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From Atlanta to Seattle
I pushed open the school doors, glancing down again at the map the secretary had given me when I’d come in three days earlier for my schedule. I hoped to not have to walk around with my face in the map all day like I did at my last school in Atlanta. My father worked as an ambassador for a huge music company based in Los Angeles, but they moved him a lot to work with other music companies and stars around the country. I had been born in LA, and we had moved to Nashville, Tennessee when I was two. We had lived there until I was five, when we had moved to Austin, Texas. After living there for only two years, we moved to Atlanta, Georgia. From there we had traveled to Miami, Florida when I was about eleven. All the moves were hard, it meant a new house for all of us, new neighbors and friends, new everything. I was still a little bitter about the most recent move. I liked Seattle well enough; it was a nice place, but moving and making new friends was always hard. I was a natural introvert; I had to be close to someone before I really felt comfortable talking to them. I still missed Miami sometimes, even after living in Seattle for the past two weeks. I had a great life back in Miami. I was top of my class, had great friends, and was on the verge of getting a boyfriend. And then, of course, my dad’s company had decided to transfer him again. Now we were almost as far as you can get from Miami. The school was called New Mountain High School (although as far as I knew there weren’t any ‘new’ mountains around here) and I was a sophomore. We had moved during the summer so at least I didn’t have to start mid-semester.
Sighing, I finally found my locker and pulled it open. All the lockers in the hall were solid black, no chips in the paint. They must have been recently painted. The only exceptions to the black were the students with sports magnets on the doors of their lockers. Apparently they trusted students here, as there were no locks on the lockers. At my school back in Miami, there were complicated combination locks on every locker. Surprisingly, my new locker was also clean, with only two partially torn off stickers stuck in the very back corners. I loaded the few binders and notebooks requested by my teachers into the locker and glanced at my schedule: Algebra 2, Chemistry, AP English Literature, AP World History, lunch, Spanish 1, Gym, and finally Computer Technology. It looked fairly easy, except for maybe Chemistry and Spanish. Grabbing the appropriate binder, I walked off to find the Algebra 2 room.
After turning into both a janitorial closet and a bathroom (the girls’, thankfully), I finally found my classroom just before the second bell rang. I slid into a seat in the middle row, second from the back. The teacher walked in just seconds after the tardy bell, carrying several folders and worksheets in one hand, a cup of steaming coffee in another. She looked young, maybe 33-ish, with dark brown hair highlighted a dark blonde, tanned skin, and glasses. She wore black pants and a white button down shirt with the cuffs rolled up a couple of times. Standing at the front of the classroom, she introduced herself as Mrs. Canterbury as she passed sheets of paper to the students in the front row, asking them to take one and pass it, and began going over what apparently was the syllabus. The boy in front of me had already fallen asleep, so I ended up reaching around him and grabbing the stack of papers, laying one on his desk. As I did so, my arm bumped his shoulder, accidentally waking him up.
“Huh? What?” He said, startled.
“I’m sorry, Gregory, did I interrupt your nap?” The teacher, said somewhat sarcastically.
“Uh…No ma’am?” Gregory replied uncertainly.
“Good response.” Mrs. Canterbury said, and went back to the syllabus.
I rolled my eyes and tried to listen to her lecture, but it was hard. I’d heard this so many times, it was the same for every teacher in every school in every state. The information was generally the same, with few variations in class rules and grading. The syllabus was the worst part of the first days of class, they bored me to tears. As I surveyed the rest of the students in the room, it appeared to bore many of the other students as well. One girl with thick black glasses in the very front of the room took notes. Obviously she wasn’t bored. Gregory was now fully awake and paying complete attention to the teacher. Another pensive-looking boy in the back corner sat with his headphones in, listening to his iPod and completely disregarding the teacher. She didn’t seem to either notice or mind.
After she finished going over the syllabus she took roll, something she probably should have done before, but whatever; she was the teacher. Since my name was usually at the bottom of the list, I spaced out for a while. Our class was fairly large, so it would be at least a few minutes before she got to me, depending on how many kids decided to try to be funny. Key word being try.
I began thinking about what to do about lunch. I figured I better find someone to sit with before then. Eating in the bathroom didn’t sound very appetizing. I had done that a couple of times before, and it wasn’t exactly fun.
“Melissa Watson?” Mrs. Canterbury called, bringing me out of my thoughts and back into the present.
