By halftime, there was no more change in the score. As the teams huddled in their end-zones, Leif appeared, squeezing beside Jade in front of Walter. The three of them compared results from their various games until the game resumed.
The second half was even more exciting than the first, especially now that I understood what was going on. Within the first two minutes, Hartfield scored another touchdown and made their extra points. The quarter ended with Andy kicking another field goal to make the score six to thirteen.
After all the excitement of the third quarter, the last one was pretty boring. No one scored. Most of my friends decided that Hartfield had won and didn’t see the point in staying. When they disappeared to the dorms, I found myself alone with Walter, Larry, Sarah, and Crystal.
I was losing in interest in the game as well, but I had nothing better to do. I let my mind wander as the thirty seconds of game time dragged on forever. The other team was about seventy yards away from scoring. There was no way they would beat Hartfield.
I was vaguely aware of the fact that someone caught the ball, passing it a split-second before he was tackled by a Hartfield player. I tried to follow the ball. Another player caught it around the fifty-yard line. No one was near him. And boy, could he run. He zoomed all the way to the end zone. The clock stopped with ten seconds remaining.
The other side of the field erupted as players and fans screamed in delight. Even I knew that if they made their extra point they would tie the game. I wondered what would happen. Was this one of those sports that allowed ties, or was it one that went into overtime?
I wanted to ask Walter, but I decided to wait and find out myself. I watched the teams set up and begin their play. But, something wasn’t right. I pointed to the field.
“Why isn’t anyone getting ready to kick the ball?”
Walter shook his head, mumbling to himself. “They wouldn’t.”
I didn’t get the chance to ask what he meant. The players began running around each other. The next thing I knew, someone on the other team was running into the end zone with the ball. Walter and Larry both jumped to their feet, screaming incomprehensibly as the other team rushed out onto the field to congratulate their players.
I could tell Walter was irritated, but I was so confused. I waited for him to calm down a little before asking him to explain what had just happened.
He was still staring at the field. “They chose the two-point conversion. I can’t believe they went for the two. I can’t believe they made the two.”
He glanced at me, probably wanting me to agree with him. But, he was speaking a foreign language. I must have been sending him some sort of blank stare because he took a deep breath and sat down.
“Instead of kicking it over the goalposts for an extra point, they ran it in to score two. They just won the game.”
“I know. I mean, you see it all the time in the pros. But, not high school. I can’t believe they made it.”
My phone signaled an incoming text. I checked the message Crystal had just sent me.
I smiled. “Hey. What do you say we go grab pizza?”
Walter stood. “I am so all over that.”
As we all headed back to the dorms, Walter bumped his shoulder against mine. “So? Were you successful with your moratorium on homework?”
I sighed. “Walter. Pretend I’m stupid. Well, you don’t have to pretend because I am. Don’t use big words I don’t understand.”
“You’re not stupid. What was the big word? Moratorium?”
“It’s when you stop doing something for a while. Like, a suspension. You weren’t going to do homework today. Were you successful with that?”
“Yeah. I’m probably going to regret it tomorrow, but yeah.”
“Was it nice to take a break? Is this No Homework on Saturdays going to be a permanent thing?”
I smiled. “Definitely.”
After changing into less conspicuous clothing, we all congregated on the baseball field before making our way into town in a large clump. It took only moments to walk behind our dormitories to the edge of campus. Within ten minutes, we were in the center of town. The quaint stone buildings really gave it that small-town New England feel, even though I knew the town was really much larger than this small square.
I was walking with Walter and Bella when we passed a boutique called Dancer’s Delight. I gestured to the door.
“Hey, Bella. Wanna come with?”
She wrinkled her nose. “Nah. I think I’d rather stay with the group.”
I shrugged. “Okay. Tell everyone I’ll meet you at the restaurant in a little while.”
“Yeah. Sure. Later!”
I gave a small wave as I entered the store. As soon as I crossed the threshold, I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. The blended perfume of new ballet shoes, roses, and cardboard boxes reminded me of my favorite store back home. I easily felt as if I belonged here.
I wandered through the racks, trying to find what I needed. The leotards and skirts in the front of the store were clearly for little girls. The wall on the right had clothes my size.
There were two rows, one on top of the other, organized to separate the ballroom costumes, boys outfits, and unitards from the leotards I wanted. I combed through the rack carefully. At the organizational meeting Wednesday, we were told to wear whatever was comfortable. For my ballet class, everyone had chosen the classic black leotards with pink tights. In tap, the outfits had been more colorful.
Since I already owned two black leotards, I decided to look for some more colorful ones for tap class. I found a lavender one and a turquoise one in my size. They both had capped sleeves, which I preferred.
Unable to resist, I leafed through the skirts at the end of the row, finding a sheer black one that fell just below my leotard. It was perfect for ballet class. I also found some black shorts to wear in tap class. After grabbing some new tights, I made my way the dressing room in the corner of the store.
It didn’t take long to try on the new clothes. They fit perfectly and looked adorable. I couldn’t wait to wear them next week. I changed back into my clothes and made my way to the opposite side of the store.
I was mesmerized by the shoes. I picked up a few to examine them. I would have loved to buy a new pair of tap shoes. I already had two pairs—flats and heels—but the leather was wearing thin near the sole of my heels, just below the tap.
The thing was, I hardly ever wore my heels any more. No one in my class did. My flats were only a year old. I really couldn’t justify buying a new pair right now. Besides, if I were going to splurge on shoes, I would rather buy new ballet shoes. Somehow, my old ones had just barely fit. With a sigh, I decided that I would see how badly I abused them this term. Maybe, if I continued with dance next term, I could get my parents to buy me new shoes for Christmas.
