Chapter 4: Homecoming
Amarea wasn’t sure why she had signed up to be on the decorating committee. She guessed it was Ms. Weston. Ms. Weston was awesome. She had so much energy. When she asked Amarea to help with the decorations, she couldn’t say no, not to Ms. Weston. Mrs. Dustin dropped her off at 6:30. Several other students showed up to help decorate the gym during the game. The group left to watch the parade of court members and the kick off. Amarea noticed Joey under the bleachers holding hands with Maddie. She thought she was going to throw up when she saw them kiss.
By the third quarter, the decorating was complete. Amarea went with the others to watch the game. Amarea jumped when Joey grabbed her from behind.
Don’t do that! Amarea squealed.
Why? Joey smiled.
I almost peed my pants, Amarea smiled, shyly.
Whoa! More than I needed to know! Joey grinned.
Joey sat beside Amarea and put his arm around her shoulders.
You cold? Joey asked.
I’m fine. Where’s Maddie? Amarea replied.
She had to go home. She’s spending the night with her cousin. Joey put his hands in his lap.
Who’s her cousin? Amarea asked.
I’m not sure, Joey shrugged, she lives about 20 miles away.
I didn’t think she had any family around here, Amarea replied.
Apparently she has a cousin, Joey shrugged again.
Weird, Amarea smiled.
People do have family, you know, Joey frowned.
Yes, silly. So I guess you don’t have a date to the dance tomorrow night, Amarea nudged Joey and smiled.
Nope. You want to go? Joey looked at the floor.
I’m already going, Amarea kicked Joey’s shoe.
Oh, Joey kicked her back. He smiled down at her bright orange high-tops. He had never seen this pair before. He had seen the green ones, the lime green ones, the purple tiger striped ones, the ones with marshmallows on them, the ones with pencils on them…
You can come and help out, Amarea nudged Joey, hopefully. It took him a minute to acknowledge she said something. She nudged him again.
Doing what? Joey nudged back.
Serving snacks and drinks or taking coats, Amarea said.
Sounds boring, Joey rolled his eyes.
I guess it’s not as exciting as staying home and watching TV, Amarea replied snidely.
Point taken, Joey smiled. What time should I be here?
6:30, want my mom to pick you up? Amarea asked.
That’d be great, Joey smiled, sat back, and put his arm around Amarea.
Amarea snuggled with Joey for the rest of the game. She was shocked at how cold it was when the game was finally over and Joey stood up. She shivered and rubbed her hands together to try and get warm.
You cold? Joey asked.
Just a bit, she said, taking a quick breath.
Come here, Joey pulled her up and put his arm around her. Her teeth began to chatter.
“You’re freezing,” Joey said, pulling her around to face him. He wrapped his arms around her. Amarea melted. She breathed in Joey. Her knees began to shake. “We better get you inside,” he said. Joey took her hand and went to the concessions stand. He banged on the door until one of the volunteers opened up.
“She’s freezing,” he told the woman. “Got any hot chocolate?”
The woman looked at Amarea, smiled and said, “Of course, dear, come on in.”
She handed Joey and Amarea a cup of steaming hot chocolate. Joey stood beside Amarea as she sat on the counter and drank. Amarea’s phone buzzed and she jumped, spilling hot chocolate on Joey.
You seriously need help! You’re WAY too jumpy! Joey laughed as he jumped back.
Sorry, Amarea started to wipe Joey’s shirt.
Joey jerked back when she got to his pants. Whoa! I’ve got it from here! Get your phone!
Sorry, she blushed. “Hello. Yup, it’s over. Ok, meet you in the circle.”
My mom’s here, Amarea said.
So I gathered. Let’s go. Thank the nice lady for the hot chocolate, Joey said.
Thanks, Amarea said meekly.
Aloud, Joey smiled.
Oh, Amarea blushed. “Thanks so much for the hot chocolate.”
“Any time, dear,” she replied.
Joey put his arm around Amarea as they walked to the circle.
Thanks, Joseph, Amarea blushed again.
Anything for a friend, Joey grinned.
Sometimes I don’t feel like a friend. Sometimes I think I’m a burden, Amarea pulled away.
Nonsense. Joey pulled her back. See you tomorrow?
Around 6:00? Amarea smiled. Maybe we can stop and get something to eat first.
That would be great! Joey smiled.
Joey gave Amarea a big hug as she got into the car. “Make sure she brings a jacket tomorrow, Mrs. D.” Joey said, winking at Amarea.
At 6:00 Joey was waiting on his front porch dressed in black pants and a nice shirt. Amarea’s heart skipped a beat. He looked so handsome. Joey picked up a duffle bag and walked slowly to the car. He smiled broadly when he saw Amarea staring at him. Amarea realized she was holding her breath when he slid in beside her in the backseat.
Why do you do that to me? Amarea sighed.
What? Joey asked.
Nothing, Amarea blushed. What’s in the bag?