“Here!” I said before she noticed that I hadn’t been paying attention.
She checked me off and went on to the final three students before handing out a review sheet with problems we were supposed to complete before class ended. When I received mine, this time from a fully alert Gregory, I glanced at the sheet and saw that it would be easy for me. Math had always been an easy subject for me, and my Geometry class at my old school had done lessons twice as hard as the problems on this worksheet.
I completed the sheet in ten minutes and walked it up to the teacher. She accepted it with a somewhat shocked thank you, and I walked back to my seat. Gregory gave me an amazed expression and a smile as I passed him. Why is everybody so shocked? It wasn’t that hard… I thought. Glancing at the clock, I realized that there was still twenty minutes of class left. Sighing softly, I pulled a book out of my bag and began to read. Thankfully, most of the class was working quietly, so I could concentrate on my book and tune out the classroom. When the bell rang, I fell into step with Gregory as we walked from the classroom.
“So how was your nap?” I asked jokingly.
“Good, up until Mrs. Canterbury interrupted it,” Gregory teased back with a grin. “So, you new here?”
“Yep, just moved here from Miami,” I replied.
“Wow, big climate change,” he remarked.
“Big is an understatement.” I answered.
“Do you like it in Seattle?” Gregory asked.
“Yeah, I like it here. I didn’t really want to move, but I guess this is a good place to come if I have to. I’d visited on vacations before, and it’s a nice place. I love the mountains” I replied.
“Cool. Funny, most kids don’t even look at the mountains, much less take the time to appreciate them,” said Gregory.
“Yeah, artistic pieces are some of my favorite things. In Miami, it was the beach and the culture; here, I like the mountains and forests. Especially the mist that comes right before the rain.” I paused, “Sorry, I’m babbling.”
“No, it’s ok. It’s nice to finally meet someone that appreciates the beautiful things in life. Other than coming to this fine establishment every day, five days a week,” he said, a twinkle in his eye at the last statement.
I blushed. “Thanks. And I’m really hoping that you were joking with that last line. I mean, the school’s great and all, but…it’s school.”
“Yeah, I know what you mean. It’s nice for a school, but it’s not where I would choose to spend seven hours a day if I didn’t have to. Wanna sit with me and my friends at lunch today?” he asked as we stopped at his locker. A football magnet with his name and number was stuck on the front of it.
“Yeah, sure, if you think they won’t mind,” I replied, excited to have someone to sit with. I tried to keep the emotion off of my face.
“They won’t. So I’ll see you then?”
“Yeah, that sounds good. See you then,” I said, flashing him a grin before walking a few feet more down to my locker.
The rest of my classes passed quickly but agonizingly slowly at the same time. I was excited to get to lunch and talk with Gregory more. Something about him was intriguing, interesting, and strangely familiar. I wasn’t quite sure it what it was yet, but maybe with time I would figure it out. Everything was easy with him though. The conversation flowed well, and even though we had just met, it didn’t feel awkward like it normally would with someone you had just met.
Standing at my locker right before I headed off to the cafeteria, I was reaching to the bottom in order to grab my lunch bag when I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned around to find Gregory standing there, a grin on his face and a paper bag in one hand.
“Hey,” I greeted, shutting my locker and turning to walk with him.
“Hey,” he replied. We walked in a comfortable silence to the lunch room. Upon entering the fairly large room, Gregory led me to an empty table in the back corner of the room. Several people gave us strange and shocked looks. I was confused, but blushed lightly, shrugged it off, and continued to follow him to the table.
Settling down at the table, we both unpacked our lunches and began eating. A few minutes later, two other people joined us. I assumed they were the friends he had mentioned earlier. One was a girl, maybe five feet five inches, with shoulder length black hair and blue-green eyes. The other was a boy with jet black hair and striking blue eyes. She and the boy could have been brother and sister.
“Melissa, this is Hailey,” Gregory said, pointing to the girl, “and that’s James. They’re my cousins. They’re both seniors, and brother and sister.”
“Nice to meet you,” I said with a smile.
“Nice to meet you, too. Are you new here? I don’t think I’ve seen you around before,” Hailey greeted me warmly.
“Yeah, I moved here over the summer from Miami,” I replied.
“Nice to meet you,” James said quietly.
Gregory ran a hand through his own dark brown locks as he spoke. “So, how has everyone’s first day gone?”
