Better off Friends

Page 8


“Cake, too!” Mrs. Rodgers patted her slim waist. “I’m glad I signed up for back-to-back spin class tomorrow morning!”
“Oh,” I said, “the cake’s only from a box. I haven’t started taking any baking courses yet.”
Her eyes got wide. “Honey, this is all amazing. I now feel like I need to up my game next time you come over for dinner.”
I wanted to get up and hug her. Sitting around the table with everybody together made me realize how much I missed moments like that. I had forgotten what it was like to enjoy a meal together as a family. We’d gotten into the habit of making sandwiches or ordering in. We needed to have the TV on to fill in the silence. Because sometimes silence speaks much louder than words possibly could.
It was then that I knew this would be the first of many family meals we’d have together. I wanted to start a tradition with this new, growing family. Sure, the Rodgerses and I weren’t related, but family doesn’t have to be blood relations only. I think family is more a state of mind.
“You know, that reminds me.” Dad put his finger in the air. “I’ve been meaning to have a conversation about the school year. I’m fine with Macallan being dropped off here on Wednesday, or any day really. She’s been babysitting around the neighborhood and spending a lot of time here by herself during the summer, so she doesn’t have to come over to your house.”
Both Levi and I exchanged a look. I was pretty sure it was the same look, or at least I hoped it was. I liked going to his house and hanging out with him and his mom. I didn’t like coming home to a house that was empty of people, yet full of memories.
Dad continued. “I think I’ve been a little overprotective. Our little girl is almost in high school. I can’t believe it.” Dad’s eye drifted to a spot on the wall right behind me. I didn’t need to turn around. I knew what was there: a photo of my parents’ first dance on their wedding day. Dad had said something funny to my mom, because they were both laughing.
“But we love having Macallan over,” Mrs. Rodgers said. I immediately felt better. “Right, Levi?”
I found myself holding my breath. I knew Levi wanted to make some more guy friends, but I hoped that wouldn’t mean we couldn’t still hang out. We talked about things that I couldn’t with my girl friends. I liked not always obsessing over boys or what we were wearing the next day. Levi and I talked about real things. And he made me laugh more than anybody had been able to do in years.
Levi looked straight at my dad. “It wouldn’t be the same without her, Mr. Dietz.”
I was so relieved to hear his response that my eyes began to burn. I got up and started clearing the table. Levi did the same. Once we set the plates down on the counter in the kitchen, he gave me that crooked smile of his.
“Dude, that was close. Blimey if I’d know what to do without you.”
I felt the exact same way.
When we got our schedules for eighth grade, we discovered that the unthinkable had happened.
Emily, Levi, Danielle, and I had been split up for lunch. The only bright spot was that we’d been divided down the middle, so no one was left alone. Emily and Levi had first lunch, while Danielle and I were relegated to second lunch.
Emily was the most concerned about the lunch disaster, which surprised me. She’d always been the type of person who can walk into any room and start a conversation with a stranger. But she was uncharacteristically worried about eighth grade. All summer she kept saying that this would have to be our best year since none of us knew what would happen next year when we got to high school. A lot of this fear, I knew, was because Emily’s older sister had gone, to quote Emily, from “it girl to so last season” once she got to South Lake High School.
I found myself extremely anxious on Levi’s behalf while I was in history class. Was Emily sitting with him? Would she have abandoned him to sit with some of her cheerleading friends or Troy, her current crush?
My worries faded once I got to the hallway and saw Emily and Levi walking together, laughing about something.
“Hey!” Emily greeted me. “Stay away from the sandwiches at lunch — they’re super soggy.”
Emily winked at Levi. I felt a slight pang of jealousy rise up inside me. Which I instantly knew was silly. I wanted Levi and Emily to be friends.
Emily offered to walk me to my locker after we bid Levi good-bye. At least I’d see him later in English.
She linked her arm with mine. “You didn’t tell me Levi got a haircut. He’s so cute!”
“Oh” was the only response I could think of.
“So …” She let the word hang in the air. I knew what was coming.
I decided to cut her off at the pass. “What’s going on with Troy?” I asked.
Emily had a new crush at the start of every school year. It always went like this: Emily declared a crush, she let her crush be known, the guy asked her out, they dated, and then she moved on to her next crush. She’d had eight legitimate boyfriends before the start of eighth grade. I always teased her that she’d run out of boys by the time we hit senior prom, but she promised she’d move on to college guys by then. I had no doubt this would be true.
“Ugh, Troy. I don’t know.” She gave me a look that made it clear she did know. “Levi’s still this total mystery. Will you talk to him for me?”
I no longer had an appetite for lunch. Did I really want my best friend dating my — well, Levi had become one of my best friends, too. I had flashes in my head of having to be their go-between and their referee.