Home > Coming Up for Air (Hundred Oaks)

Coming Up for Air (Hundred Oaks)
Author: Miranda Kenneally


Dream about swimming (and eating)

When I’m not in the pool, I’m counting the minutes until I can dive back in, so most of the time my bushy, light-brown hair is wet and reeks of chlorine.

This is the story of my life.

But Friday nights are different because my friends and I have a tradition. We always meet for dinner at Jiffy Burger to talk about our lives. (Okay, mostly our love lives.)

My little group has been doing this since we were thirteen, when we still had to ride our bikes or bum rides from our moms. We understand each other. My best friend Levi and I spend all our time in the pool, while Hunter is the baseball team’s star pitcher, and Georgia’s a gymnast-turned-cheerleader. Without a lot of time for anything but school and practice, we always carve out time for our Friday night dinners, and tonight is no different.

Hunter has barely said a word since I sat down. His eyes keep darting around Jiffy Burger and out the window, where a light January snow is steadily falling. He doesn’t even say thank you when the waitress delivers our usual salads, fries, tater tots, and shakes.

“What’s wrong with you?” I ask.

Levi starts laughing so hard he snorts. Georgia is giggling too.

I pop one of Levi’s fries in my mouth and he steals one of my tater tots. “What’s going on?” I ask through a mouthful.

“Mr. Goodwin caught Hunt in Shelby’s room last night,” Georgia says.

“Shit,” I say.

With a red face, Hunter rips into his burger and chews. His eyes sweep the restaurant again.

“He’s terrified Mr. Goodwin is gonna show up here and pulverize him,” Levi says.

“Back up,” I say. “I need details.”

Hunter is chewing slowly, probably so he doesn’t have to answer.

Levi jumps in. “You know how the Goodwin manor has all those secret passageways from the Civil War? Hunt’s been sneaking into Shelby’s room over the past few weeks.”

“I had no idea you guys were so serious,” I say, spearing lettuce with my fork.

“We’re not,” Hunter grumbles. “We’re still just fooling around.” He stuffs a fry in his mouth.

“Does she know that?” Georgia asks.

“It was her idea!” Hunter says. “You know I want to go out with her.”

Swimming takes up all my time, so I’ve never dated anyone, or really made out with a guy for that matter. Hunter has someone to make out with on a regular basis now, and I’m pretty jealous. I will have to live vicariously through him.

“Hunter,” I say. “Story. Now.”

“I was making out with Shelby in her room—”

“Without your shirt on,” Levi cuts in.

“Without my shirt on, when her dad burst in. He chased me down the stairs and out the front door.”

I lean back in the booth. “Shit,” I say again.

“So I get this call at two in the morning,” Levi says. “It was Hunt calling to ask me to pick him up from the Exxon station.”

Hunter slumps. “I left my keys and phone in Shelby’s room.”

“And your shirt.” Levi flashes me a grin. “Did I mention that when I picked him up he was shirtless? He ran shirtless through the snow!”

“I left that in her room too,” Hunter mutters.

“At least you had your pants,” I say encouragingly.

“I’m glad her dad didn’t have a gun,” Hunter says.

“So you rescued Hunter. This is why you were so wrecked at practice,” I say to Levi, who was incredibly sluggish in the pool this morning. He nods and shrugs. I’m not hurt Levi didn’t say something to me—he’s never talkative in the morning because he’s not a morning person.

“So now what happens?” Georgia interrupts. “Are you still gonna see Shelby?”

Hunter plays with his fries. “I hope so.”

“You must really like her,” I say.

“You’d probably be risking death to go back to her house,” Levi says.

“Then it’s a good thing it has all those secret passageways,” Hunter says, and we all burst out laughing.

This is what it’s always like for us. As far as I know, we’ve never kept any secrets from each other, and I don’t know what I’ll do without them when we leave for college this fall. Georgia to the University of Tennessee. Hunter to the Air Force Academy, where he’ll train to be an officer and play baseball. Levi to University of Texas, and me to Cal-Berkley, two of the best swimming schools.

The four of us started hanging out in seventh grade because we had special schedules at school. Levi and I needed to leave before last period for club practice in Nashville. Georgia left early too. At the time, she was a serious competitive gymnast and trained with a professional coach every day. And because our school didn’t have one, Hunter went across town for last period to attend a junior ROTC program that his grandfather wanted him in. This meant our school didn’t require any of us to take gym class, which messed up our schedules, which meant we had to eat lunch with the sixth graders. None of us would be caught dead sitting with a sixth grader, so we started hanging out and never really stopped.

Still famished after my run this afternoon, I take a big bite of salad followed by a tater tot. Levi is on to his second cheeseburger. He and I swim six or seven times a week, three hours a day, and when we’re not swimming, Coach has us lifting weights or doing cardio. We’re always hungry. Georgia watches Levi chewing. That’s when I notice she’s only been picking at her fries, and her shake is untouched.

“You okay?” I ask her.

“I got an email from an assistant coach at Tennessee,” Georgia says. She’ll be on the cheerleading squad starting this fall.

“I’m still shocked they want you on the team,” Hunter says, sipping his iced tea through a straw. “There’s nothing a Tennessee fan hates more than Georgia.”

“That’s not true,” Levi says. “They hate Alabama more.”

Georgia smirks. “I don’t think Tennessee fans will give a crap what my name is once they see me do a roundoff back handspring back tuck.”

“What did the coach say?” I ask, to get us back on topic. Our tangents are legendary.

“That I need to follow a strict diet.” Georgia pops a french fry in her mouth and chews. “Like, I have to eat a certain amount of calories per day and have to count grams of carbs and fat. I can’t eat cheese anymore!”

I gasp. Levi and Hunter pause in their chewing. Georgia lives for cheese. It’s her favorite food and general reason for being.

“You don’t need to lose weight,” Hunter says. “You look great.”

Georgia gives in and slurps her milkshake. “This is why I run every day. So I can eat cheese.”

“I run every day so I can outrun Mr. Goodwin,” Hunter replies, and the rest of us laugh.

What a sucker. I’d never get myself in a position like that.

• • •

Rather than risk another run-in with Mr. Goodwin, Hunter asked Shelby over to his house tonight, and Georgia’s mom wants her home early because she has a cheerleading competition tomorrow morning in Chattanooga. So it’s just me and Levi.

“Want to come back to my place?” he asks.

“Yeah, but I can’t stay too late.”

Tomorrow morning I’m flying to California to spend the night at Cal-Berkeley, where I’ll be going to school this fall. I will be attending a special orientation for new student athletes.

In his truck on the way to his house, we play our usual game where we pretend we’re on a boat with three people. We have to choose who we’d: spend one hot night with; spend an entire year sailing around the world with; throw overboard.

Levi says, “Justin Bieber, Oprah, and Donald Trump.”

“That’s an easy one,” I reply, ticking them off on my fingers. “I’d throw Donald Trump overboard, because obviously. I’d have one hot night with Bieber and spend a year with Oprah. She’s rich and has beach houses we could stay at when we’re sailing around the Caribbean.”

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