Home > Coming Up for Air (Hundred Oaks)(16)

Coming Up for Air (Hundred Oaks)(16)
Author: Miranda Kenneally

“I think you’ll find they want you to be happy, Maggie. You work hard. You practice hard. They won’t mind if you take a little time for yourself.” She stops tossing her ball and cradles it to her chest. “Most people are so busy thinking about themselves they aren’t worried about other people. It’s human to think that everyone is always watching everything we do, but they aren’t.”

“Even when that person might be going to the Olympic trials?” Coach Josh watches us New Wave kids pretty closely. He’s like a CIA agent, keeping dibs on how late I stay up at night and when my muscles are tight. “I don’t know if I agree with that.”

Coach Woods sets her ball down on the desk. “You’re right. It’s not always that simple. But I wanted you to know that I once thought I didn’t have time for guys, but I was able to make it work.”

I smile at her, appreciating she can admit life isn’t black and white.

Mine sure isn’t.

Levi is waiting outside Coach Woods’ classroom to walk me to lunch. When he sees me, he pushes himself off the wall where he’d been leaning and adjusts his backpack and black knit cap.

“Why’d she keep you late?” he asks.

Not wanting to tell him what she said, I make something up: “Because I failed my condom race, and then I tried to eat the banana.”

He lifts an eyebrow. “What?”

I wave a hand to dismiss the conversation.

He says, “I heard you announced in front of the class that you’re never gonna have time for sex, so why bother learning to use a condom.”

I knew I shouldn’t have said that. Good gossip travels fast at this school. “I was joking.”

He holds the door open to the noisy cafeteria, ushering me inside. “This whole hooking up thing is really bothering you.”

I shrug a little. “Sometimes I feel lonely, that’s all.”

“You’ve got me.”

“I know, but I want a little more than friendship.” I want to make out. I want a guy to press his body to mine and kiss me all over. And for crying out loud, what does an orgasm feel like? “I want someone to snuggle with.”

“Snuggling makes me hot.”

“Like hot and bothered?”

“No, like sweaty hot. Too much body heat for me.”

I smile. “You’re hopeless.”

We sit down at our regular table by the windows with Hunter and Georgia. After saying hi, I unpack my lunch of pasta and energy drinks. Hunter’s already halfway through his sub sandwich, and Georgia’s devouring a grilled chicken salad…and some bread and soup. She’s way over the calorie count suggested by the college cheerleading coach, but I think that went in one ear and out the other, which is good. It doesn’t seem healthy to be that restrictive given her workouts. I follow her gaze a few tables away to where David, the guy who likes her, is eating with the Quiz Bowl team.

I nudge her in the side. “He’s looking at you.”

“Shh.” She focuses on her salad. Does she not want Hunter and Levi to know? I guess I can understand why. David is the exact opposite of us. I mean, he runs, but he’s about half the size of Hunter and Levi. She seemed worried about what I’d think of him, so I imagine it’s the same with our guy friends. Probably even more so.

Two sophomores drop by our table to say hi to Levi. One of them lives down the street from him, but I don’t know her name. I do know, however, that she’s grown very pretty as she’s gotten older.

“Hi, ladies,” he says.

I shift in my seat, and focus on twirling pasta around my fork.

“Levi,” the neighbor says. “We got a new puppy!”

“What kind?” he asks.

“A Bernese Mountain Dog!”

Levi folds his hands behind his head and grins up at her. “Aww.”

“His name is Patches. Can I bring him by sometime to meet Pepper?”

“Of course. Anytime.”

I pretend to look at my phone while Levi and the cute neighbor make plans for a doggy date. It’s not as if he’s mine, but the vibe between us feels a little off ever since I kissed him. Hopefully it’s something I’ll get used to, like when you buy a new pair of jeans that feel tight at first, but eventually stretch and mold to your body.

Lucky for me, Shelby Goodwin leaves her table of sophomore friends to come sit on Hunter’s lap, distracting me from the girl flirting with Levi. “Hey, you guys.” They whisper and flirt for a sec, and Hunter pulls her in for a kiss.

“Want to be my girlfriend?” he asks her, as he does every day.

“Stop,” she giggles, gently pushing his chest. She still won’t commit to him.

Why can none of us seem to have a regular relationship?

Shelby wraps an arm around his neck, and they start kissing again.

“I’m eating here,” I tease.

Hunter breaks apart from Shelby. “Mags, what’s this about you telling Coach Woods you’ll never have time for sex?”

I groan, then start laughing along with my friends.

Unsanctioned Activities

On Friday night, I have to drive myself to Jiffy Burger.

Normally I’d grab a ride with Levi, but he had his Tennessean interview in Nashville, so he said he’d meet me there.

“Dad, can’t you take me? I don’t want to drive.”

My father passes me the keys. “Drive with confidence.”

“Drive with confidence? I don’t even know what that means.”

“Don’t go too slow, don’t go too fast. Drive confidently.”

“You’re no help.”

“Levi and I can’t drive you around forever,” Dad says with a kind smile.

“Maybe I’ll start riding a bike.”

“Coach Josh would kill you. And then steal your bike.”

It’s true. My coach is so afraid I’ll hurt myself doing some unsanctioned activity, he’d probably get mad if I played Monopoly. I could get a hand cramp while counting fake money or something.

“Fine, but if I wreck the car, it is all your fault,” I tell Dad, giving him an evil look and a kiss good-bye. I jingle the keys as I walk to his car, a red Honda Accord. As far as cars go, this is as safe as it gets. It’s not like it’s a tiny, speedy Ferrari or a cumbersome Range Rover. It’s a sedan. I can do this. I take a deep breath. Open the door.

Sliding inside, I adjust the front seat and snap on my seat belt. I yank on it a few times to test it. I triple check I’ve put the car in reverse instead of drive so I don’t floor it into the house again.

The speed limit down the four-lane road is forty miles per hour, but that is way too fast. I hover around twenty-five. Cars keep honking at me as they pass. I’m tempted to flip them off, but there is no way I can take my hands off the ten and two position.

Somebody honks to my left. I glance over to see two guys from school making fun of my driving. Both of them have their hands at the nine and three position and are sitting up straight like rods. Jerks.

I pull into the Jiffy Burger lot and try to park between two cars. Turning the steering wheel over and over, I repeatedly hit the wrong angle. Somebody honks their horn at me. I honk back and yell, “Hold your horses!” even though they can’t hear me.

I decide to give up on the spot closer to the entrance. I drive around the back of the building, pull the car into a spot, put it in park, close my eyes, and take a deep breath.

I send Dad a text: I made it, but barely!!!!!!!

Next I send Coach Josh a message: My dad made me drive. Can this be an unsanctioned activity please?

Outside of the car, I discover my parking job is horrendous. I’m straddling a white line, taking up two spaces. I’m surprised I didn’t somehow take up three. Can driver’s licenses be revoked for piss-poor parking jobs?

I pocket my keys and head inside.

My phone buzzes. Coach wrote back: I’ll talk to him.

I smile smugly. Coach Josh takes my swimming career very seriously and wouldn’t want me to do anything to hurt myself or make myself any more stressed than I already am. Ha. Take that, Dad.

When I look up, a man is sitting in our usual booth. He’s wearing dark jeans, a gray Henley, brown boots with the laces undone, and a black knit cap. I haven’t seen his face, but from behind I can tell he has a nice body. And damn, the urges come rushing back. My mind wanders to condoms and bananas. My blood heats up, imagining hooking up with the stranger. I suddenly need to fan myself.

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