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“So how much trouble am I in,” Jessica asks as I join her at our biology table.
“Pardon,” I ask.
“Roxie’s mad that I told Ray and Staci they could sit with us isn’t she?”
“She’s worried.” I share.
“Not really. Ray’s always seemed like a decent guy and Staci seems to have to changed this year, maybe because she’s with Ray now.” I answer.
“I guess I need to bring a few weeks worth of brownies to get back on Roxie’s good side huh?” she asks.
I chuckle. “Just talk to her. Roxie’s a sweetheart once she trusts you but she’s slow to let people earn it.”
“So I should be good by the time we’re getting measured for caps and gowns then?”
“Just catch her after school sometime and talk to her one on one.”
“It’d help if I knew when she had to stay late.”
“Roxie’s in chorus so she stays most afternoons.”
“She is,” Jessica asks.
“Sings like a songbird,” I tell her.
“Wow, I’d have never guessed that.”
“She hides things really well but she opens up to the right people.”
“Cool, I can try and catch her after practice today.”
“Already,” I ask. “I thought your games didn’t start for another month.”
“You’ve been having football practice for how long already?”
“Point taken,” I laugh.
“It’s more of a meeting to get to know each other before the season starts anyway.”
“There you go,” I tell her. “If you want me to I’ll tell Roxie to look for you afterwards.”
“That’s something I should probably do on my own. I don’t need you there drooling over my volleyball uniform anyway.”
“I don’t drool.”
“Uh huh, keep telling yourself that Jake.”
“Not one drop,” I argue.
“Do you really want to put that statement to the test right here? Remember what you said happened in geometry before you answer.” She teases.
“I think I need a new lab partner.”
“No one’s as fun as I am and you know it.”
“You’re confusing “fun” with “torturous” you know?”
“You love it and you know it.”
After the volleyball meeting finishes Jessica hurries toward the auditorium hoping that she hasn’t missed Roxie.
“Are you in a hurry Tall Girl?” She hears Roxie call out from the stairwell she just passed.
“Roxie,” Jessica asks as she skids to a stop. “I was hoping to catch up with you.”
“How’d you that I stayed after school?”
“Jake told me.”
“Of course he did,” She sighs, “well what do you need?”
“To apologize for one,” Jessica answers as the pair begin to ascend the stairs towards Roxie’s locker.
“The Ray and Staci thing,” She asks. “It’s fine. I just have trouble accepting new people especially ones that come straight from Patrick’s inner circle.”
“It seems like each of you have had bad experiences with Patrick.”
“Mine is more to do with that walking Neanderthal Jamie but since he’s Patrick’s minion I just lump them all together.”
“I don’t like him very much either.” Jessica shares.
“He used to be much worse, believe me.”
“I’d like to hear about it; that is if you want to tell me.”
Roxie opens her locker while she thinks it over then turns to Jessica as she closes it. “Do you have a ride home?”
“My dad’s supposed to pick me up in about an hour. We didn’t know how long the volleyball meeting was going to run.”
“Text him and tell him that I’ll bring you home. It’ll give us time to talk.”
“Thanks Roxie, I appreciate it.”
“As you all know next Friday is our annual Blue and Orange scrimmage,” Coach Yates explains to the team. “Coach Pennington will head up the second team while I have first team. I will be evaluating both teams so I’ll know where we stand for the season opener. Positions can shift with great play so I expect a hundred and ten percent out of each and every one of you.”
Coach Pennington taps his clipboard and takes over. “I’ll call your name and which team, either one or two. When you hear your name go stand with your coach.”
He rattles off the majority of the first team and surprisingly both Ray and I are still waiting.
“Jake, you’re my quarterback.” Coach Pennington announces surprising me since I thought I had been demoted to third string. “Ray, I’ve got you too.”
Ray and I join the rest of our team as the last few names are called out.
Coach Yates begins talking. “These are the teams that will be practicing together next week in preparation for the game. My boy’s will have the football field and Coach Pennington’s team will meet on the baseball field starting Monday. Now I want you to get some rest over the weekend and be ready to bust ass on Monday!”
“That’s it,” Patrick asks.
“That’s it,” Coach Yates answers. “You boys worked hard all week so enjoy this afternoon off because once the season starts and we go after my record this will be the last one for a while.”
Patrick and the rest of First team don’t have to be told twice and head towards the parking lot. The almanbahis giriş rest of us look at Coach Pennington who laughs. “You guys heard Coach Yates, go enjoy your weekend.”
A few begin to leave but I announce, “If anyone wants to stay and run routes I’m game.”