“Good. I figured out that I don’t like history.” Hailey said, smirking.
“Mine’s gone well, too.” James said, not elaborating on why.
“What about you, Melissa?” Gregory asked, turning his body to face me.
“Mine’s gone pretty well. I think I’m going to enjoy English Lit. Maybe not so much Chemistry.” I replied.
“If you want, I can help you sometime. I’m fairly good at science.” Gregory said.
“If it’s not too much trouble, please. Science is not exactly my forte.” I answered.
The whole table fell into a silence as the four of us continued to eat. Eventually, Hailey and James got up and left, saying something about a project for Honors Calculus.
“Twenty questions?” Gregory asked a minute after they left.
I shrugged. “Sure, why not? You start.”
“Okay…Favorite food?” he asked.
“Mexican food, hands down. Favorite animal?”
“Pandas. Favorite color?”
“Light blue and hot pink. Favorite book?”
“That was a bad question to ask me.” Gregory paused. “I guess To Kill a Mockingbird would have to be one of my top favorites.”
“Really? Me too!” I said, smiling.
Just then, the bell rang. I hoped to sit with Gregory again; he was really sweet and fun to talk to. I had discovered that I had Spanish 1 and Computer Tech with him, along with Algebra 2. Maybe this year might actually be fun.
* * * * *
Gregory and I had exchanged Facebook names, so that night around six o’clock, I sent him a friend request. He happened to be online and accepted right away. As I was looking at his page, something felt oddly familiar. Something about the information, the pictures, something. I couldn’t figure out what it was. I opened up a chat box and started a conversation.
Do you remember that time we were playing at the park in Atlanta and you sprained your ankle? Gregory asked after a few minutes of talking.
Yeah. That was painful. I paused for a second before continuing to type. Wait a second, how do you know that??? I replied. My heart started pounding as several different scenarios played through my head. Stalker, wacko paparazzi…the options were endless.
You don’t remember, do you? He said.
Remember what? I’m so confused! I answered. What on earth could it be that I was supposed to remember? That was from when I was eight or nine. Unless….No. It couldn’t be…Could it? Suddenly, memories flooded back to me of a summer many years before, and I understood why everything about Gregory felt so familiar. Memories of shared popsicles, swimming at the local pool while our moms sun bathed on the chairs, a sprained ankle, and a sweet boy. I guess I should have been freaked out by this, but somehow I wasn’t. Maybe it was just because it was Gregory, I don’t know. I did know that I was so happy and almost couldn’t believe that I was talking to the same Gregory from Atlanta.
I remember now, I typed, I can’t believe…can you meet me at Fox’s Pizza in fifteen minutes? My heart was beating frantically, eagerly awaiting his response.
Sure. I’ll meet you there. We have some catching up to do ;) See ya in a few. Gregory typed back.
See you. I replied, and quickly clicked off of my browser. I quickly changed from my athletic shorts and a T-shirt and into dark boot cut American Eagle jeans and a hot pink tank top with a navy blue Hollister hoodie thrown over it. Running a hand through my long light brown hair and slipping my feet into my grey Converse, I told my mom where I was going, grabbed my light blue bike from the garage, and quickly pedaled towards Fox’s. I had discovered the place when I was out riding one night soon after we moved here. I had stopped there a couple of times and gotten a Coke or whatever dessert they had out that night. It was only three blocks from our house, so I easily reached it in ten minutes. Fox’s was a small pizza restaurant on the corner of two streets. The small building was designed to look like a 50s-style diner, complete with red booths and a jukebox. It was close to both the school and downtown, so it was often a popular hangout for both high school kids and families. Gregory had yet to arrive, so I locked my bike onto the bike rack and waited outside. The August air was warm, but slightly chilly, just enough to generally want a hoodie or jacket after four or five o’clock.
A few minutes later Gregory showed up on his own solid black bike. He had on jeans, a royal blue American Eagle t-shirt with white lettering, and Nike tennis shoes. After he had locked his bike in, I attacked him with a fierce hug.
“Oh my goodness, I can’t believe it’s you!” I said.
“Me neither. I suspected it, but when you said Miami and I looked at your Facebook, I knew for sure,” he replied, hugging me back just as fiercely.
