Ugh. He’s so frustrating. I won’t let him work his evil ways on me and make me laugh again. “I don’t want to hit you. Well…maybe a little.” I hope he hears the playfulness in my voice.
“Well, crap. That’s all I have, but we’re finishing anyway. Ten more.”
Ready to get this over with, I push the bar up with my legs ten more times. It’s not as bad as I made it sound. Yeah, I feel the burn, but for some reason, I like leg days the best. Tegan runs me through two more exercises. By the time we’re done, I don’t know what it is, but tears threaten to fall from my eyes. I don’t ask for much. I’m not looking for miracles, but I wanted something more than one freaking pound. “I gotta go.”
Weaving my way through all the machines and people I fight my tears. It’s stupid. I know it, but they’re standing there, begging to burst free anyway. Tegan’s behind me. I’m not sure how I know it, but I do. Maybe I can somehow smell that mixture of soap and ocean he always carries or maybe I can feel his eyes on me as I waddle away, but whatever it is, I know he’s there.
Before I make it too far, I feel his hand on my arm, steering me into his cubicle. “Annabel—”
I hold up my hand. If he keeps going, I’ll cry. How mortifying would it be to break down in front of him? As always, Tegan’s there to push me, stopping me when I try to leave again. “No, listen to me. You’ve kicked ass this week.”
“Yeah, one pound of ass. Actually, not even that. Three quarters of one.”
“And? Does that take away from everything you’ve done? Wipe away the hours you’ve spent here? The hard work? The sweat? Nope. It takes time.”
I feel my resolve splitting, the anger somehow diminishing, but leaving the sadness. How does he do that? “But it sucks… I wanted… God, I don’t know what I expected.”
He sighs and I realize how close he’s standing to me. All lean muscles, soap, ocean, and…something that always seems to make me feel better. “You expected what everyone does, which is like super results or something. It doesn’t happen that way and you don’t want it to happen that way. You’re doing everything right here. Well, almost everything.”
His words get under my skin. Not in a good or bad way, just in a Tegan way. “Oh perfect one, what am I doing wrong?” My sarcasm starts melting away the sadness now. Or maybe that’s Tegan’s work too.
“You want this, right? Tell me you want it.”
“I want it. Hello? Isn’t that why I’m here?”
He takes a step closer and I nearly pass out. That’s the affect he has. “Always so sarcastic.” Again, closer. Is it possible for him to get any closer? I sort of want to find out. “You want it. You’re determined; those are all good, but now I need you to start believing.”
“I…” I what? My mouth is opening, trying to tell him I believe I can do this, but for some reason, the words won’t come out.
“I told you, I think people can do anything. I learned that from my bratty little brother. Now you need to start believing you can do it. Here,” he touches my forehead and I shiver. Like seriously shiver. “And here.” He touches a hand over my heart. Now, my legs go weak and it has nothing to do with the hour workout I just had. “I seriously think…I have to think that if you want something enough, if you find a way to make yourself believe it, it will happen. The question is, can you do that?”
I’m not sure I can do anything. Not right now, with the way his hand is on me. Embarrassingly enough, I don’t even trust myself to speak so instead, I nod my head. Logically, I know he’s just trying to be supportive. That part of this comes from his brother, but can’t I just pretend it’s all about me? That he cares, that he wants to touch me as much as my body wants to be touched?
“You gotta have faith, Annabel. And remember, you’re building muscle, too. You’re not always going to see a huge drop. And I hate to say this, but like you said, you haven’t weighed in a while. That week off could have set you back more than you realize.” His hand is still there. Mayday! His hand is still there and I don’t know what to do! Couple that with my need to believe he’s right. My want to really have faith that I can do this and I’m a mess right now. Up, down, backward, forward, one pound, ten. I don’t know or care in this moment. It’s only one little touch, but I feel it everywhere. From the tips of my toes to the top of my head, I feel him.
Dropping his hand, he steps away. “See ya next time.”
As fast as my legs will carry me, without it looking like I’m running away, I do just that—run away. In the locker room, I wash up at mock speed or however that saying goes. The whole time I’m slipping on my jeans and purple button-up shirt I’m wondering what the heck is going on. He touched me. Like, in a different way than usual. Or maybe I’m imagining things, but it definitely felt different.
I slide some lip gloss over my lips, a little mascara and I’m done.
Without my direction, my eyes scan the gym for Tegan, but I don’t see him. When I step outside, he’s there in a pair of white shorts. They’re long like guys wear them, resting mid knee, and a black t-shirt. It must have taken me longer to get ready than I thought if he’s gotten off and changed in that amount of time.
Before he sees me, his mom’s van pulls up in front of him. The side door opens and Tim is sitting there. A second later his mom walks around the vehicle.
“Annabel! Hi!” She waves frantically at me.