I brought my new clothes to the register at the back of the store and used my new debit card to pay for everything. Bag in hand, I left the store and continued along the road in search of my friends.
It wasn’t hard to find them. The restaurant was only a few doors down and they were the only table with sixteen people. As I slipped between Sarah and Dre, my roommate gave me a funny look.
“Where’ve you been?”
I raised my eyebrows. “Dancer’s Delight. I said I’d catch up with you here.”
Sarah frowned. “Never heard you.”
I glanced at Bella, who was sitting across from Dre. I could have sworn I had asked her to relay the message for me. Maybe she did and Sarah had just misunderstood. Whatever.
I shook my head and turned back to my roommate. “What sounds good?”
“I think I just want plain old cheese pizza.”
Crystal waved a hand between her sister and herself in a manner I understood to mean she wanted to share.
I nodded. “Yeah. I’m with you.”
“Well, I want to try this one.” Bella pointed to the menu she was sharing with Walter. “White pizza with broccoli and cheese.”
“Ooh!” Dre sat up a little in her seat. “I was just looking at that. Count me in.”
“Me, too,” agreed Jade and Xandra in unison.
Bella turned to Walter. “What about you. Wanna share with me?”
Walter made a face. “I’m in the mood for some meat.”
“I’m thinking pepperoni,” suggested Pete from the other side of the table.
Caroline and Jessi nodded while Leif agree. “Yeah. Me, too.”
Walter shook his head. “Nah. I want something more than that. I can’t decide between meatballs or sausage. Or hamburger.”
“I was thinking ham or bacon,” said Noah.
Larry sent them a mischievous grin. “Why not all of it?”
Walter turned to him. “All of what?”
“All the meat. Hamburger, sausage, meatballs, ham, bacon.”
Noah raised his eyebrows. “That’s a heart attack waiting to happen.”
Walter gave Larry a fist bump. “Count me in.”
Sarah rolled her eyes. “Okay. So, one heart attack special, one pepperoni, one white broccoli, and one cheese.”
After the waitress took our orders, several simultaneous conversations erupted around the table. At the head of the table, Crystal was comparing her school with Sarah and Larry. The boys at the opposite end were discussing sports with Jessi, but they were too far away for me to really hear them.
Between us, the girls were discussing their favorite music group CAVEmen, who had just announced the locations for their upcoming tour. Bella and Dre in particular seemed to be huge fans and were especially excited. Across from me, Walter seemed to be uncomfortable with their conversation, especially as Bella searched through the tour dates to determine when the band would come closest to Connecticut.
He turned to me. “So, tell me about your dance classes. After all, you asked a lot of football questions. It’s only fair I ask about your sport.”
I wasn’t really sure if he was sincere, but I decided to humor him nonetheless. “Well, there are four different classes and Madam Cheri said we would spend most of the term working on fundamentals.”
“Are they different levels?”
I shook my head, taking a sip of the soda the waitress had just delivered. “Monday and Friday, I had tap in the Black Box and there’s a hip hop class in some room at the TRAC. Tuesday an Thursday, I have ballet and there’s jazz at the TRAC.”
Bella turned to Walter. “That’s the one I take. Hey. Do you want to come to the concert with us? We’re thinking the May show in Long Island.”
Walter’s face turned the color of a tomato and he took a long sip of his soda while Bella and I watched him expectantly. “Um, no. I don’t think I can.”
Before I could ask Walter what was wrong, Andy and Forrest showed up. Andy looked around as he sat near the other boys. “Did you eat all the pizza without me?”
Leif shook his head. “Of course not. Your mushroom and anchovy pizza will be out any minute.”
Forrest sat beside his roommate. “Mushrooms? I thought you said mussels.”
As we all laughed, the waitress set four stands along the table. A moment later, she returned with the cheese pizza while a second waitress brought out the white pizza.
After taking a bite of my pizza, I turned towards the boys to hear the highlight’s of Forrest’s away soccer match. But, my eyes landed on the take-out counter behind him. There was a boy about my age obviously waiting for his food. He had sandy hair and a familiar profile. The person behind the counter handed him a pizza with a paper bag nestled on top and he turned to leave.
His eyes locked with mine. I could see a combination of confusion and terror in them. I blinked a few times, trying to make sense of what I was seeing.
I lost sight of him when our waitress returned with one of the meat pies. By the time I could see the counter again, the boy had disappeared.
I took another bite of my pizza, ignoring the conversations around me as I tried to figure out how I had just seen Eliot Mason in this pizza parlor when he lived in my hometown nearly two hours away?
I was beyond confused. The best thing to do was probably just ask him if I had just seen him. I took out my phone, but it took me a while to figure out how to word the email without sounding crazy.
After I sent the message, I tried to pay attention to my friends. Bella and Walter were talking about their previous schools. Bella had attended private schools most of her life and Walter was homeschooled, but attended some school-like co-ops on occasion.
I tried to tell them about my middle school. But, Eliot had been a big part of my life there. We had shared many of the same classes, sitting near each other for three years. It was hard not to think about him. The longer I went with no response, the more I doubted the boy at the counter had actually been him. It made absolutely no sense.
But, if it weren’t, why didn’t he return my text?
Saturday, September 16
Today, I saw a ghost. I was minding my business when I saw a friend of mine. Someone who lives two hours away. I know the person I saw couldn’t be my friend, but for a moment, I thought it was.
And that has me thinking about home. Until I moved to Hartfield, I would talk to my friends all the time. But this past week has been so busy, I haven’t had a chance to talk to them.
I wonder how they are doing.
Pat’s story will begin in March