Home > Coming Up for Air (Hundred Oaks)(17)

Coming Up for Air (Hundred Oaks)(17)
Author: Miranda Kenneally

Then the booth interloper looks over his shoulder and waves at me. Levi?

I march up to him. “Why are you wearing jeans and that shirt?”

He scowls down at his clothes. “Oma told Mom I was going to wear my sweats for the interview, and Mom flipped out.”

“Your outfit looks nice. I didn’t recognize you.”

Levi examines my face. “Why are you all flushed?”

“Dad made me drive myself,” I say, and Levi goes, “Ohhh.”

He buys my “driving made me nervous” excuse, but it isn’t exactly true. I can’t say I’m blushing because I was daydreaming about fooling around with a stranger…who turned out to be him. Am I going nuts? Breathing pool fumes has finally caught up with me.

I sit down next to him on our side of the booth, more aware of him than usual: How close his arm is to mine. How I can smell that cedar shampoo. How I’d like to snuggle up against that Henley.

“Maggie,” he says loudly.

I startle. “Yeah?”

“I’ve been trying to get your attention. You want to split some fries?”

“Get your own fries.”

He grins and goes back to reading his menu.

“Why are you even looking at that? Don’t you have it memorized?” I ask.

“I was thinking about getting a strawberry shake instead of a chocolate one.”

I gasp. “Sacrilege. So, tell me about the interview.”

He shrugs. “I thought it was mainly going to be about swimming, but the reporter wanted to talk about my family.”

“What about them?”

“Like, how my mom supported me by taking me to practice early in the morning and stuff… The reporter asked about my dad.”

His father is always a rough subject. Levi’s dad left when he was two years old and never came back to Tennessee. And while Levi wants a relationship with his younger half brother and half sister, he truly dislikes his father and has never forgiven him for leaving. Levi’s mom has never dated again because she was so heartbroken over what happened. Levi even had his last name changed to his mother’s maiden name.

“Why did the reporter ask that?”

Levi rips his straw paper into pieces. “Because I’m going to Texas for college. He put two and two together.”

“How’d he know where your dad lives?”

“I guess he did some digging before the interview.”

I elbow him. “Wow, the reporter actually investigated you? I didn’t know you were interesting enough for that,” I say, to ease some of the tension coming from my friend.

“The reporter also asked about you.”

“What about me?”

“Whether I thought you’d get your Olympic trial cut.”

I clutch his wrist. “What did you say?”

He shrugs. “I said you’re the one to beat.”

I throw my arms around him, hugging him close. He makes a fake choking noise, which only makes me hug him harder.

“Am I interrupting something?” Georgia slides into her spot across the booth.

Releasing Levi, I feel my face flushing again. His face is a little red too.

“No, just talking about Levi’s interview,” I say, trying to act naturally. I certainly didn’t tell Hunter and Georgia about last Saturday night’s unsanctioned activities with Levi, and I doubt he did either.

Hunter arrives shortly after Georgia. We order food and start chattering away. All of us except for Georgia, that is.

Georgia unwraps her silverware and places her napkin in her lap, smoothing it. I give her a questioning look. You okay? I mouth at her.

“I have some news,” Georgia says, and Levi and Hunter stop talking about Hunter’s first preseason baseball game that’s coming up next week.

“David Cantor asked me out.”

I break out into a big smile. “Eeee!”

Hunter and Levi give each other looks.

“Don’t make faces,” Georgia pleads.

Levi replies, “I like how he always starts the morning announcements by saying what the cafeteria is serving for lunch.”

As student body president, David does the announcements every day.

“That’s all you have to say about him?” I say. “You like him because he talks about food?”

“Food’s important,” Levi says. He pointedly looks toward the kitchen for his burger and fries.

“Did you say yes?” Hunter asks Georgia.

“I haven’t decided yet. I wanted to know what you guys thought first.”

“Doesn’t matter what we think,” Levi says. “If you like him, you like him.”

“You could do better,” Hunter says, and Georgia’s face turns white.

“Don’t be a dick,” I say.

“Well, she could!” He turns to her. “You’re gorgeous and smart and nice. And David needs, like, two belts to keep his pants up.”

Our waitress arrives, balancing a tray full of food and doling it out to us. Hunter and Levi dig in and then tell the server thank you with their mouths full. Boys.

Georgia does not look happy. I can’t believe Hunter is being so unsupportive. Her self-esteem is already shot thanks to her mother. She doesn’t need that from her friends. Thinking of how excited she was in church last Sunday, I say, “I think David’s cute and confident. You don’t run for student body president if you don’t have cojones.”

“I’m eating here,” Levi says, chewing his burger. “I don’t want to hear about some dude’s balls.”

“Balls, balls, balls,” I say.

Georgia gives me a grateful smile.

Dinner is a little strained after that, and I’m happy when it’s over. After paying our checks, we leave the diner.

Levi glances around the front parking lot. “Where’s your car?”

“I parked out back.”

“It’s dark. I’ll make sure you get in the car okay.” After waving bye to Hunter and Georgia, I show Levi where Dad’s car is. He takes one look at my horrible parking job and decides I’m not driving again tonight. “I’ll drive you home. C’mon.”

He gently takes my elbow, sending shivers through me.

I haven’t been able to stop thinking about what happened when I arrived at Jiffy Burger a couple hours ago. For a second, I thought he was someone else, and I was very attracted to that someone else. Does that mean I’m attracted to him? He barely touched me just now and my body went off like fireworks.

“You’re being really quiet,” he says. “Are you okay?”

I clear my throat. “Of course.” I try to pretend I wasn’t reminiscing about kissing him last weekend. Thinking of it makes me a little light-headed. I roll my shoulders and stretch my arms.

“You tight?” he asks.

“Yeah.”

“Need some time in the hot tub?”

I know he means it in a therapeutic manner, but I have other ideas in mind. Not that I want to act on them. But I want to be in the same place as him. Maybe in case it happens again? Not that I want to force it. But if he wants to teach me some more lessons…I’d be okay with that. I know he enjoyed kissing me too—I felt him hard against my hip that night. Helping me learn to feel more comfortable in bed is not a hardship. Right?

At his house, Oma and Opa are watching a movie in the den while she knits and he reads the comics section of the newspaper. Levi’s mom still isn’t home from Nashville. I change into my suit I had in my bag in the car, a pretty pink and orange one-piece that Levi said he liked one time, and then I’m in the hot tub with him.

I can’t stop thinking about our kisses. I want more. It’s like craving a soft bed when you’re exhausted.

He stretches his arms on the back of the Jacuzzi and tilts his head to look at the stars. Normally he’s peaceful when we’re together like this, but tonight he keeps shifting his weight, causing water to spill over the side onto the deck. His eyes flicker to my mouth and hold there. That’s never happened before.

I bite down on my lip to distract myself from how much I want to make out. I bite until I can’t take it anymore. I glide through the water to sit closer to him.

   
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