting with some girl. He was being loud enough that I could hear. He made a joke, and she giggled in a high-pitched voice.
Gag. Puke. Repeat.
The bell rang, and everyone got up to leave for the day. I went to my locker. Stuffing books in my backpack, I was imagining loud music and my afternoon alone.
I knew that voice. As I turned to face him, I tried to keep my face neutral. It was really hard.
“Hi. I’m Tyler Mann.” He acted as if I was supposed to fawn over him. Omigod, you’re Tyler Mann! This is such an honor!!!
“I know who you are.” I had to remind myself to be polite and at least pretend to care.
“Ooo-kay.” He frowned, but didn’t walk away like I’d hoped he would. A second passed and the frown on his face was replaced with his usual boyish smile.
“So your brother told me how he told you about the party.” I didn’t say anything. “How I invited you.”
Again, no response.
He sighed, finally getting the hint that I wasn’t going to react in any way. “I just wanted to let you know that I’m serious. I really hope I see you there.” He paused for a second, and then walked away.
Well, that was weird.
I continued on home. When I got there, I proceeded to collapse on the couch. I stared at the ceiling, debating the question that had been swirling in my mind. To go or not to go, that is the question.
As a drama kid, I was entitled to make stupid jokes like that.
Eventually, I decided I would go. I never went to school activities, much less un-school-related parties, so I figured I could just go and see how horrible it was so I’d never feel the urge to go ever again.
As a way to keep myself from being nervous, I turned on the TV. I vegged out, trying to keep my nerves under control. I was kind of scared because this was the first real party I would ever be going to. This caused my anxiety levels to peak. I tried to keep myself distracted, but then my mind wandered back to it, and my heart leapt out of my throat.
At eight Lance came tearing into the house. He ran straight into his room and slammed the door. Twenty minutes later, he strolled out, hair done up, wearing clean clothes.
“Hey, tell Dad I’m going out---”
“I’m going with you.”
He stopped and stared at me. His jaw dropped to the floor. “You---what?!”
I jumped up and started pushing him out of the door. “Dad’ll figure it out when he gets home. Let’s go.”
At the party, he rushed right in. Other people were still trailing in. I waited a few tense moments in the car, buying myself time. Finally I couldn’t take the suspense anymore. I started walking to the house.
I figured it would take awhile to get there, but before I knew it I was walking up the front patio. There were people milling around outside, but the door was closed against the cold. I could hear a TV and music somewhere in the house, creating a medley that filled me with courage.
Breathing deeply, I knocked on the door.
It took a moment, but then the door opened, and Tyler was there.
He smiled. A really big smile, that could either be totally fake or totally fake. “I’m glad you made it. When your brother came without you, I thought you weren’t coming.”
Slowly, shyly, I met his gaze and gave him a smile of my own.
If possible, his smile seemed to get even bigger. “Come on inside.”
He held the door open, and I went inside.