Welcome to another installment of what is becoming a biweekly event here at my blog Short Story Saturday. I found one of the very first draft of a piece I’ve been writing for a couple years. So I thought I would share it.
“I think I’m in love,” Beth sighed as she fell over the back of the couch after she got home from school on a Wednesday afternoon.
Her older brother sat at what used to be the computer desk when they had a desktop computer, but now it had become a bit of a catchall for her and her sibling’s junk. TONY liked to use to because he faced a wall instead of a window or a television and he could actually focus on what he was doing.
“You’re twelve,” her brother Tony sighed as he spun around in the wheelie chair “You’re not in love.”
“Firstly,” Beth spat, pushing herself up onto her elbows. “I am seventeen, and yes I am.” She flipped her long dirty blonde ponytail over her shoulder with a smile. “You’re just jealous because you don’t know what it’s like.”
“Have you talked to him?” Tony smirked.
“Not relevant,” Beth laughed.
“Extremely relevant,” Tony nodded. “When you guys have a conversation, then you can talk to me about being in love. Until then, whoever this idiot is is just like when you were in love with what’s-his-name from that show you like. You’re in gross pop song like with him, and as your brother, I really don’t care about fantasies.”
“It’s super different,” Beth replied cocking her head to the side. “Dana told me that he likes me. She says it’s super obvious. She said that he’s been flirting with me for weeks, but I didn’t notice because he’s super freaking weird and doing weird stuff all the time. I thought he did the weird stuff with everyone, but Dana said that he’s showing off for me.”
“Uh huh,” Tony chuckled.
“Don’t you do stupid stuff when you like a girl?” Beth said. “I’ve seen you do some stupid stuff to impress girls. The kind of guys that I like don’t do stupid stuff, they do weird stuff because they know that’s how to get my attention. And Dana said that she thinks he’s really shy around girls even though he acts like he’s all cool and stuff.”
“Who is this idiot?” Tony sighed.
“You don’t know him,” Beth answered. She lay back down on the sofa, resting her head on the arm, fingers linked together behind her head.
“We live in a town with a total populous of 2500,” Tony replied. “600 kids go to our school.”
“You don’t know everyone, Tony,” Beth sighed. “I’m allowed to have friends you don’t know.”
“I’ll be knowing anyone who thinks they’re going to be dating you,” Tony shrugged.
“This isn’t 1926,” Beth laughed. “I don’t need your approval.”
“Whatever,” Tony replied turning around in his rolling chair and going back to his homework. “Then don’t sit there and gush about some guy you made up.”
“I didn’t make him up,” Beth said. “He’s in, like, four of my classes and he has the same lunch as me, and he’s really cute, and he liked me before I liked him. He was just the cute boy in US History before he was a cute boy in US History that likes me. His like of me makes me like him. He added me on facebook the other day, and then he started quoting my favorite movies to me. Dana said that’s flirting.”
“That’s stalking,” Tony corrected. “But whatever.”
“Jealous,” Beth singsonged.
“I am so happy I’m not a girl,” Tony mumbled. “Either tell me who it is or stop talking. I gotta get my homework done before Dad gets home so I can work on the car.”
“Nerd,” Beth sighed.
“And you’ve had a crush on Jake for years,” Tony said as he picked up his pen and went back to work. “So you can stop pretending that it’s a huge secret, but he does have a little bit of a thing for you. I can tell.”
“You think he does?” Beth gasped. “For real?”
“Yes,” Tony answered. “Now stop talking about it, because I honestly don’t care. I don’t talk to you about girls I like, and I don’t like thinking you’re old enough to like boys.”
“I’m fifteen months younger than you,” Beth said rolling her eyes.
“You’re the baby,” Tony replied. “You will always be the baby. Let me get this done. Dad said I could go to work with him this weekend if I get all my work done. This could be the perfect set up for a summer job to actually have money for school next year.”