Most start to decline until Ray chimes in. “I’m waiting for Staci so I’m in. Let’s do this.”
A few others shrug and line up with Ray. “All right then, let’s run curl routes to start out.”
“Thanks again for the ride Roxie,” Jessica says as Roxie unlocks her passenger door.
“Not a problem,” Roxie answers. As she cranks up her car she nods towards the GPS. “Pop in your address then we can chat.”
Jessica does as she’s asked and soon Roxie is pulling out of the parking lot.
“So the whole Jamie thing happened our freshman year,” Roxie begins to explain.
“When you and Jake became friends?”
Roxie nods. “This is how we became friends honestly. Jamie had made me the target of his particular brand of humor since the first day of school since I was so different from everyone else.”
“Huh, that’s odd. All the guys at my old school were all into the girls with unique piercings.”
Roxie laughs and as they’re stopped at a stop light she pulls out a picture and hands it to Jessica.
“Who’s this,” She asks as she looks at the shyly smiling girl with braces, thick glasses and long brown hair.
“That’s me,” Roxie answers.
“No way,” Jessica exclaims.
“Yes way and I’m sure you know his feelings about nerds.”
“He’s so clichéd like he just stepped out of one of those Revenge of the Nerds movies from the eighties it’s not even funny.” Jessica remarks.
“He’d start up in the hallways every chance he saw but the cafeteria was the worst. He had his biggest audience there so he would really lay into me there.”
“Jerk,” Jessica adds.
“His favorite thing to do was to step in front of me when I had just gotten my lunch tray and try and get me to spill it. It happened a couple of times and all his football buddies just laughed and laughed at the little weirdo. Especially the times I’d start to cry. Fuckers.”
Jessica reaches over and lays her hand on Roxie’s. “I’m so sorry Roxie. That’s awful.”
“It was but that’s where Jake comes in. One lunch Jamie starts in on me but he didn’t get more than a word or two said before I hear this huge clatter right behind him. He turns and I see this whole mess of spaghetti all over the back of his jacket. Right there behind him stands Jake with an empty tray. Jamie was beyond pissed but that’s all I saw because Shelly and Jody swooped in and got me out of there. I guess they were worried there was going to be a fight but the teachers had heard the commotion and were already getting there as we got outside. Jake joined us a little while later and thus began our little lunch group.”
“So how come you and he didn’t hook up?” Jessica asks.
“Who says we didn’t?” Roxie counters with a sly smile.
“I do,” She answers confidently. “You’re too friendly with each other to be ex’s and if you were together I’d have seen you holding hands or kissing or something by now.”
“You are a smart one Tall Girl. No, Jake and I never hooked up but I love him to pieces and not just for saving me from that hulking Neanderthal but for how he treats me.”
“How’s that,” Jessica asks.
“Well when sophomore year came around, my transformation as it were had taken place. Braces gone, glasses gone, long pain in the ass hair gone and the real me came out. I got even more stares than mousy me did but Jake walked up the first day, gave me a hug and asked me how my summer went. He didn’t make a big deal out of all the changes, he just accepted the new me. I’ll always love him for that and kick anyone’s ass that messes with him.”
“Do you think I’m messing with him Roxie?”
“Yes but not in a bad way I just hope that doesn’t change. I mean you don’t seem the type but I’ve been fooled before but that’s Jake’s story to tell.”
As she finishes they pull into Jessica’s driveway. “Would you like to stay for dinner?” Jessica asks.
“Uh, I’d probably freak your parents out Jessica.”
Jessica smiles at the use of her name but then shakes her head. “My sister will love you and my parents like meeting my friends. They aren’t judgmental about how anyone looks.”
“I guess if they let you come back to school after meeting Jake they can’t be all that bad.” Roxie laughs as the pair head inside.
“Thanks again for going out shopping with me today Shelly,” Jessica says as the pair get into Shelly’s car.
“Not a problem Jess,” Shelly states. “I needed to get out anyway. So what are we looking for today?”
“I need to get some stuff for volleyball. Athletic tape, new socks, hair bands all in the school colors.” Jessica explains as Shelly pulls out of the driveway.
“I take it you got a list of stuff at your meeting yesterday.”
Jessica nods. “Coach Morrison passed one out before we got to mingle. I’m glad almanbahis güvenilirmi that she’s also my French teacher. She’s really excited for this year.”
“What about you?”
Jessica nods. “Now that it’s getting close I’m getting amped up for it. We get our uniforms next week.”
“I know someone else who will be thrilled. Tight shorts for Miss Tight Shorts,” Shelly teases and they both burst out laughing.
“Did he finally tell you I put that in his phone?” Jessica asks.
