The second I caught the familiar smell or coconuts and summer, I knew Airee was here. Pretending to grab another drink, I scanned the crowd, and found her dancing with Jason to some song. My chest tighten, and I could feel myself tense. She was smiling as she always does but, I couldn’t stop to think about how much I liked that she was always smiling because I couldn’t get over the fact that Jason was slowly getting closer.
Then the song ended, and she was headed this way. Almost instantly, I looked away, and started pretending to listen to Scott’s story again. When she was practically standing next to us, I wished I had been paying more attention so I could have joined in on their conversation rather than standing there looking like an idiot. As they started laughing, I excused myself. Turning around, I was in such a hurry, I hadn’t noticed until it was too late that someone had been standing behind me. It was Airee.
“Shit, I’m so sorry.” I said. She was soaking wet. When I turned around, I must have hit her cup first because she was now wearing it. Her ivory colored hoodie covered in stale bud.
“I swear, I’m not meant to drink.” She laughed. I watched her for a second listening to it. I missed her laugh. “No matter what, somehow I always end up wearing most of it.” I smiled, and handed her a napkin from the drink station.
“Well next time, don’t stand so close, and no one will run into you?”
“I was coming to talk to you.” She said, and pushed my arm playfully. “How was I supposed to know you were going to freak out once I got up to you?”
“I didn’t freak out. I mean, I didn’t know you were behind me.” I said, and then rolled my eyes hearing how jumbled my words were.
I watched her stand there trying to wipe out some of the beer. She looked really pretty tonight. Her bangs were braided again, and her hair was pulled back into a pony tail. She smiled while throwing the napkin down. “I give up.”
When her emerald colored eye looked up at me, she instantly blushed, and looked away. I sighed. “So,” I said. “Did you need to ask me something?”
She didn’t say anything at first, just tossed her now empty cup into the trash. When she finally did, she looked at up at me, her eyes suddenly not as green as they were seconds ago. “I was just curious if you decided whether or not you were coming tomorrow? If not I need to get there early so I can take Count for a walk before I have to prep for that surgery this week.”
“I can’t.” I said. She rolled her eyes, and then nodded like she knew I would say that. “My dad wants to watch me practice.”
“Not a problem.” She smiled but, I knew her well enough now to tell that it was fake. Suddenly her eyes shifted behind me. Then she tossed the napkin she was still holding into the trash, and said. “Well, I’ll let you get back to your friends. I don’t want Laurie to get upset.”
At the mention of her name, a wave of guilt came over me, and I stepped forward to grab her wrist before she could walk away. Her eyes hesitated on my hand before coming up to settle on me. “You don’t have to do that.” I said. My voice was shakier than I wanted it to sound, and I quickly forced a cough in an attempt to hide it.
I felt her pull her arm back, so I let go of her wrist. She took a step back then, and surprising even myself, I took a step with her. Only mine brought me closer to her, and I swear I could hear her breath catch. I didn’t say a word. The past few weeks I have been trying to keep my distance. Since that night at my game, I haven’t been able to shake this uneasy feeling growing in the pit of my stomach. The only thing I can compare it to, is what I imagine losing a game would feel like. A hollow emptiness you can’t do anything about other than try harder next time, and wait until it fixes itself over time. I tried that already, and it’s been two weeks.
I see her at the clinic trying to come up with ways for us to stay apart, and it kills me because I know it’s my fault. I pushed her to do that. “I know how much she likes you, so I don’t want to keep you.”
Shaking my head, I fought back the urge to tell her to stop being so nice all the damn time. Why did she feel the need to care about what Laurie feels, when Laurie hates the simple fact that Airee even knows her name? Can’t she just be like other girls, and not care? Can’t she just forget about Laurie and tell me she doesn’t want me dating her? That I deserve better. Then, I stopped. Did I deserve better?
“There you are!” Jason yelled as he rushed over to us, and took Airee’s hand and spun her. She started laughing, and I knew there was nothing fake about it. “Sorry Haden, but I need to dance.” He smiled, his hand wrapping her arms around his neck as he led her back towards the group. Together they were swaying to the beat of a song. A song too slow for my liking, when I saw him reach down, and take hold her waist. I watched him lean and whisper something in her ear, which made her laugh even harder.
“What’s your problem.” Laurie’s voice was slurred as she tripped into me. Her arm quickly wrapping around mine, making me stop and think long enough to where I could second guess what I had been about to do. Which was going over there, and personally make him back the hell off of her. Taking a breath I relaxed my hands and untangled Laurie from my arm. “Uh, excuse me. What do you think you are doing?”
It was almost too quick of a response, when I looked at her and narrowed my eyes. “I’m going home Laurie. What’s your problem?”
She hadn’t said anything after that. Just turned around, and stomped off. I didn’t even glance back to Airee before I got on my bike, and sped off. I didn’t trust myself to look. When morning came, I wasn’t surprised when my dad woke me up at five twenty, and pulled me out of bed. We were on the fields and practicing even before the sun had rose. By that night, we pulled into our garage at ten o’ five. I took a shower, and then went straight to bed. I hate the days my dad decides to tag along for my practice. He always goes insane, and makes me do the same drills over, and over again until he feels I’ve had enough.
