Better off Friends

Page 7


“So?” Levi asked.
It was then that I realized that he had walked us to the hair salon at the mall.
“Right now?”
He hesitated for a few beats. “Why not?”
Twenty minutes later, he was seated in a chair, his hair back in its familiar ponytail. The stylist grabbed it and then worked her scissors across. And in a few short seconds, the ponytail came loose.
Levi’s hands went directly to the back of his head. “So crazy.” His voice sounded a little distant, like he couldn’t believe it himself.
The stylist then handed me the hair. I studied it, thinking about how long he’d been growing it out. About how Levi had this whole other life before I met him. It hit me then about what it must’ve been like to really start over.
In some ways, I felt like I’d had to start over after the accident. But I still woke up in the same bed, went to the same school, had the same friends. There was something reassuring about waking up and knowing you were home. Hopefully, Levi would get to the point where he would feel like this was home to him.
I watched transfixed as more of Levi’s hair came cascading down around his chair. The stylist didn’t talk much, concentrating on the angles of his hair. When she was done cutting and styling, she turned Levi’s chair around and he faced me. I hardly recognized him. His hair was now only about an inch long at the top and appeared darker, more dirty blond, probably since his “newer” hair hadn’t seen much sun.
“What do you think?” Levi asked, eyes wide.
“I like it.” I really did, even if it was the same haircut most of the guys in school had.
“Really?” He was staring at himself in the mirror. “You really like it?”
“Yes.” I came over and couldn’t help but run my fingers through it. “It’s so short, but it looks nice on you.”
Levi trembled at my touch, probably not used to having anything or anyone be so close to his neck.
He jumped out of the chair. “Let’s go do something.”
“Um, I thought we were doing something. We’re at the mall.”
He groaned. “You know that’s not what I meant. Let’s go play mini golf or go to the park or do something.”
I glanced at my watch. “I can’t. I have to get everything ready for tonight.”
His shoulders sank down in defeat. “Okay. But Mom’s really insisting on bringing something. And she only gets annoyed at me when I say you don’t need anything.”
“I don’t want her to bring anything. This is my supper for you guys, a thank-you to your family for everything and a celebration for us that school’s starting next week.”
He shook his head. “You’re the only person who gets excited that school’s starting. Haven’t we had an awesome summer?”
It had been a great summer. But I still craved the discipline the school year gave me.
I still needed the distractions.
I knew Dad was only trying to help, but I had everything planned down to the minute. I’d taken some cooking classes at the Y over the summer and had been getting better at it. I was making the salad while the lasagna was baking in the oven.
“You sure you don’t need anything?” he asked for the seventh time.
“Seriously, Dad, I’ve got it. Please go do something, anything. Go watch TV with Adam.”
He chuckled. “You sound exactly like your mother.” It was the first time he’d mentioned Mom without getting sad. Instead, he was laughing. Of course, he was laughing at me, but I didn’t have time to get upset about it. I had garlic bread to toast.
Luckily, the doorbell saved me, and Dad went to let Levi and his parents in. I heard a scattering of their greetings.
“Smells amazing!” Mrs. Rodgers greeted me in the kitchen. “I don’t want to be in your way at all; I only wanted you to know that it all smells delicious.”
Dad followed her with a bottle of wine in his hand, most likely a gift from Levi’s parents. Then I saw Levi and almost didn’t recognize him with his new haircut. It took me a second to realize he had flowers in his hand. His dad came behind him and gestured.
“Oh, yeah,” Levi said, taking the cue. “Um, for the chef.” He handed me the flowers, his cheeks ruddy from embarrassment.
“Thanks!” I hastily grabbed them.
Levi’s dad winked at Mrs. Rodgers before giving me a hug. I was especially honored that Dr. Rodgers could make it. He worked such long hours, he usually didn’t make it home in time for supper at his own house.
I shooed them all out of the kitchen so I could finish the meal. I couldn’t help but smile when their voices and laughter drifted into the kitchen. It was nice to have joyful noise fill the house again. Every once in a while, I’d hear Adam groan and knew that Levi was trash-talking about the upcoming football season. You’d think he’d learn to keep his affinity for the Bears on the down low in Packers country.
The timer on the oven dinged just as I put the salad on the dining room table. We hadn’t eaten there since my tenth birthday. There hadn’t been much reason to celebrate or break out the good china in a while.
I looked over the table one last time before calling them in, making sure everything was in place. I felt my chest swell with pride as everybody came in and made a fuss.
Once everybody dug in, quiet fell over the table, except for the occasional compliment on the salad. I then served the lasagna with garlic bread before bringing out the chocolate cake I’d made for dessert.