Home > Coming Up for Air (Hundred Oaks)(13)

Coming Up for Air (Hundred Oaks)(13)
Author: Miranda Kenneally

Levi tells him, “Remind your dad how I messed up last year when my goggles fogged up and I had to swim with my eyes closed.”

They do a guy handshake. “Good idea. Thanks, man.”

“I remember that,” I say to Levi. “I still can’t believe you came in second, even with your eyes closed.”

Levi grunts.

He has no problem talking to another guy but is cool toward me? This has to be about last night.

Awkward. Instead of trying to engage in further conversation, I pretend to pay extra careful attention to the races, so Levi won’t know I’m freaking out inside. Asking him to hook up was so stupid.

In the evening, I win the 200 back final, making sure to keep a measured pace. This means I’m going to regionals for backstroke. One step closer to state.

I do horribly in butterfly and breaststroke, but I come in second place for 200 free, which I was not expecting! Coach comments that my times are getting better and better in free.

Later, Levi swims 100 breaststroke, winning it in fifty-four seconds flat. He seems to forget he was weird with me earlier because he gives me a big bear hug and we celebrate together. I love it when he wins because his smile is so huge, and it’s always directed at me.

But when we head to the locker rooms, I find the blond girl from earlier waiting for him.

“Congratulations!” she says, flinging herself into his arms. He glances at me over her shoulder.

I take a deep breath, avoid his eyes, and go grab a cold shower.

• • •

Well, I’m exhausted.

Exhausted, and weirded out.

When Levi dropped me off after the meet, both of his hands iron-gripped the steering wheel as he said, “Have a good evening.” Normally he says bye and speeds off. But he sat there awkwardly. Have a good evening?

I can’t blame him. I did proposition him to teach me how to fool around. We’ve always been so open and honest with each other, I figured it would be fine. He would say yes or no, and then we would move on. But instead he said, “I’ll think about it” and was silent most of the day. Well, except for telling me to choose the music in his truck.

But even that was hard. I couldn’t pick Taylor Swift, because what if he thought I was trying to get him in a romantic mood? Or what if I chose Nicki Minaj with her sex lyrics and he thought I was trying to seduce him? So we ended up driving in silence, which was even more awkward than if “I Wanna Sex You Up” had come on the radio.

“I’ll pick you up at noon tomorrow,” he said. We swim on Sunday afternoons because Coach would never make us practice in the morning because of church.

“I’ll see you then,” I told Levi, and he nodded once, clenching that steering wheel. My heart panicked because he looked everywhere but at me today.

Once I was safely out of the truck, Levi drove off, leaving me standing alone in my driveway.

And here I am. God, why did I proposition him? Did I inhale glue and not know it?

I trudge inside for a snack of peanut butter and an apple. I should start on my homework, but I decide to veg in front of the TV. I’m glad I have something to concentrate on besides how I made an ass of myself in front of my best friend.

It doesn’t distract me for long. The memory of propositioning him keeps popping into my head. I cover my face with a throw pillow and groan into it. What was I thinking?

That’s when I feel my phone buzzing under my butt. I scramble to look at the screen. Levi texted.

Can you come over? Need to show you something.

• • •

I don’t want to seem eager to see him, so I wait a bit before walking down the street to the office to ask Mom for a ride to his house. I spend half an hour fidgeting, trying to avoid imagining Levi in Superman boxer briefs.

Seriously, what is wrong with me?

When I get there, he’s out on the wraparound front porch with Pepper. I fully expect him to say something like, “Hello, Margaret. Welcome to my home,” in a ridiculous butler-esque voice, like have a good evening, so I’m happy to discover he’s excited and acting normal.

“You have to see this,” Levi says, hurrying me toward the lake, shining his flashlight to lead the way. The dog trots beside me on her leash.

A stone wall separates Levi’s land from the small beach abutting Normandy Lake. We’ve always enjoyed sitting on the wall and throwing rocks into the water, with Pepper running back and forth along the bank.

“Over here.” Keeping a firm grip on the dog’s leash, he leads me to a sunken area near the stone wall. Looks like Pepper’s been digging in the sand. I peer down into the hole, finding dozens of leathery beige eggs.

“Those better not be from a snake,” I exclaim.

“I think Martha laid them.”

We laugh. This enormous snapping turtle we call Martha has been terrorizing Normandy Lake for longer than we’ve been alive. More than once, when Martha’s gotten ornery with Pepper, Levi’s had to chase her off with a rake handle.

“Turtles bury their eggs in the sand,” Levi explains. “I guess Pepper could smell them and started digging.” He pulls out his phone and shows me a website he’d been looking at. Together we read about snapping turtles.

“When will they hatch?” I ask.

“Not sure. It says about three to four months, so it depends on when she laid them. It’s unusual that she laid eggs this early in the year, but it’s been warmer than normal, and it says a turtle can hold on to sperm for years until she’s ready to have babies.”

“Ew. She went to the turtle sperm bank, huh? Where is Martha?” I ask, looking around the swampy reeds. “Shouldn’t she be watching her eggs?”

Levi shakes his head. “I looked it up. Apparently snapping turtles don’t do anything for their young.”

“Jerks.”

We smile at each other, then he smooths his hair back. He goes quiet, like early-morning Levi.

“I came out here to think,” he says finally. “That’s when Pepper found the eggs.”

“What were you thinking about?”

His eyes find mine. “You. What you asked last night.”

I worry on my lower lip. “And?”

He lets Pepper off her leash, and she immediately begins to streak toward the eggs again. “Pepper, no!” Levi snaps his fingers and points toward the lake.

The dog barks, then darts down the bank, her gray and white hair flopping around like a mop. While she’s distracted, Levi and I scoop sand back on top of the eggs, reburying them. Then we sit down on the stone wall and stare at the black expanse of water, moonlight streaking across its surface. He flicks his flashlight off. Pepper’s barking mixes with the lapping water, punctuating the silence between us.

Finally he says, “You know I hook up with girls at meets.”

My voice is quiet. “Yeah.”

“Sometimes I need to relax. To take the edge off.”

“You’ve mentioned that before.”

“It’s not because I want a girlfriend or anything.”

“Okay…”

“What I’m saying is, I can understand why you are interested in fooling around with somebody.”

I clear my throat. “Yeah, I’ve been having these urges—”

“Oh my God,”—he shifts his weight as if uncomfortable—“please don’t tell me about your urges right now. I’m trying to have a serious conversation.”

I can’t help but snort, which gets him laughing too. Then he quiets.

“I’ve been thinking about what you asked, and I was going to suggest maybe you talk to a guy from another team when we’re at regionals next weekend,” Levi says. “But then I realized… I don’t want you asking any of those assholes to hook up.”

“You don’t?”

“No. You’re my best friend, and I don’t want anyone to use you.”

I pull my knee to my chest and wrap my arms around it. “So now what? I stay celibate forever?”

“Yup.”

I pinch his bicep.

“Ow. Maggie, I told you I want to help you, but I don’t want things to get weird between us.”

   
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