Home > Coming Up for Air (Hundred Oaks)(10)

Coming Up for Air (Hundred Oaks)(10)
Author: Miranda Kenneally

“Mom found out that the Tennessee coach gave me a diet plan to follow,” Georgia says. “I couldn’t wait for college, to get away from my parents and do my own thing, but it looks like my coach is going to be just as controlling as Mom. Ugh.”

Unlike my parents, who support me no matter what, Mrs. Layne won’t let her daughter leave the house without makeup and thinks eating at Jiffy Burger is a bad idea because grease “ruins your complexion.” Georgia used to be an elite gymnast, but grew too tall and wasn’t good enough to stay competitive in the sport at the highest levels. That’s why she switched to cheerleading. Regardless of what Georgia’s gymnastics coach said—that she most likely wouldn’t ever make a national or Olympic team—Mrs. Layne thought Georgia should’ve stuck with it and tried harder.

Georgia’s mom married her high school boyfriend, was the star of the University of Alabama gymnastics team, and hasn’t aged a day in twenty years. She thinks Georgia needs to follow the same perfect life plan, and that requires sticking to a diet.

“How’d your mom find out?” I ask, hoping she didn’t hack her email. I wouldn’t put it past Mrs. Layne.

“I hadn’t gotten around to answering the coach’s email,” Georgia says, “so she called our house and left a message on the answering machine. Then Mom got pissed because ‘a lady always responds to correspondence’ and said I need to follow the diet.”

Hunter puts a friendly arm around her shoulders. “You look great. Don’t listen to them.”

“It’s not about how I look.” Georgia crosses her arms. “Apparently it’s about starting healthy habits now so I don’t gain the freshman fifteen.”

Levi stares her straight in the eyes. “You work out all the time. You won’t gain weight. You need to eat to keep your strength up.”

“I know,” Georgia says in a tiny voice. “Why can’t people be happy with who I am? Why am I not good enough?”

It’s not only her mom that makes her question herself. Last year Georgia dated a guy who didn’t treat her very well. He cheated on her, and she hasn’t dated since. It rattled her self-confidence. He was the asshole, but it made her think she was lacking somehow, which is totally bullshit. She’s smart, loyal, and beautiful.

When our server drops off our food, nobody moves to dig in.

“We love you,” Hunter says, squeezing her shoulder. He’s such a great guy friend to her, like Levi is to me. “And we’re all that matter.”

“But you guys won’t always be there,” she says quietly. “It’s only six months until I start college, and you’ll all be so far away…but at least there I’ll be away from my mom.” Georgia takes a long sip of water, presumably to distract herself.

Music from the jukebox fills the silence that falls over our table.

I wish I had a way of helping Georgia feel better. That’s always been Hunter’s job. He gives Levi and me a knowing look.

“So I had another run-in with Shelby’s dad,” Hunter announces.

Georgia spits out her water. “Nooo.”

“I knew I shouldn’t have gone back to her house, but I needed to see her.”

“Did you go in through a secret passageway?” I ask.

“No. Shelby suggested I pretend to be a pizza delivery guy.”

Georgia narrows her eyes as she uses a napkin to clean up the water she spewed. “What?”

Hunter shrugs. “Shelby said it would be adventurous.” He takes a bite of his cheeseburger.

“How did you pretend to be a pizza delivery guy?” Levi asks.

“You know my teammate Logan? Well, he works for Pizza Hut. He let me borrow his uniform and the sign for the top of my truck.”

“Then what?” Levi asks, eating fries one at a time, like popcorn, watching Hunter as if he’s a movie.

“I got to her house. She pulled me into the parlor, where we started making out on the sofa. We were really getting into it when her dad showed up—he saw the pizza delivery truck outside and wanted a slice…but I didn’t have one.”

“You didn’t have a pizza?” I ask.

Hunter looks sheepish. “That’s the one part of the costume I forgot.”

“How do you forget the pizza when you’re pretending to be the pizza delivery dude!” Georgia asks.

Hunter squirms in his seat. “I wasn’t thinking clearly.”

“Clearly,” Levi jokes, and we all start laughing again.

“But it was worth it,” Hunter says.

“For a two-minute make-out session?” Georgia asks.

“I really like her. I keep asking her to be my girlfriend, but she says no since I’m leaving in June.” Before he starts classes at the Air Force Academy this fall, Hunter has to complete boot camp over the summer. He leaves right after graduation.

Hunter drops his burger onto his plate, aggravated. “I guess we’ll just keep sneaking around… I wish I didn’t have to leave.”

“You don’t want to go to Colorado?” Levi asks.

“I want both,” Hunter says. “I want to go to the Academy and stay with Shelby.”

Hunter’s father, grandfather, great-grandfather, and pretty much every male member of his family was in the Air Force. I’m not sure if Hunter actually wants to join, or if he’s doing it because it’s expected of him. I’m not sure he can make the distinction himself.

I feel bad for him, but listening to the story gets me even more wound up than I already was. And by wound up, I mean…turned on. It’s not normal for your friend’s silly hook-up story to turn you on, right? I sigh, wishing I had someone to make out with. Sure, some people exercise to relieve stress, but I already exercise for half the day, so I need some other way to get rid of this tension.

When I roll my shoulders, I catch Levi giving me a concerned look.

Dinner is over sooner than I would like, but I need my rest before conferences tomorrow. In the parking lot, as I walk to the truck, I stretch my arms over my head. Levi walks up behind me and massages my upper back. His thumbs expertly work my knotted muscles. I peek over my shoulder at him, and he returns my smile.

“Feeling tight?” he asks.

“A little.”

He pokes my back. “This knot isn’t little. It’s bigger than a golf ball. Hot tub?”

“Yesss!”

If there’s one thing I truly need in life, it’s a hot tub. I’m lucky my best friend has one.

Back at his house, we find his mom actually home at a reasonable hour, playing a game of Scrabble with Oma and Opa in the kitchen. Two empty wine bottles and the remains of a cheese platter sit on the table. Pepper is zonked out in her doggie bed; the hair hanging over her eyes flutters when she snores.

“Maggie!” Levi’s family says, and they each demand a kiss on the cheek. I oblige, then sit down next to his mom.

She gives me a sly smile. “Got a surprise for you.” She reaches into her tote bag on the counter and pulls out a CD with Jesse Scott’s face on it. It’s his next album, which doesn’t come out for another month! He autographed it: “To my favorite future Olympian.”

I squeal and hug the CD. “Thank you.”

“I don’t know what you see in that guy,” Levi says to me.

“Me neither,” Ms. Lucassen jokes. “He’s going to send me to an early grave.”

As an executive at Rêve, she spends most of her time managing the Jesse Scott account, and with that boy’s drama, it’s definitely a full-time job.

I examine the CD. It’s a picture of the country star standing next to a tractor, staring into the sunset. “I love this picture.”

“I can’t wait to tell him you said that,” Ms. Lucassen says. “Jesse’s decided that tractors are lame and wants a new brand.”

“But all his album covers feature a tractor.”

“I love those tractors,” Oma tells Opa, who muses, “If the ladies like tractors, maybe I should get one.”

Ms. Lucassen says, “Jesse suggested a cover photo of him grilling at a cookout.”

   
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