"Hey, Heather! Wait up!"
I turn my head in surprise. I have never really heard my name yelled before, except by my mom or step-dad, and then it is always my full name; Heather Dawn Williams, yelled in a tone that would normally mean I am in trouble. Only, in my house, "trouble" usually doesn't last long. There's just not enough commitment to discipline.
"Hey. Sorry, I forgot your name." I lower my head in embarrassment. Not because I forgot his name, but because he's kinda cute. I've never had a boy pay attention to me, unless you count the ones that gave me that awful nickname; Skeeter.
"It's Brad. I almost forgot your name too, but then I remembered it when i saw your feathered hair. I know that's dumb, but things like that help me remember names."
"You don't talk very much. How come?"
"I dunno. I guess cause not too many people ever really seem like they want to listen, so I just don't. Why are you so interested?" I brace myself for rejection.
"I guess cause you seem, like, kinda nice." An awkward silence fills the space between us as we continue walking. "Umm... you are sorta pretty too, I guess." His voice squeaks.
For a moment, my mind is stuck on the part where he said I was sorta pretty. No one has ever said that to me except my Gramma, but she thinks everything about me is perfect. In an attempt to avoid another awkward silence I ask, "How old are you?"
"Eight and a half, but I will be nine on March 8th. What about you?"
"Nine and a half. My birthday is March 6th."
"So we are, like, almost birthday twinkies. That's totally cool, huh?"
"Yeah." Not used to conversations with other people, I force the only reply I can think of. Usually it's just me, my Barbies, my Imperial Party Time Record Player and my stack of 45s.
"Hey, you wanna come to my house for a minute? You can meet my mom and sister and all our friends." His eyes widen with what looks like excitement as he steps in front of me, walking backwards at a fast pace, which turns into an awkward jog. I don't answer, but just look at him and start running. Brad turns and starts running at full speed, but I pass him with no effort and don't slow down until I get to The Little Store by our street.
I head inside and go straight for the arcade games in the back. Mr. Harris and I wave at each other as I run past him. "Hi Mr. Harris! When my new friend catches up, you know where I'll be!"
"Sure thing, Heather. I think you're addicted to that game. Don't go spending all your money on it today."
Mr. Harris knows me better than anyone really. He knows my favorite game, favorite candy, favorite drink, and my favorite snack. He also knows that I never spend more than 50 cents on games. One quarter for Ms. Pac-Man and one quarter for Pac-Man original. That's another thing I am really good at besides running. I can play Ms. Pac-Man until the palm of my hand blisters on a single quarter. I always have the high score. I used to play Pac-Man original until Mr. Harris finally got the new Ms. Pac-Man last year. Now, I like that one better, because I like the opening of Act 3 where the stork drops the baby in front of Mr. and Ms. Pac-Man. They seem happy about their kid.
I slide a quarter into the slot and take a deep breath as the music of Act 1 begins. The door dings and I hear Mr. Harris say, "If you're lookin' for Heather she's in the back playing Ms. Pac-Man." Brad runs up behind me and crouches, out of breath from running.
"I thought we were going to walk together?" He pants.
"You're the one that started jogging!" My focus is pulled from Ms. Pac-Man and all the dots to Brad and the heart-attack he is pretending to have. He grabs his chest and dramatically falls to the ground. I turn my head to make sure he is joking resulting in Ms. Pac-Man getting caught by Sue. Beou, beou, beou. I hate that sound. Since Brad is clearly not nearly as interested in Ms. Pac-Man as I am, I decide to let the rest of the lives die and help him off the floor. He resists, pretending to be lifeless. "Come on wimp, get up and act like a man." I grab his hands in mine and he squeezes back and playfully yanks me to the floor, not expecting me to throw a knee to his gut. He lets out a moan and rolls to his side, laughing in agony.
"Okay, okay. You win. Please don't murder me!"
"Don't give me a reason to and I won't." We both get off the ground and start walking to the door. "Bye, Mr. Harris."
"Bye, Mr. Harris," Brad parrots.
"Bye, Heather and boy I don't know," he hollers as we walk through the door.