“I brought a jacket in case you forgot yours,” Joey said, handing Amarea the bag.
“That is so thoughtful of you Joey,” Mrs. D. said. “Amarea, say thank you.”
Why does everyone have to tell me to say thank you? Amarea pouted.
Because you forget to do it yourself, Joey smiled.
Thanks Joseph, Amarea said.
I think your mom would appreciate hearing it too. Joey grinned.
Amarea elbowed Joey in the ribs, “Thanks, Joseph,” she said.
The highlight of the night was watching all the girls getting turned away for inappropriate dresses. Some of the dresses were so short; it was embarrassing, at least as far as Amarea was concerned. One girl caused such a scene she had to be escorted from campus. Amarea and Joey were busy most of the night. Students were always hungry or thirsty. Joey got asked to dance by a sophomore girl. He came back grinning from ear to ear. The last song of the dance was announced and Joey asked Amarea to dance. She giggled as he led her to the dance floor. Amarea put her arms around his neck and swayed to the music. Joey nuzzled his lips into her neck. Amarea giggled and pulled away. Joey pulled her back and nuzzled back into her neck.
The song ended. Amarea didn’t want to move. She wanted to remember this day forever, the way he smelled, the way he felt, everything. The lights came on, teachers wandered around breaking up couples. Amarea was embarrassed to be one of the couples broken up.
We better get back and help, Amarea whispered.
“One more minute won’t hurt,” Joey said, putting his arms back around her. Amarea pulled away.
What are you doing? Amarea asked.
Dancing, Joey replied.
Did you forget who you are dancing with? She asked.
Joey cocked his head and looked down at her. No.
I’m not Maddie, Amarea said.
I never said you were, Joey replied, pulling her closer.
Do you wish I was? Amarea asked, truly afraid of the answer.
No, Joey replied simply.
I do, Amarea admitted. Tears began to form in her eyes.
Why? Joey asked absently.
Because you love her, Amarea blurted out.
Joey laughed, “Who said anything about love?”
So you just make out with her? Amarea asked.
Pretty much, Joey laughed.
That’s honesty for you, Amarea pulled away from him.
What’s wrong with having a make out buddy? Joey shrugged and smiled. He reached to pull Amarea back.
Don’t you care about her at all? Amarea twisted out of his range.
I’m sure I do. She’s nice, Joey smiled.
You spent two hours attached to her lips, and all you have to say about her is that she’s nice? Amarea said as she put her hands on her hips.
What do you want me to say? Joey shrugged.
That she means something to you, Amarea said.
I’m not planning on marrying her or anything. She’s just fun to be around. She’s a friend with benefits, Joey replied.
Is that what they call it now? Amarea asked.
Who? Joey innocently asked.
Whatever, Joseph. You’re such a guy. Amarea walked over to a piece of confetti and picked it up.
What else would I be? Joey asked, following behind her.
A human, Amarea replied.
I am human, Joey stated.
A decent human. Not like everyone else, Amarea said.
What’s wrong with being like everyone else? Joey asked.
Everything, Amara frowned.
Sorry to disappoint you, Joey laughed.
What’s so funny? Amarea asked.
You’re mad I’m not in love with someone else. Don’t you find that a little humorous? Joey laughed again.
Not really. I think it’s sad. Amarea returned to the coat check. When Joey came up and stood beside her she tried to ignore him.
So if I loved her it would be ok? Joey asked, nudging her.
What? Amarea asked.
If I were in love with Maddie, you wouldn’t mind me making out with her? Joey smiled
No, that’s not what I meant, Amarea huffed.
Does it bother you? Joey’s smile grew.
What? Amarea asked.
Quit acting coy, Joey said.
Coy, wasn’t that a vocabulary word last week? Mrs. Furr would be so glad you used it correctly in a sentence, Amarea laughed.
You are avoiding the question, Joey said.
No, I am choosing not to answer the question, Amarea replied.
Does it bother you? Joey asked.
Yes, Amarea admitted.
So you want me to fall in love with her? Joey asked.
No. I want you to be honest with her, Amarea replied.
I am honest with her. She knows exactly how I feel, Joey said, he was growing tired of the conversation.
And it doesn’t bother her? Amarea asked.
Why should it? She’s getting what she wants out of this, and I’m getting what I want, Joey snapped back.
I’ll pretend you didn’t say that, Amarea replied.
Why? It’s the truth, Joey shrugged.
Amarea worked the rest of the night in silence. When her mom drove up, she opened the front door and hopped in.
“How was the dance?” Mrs. Dustin asked. Amarea just shrugged.
Joey sat in the back seat with his arms crossed. It was a long, painful ride home.
Sorry, Joey said lamely, as he got out of the car.
Whatever, Amarea replied.
Later that night, Amarea’s phone buzzed.
“I’m sorry I’m a guy,” the text read. “Please forgive me.”
“And if I say no,” Amarea texted back.
Joey laughed. “Friends?”
“Friends,” she replied.