“After I pestered and pestered him for it.”
“Did he tell you why?”
“Yes he told me about the volleyball conversation you had. I’m so glad you came along this year. He’s had it pretty rough but with you around he seems to be having fun again.” Shelly shares.
“I keep getting that impression but no one seems willing to give me any details.” Jessica answers.
“It’s not that we aren’t willing it’s just that it’s Jake’s story to tell, ya know? It’s my hope that he tells you soon. Now get us some tunes going, please.”
“Any preference,” Jessica asks as she flips through the stations.
“I’m a rock n’ roll girl thanks to Jake, Bobby and Roxie but I’ll listen to pretty much anything that isn’t sappy. What about you?”
“Rock is good, pop is okay, and I’m not too thrilled with country or the sappy / angsty stuff.”
“Jessica, we’re teens. We’re supposed to be all about the angst.” Shelly jokingly points out.
“Oh I know right,” Jessica answers. “Everything is terrible especially on a bright and sunny Saturday. Why can’t it be raining and gray out?”
Shelly laughs as she hangs a left into a neighborhood. “Shortcut,” She explains. “So you’ve been here a week, any prospects on the boyfriend front?”
“Not really, I mean Patrick is the only one that’s really overt in his interest in me but you already know that I’m not really into him. Besides I’m only here for senior year and then off to college so I don’t see the point in starting anything serious.”
“Oh,” Shelly says.
“That said,” Jessica says as she sees the back of a shirtless guy mowing a lawn ahead. “I would give serious thought to rethinking my stance if that hottie were to ask me out.”
“The guy mowing there” Shelly asks concealing her smile.
“He looks hot right?” Jessica asks.
“Hey if you’re interested let’s stop and see if the feeling is mutual.”
“Shelly, No!” Jessica shouts but Shelly is already slowing and pulling into the driveway.
“Wooo, looking hot there!” Shelly shouts out the window as Jessica scrunches down in the seat trying to make herself as small as possible.
“Ha Ha, very funny Shell,” I state as I stop the mower and wipe the sweat from my face with the shirt hanging from my waistband.
“Jake,” Jessica says confused as she turns toward the sound of the voice. “I didn’t recognize you with your shir… ball cap on.”
“Nice save,” Shelly whispers as Jessica’s blush deepens.
“Hey Jess,” I say giving her a smile as I walk over to the car. “What are you two up to today?”
“Out scoping for hotties right Jess,” Shelly jokes as Jessica allows her eyes to drift over Jake’s chest, down his abs to where she can see the start of his chestnut colored nature trail just above the snap of his jeans.
“Um hmm, hot,” Jessica answers dreamily.
“You can say that again, you’re all red. Shelly not running the air for you?” I ask.
“It’s been on the fritz,” Shelly lies.
“Want me to give it a quick look?” I ask.
Shelly fiddles with the knob and cool air begins rushing out before she turns it back off. “No, it’s working fine now. I’ll have dad look at it when we get home.”
I nod. “Well if I see any hotties, I’ll be sure to give you a heads up.” I tell them and notice Jessica look at my chest, then look away quickly but then back again.
“Jess here has already spotted at least one.” Shelly says.
“Shelly!” Jessica shouts.
“Of course she has,” I state tugging my cap off, my shirt free and then pull it on. I see a look of relief and possibly regret play across her face once it falls into place. “Shelly knows where all the eye candy lives.”
“Can’t blame a girl for liking to drive around and if I happen to spot a nicely shaped guy I may make a mental note. Nothing wrong with that now is there,” Shelly asks.
“My cousin the stalker,” I laugh and Jessica joins in.
“You call it stalking, I call it passive observation.” Shelly states then nods towards the front of my house. “Like right now I’m passively observing your mom headed this way.”
“Oh, should we go? I don’t want to get you in any trouble Jake.” Jessica states.
“Nah, I was due a break anyway and mom just wants to say hey to her favorite niece.”
“I’m her only niece,” Shelly points out with a smile.
“That doesn’t make my statement any less true. Jess, do you want to hop out and meet her,” I ask Jessica.
“Guess it’s only fair. You did have to meet my parents after all.” She answers.
“Fair’s fair,” I smile as I reach inside, unlock her door then almanbahis yeni giriş open it for her.
“Thank you,” She says. As she steps out Shelly comes over from the driver’s side to join us.
“Hi Aunt Pammy,” Shelly says as my mother gets closer.
“Hi Shelly Bell,” my mom, Pamela Gibson says giving her a hug.
“Mom, this is Jessica. Jessica this is my mom, Pam.” I introduce them.