Before my family had moved to Miami, we had lived in Atlanta from when I was seven until almost eleven. During that time, I had met a boy named Gregory. Coincidentally, the same Gregory that I was sitting with at a table in a pizza parlor in Seattle. We became best friends, more or less joined at the hip. We did everything together: played soccer, ate watermelon, and ran through sprinklers. When my dad got transferred again, we moved to Miami and he stayed in Atlanta. I missed him terribly for the first couple of months, but then it gradually faded, until I eventually more or less forgot about him. Until now, that is. I couldn’t believe I had found my best friend again.
“What’s going on in that head of yours? You’re being really quiet. Should I be worried?” Gregory asked, half joking.
“No, I’m fine. I was just thinking about Atlanta, and how I can’t believe that now I’m sitting here, five years later, with the same boy that I was always around way back when.” I answered him, still almost not believing what was sitting right in front of me.
“Yeah, I know how you feel. When I figured it out, I about went into shock. I couldn’t believe I’d found you. I thought I’d never see you again.” Gregory said.
“I didn’t think I would ever see you again either. Honestly, and don’t get offended, but I eventually forgot about you. Well, not exactly forgot, but you know what I mean. Every once in a while, I would wonder about you. My mom never wanted to let me visit or even write you. After a while, I lost hope. But now…here you are. And when you said that thing about my ankle, you almost gave me a heart attack. You have no idea how many scenarios went through my head. The funny thing is, this was the last thing to cross my mind. You know, after the wacko paparazzi and creepers.”
Gregory chuckled “Doesn’t surprise me. Even when we were little, you always tended to look at the worst-case scenario. Like that time we left a note for your mom and snuck off to the park, you were convinced we were going to get kidnapped, and if we didn’t get kidnapped, we would get paddled, even though neither of our moms had ever paddled us before in our lives.”
I laughed along with him. “I remember that day. We had so much fun. And our moms weren’t really mad; they were just relieved that we got back safely.”
“Yeah. I think those years were some of the best of my life. I love my sister and cousin, but I’ve never had the relationship with them that I did with you.”
Unfathomable emotion shone in Gregory’s eyes. Blushing I stared down at my drink. We had skipped on the pizza since both of us had already eaten dinner and weren’t very hungry. We sat and talked, reliving memories and getting to know one another again. Before we knew it, it was close to nine o’clock, and the restaurant was beginning to close. Standing up, we made plans to meet up before school tomorrow, and sit together at lunch again.
As I rode home, I kept thinking about everything that had happened today, and all the memories that we had relived. Those had truly been the best years of my life. Gregory had been an amazing friend back then, and it didn’t look like much had changed. I was still somewhat in shock; it felt too good to be true. But it wasn’t; it was real life.
When I got home, I leaned my bike against the wall inside the garage and walked inside. “Hey Mom! I’m home!”
“In the kitchen, honey!” I heard her call from the kitchen in the front of our house.
Walking in, I saw her loading the dishes into our stainless-steel dishwasher. “You’ll never guess who goes to my new school, Mom,”
“Gregory Mitchell. You know, my old best friend from Atlanta that you never let me visit or even write?” I said, a slight edge to my voice.
“Oh, really? Is he any different? He must’ve changed a lot, that was so long ago,” she said, looking uncomfortable.
“No, he’s pretty much the same. He’s still sweet, and easy to talk to. What do you have against him? You and his mom used to be like best friends, and you certainly never had a problem with me and Gregory hanging out. And then all of a sudden I shouldn’t talk to him? What’s up, Mom?”
“Mom. You know what I mean. Stop avoiding the question.” I said. I was getting frustrated and annoyed.
“I just think it would be better for you to hang out with girls more than boys, that’s all,” she said, still looking uncomfortable.
“Really, Mom? You’re giving me that excuse, out of all of them? He makes me happy. Do you not want me to be happy?” I said, my frustration growing. I didn’t understand what was going on with her. She and Gregory’s mom had been best friends when we lived in Atlanta. I mean, they hadn’t talked much the last couple of days before the move, but I always assumed they were just starting the break early. She opened her mouth to respond, but I cut her off. “You know what? Just forget about it. I’m going to bed.”, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Spinning around on my heel, I walked up the stairs and into my room. I took a quick shower, brushed my teeth, and climbed into bed, falling asleep almost as soon as my head hit the pillow.
* * * * *
The next day, Gregory arrived at school before me. I dumped my stuff in my locker before walking down to see him.
“Hey!” I greeted with a smile. “Where are Hailey and James?”