Tegan whips around, gives me a quick nod of his head and then turns back to his brother. “What’s up, kid?” he playfully pushes Tim’s arm. “Oh, and hi to you too Mom.”
I smile at them, but have yet to get a word in.
“Dude, I’m not five. Stop calling me kid,” Tim says. And when Tegan ruffles his hair, “You suck.”
“Alright, stop it you two.” Dana waves me over so I join them. I can’t keep my eyes off them and the way they interact together. I’ve seen Dana and Tim, but it’s even different adding Tegan to the mix.
“You suck,” Tegan throws back at his brother like he’s the one who’s five. This is going to sound stupid, but if I didn’t get the warm and tinglies from him before, I’m definitely getting a case of them now. No matter what, it’s obvious how much he loves his brother.
“I knew Timmy had his practice and I wanted to go.” He shrugs like it’s not a big deal, but by the way his mom’s eyes are wide, I’m pretty sure it is a big deal.
“Wow… my responsibility straddled son took extra time off? It’s a miracle, but well deserved.” She looks at me and then back to him.
“Drop it, Mom.”
“My names, Tim. How many times do I have to tell you to call me, Tim?”
I’m getting whiplash trying to keep up with them and I love it.
And then, like she just realized she hadn’t and that it’s a rule she needs to, Dana gives me a quick hug. Her nails are short, unpolished and her cast is gone. Mom would never be caught dead with nails like hers.
“What time’s practice, Timmy?” Tegan asks. He still hasn’t acknowledged me. It makes me feel stupid for standing here.
“Tim,” his brother counters.
“No, I’m Tegan. You’re Timmy.”
“Ha ha. So funny.”
Again, they’re making me dizzy with all this back and forth, but I’m smiling. It’s so fun to watch.
“Focus boys. It’s in ten minutes, as if you didn’t know that. We’re going to be late if we don’t hurry.”
“Okay. We can come back for my car later.” Tegan gives me a quick smile. “See ya later, Annabel Lee.” Then he turns like he’s going to get in. Park Tegan is gone and it’s distant Tegan. I don’t get it. Why he’s different with me around his family—unless…unless he’s embarrassed of me.
“Oh!” Dana jumps like she just had the best idea in the world. “Do you want to come with us, sweetie?” She looks at me. “I know Tim would love it. This kid will look for any reason to show off. Cards, basketball.”
I open my mouth to say no, but Tegan beats me to it. “I’m sure she has better things to do than tag along with us.” Even though I planned to say no anyway, the fact that he did it for me hurts.
“Come on, Annabel.” Tim adds. “Tegan’s too grumpy.”
“Are so.” The two of them go at it again.
Finally I jump in. “Thanks a ton for asking, Tim, but I have a few errands to run. How about you keep track of how many baskets you make and tell me later? I bet you get a bunch.” My voice is sad because I suddenly really want to go watch him.
Tim nods and then looks down like he’s disappointed. My eyes leave him and find Tegan’s which are pinned on me. It’s one of those moments where I feel like he’s seeing more than I’m trying to show. Maybe even more than I know.
“Screw the errands. You should come,” the words rush out of his mouth like if he doesn’t get them out quickly, he’ll explode.
Now, I’m suffering a massive coronary. Does he want me to come or is he sacrificing something else for his brother? “I…”
Tim, Dana, they disappear behind an imaginary curtain. It’s only Tegan and I standing there.
Do you really want me to come? I try to make my look say.
A half-smile curls his lips and he kind of shrugs. Not a whatever shrug, but a I’m-at-a-loss shrug. I’m not sure either of us know what we want to do or why.
“Come on. You never know, you might have fun.” Tegan’s still staring at me.
“I…” How many times have I started a sentence with I and never made it past the word?
“Yes,” he says.
“Yes,” I confirm. What in the world is going on here?
164.9 TOTALLY HANGING OUT WITH TEGAN’S FAMILY
We all climb out of Dana’s van, Tegan going straight for the back to get the wheelchair. I’m a big ball of nerves as I step out of the car, still shocked that I’m even here with him. After he pulls the chair out, Tegan tries to help Timmy get out, but he pushes his hand away.
“I can do it.”
“I know.” Tegan steps back, holding the chair and letting his brother pull himself into it. It’s amazing to watch him. How well he can get around. His mom reaches in and pulls out a basketball before closing up. It’s an old, rundown basketball court on the same side of town as the gym. Metal bleachers are next to it. There are other people in wheelchairs already on the court. Tegan holds out his hand, and Dana passes him the ball. He dribbles over to the court with Tim, as we walk to the bleachers.
A minute later, Tegan’s passing Tim the ball and joining us.
I can’t take my eyes off them. They’re all teenagers except for the coach who is in a wheelchair himself. They’re not playing a game or anything, but running drills like they would at any other basketball game: shooting, passing, stuff like that.