“Hello Mrs. Gibson,” Jessica says.
“Jessica,” Mom asks, “Jessica from your date tonight?”
“It’s not a da…” I begin to answer but Jessica interrupts me.
“Yes ma’am. It’s so nice to meet you.” Jessica says smiling warmly at my mom.
“Oh honey it’s so nice to meet you. I was beginning to think he’d never go out again.” Pam shares.
“Mom,” I sigh and Shelly just giggles.
“Well, it’s true.” Pam states. “You know that if it wasn’t for football season and Bobby you wouldn’t leave the house on the weekends.”
“Welcome to Thoroughly Embarrassing Theater where tonight’s guest will begin to wish he were dead.” I state.
“I’ll do my best to get him out more Mrs. Gibson.” Jessica assures her with a laugh.
“You’ll have no problem with that dear; he has a weakness for blondes.”
“Mom,” I nearly shout but she just “tuts” at me before turning back to Jessica.
“You come by anytime Jessica, you’re more than welcome.”
“Thank you Mrs. Gibson I’ll certainly try.” Jessica answers.
“We should probably get going Jessica unless you want Jake to die of embarrassment before your date that’s not a date, tonight.” Shelly tells her.
“You girls be safe and make sure you come back okay?” Mrs. Gibson says before heading back into the house.
“We will,” Jessica answers as she waves goodbye before turning to me. “We’ll let you get back to mowing Jake. See you tonight?”
“Count on it.”
“We’re off to pick up some volleyball gear now.” Shelly announces.
“No shorts yet, sorry Jake. You’ll just have to wait until next week.” Jessica jokes.
“I’ll find a way to manage. You two be safe and if you find some hot guy to take you tonight instead of me, let me down gently okay?”
“Oh she’s already,” Shelly begins to say.
“Decided that I won’t break our date tonight no matter who we run across,” Jessica interrupts.
“Yeah, it’d break my mom’s heart,” I joke and wave as they back out of the driveway. “I’ll see you at six.”
“Six,” Jessica calls back then waves before Shelly pulls off.
“I’m not sure if I should kill you for stopping back there or thank you for not telling Jake I thought he looked hot.” Jessica says. “That’s not how any football player’s body I’ve ever seen has looked.”
“Seen a lot of those have you?” Shelly teases.
Jessica blushes. “A few girls on my volleyball team dated football guys and they had pool parties a lot.”
“Funny you should mention pools because that’s why Jake looks the way he does. He picked up swimming a few years back to keep in shape.”
“It’s working really well.” Jessica lets slip. “I mean half the girls in class would be after him if they knew how he looked out of those baggy shirts he wears.”
“Probably but he needs someone who wants him for more than how he looks.” Shelly states.
“He’s been down that road before I take it?” Jessica asks.
“In a way but that sort of leads us back around to the story that he needs to tell you when he’s ready.”
“Don’t you mean “if”,” Jessica asks.
Shelly shakes her head. “No, I meant when and I think its coming sooner than I thought it would.”
“And that’s a good thing?”
“I hope so,” Shelly answers as they arrive at the sporting goods store. “Now let’s get you geared up.”
“In Wildcat colors if anyplace has them. My old school’s colors were red and white; nothing groundbreaking but easy enough to find. The navy blue yeah but burnt orange, really?” Jessica asks.
“Oh you’ll have no problem finding that around here.” Shelly shares.
She leads Jessica in and over to a section that looks as if it’s the school store. “Oh wow,” Jessica says looking at the pennants, pom poms, socks and other assorted items all in the school colors.
“When you’re school wins the state championship it’s kind of a big deal especially in a small town like this.” Shelly explains.
“Can I help you ladies,” A salesperson asks from behind them.
“Just getting a new Wildcat outfitted,” Shelly answers.
The sales clerk sizes up Jessica and asks, “Cheerleader, right?”
“Volleyball,” Jessica corrects her.
“Ah, with the height I should have guessed.” the woman says then begins pulling items from the shelves. When she finishes she notices Jessica’s questioning look. “My daughter spent her four years on the team so I know Coach Morrison’s list by heart.”
“Cool,” Jessica says. “How’d she like it?”
“She loved it. She’s at NC State this year and is going out for the team there.”
“That’s awesome. Tell her best of luck from a new Wildcat.” Jessica says.
“I will and you knock’em dead. I heard a rumor that we’re getting an all-state transfer this year. Now let me ring these up for you.”
As the woman walks away, Shelly whispers, “After you Miss All State.”
“Jake’s here,” Sarah announces and jumps to her feet when she hears the rumble of his engine.
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