Beth let a few long slow minutes pass as she thought about Jake. He wasn’t exactly hot, but he was cute, had nice teeth, which was extremely important to her, and a set of amazingly blue eyes. She couldn’t really imagine him liking her, but if Tony and Dana could see it, maybe she would start to let herself believe it too. It didn’t hurt to just believe.
“You really think he likes me?” Beth said sitting back up. “You’re not just messing with me because I’m your sister and you have to?”
“Beth,” Tony replied, trying to hold in his frustration with being interrupted again by such nonsense. “He likes you. He’s been asking me questions about you in study hall for weeks. Now leave me alone, please. I’m serious.”
“Okay,” Beth smiled. “Thank you, Tony.”
TONY nodded and went back to work. Beth pushed herself up off the couch and headed up the stairs, quiet as she could, to her bedroom to let Tony do his work by himself.
Over the next couple of weeks, Beth noticed she has started paying much more attention to her appearance. She’d finally broken into the eyeshadow her mother had brought her two Christmas’s ago and found herself in the makeup aisle of WalMart with Dana talking about the differences in liquid versus powder foundation and which style of eyeliner was best.
Beth had never been one to really think about her appearance, she had two older brothers, the baby that was coddled by Tony and their older brother Billy. She’d always been rough, tomboyish, never afraid to get down and dirty if she had to. She was the type of girl that was happy to show off a shiner or come home with grass stained knees. That part of her was never going to change, but now that Jake was going to be looking at her, she was starting to think that maybe she should start putting a little bit of effort into her outward appearance.
“Maybe we should color your hair,” Dana suggested.
“My mom would freak,” Beth said shaking her head. “She tells me that it’s a gift to have this color blonde. I think it’s kinda gross, but I don’t know. It’s literally the exactly same color as hers which I think is her point.”
“We don’t have to go aqua or anything,” Dana shrugged. Her own hair had slowly changed from a very dark brown to blonde to various shades of fire engine red and fuchsia over the last year. “Just a slightly different blonde. Your mom probably won’t even notice.”
“She will,” Beth nodded. “And then she’ll ask questions, and when I don’t answer them, she’ll ask Tony and Tony is a blabber and he’ll tell her about Jake, and then Mom will try to have the sex talk with me again, and I’ll have to die.”
“Well, that may be a little overdramatic,” Dana shrugged. “But fine. I’ll work with what you got. Can we cut it? I mean, you gotta give me something Mare.”
Beth played with her hair. She’s always had it the same way, pulled up a thick ponytail on the back of her head. She’d rarely even worn it down. At Dana’s urging, she pulled the ponytail holder out and let it fall around her shoulders. Dana ran her fingers through it and scoped out the different colors along the hair dye wall in front of them.
“Let me highlight it,” Dana begged. “It’ll be fun practice for cosmetic school. It’ll look great, and you won’t be changing to too much. And you can’t tell me that you’re mom doesn’t color her hair. She’s pushing fifty, she’s gotta have some gray in there. It won’t hurt anything, I promise.”
“Fine,” Beth gave in. “But if I get in trouble, I’m throwing you right under the bus.”
“Understood,” Dana nodded.
Beth’s mom barely noticed her new hair, if she was honest with herself, not much had really changed, but Dana was with getting to practice foiling, and Beth was happy that Dana was excited that she’s finally done something girly. She’d let Dana curl her hair in the school bathroom before first period and let her best friend show her how to put eyeliner on so she didn’t look like a raccoon. Beth looked at the girl staring back at her in the horrible lighting of a public high school bathroom and decided she like this girl looking back, this girl wasn’t someone new it was still Beth, but a new 2.0 version. The kind of girl that got to have a boyfriend like Jake. The kind of girl that could believe a guy like Jake was actually flirting with her.
In History class second period, Jake took his usual seat next to Beth. Beth did her best to try not to look like she was following him around with her eyes.
“You did something different with your hair,” Jake whispered leaning closer to her.
“Yeah,” Beth smiled. “Dana.”
“Looks nice,” Jake replied. “Not that it didn’t before, but it looks really nice now.”
“Thanks,” Beth giggled. “I’ll let Dana know.”