“They took Hailey’s car and let me ride my bike. Some days I would rather do that than ride in a car. It lets me think, you know?” He replied.
“Yeah, I get it. There’s a reason I ride my bike everyday rather than getting my parents to get me a car. I don’t go far enough to need a car yet, so I haven’t asked for one. Do you have your license?” I responded.
“Not yet; I have my permit, but I don’t turn sixteen until January.”
“Same here, but my birthday’s in November. So I get mine first and I’m older!”
Gregory chuckled and stuck his tongue out at me.
“Oh, because that’s real mature.”
“Oh really? Kind of like this is?”
He quickly grabbed my sides and began tickling me. Immediately my panic reflex kicked in and the giggles started. Thankfully, there weren’t many people around this early; most people would get here on the bus.
“Gregory, stop! People are starting to stare!” I stuttered out in between my laughter.
Gregory stopped for a second and put his hands on his hips. “And why would I stop?”
“Because you love me?” I replied hopefully.
His eyes softened for a moment before saying, “Fine, I’ll stop…for now.” He winked.
I rolled my eyes. “Can I call you Greg? Gregory’s kind of a mouthful to say sometimes.” I asked randomly.
“Sure. But only you. If you decide to tell other people to call me that, the tickle monster may be back,” he replied, holding his hands out comically.
I quickly took a step back away from his hands. He grinned and put his hands down. Pulling his phone out of his pocket, he glanced down and checked the time.
“We still have about twenty minutes before class starts. Do you want to go find a couch in the commons area?” Gregory asked. The commons area was a little place off of the hallways near the cafeteria. The doors to the library where in there, along with plenty of chairs, couches, and tables. Many students hung out there before or after school and during break times. The seniors had their own little lounge at the end of the junior/senior hallway.
Sitting down at one of the couches in the commons, I randomly thought of Jason, the guy that had been close to being my boyfriend back in Miami. Now that I think about it, he was a jerk. He could in no way compare to Greg, not matter how hard he tried. He had been flirting with me pretty much the whole time I was in Miami, trying to get me to go out with him. He had said he loved me, yet hadn’t tried once to contact me since my family and I moved. We were friends on Facebook and had exchanged numbers before I left, so it wasn’t like he didn’t have a way to talk to me. My other friends and I still chatted occasionally on Facebook, but not very often. I had only had a couple of close friends, and they didn’t get on Facebook much.
All of these thoughts took all of a few seconds to think, so Greg hadn’t noticed, thankfully. That could have been an awkward conversation.
We spent the rest of time leading up until 7:55 just chit-chatting about everything and nothing. Our relationship hadn’t changed much in the four years we’d been apart. He was still the same sweet, amazing boy he had always been. I supposed I hadn’t changed much either, but that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.
A few minutes before class started, we finally got up from our position together on the couch and made our way back to our lockers. Grudgingly we got our stuff and headed to algebra.
The day thankfully passed quickly. I wasn’t expecting to enjoy school in Seattle, or Seattle in general, so much. I suppose having Greg here helped a lot. Or if I’m being honest with myself, he’s the biggest reason.
* * * * *
When I walked into school two days later, I was not expecting what happened. I was later than usual; there was only ten minutes until class started, so I needed to hurry. I had been sick the past couple of days, so I had missed some stuff. When I opened, the bus riders were already there, so the hallway was quite populated. Almost everyone in the hallway, including a couple teachers, turned to stare, and then a few seconds later, turned to each other and started whispering to each other. I made a confused face, shrugged, and headed to my locker to collect my stuff for first period.
“Well? Is it true?” Arielle, one of the girls I had talked to a couple of times in my World History class, said as she bounced up to me. She was your typical cliché blonde girl, except when it came to history. There was a reason she was in AP World History.
“Is what true?” I asked, still confused.
“That you and Gregory are, like, a ‘thing.’ Because if you are, that’s like, awesome!” She replied, still slightly bobbing in her spot.
I had absolutely no idea what she was talking about, and I told her so.
“Mariah Abbott said that she saw you two sitting together in the commons Tuesday morning before school, and it looked like you two were sitting just a little too close to be ‘just friends’ so she assumed you were like, going out. So she told Rachel Carol, and she told her friends, and well…you know how it goes.”
