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Last Stand

Last Stand

Chapter One

I am, without a doubt, the luckiest guy in the entire West Rollins High School junior class. Here's why:

  1. I almost have the 'rents talked into ponying up half the cost of a car.
  2. I made the cross country team.
  3. I have an extremely gorgeous girlfriend, Amber.
  4. She is also stacked.
  5. She's totally into me, quirks and all.
  6. I have a shot at becoming first chair sax. Which means I'd look straight across the room at the first chair clarinet...who is almost certainly going to be Amber.
  7. I scored Mr. Daniels for Chemistry. Hello, easy A.

Of course, such a list requires clarification. First, I realize that for many people, making a sports team is a given. Not for me. Because participation in sports furthers my quest to maintain a bare minimum level of social acceptance—a tough thing when you're the class brain—this is an event that causes great frivolity and rejoicing. When no one is watching, of course.

And on the "stacked" thing? Yes, I understand it's a totally sexist thing to say. So shoot me. They're THERE. No one—male or female—can help but notice. If I were truly sexist, I'd have put it first on the list.

I met Amber DeWitt in kindergarten when we were at the same station—the water balloon toss—on field day. I didn't really notice her, but she claims that I told her I thought her striped shoelaces were cool. I'm not so sure. If I did, it would've been because she specifically asked me what I thought. Spontaneously complimenting a girl on her shoelaces isn't something I'd do. Plus, we're talking kindergarten. No way was I more interested in some girl's shoelaces than in the chance to lob water balloons with no repercussions.

The first day I do remember Amber clearly was in second grade. I was at Britton Field, waiting for my Little League game to start. She was sitting in the bleachers watching the end of her younger brother's T-ball game. She hopped off the bleachers, walked over, and leaned against the fence with a hand on her hip, watching me and my friends toss the ball around in the grassy area outside the left field fence. She had one side of her face all squinched up and her eye was closed.

I asked her if she had something stuck in her eye and wanted us to go find her mom or something. She had bruises on her legs and a couple of scabs like she'd fallen off her bike, so I figured she was a klutz and did something to herself climbing off the bleachers and was standing there hoping we'd get a grownup to help her with her current injury.

Her face went red. She stopped doing the squinchy thing and mumbled that she was fine. A minute later, she went back to the bleachers and left us alone. I chalked it up to weird girl behavior and didn't think about it again.

Last year, after we'd been together for about seven months and we were sitting in those same bleachers watching her little brother playing shortstop on his traveling team, she admitted to me that she'd been trying to wink at me that day. She said she'd wondered for the longest time whether I'd known what she was doing and was being mean, or if I was simply clueless, but nice. She kissed me and told me she was glad to realize I'd just been clueless but nice.

I was a total sappy dork and told her I couldn't believe it took me eight years to get a clue and ask her out. It wasn't like I was asking out tons of other girls—and none at all until about seventh grade, when I learned pretty fast that it's not fun unless you know for a fact they like you already—but that sappy statement earned me an even better kiss later, when we weren't sitting in view of Little League parents.

Now that it's the first day of junior year and the one year anniversary of the first time I ever kissed Amber, I'm hoping a little of that sentimental stuff earns me even more mouth-to-mouth gratitude. Not that I'm a scumbag who only wants you-know-what from a girl. Amber expects the sap and the kissy stuff that follows. Who am I to deny her?

© Niki Burnham