The sat there next to each other, a comfortable silence fell over them. Beth loved how easy things felt around Jake. She liked to imagine all the things they would do together: the dirt biking, the fishing, and the stuff she did with her brothers or by herself, only now with Jake involved. It was a fun feeling, she wasn’t imagining their wedding or anything, but she liked to think about them being the “cutest couple” in the yearbook superlatives.
At lunch, Jake took his usual seat next to Beth and across from Dana. He handed Beth his extra chocolate milk.
“What is this?” Beth asked.
“You brought lunch today,” Jake replied. “But you forgot a drink.”
“I was going to grab water,” Beth answered.
“But I know how much you like chocolate milk,” Jake shrugged. “I thought you would want it.”
“Well,” Beth laughed shaking her milk. “Thanks, that was nice.”
“I’m a nice person,” Jake smiled. “But I need some nachos, so I’ll be right back.”
The second Jake walked away Dana banged her hands down on the table. “Told you.”
“I believe you,” Beth giggled.
“He’s been doing shit like that for months,” Dana whispered. “Seriously, just ask him to go to the game this weekend or something, to the mall with me and TONY something innocent. Get the stupid ball rolling.”
“I don’t know,” Beth sighed.
“Do it,” Dana said wide eyed.
“Will you do it for me?” Beth said, letting an extremely awkward smile across her face.
“Fine,” Dana sighed. “But you owe me.”
“You’re not dying my hair blue,” Beth replied.
“I’ll think of something.”
It took another week of Beth and Jake dancing around each other before Dana held up her end of the bargain. She pulled Beth into the bathroom after sixth period and gushed everything that had transpired.
“So I said to him,” Dana started. “You and Beth should totally go to the game this weekend. And he was ‘yeah hanging with you and Mare would be super fun.’ And I was all ‘Course it would be, you two are so adorable.’ And he goes ‘Yeah, I really like being around her, she’s gets this really goofy look on her face every time I talk to her and it’s kinda awesome, ’ and I said ‘yeah that’s cuz she likes you, you idiot.’”
Beth pushed herself up onto the sink and let her legs kick under her.
“Then what?” She asked eyes wide. “What did he say? Does he like me?”
“He laughed like you did when I said something to you,” Dana said. “And I was all ‘Not joking kid, she’s totally into you. You have to see it.’ And he goes ‘Well, yeah, I guess.’”
“So he’s going to the game?” Beth asked.
“Absolutely,” Dana nodded, “No question.”
At the baseball game Friday afternoon, Beth sat next to Tony waiting for Jake and Dana show. Beth waved over the heads of her classmates as a familiar, now mint green, head of hair started to walk toward her. Beth immediately noted the look of horror on Dana’s face.
“I’m sorry,” Dana said. “Beth I had no idea, and if I did I wouldn’t have pushed it and I… I don’t even know.”
“What are you talking about?” Beth laughed.
“Oh fuck,” Tony said under his breath. “I’ll kill that fucker.”
“What?” Beth asked. “What did I miss?”
“I swear I didn’t know until I pulled into the parking lot,” Dana said quickly. “I have no idea until I saw them getting out of his car. I’m sorry.”
Beth pushed Dana out of her way and observed the crowd below her. And there, standing at the bottom of the bleachers hand in hand with a girl who had graduated the year before, Angie, was her Jake. There was no doubt that the boy standing there in his stupid, backward baseball hat was the boy who had complemented her every day for months. The boy that bought her chocolate milk one day when she forgot to pack a drink. The guy that made her feel like she was the only person in a universe.
“This doesn’t make any sense,” Beth said softly.
“I know,” Dana replied quickly. “I’m going to get to the bottom of it.”
“This doesn’t make any sense,” Beth repeated a little bit louder. “They broke up over a year ago. They aren’t together.”
Dana said nothing, just sat down next to Beth and pulled her into her chest.
“Don’t give him the satisfaction of tears,” Dana whispered.
But Beth couldn’t help it, she just sat there, completely crushed.