“Pretty cool, huh?” I’m in the middle of Tegan and his mom, but I notice him much more.
“Yeah. It’s incredible.”
“They haven’t played games or anything yet. Ed, the coach, he does this on his own. It’s not a real league or anything, but he’s working on it, trying to find people for them to play.
I’m in awe. How did I not know this went on? I can’t take my eyes off Tim and the guys, passing the ball around and shooting. They’re good. Better than I could ever hope to be. “I think this is probably the coolest thing I’ve ever seen.” I’m envious. That they’re out there, no fear, and going for it. I could never do that. It’s inspiring.
I manage to tear my eyes from the court to look at Tegan. He’s studying me so intensely that I know he’s discovered something. Some deep, dark secret to me that I never knew was there.
“We can thank Tegan for finding it for him. We never would have known about it otherwise.” Dana smiles at her son.
“You found this for Tim?” My insides turn into mush. Not the blubbery kind either. This is dangerous territory, but I’m feeling like a rebel. “That’s…sweet.”
He doesn’t reply, only turns to look at his brother again so I do the same. We don’t talk any more. Their practice only lasts about forty-five minutes and afterward everyone else packs up and takes off except for Tim. He waves his brother over.
“I’ll be right back.”
He traipses down the bleachers. A minute later he’s dribbling the ball around his brother. You can see the concentration on Tim’s face, waiting for the perfect time. Then he strikes, stealing the ball from Tegan. He doesn’t dribble it, but holds it on his lap as he wheels toward the basket and shoots.
“Lucky shot!” Tegan harasses him.
It’s awesome to watch. He’s awesome. I can’t help but say it. “He’s amazing.”
It takes a minute before I realize I just called him amazing in front of his mom. She doesn’t flinch, tease or anything. She only smiles, lost in her boys the way I just got lost in Tegan. Well…maybe not the exact same way.
“He is, isn’t he?” She sounds almost sad. “He tries to do everything. Thinks he can hold up the whole world. He’s so smart, funny. God he used to love life. A little troublemaker, but nothing bad. Now he’s like a fifty-year-old guy trapped in an eighteen-year-old body. Works like crazy. Even when he was still in high school. Always packing money away for college, to help me, even though I won’t take it. Goes to every appointment of Tim’s that he can. I think he thinks he can try and give his brother back everything we lost.”
The wall is completely down now. Any doubts I had about him, vanished, eaten up by his mom’s words. He’s more than amazing. Part of me hopes my silence will fuel her to fill it. To give me more information on him, but then I feel guilty. I want whatever I know about Tegan to come from him.
Tim saves me. “Annabel. Come down and play. Tegan’s already wussing out on me!”
“Yeah right! I don’t even know how to dribble a basketball!” I call back, but stand anyway. Then I remember Dana was talking, but when I glance back, she’s waving me toward them. Tim tosses me the ball when I get to them.
“Everyone can dribble. Just do it and see if I can get it from you.”
Tegan steps back, smirking at me, but I ignore him. This is for Tim. I start to bounce the ball and he wheels toward me. When he gets close enough, I pick it up to turn around.
“Hey! That’s cheating!”
“It is? Crap, sorry.”
“Yeah, you can’t move your feet with the ball in your hand. It’s traveling.”
I dribble again, concentrating on what I’m doing. Tim comes toward me again and I slowly jog away, still dribbling the ball. It doesn’t bounce off my foot or anything. “Hey! I’m pretty good at this,” I laugh, but then he pokes his hand out and the ball slips away from me.
“Okay, wait. I’m trying that again.” Determined this time, I dribble again. I head down the court, not too fast, but Tim is right next to me. When I get to the basket, I stop, unsure of what to do.”
“You’re supposed to shoot!” Tim is so close now and duh. How could I have not thought of that? I toss the ball up and hit bounces off the rim. Hard and flies right back at me. I duck because balls flying at my head is so not my thing.
Tim busts up laughing. I can’t help it. I start too. I’m grabbing my stomach for cracking up so much. “Oh my God. I suck.”
“Totally,” Tim agrees.
“Hey! You’re not supposed to agree with me.” I playfully push his arm.
Tim yells toward his brother, “Did you see how bad she sucks, Teag?”
Tegan! I forgot he was there. He and his mom are standing outside the court watching us. Dana is smiling. Tegan’s eyes burn into me. Automatically I take a step back, thinking I did something wrong, but then he shifts and I see something else.
Thanks. His look seems to say.
My pleasure. And it was.
It’s not often I watch TV downstairs. Well, it’s not really often I watch TV at all, but that’s beside the point. Em’s with her mom and I don’t feel like being cooped up in my room so I’m sitting downstairs using the TV for background noise while really, I’m mentally dissecting my life.