Yes, unfortunately, I did. “So how come everybody stared at me when I walked in the school building this morning? Even if we were going out-which we’re not-it’s not like it’s a crime to go out with someone. At least, I don’t think it is. I haven’t lived here all that long, you know.”
Arielle laughed. “Of course it’s not! You’re like, funny! It’s just that, Gregory and the other two usually keep to themselves, don’t really get, you know, like, involved with the rest of us. So they’re just kind of, like, surprised that you’re all best-buddies with Gregory now.”
Huh. Well, Gregory always had been kind of shy, so it didn’t surprise me he kept to himself at school. “Well, I’ve actually known Gregory for a long time, so it’s not like it’s really sudden that we’re friends.”
“Oh. Ok, whatever!” Arielle said before bouncing off.
I shook my head. That girl was too hyper for her own good. I grabbed my algebra textbook and binder and walked to class. As I slid into my seat, I tapped Greg on the shoulder.
“Hey. You hear the news?” I asked him.
“Yeah. Apparently we’re going out now.” He replied quietly while turning around in his chair.
“Yup, that’s what Arielle told me in the hallway. I wondered why every stared at me when I walked into the school building.”
“Yeah, same thing happened to me, except with less people. You feel any better?”
“Mostly. My nose is still a little stuffed up, but other than that I’m fine.”
“Good. It’s more fun with you here.”
I chuckled and turned my attention to the front of the room where Mrs. Canterbury was beginning class.
* * * * *
At the end of the day, I was exhausted. I now had a headache along with my stuffy nose. Greg was coming over to help me with me with my Spanish homework. I had never been very good with Spanish. Half the time I felt like I could barely speak English correctly, much less a whole other language. Apparently, Greg had gotten very good at Spanish in the past four years, and was in Spanish 2.
As we rode home, it was hard to talk, seeing as we were riding on bikes, so we gave up on that and rode in silence. When we got to my house we stuck our bikes in my garage and headed into the house.
“Mom! I’m home! We’re going up to my room to do homework!” I yelled, not knowing where she was in the house. I had texted her during lunch to let her know that Greg was coming over. She hadn’t been happy about it at first, but she had agreed.
“Door stays open!” She yelled back.
I rolled my eyes and led him up to my room.
We spread our books and papers on my bed and got to work.
* * * * *
An hour later, I had all my Spanish homework done, along with my chemistry and English Lit work. I understood the last two, so Greg worked on his own homework while I did mine. I did have a better understanding of Spanish now, so maybe the year would be a little easier. Gregory was a good teacher, almost better than my actual Spanish teacher.
I heard feet climbing up the stairs, and my mom appeared in the doorframe. Her light brown hair, almost the same color as mine, was pulled back into a messy bun, pieces falling out around her face. She had on the sweatpants she often changed into when she got home from her job at one of the major law firms in town and an Atlanta Braves sweatshirt.
“Hello, Gregory. Will you be staying for dinner?” My mom asked, and I could detect a hint of iciness to her voice. I internally sighed.
“No, I can’t. My mom’s expecting me home by five thirty. In fact, I should probably get going.” Greg replied, friendly as ever.
“Oh, ok, then. Tell Mrs. Mitchell that I said hi, okay?”
“Will do, Mrs. Watson.”
Greg stood up and began packing his books and folders back into his black and blue backpack.
“I’ll walk you out,” I told him, and followed him down the stairs. My mom went back into the laundry room to finish doing the washing.
Standing out on my porch, I all of a sudden felt nervous. Forget butterflies, there were bats flying around in there. I did my best to hide the emotion and look normal.
“So I’ll see you Monday?” I asked.
“Actually, I was, um, wondering if you wanted to grab some lunch tomorrow?” He replied, looking nervous as well.
“Yeah, sure. Where do you want to go?”
“It’ll be a surprise. I’ll meet you here and we’ll bike there. Maybe around eleven thirty ish?”
“Works for me,” I said.
“See you tomorrow,” he responded, sweeping me into an unexpected hug.
“See you,” I replied, returning the hug.
I stood out on the porch as he climbed on his bike and rode away. Walking inside, I smiled as I went back to pack up my stuff before dinner.
Later that night, I lay in bed, wide awake and unable to sleep. I couldn’t get Greg off of my mind. I just kept thinking about him. Even my nightly bike ride hadn’t helped clear my head any.
