February 5, 2009

The Boy Next Door

“Hey! Hey Luc!”

Lucy: I stop trying to open the front door of my house while balancing a Styrofoam container of leftovers in my arms and look up to see Brandon Bennett bounding down the sidewalk in my direction.

“Bye Lucy! Call me later!” Katie calls out of the open passenger window of Mrs. Heeley’s black Range Rover as it reverses out of our short gravel driveway. I wave goodbye as Brandon hops up onto the step next to me. He watches the Range Rover disappear down the street.

“Hi! What’s up?”

“Oh…nothing.” Brandon – who is usually pretty outgoing and, well, goofy – suddenly looks at his feet, pushing his wavy brown hair back out of his eyes. “Um, what’s up?”

I narrow my eyes and peer at him sideways. “I just asked you that. Brandon, what’s going on?” Brandon sighs loudly and leans against the step’s wrought-iron railing.

“Jeez, this is weird, but…” He begins picking at a loose thread in the seam of his navy blue polo t-shirt. Wearing frayed cargo shorts and Reef sandals, he looks just like every other fourteen-year-old boy I know. Only his hair sets him apart – while others boys have started cutting their hair short and spiking it up with globs of gel, Brandon’s unruly mess of hair falls to his chin, and he’s constantly tugging it back behind his ears.

I wait to hear what could be so incredibly “weird” for him to tell me. Since before I can remember, he’s been telling me everything – from when he confessed to opening all of his Christmas presents a week early and got me to help him tape them back together to when he secretly had a crush on the pink Power Ranger. Brandon's family has lived next door since I was two years old, and although I would never tell Katie, he's been my best friend ever since.

“Well I know it’s stupid and we always skip it and go for pizza instead, but you know that dance they always have at the beginning of the school year? The School Daze Social or whatever?”

I can see Brandon’s cheeks flush through his mane of hair, and my heart stops. It’s like someone tightens a belt around my entire chest, and I simply forget to breathe. But, why?

“I was thinking about it, and I was just wondering…”

Brandon finally looks up, and his green eyes seem to waver for a second. The belt gets tighter.

“Yeah?” I gulp. I can feel my face turn bright red and am instantly embarrassed. Why am I acting like an idiot?

Brandon takes a deep breath, and his words fall out of his mouth like a bag of marbles. “Do you think Katie would go with me?”

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