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My heart hammers as I walk down the stairs to lunch, the palms of my hands grow damp on the touch of my plastic covered binder and my breath comes in and out of my lungs quicker then normal. I’m not nervous about a test, nor the roomer floating around of a pop quiz in history, no, my heart turns in my chest because of the boy that walks behind me. My mind can’t quite untangle the mystery that is him. Brent. The star basket ball player, #15. Super tall. Mysterious. Brooding. You get the point.
I stumble down the last few steps landing bad on my ankle, my hands scrambling for the handrail grasp only the stale air of the school. Ashley gasps next to me as I fall past her, trying to grab my shirt or arm, she leans forward, but it’s no use. I land on my knees as my binder, books, bag, and lunch skid in all different directions. Laughter comes from all around and I feel the blood spread under my skin and across my cheeks, I keep my head down thinking Brent and his friend will just pass me by. Ashley flutters around trying to get all of my things gathered back together as I slowly try to stand.
“No, stay down on the floor,” a smooth, sweet voice floats from behind me. I freeze. No, no, no. No. It can’t be him. After all these months, it can’t be him talking to me. I turn my head to look at him, and ask the only question that would make sense.
“Why?” His chocolate brown eyes find my blue ones and they look like they’re searching for something, but I look away before they can find anything in their depths.
“It might be sprained at the least, broken at the worst,” he mutters, looking away and running his hand over the back of his neck, “I should know, sprained mine a few times before...” he looks back at me and says the one thing I was hopping he wouldn’t. “I guess we should get you to the nurse’s office,” he comes closer, motioning to Ashley to pick up my books and grabs me under the armpits hauling me to my feet, me using all of my core strength and the one leg I have left to help him.
I lean heavily into his side as he helps me across the floor towards the offices, keeping off of the hurt ankle and trying to keep up with his long gait proves to be quite a challenge. Ashley hurries on ahead to open the door for us, as we squeeze through the frame, I’m rushed to the back and put on one of the five sick beds. A cold compress is wrapped around my swollen ankle which is now about the size of a grapefruit, I wince as they elevate it off of the bed. I think Brent has left in all of the hustle, and lay back on the thin pillows and dose off, in the lull of the muffled sounds of the office.
Someone clears a throat and I slowly open the heavy lids of my eyes. Brent. My eyes blink in a quick double take. He looks uncomfortable standing there, not looking directly at me, but not looking away either.
My mouth opens before I can stop it, “wheres Ash?”
He looks dumbfounded that I even spoke to him. What was he expecting? Me to just give him a stare down? I realize my mistake of not thanking him and I quickly backtrack. “I mean, umm, thanks.... you know for uh helping me, to... here,” the words tumble quickly out of my mouth and I look away scared of making a fool of myself.
“It was nothing, I’d help you any time,” he smiles to himself but quickly remembers that I’m there, “Umm, anyway, Ashley’s in the commons, they told her she had to leave, only one visitor at a time...”
“But she’s one of my best friends and I hardly know you, she probably told them that though, right? So, how come your here and she’s not?”
“Umm,” he again rubs the back of his neck,a nervous habit maybe? and looks out the window to the right, “she didn’t tell them that, I told them that you were, ah my... girlfriend, and I, umm, needed to stay with you and make sure that, you know, your all right and everything-” he’s interrupted as my mom bursts through the office door. I look stupified in his direction, but manage to close my mouth before my mother comes into the back room.
Barley giving Brent a second glance, she launches into nervous chattering,“oh Julia! I can’t believe this! Are you ok? Does it hurt? How much swelling is there? Did they give you any-”
“Mom! I’m ok, really! They just want you to take me to the doctor to make sure it’s not broken, which I don’t think it is, but just in case.” I look to Brent as he sits down two beds away from me trying to look like he’s not ease dropping on our conversation. The nurse comes in and starts to talk with my mom, who nods just a little too enthusiastically
and just as quickly as I twisted my ankle, I’m rushed out to my mom’s car in, to my embarrassment, a wheelchair. With only a fleeting glance back at the school, to where Brent is and I am not, mom pulls out of the parking lot and the school disappears from sight.
I insist on going back to school even with the brace the doctor put me in and hobbling on crutches. I’ve missed almost all of the rest of my classes except for a part of english and the whole of geometry. English is spent reading Romeo and Juliet, and Math craws by slowly as we learn of how to do proofs and prove them correct. Finally, I’m released three minutes early from last period, Jake carries my books to my locker for me as I painfully limp through the deserted hallways and commons, we get to the elevator and wait for the bell to ding as an alert of it’s arrival. We get in and stand in a comfortable silence as the elevator makes a slow assent to the second floor.
“Here we are, home sweet locker,” I joke as we approach my purple clone of a locker. A slow smile spreads across Jakes face.
“Yeah, beautiful isn’t it?” He jokes back, poking me in the ribs. I spin the combo into place 31 to the right, 9 to the left, 33 to the right. It pops right open and I gently lean my crutches on the wall before taking a book at a time from Jake’s arms and placing them in my backpack.
“Thanks Jake,” I sigh as the final bell rings, “guess you’ll be having to help me for a while.” I look pointedly at my ankle and smile sadly.
“It’s ok, getting out of class early is payment enough,” grinning genuinely at me he turns and walks off.
I pull my winter coat on and attempt to swing the backpack over my shoulder which feels like it weighs a ton! It falls to the ground just as a flood of students rush up and down the hall way, I reach over for it even knowing that I would never be able to pick it up.
“Need some help?” A hand wraps around the strap before I can protest. I drag my eyes up to meet the eyes of the hunched over Brent, he straightens up and for the hundredth time I think of how tall this boy is. “I was walking by and,” he looks over his shoulder to a boy who called his name and waves before turning back to me, “I saw that you maybe... needed help?”
“Sure... umm my mom’s picking me up so if you could just carry it to my car?” I turn and slam my locker, “do you need to go to your locker?” I look at the books he holds in his hands and he shakes his head.
“No, I don’t need it to day, have basketball after school today,” I nod and grab the crutches and put them under my arms.
“I think we need to talk Brent, you know, about earlier” he glances at me and sees the seriousness of my face and he knows that I mean it. Without another word, he grabs my arm and gently guides me through the crowds a quick trip down the elevator and though the choir hall way and into the theatre. We go up the stairs onto the stage and I sit off the edge, leaning my crutches below me, Brent sits next to me, his knee and thigh slightly brushing mine. “so...” I rack my brain trying to figure out how to start the conversation.
It turns out I don’t have to, “look, Julia, I don’t know why, but I just can’t get you out of my head, since last year, at least. I’v been meaning to ask you out, but I can never find a moment where both of us are alone,” he looks at me and I can see the the question in his eye.
I smile and reach down to entwine my fingers in his, “I guess this is your chance then.”
I lift my eyes to his and he leans down to my ear, his breath tickling as he whispers, “Julia, will you go out with me?”
My heart flutters as I breathe back the only possible answer, “yes.”