Then I remembered a
quote I had read on Facebook a while back. “If someone won’t get out of your head, maybe they’re supposed to be there.” I whispered to myself and rolling onto my side. Then I realized what the connotations of that sentence, and what exactly those butterflies (or bats) on the porch meant.
Oh no, I thought. Lunch tomorrow would be interesting.
* * * * *
The next day, Greg showed up at my house at eleven thirty exactly, wearing jeans, a black button down shirt rolled up to the elbows, and Sperry Topsiders. I had been ready since ten thirty, but it had taken me a good hour to decide on what to wear. I had finally decided on dark blue jeans, a pink plaid button down from Abercrombie & Fitch also rolled up to the elbows, and black sparkly TOMS. My black cross body purse was slung, obviously, across my body. It held my phone, iPod, school I.D., headphones, and money for lunch.
I took a deep breath and walked out the side door, pulling my bike off of the wall where I had left it after my after dinner ride. I walked it out to where he was standing and got onto it.
“Follow me,” he said kind of cryptically.
“What, I don’t get any hints?” I asked before we got going to the busiest parts of the streets, so he could still hear me.
“Nope. I told you, it’s a surprise,” he replied, and turned his attention fully to the sidewalk in front of him.
I rolled my eyes and didn’t say anything else as we pedaled along.
A few blocks later, we stopped outside of Salsarita’s, one of my favorite Mexican restaurants. I knew they had one near where we lived, but I hadn’t had the time to ride over there yet.
I stared at Greg in amazement. “How did you know this was one of my favorite restaurants?”
He shrugged. “I remember you talking Tuesday about how you loved Mexican food, which made me remember you telling me back in Atlanta that it was your favorite restaurant, so I figured it probably hadn’t changed.”
I smiled as I locked my bike into the bike rack, and Greg did the same next to mine. We walked into the building, Greg holding the door open for me. There weren’t many people in there; it was still a little early for the lunch rush. It would probably hit when we were in the middle of our meal. The whole room smelled like Mexican food and spices, and I inhaled deeply and smiled.
The ladies at the counter took our orders, and prepared our burritos as we walked down the lane. I started to pull my money out of my purse when Greg stopped me.
“No, I got it,” he said, pulling his wallet out of the back pocket of his jeans.
“Are you sure?” I asked, my hand still half in my purse pocket.
“I’m sure,” he replied, grinning at me.
I shrugged and smiled back as I zipped my purse.
We took our food after he finished paying, setting the trays down at a booth in the corner before going back up to fill our drink cups. Sitting back down at the table, I unwrapped the foil from my steak burrito with lettuce, cheese, and pico de gallo. Greg had a chicken burrito with cheese, guacamole, rice, black beans, and tomatoes. We both had chips and queso. This place had the best chips and queso in the world, no joke. I had yet to find better.
We ate in relative silence, hungry after the ride over here. After we finished our burritos, we talked about various things and continued to play twenty questions, which by now had turned into more like a thousand questions.
We ended up sitting there for an hour after we had finished our food. I was right, and the lunch rush hit about ten minutes after we had sat down. When I finally remembered to check my watch, it was already one o’clock, and many of the lunch people had left.
“We should probably be heading back,” Greg said reluctantly.
“Yeah, I guess we should,” I agreed, getting up with my tray.
We road back more slowly that we rode there. Slow enough that we could talk and continue our game of twenty questions. I had just asked him about his pet guinea pig named Na he had had in Atlanta, and now it was his turn.
“Will you go out with me?” he asked, stopping his bike and turning towards me.
“Well, didn’t we just kinda do that?” I replied, also stopping my bike. I was confused. My heart was racing a million miles an hour.
“No, I mean like a date. Like…you know…um, girlfriend?” He stuttered, looking a little like a possum in the headlights.
“Oh. Well, um, yeah that’d be cool. I’d like that.” I replied with a smile.
“Awesome,” Greg said, a relieved smile on his face.
I started giggling, which turned into full-blown laughter when I saw the confused look on his face. It was almost…adorable, but funny at the same time.
“What?” Greg asked, confused as to what I was laughing at.
“It’s just…your face. You looked like a possum that got caught in the headlights,” I replied, my laughter finally dying down.
“A possum? Really?” Greg asked.
“Yeah well, the whole ‘deer’ thing is too clichéd, so I decided to change it up a little bit,” I explained.
Greg chuckled and began pedaling again. In my head I was doing a happy dance, but on the outside I managed to keep it to a small smile.
