I was sitting with my best friend, Lucinda, on the sidelines of the football field. As usual, we were watching the yummy football players, rather than the scrimmage going on because really, who cared about the actual game?
Despite the glare of the setting sun, I saw the brown speck hurtling towards me. Impulsively, I jumped up and thump, Nate Mackenzie’s football, signed by the famed Tom Brady himself, was in my arms. I couldn’t believe it. I’d caught Nate Mackenzie’s ball! Gingerly, I raised my head. Sauntering across the field, with all his hunky hotness, was the cutest boy in the school, the most valuable senior varsity football player of Cambridge High, and the love of my life.
He stopped right in front of me.
“Good catch.” His rugged and manly voice lassoed me. He'd said, good catch. I couldn’t move or take my eyes off his face. The way the sun glistened off his sweat, emphasizing his strong jaw and the brightness of his blue eyes, brighter still because of the contrast of his dark, shaggy hair…
“So, can I have my ball back?”
My hands gripped his football with sticky sweat. The ticker tape in my brain searched for the right response before flashing ERROR in red neon twelve-point font.
“Casey?” Lucinda nudged my back. With a slight swivel of my head I saw her expression. Mortification. Give the dumb ball back!
Did I just have an aneurysm? I felt woozy, like throwing up. I imagined myself vomiting all over Nate’s feet.
Unbelievably, there are some things worse than puking in front of the football team. A wave of dizziness threatened to wash me away into black nothingness. But I couldn’t be so lucky to just faint.
It was happening. Oh no. Not here. Please, not in front of Nate Mackenzie.
In an instant, my world brightened like a nuclear blast as I spiraled through a long white tunnel. When I opened my eyes, he was gone. Nate was gone and so were Lucinda and all of Nate’s football team.
PLOT POINT 1
“It's Nate,” Lucinda whispered. I know, Nate, Nate, Nate. She nudged me again. I looked to my right. I felt like a girl dying of thirst in the desert, convinced there was a stream of water running toward her. It really looked like Nate was walking our way.
I glanced behind me. Just a wall. Back to Nate. Yup, he was still walking towards us. My eyes popped wide. My brain was shutting down. I tried to remember my mantra. Hate Nate. Hate Nate.
He stopped right in front of me. The only thing I could think of was how tall he was. Even with my heels on, he had to look down at me.
“Would you like to dance?” he said. To me. Nate to Casey. Wants to dance.
I should have said no. My mind understood this. My spirit understood this. Somehow my mouth got it wrong and I heard myself say, “Okay.”
The thing was it was a slow dance. He took my hand in his and put his other hand around my waist. I wasn’t breathing. I put my free arm on his shoulder and gulped. Maybe I'd fainted from lack of punch and standing against the wall for too long, and this was just a hallucination. He sure seemed real. He smelled good, spicy. Was I moving my feet? I was still standing so I must be breathing. My heart beat wildly. I was going to hyperventilate.
When I dared to look at his face, he smiled. I was so confused! I stole a glimpse at the crowd by the punch table. Nate's friends were laughing.
Jessica looked really mad, and pulled Craig tighter, if that were possible. I was starting to enjoy this.
We didn't talk, just swayed to the music. I wondered what life was going to be like for me post-dance. I would be miserable. Purely miserable, since Nate would surely never set eyes on me again. Jessica would make certain of that.
I decided to just enjoy it for what it was.
“You look very nice tonight.”
What? He spoke! He thought I looked nice. I was hyperventilating. I felt faint, dizzy. Was that bad? Nate was so strong, he would hold me up.
Uh-oh, it was bad. Very, very bad. I wasn’t dizzy because of Nate.
He drove into the school parking lot in his rusty ’82 BMW. It was great to see him in jeans and a hoodie again. He looked tired, but hot, hot, hot.
I waited by the door, wondering what he’d say to me, hoping he’d talk first, because I had no clue what to say.
He caught my eye. His mouth pulled up slightly at the corners, a sparkle in his countenance, an acknowledgment: we shared a secret.
Then his eyes flitted over my head to his jock friends and he brushed by me with a little nod. No one else would have noted our brief communication.
That was it. Just like I knew it would be. I was beneath him. Lucinda and I, we were minions on the totem pole of Cambridge High. Nate, he was perched on the very top.
Thank you so much, Elle! Your book looks amazing! Jenni