No matter how many ways or times I run it over in my head, I still can’t believe I hung out with Tegan and his family. I’m looking for a reason, in it. I need a reason for it, but I can’t find one. Besides the obvious that they asked I mean. But why?
And Tegan. At first it seemed like he didn’t want me to go, but then he asked. I’m not an idiot. I’m pretty sure that only happened because it’s Tegan’s way of giving his brother what he wanted, but still.
And then he watched me. Watched me in a way he never had before. Unfortunately, I’m not as good at dissecting boys as I am myself so I have no clue what his look meant, but God, I want it to mean something good.
My cell chirps, making me jump. It’s a text from Tegan. I know because I totally saved his number the last time he texted me.
Hey, Annabel Lee. What ya up 2?
I giggle. Giggle over a stupid, freaking text. Not much. Just hanging out. You?
On a break at work. Listen, just wanted to say thx for hanging out. For playin with Timmy. That was cool.
Some of the air seeps out of my balloon. Of course he only wanted to talk because of his brother.
No problem. Had fun. Tim’s awesome.
Don’t tell him that.
I don’t text again, because I’m not sure how to reply. There’s not really much else to say.
You still there? Tegan texts a couple minutes later.
Gotta head back to work. Just wanted to say hi and… See you soon, Annabel Lee.
No matter what his reason for texting, I still can’t help but smile. See you soon.
Behind me, the front door slams. I turn to see Mom walk in. She heads straight to the kitchen. Maybe I’m a glutton for punishment. Maybe I just want to talk to her. I’m not sure the reason, but I get up and follow her. “Hi. You’re home early.”
“I have some work to do, but all my notes are here. What are you doing?”
I shrug. “Not much. Did you get a new client or something?”
“No. It’s pageant stuff.”
Pageant stuff. Again, glutton for punishment? Riding a high from Tegan’s text? Whatever it is, it forces a lie to come out of my mouth. “I had fun helping the other day… The pageant thing… it might be kind of fun.”
No, hell hasn’t frozen over and I don’t want to participate, but I want her to offer. I want it so bad that I would probably actually say yes if she did.
Mom shakes her head. “Oh, come on Annabel. You don’t have to pretend you like it. I know better.”
I know better too. I shouldn’t have even brought it up.
It’s an hour before I’m supposed to meet Tegan at the gym for our workout when I get a text. I’ll never get used to seeing his name pop up on my screen. It’s so crazy, the thought that he’s texted me a few times lately.
Bad news. Had something to take care of. Had to get someone to cover my shift. You’re working out with Brian today.
No. No, no, no, no. I don’t like this. Not at all. I’m totally a creature of habit. I’m used to working out with Tegan and I don’t want to work out with anyone else.
Maybe I can reschedule?
What? No. It’s not a big deal. Brian’s cool. You’ll be fine. Gotta go.
I’ll be fine? That just shows how little he knows about me. Not that he really should know anything about me, but still. My stomach is already upset at the thought of working out with someone else.
My phone beeps one more time.
We’ll jog tonight too, k? Really going now.
I take a couple deep breaths. I can do this. I’m going to do this. What’s the big deal, right? My jog tonight with Tegan will be my reward, if I can make it through my hour with Brian. Still, I wish he would have at least gotten me a girl.
There’s no one waiting for me by the door when I get there. The girl at the front desk tells me where to find Brian. When I do, he’s playing on his phone.
“Hi. I’m Annabel. Tegan said to meet you today?”
He’s probably mid-twenties. A nice smile, but it still feels weird. Yes, I know I’m a dork. This shouldn’t be as big a deal as it is.
“Hi. Nice to meet you.” He holds out his hand and I shake it.
Brian leads me upstairs and I do my cardio. Alone. Twenty minutes later he comes up to get me and then we go into my work out. He’s nice and all. Answers my questions. Gives me direction, but it’s not the same. He doesn’t cheer me on the same way. Doesn’t interact. Well, unless you count with his phone.
I’m not sure I could have stuck with this if Brian was my trainer. With him I feel like what I am—just a client, not a person. It makes me so thankful for what I have. Somehow, even though I know Tegan doesn’t jog with everyone, I know he doesn’t treat them the way Brian does.
“Five more,” Brian tells me.
“I can’t…” The words make me mad. I should be able to do this. I have done it, but right now, I just don’t feel like I can.
Not, you can do it. Try. It shouldn’t matter. The logical part of me knows I shouldn’t need that—I should be able to do it on my own.
I let the weights clank down. I’m done.
It’s strange meeting Tegan tonight for some reason. Maybe it’s because it’s the first time we’ve met in the evening or because it’s the first time I’ve worked out and gone jogging in the same day. Or maybe it’s because it felt so weird to work out with someone who wasn’t him. Whatever the reason is, I almost feel like this is the first time we’ve hung out. It’s more than just butterflies in my belly: fireflies and lightening bugs join the swarm.