“Bet I can beat you to that stop sign!” Greg yelled, pointing to a stop sign about forty yards ahead of us.
“You’re on!” I yelled back, gradually increasing my speed. I didn’t put much effort into beating him, he already had several feet in a head start, so it was unlikely I would win.
I ended up almost catching up to him, surprisingly. I had a feeling he was trying to let me win. He ended up beating me by about two yards.
“Told ya,” he said smugly, leaning forward onto the handlebars of his bike.
I rolled my eyes at him and walked my bike up to stand beside him as we waited to cross the road. When the street became clear, we pushed off and headed towards my house.
A couple of minutes later, Greg slowed his bike down and veered to the right, going a completely different direction from my house. The road he turned down didn’t look familiar; I didn’t think I had been down it before.
“Where are we going?” I asked, following him down the side street. “My house is the other way.”
“I know. Just trust me. Please Melissa?” Greg asked, giving me the puppy dog look.
I couldn’t resist. “Okay, fine. But if I’m not home before dinner, it’s your fault if I’m grounded.”
“We’ll be home before then, trust me. It’s only 1:20,” he replied.
I sighed and continued to follow him for about five more minutes. Thankfully, he had at least chosen a street that looked somewhat safe. While Seattle was generally a safe and calm city, there were some neighborhoods and alleys you avoided at all costs. When he finally stopped his bike, I looked up to see that we were stopped at a small park surrounded by forests on two sides. It contained swings, monkey bars, and a little play set complete with slides and a fireman’s pole. There were several benches placed around the perimeter, and water fountains at each end. Several yards from the edge of the playground was a rest area with a pavilion in case of rain, picnic tables, and restrooms. Two roads led away from the parking lot, one was the one we just came on, the other, well, I had no idea where that one went.
“Wow, I never knew this was here,” I said, taking it all in. The park was currently deserted, which somewhat surprised me. Who wouldn’t want to come here? A couple of squirrels walked around at the edge of the forest, occasionally scrambling back up the tree. Birds chirped and flew from tree to tree. The sun shone brightly, coming through the tree leaves in patches, giving the scene an almost artistic quality. The place was, to put it simply, beautiful.
“I discovered it one day when I was just out riding soon after we first moved out here. It’s usually not crowded, so I come here a lot to think,” he replied.
We walked our bikes over to the slightly rusted bike rack under a tree, locking them up before going to sit on a wooden bench on the far side of the park. As we walked around it, I could tell that there was also a tire swing and a sandbox-type area behind the play set. A small cubby next to the sandbox held buckets and shovels, things for the kids to play in the sand with. I would definitely be coming back here often.
“So when did your family move up here?” I asked when we sat down. I swung my feet up off of the ground and pulled them into my side.
“My mom got transferred here when I was thirteen and a half, so almost two years after you left,” he said, taking my hand in his as he answered. Greg’s mom was a very good surgeon, and she had been happy at the hospital in Atlanta. I guessed the Seattle job paid more, or something happened at the Atlanta hospital. I made a mental note to ask Greg about that at a later date.
“Ah. I’m guessing you like it here?” I said.
“Yeah I do. Of course, it’s better now that you’re here,” he replied. I blushed and looked down at our intertwined hands.
“Good. Cause I’m starting to think I really like it here, too,” I replied, smiling.
He smiled back at me, letting go of my hand and instead wrapping his arm around my shoulders. I leaned into him and laid my head on his shoulder. Greg’s other hand toyed with the blue and black woven bracelet I kept on my left wrist at all times. I used my right hand to pull my iPod and headphones out of my purse. Plugging the headphones in and putting the password into my iPod, I handed Greg one of the ear buds and put it on shuffle. “Wanted” by Hunter Hayes came on, and I glanced up at Greg, smiling.
“Our song,” Greg mouthed, squeezing my shoulder.
“So are we like, officially together now?” I asked, just wanting to check and make sure.
“We are if you want to be,” Greg replied.
“Then I guess we are.” I answered.
We finished out the rest of the song in silence. “Crush” by David Archuletta came on next, and Gregory softly sang over the song as I drifted off to sleep in his arms.
In that moment, everything was perfect. We could deal with my mom, whatever her problem was, later. The school would find out Monday and assume the rumors were true. But that was okay. Because right then, my life was great. And it would take a force to be reckoned with to ruin that.
West Jefferson, Ohio
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