Today, if it weren’t for my mother almost threatening my dad over the phone that if he didn’t come home, and fix the Netflix, she would make him eat leftovers for a week. I would still be out on the field. Or dead, probably dead.
On Monday, I over slept on accident, and was late to school. When it was time for Mrs. Goldblum’s class, I had decided yesterday that I was going to talk to Airee about how I didn’t think it was appropriate the way Jason had been touching her. But, as the bell rang, she didn’t show. On Tuesday, it was the same story, and by Wednesday. I was freaking out that something might have happened with Jason after I left. The idea completely ridiculous but, I had worked myself up enough to where I thought anything was possible.
By lunch I had decided that if she wasn’t in class, I was going to skip practice, and track her down. Thankfully, I didn’t have to. When I got to class, she was there sitting in her seat. Her blonde hair pinned behind her head except for a few straggling pieces that fell around her face. She was dressed normal enough, she didn’t look like she had been sick or taken advantage of. Not that there was a specific look someone would have if they had been.
She wore a plain green dress that (sitting) fell to her knees, a gold necklace, and ankle length boots. For a second I paused, and wondered why she was dressed so nice? As I took my seat, apparently I hadn’t been the only one to notice. Kyle and a few of the other guys, had all shifted in their seats, and were staring wide-eyed at her. I punched Kyle in the arm.
“Owe, what’s your deal?” he asked confused, and rubbed his arm. “She looks f-ing hot today. Did something happen to her?”
“Just turn around, and stop eye-sexing my partner.” I said my voice strong and a strained. When he listened, I glanced back to where Airee was sitting. My eyes wandering over to her wondering what had happened myself.
When the bell rang, everyone had all gotten up at once. As I forced myself out into the hall, I could just barely see the tip of her blonde hair through the sea of people. Shit! I was about to scream her name when just then everyone shifted, and I was given a direct pass through to her. So I took it. “Airee!” I called out to her once I was closer. She stopped, and turned around. As she did I noticed just how short her dress had really been. It was mid-thigh length, and at the sight of her legs, my throat closed up.
“Yeah?” she asked. She hadn’t been smiling, and for the first time since I met her, I was at a loss to for what I could say.
Ha, I thought to myself. Hi? It was brilliant really, if you think about it. I could have said something worse like um, I, um. At least hi was semi normal. Not that I was feeling anything normal, especially not now. Not while she looked like that.
“Hayden what’s wrong? Are you feeling okay?” she asked, and then reached out, and touched my arm.
Hell no, I’m not feeling okay! “Yeah, of course.” Liar, I thought to myself. “How are you though, are you alright?” I was glad to hear I could still form a sentence when I heard myself speak. Anything was better than just standing there gawking, which is exactly what I felt I was doing. So I added, “It’s just, you know I noticed you haven’t been here lately. I was getting curious if that evil thing from the movies had come to get you yet.”
I relaxed when I heard her laugh. Her hand dropped from my arm but, she hadn’t walked away yet so that had to be a good sign. Right? “I went to tour a college campus.” She said. “Didn’t Gavin tell you, I told him I would be back later this week?”
No, Gavin definitely did not tell me, I thought to myself, and then took a step back. “Wait. Why do you look so different then if you just went to tour a campus?”
“Oh, this?” she asked. Her hand pulled at the end of her dress, lifting the material slightly. I watched helpless as it felt like she was teasing me, daring me to do something. I blinked, and looked away. “My mother took me shopping Sunday after the clinic for some more mature outfits. Do you like it?”
Like it, I laughed to myself. I wanted to tear it off of her like wrapping paper, and see what the present was underneath. “It’s, nice.” I said.
Her face fell. Shit, I knew better than that to say a girl looked nice. “Anyways,” she said just as I was about to open my mouth, and tell her how she really looked, which was f-ing hot. “Did you need me for something?”
I could think of a few things, I thought. Then shook my head, trying to clear my mind. I just thought we could ride to the clinic together.” I blurted without thinking.
“The clinic? Don’t you have practice?”
“I mean, yes.” I finally found my voice. “I do, you’re right.” I hesitated for a moment longer, and then added, “I better go.”
“Alright.” Airee smiled, and secretly I thanked her for, once again, not asking me a million questions for why I was acting so weird. “See you later?”
“Definitely.” I said. And I would, see her later that is.
Practice let out around seven, and just as I always do, I grabbed my things and headed to the locker room. I know it was pointless but, I always shower before heading to meet Airee. Even though not too long after I get there, we are leaving again, and headed to the fields for the game.
When I arrived at the clinic, I found Airee outside around the back. She had been walking Count when she saw me, and stopped. She smiled, waved, and then went back to Count. Who, for the record, was just sitting there panting. Before taking a step, I took a deep breath, and then walked over. Then,without another thought, I pulled her body into me, and kissed her.