A Silent Voice © 2013

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Isabelle Ritts never knew how much a cell phone could drastically change her life. Born deaf, Izzy could only be heard by her family and her best friend Danielle. Now with the power of texting, she can talk to anybody, even Duke Hamilton, the hottest guy in school. With the Fall Ball coming up, Izzy hopes Duke will ask her to be his date. But will her obsession with virtual communication self-destruct?

Chapter 1:
I waited for my friend, Danielle, to get out of the classroom next door to mine.  We were in the same after school program for the “hearing impaired” as the district called it since according to the world everything was politically incorrect.
“Hey, Izzy,” she signed to me and we hugged. Danielle was the only person I talked about Duke to. 
“How was Bio?” I signed to her.
“Boring as usual. I’m so ready for the weekend. How was history?”
“It was-” I was suddenly sidetracked by two students hanging up a banner. The banner read, “Dexter High School’s Fall Ball – October 7! Get your tickets NOW.” I felt my mouth literally drop. I imagined Duke and I slow dancing. I’d be wearing a long, blue Cinderella-esque gown and he’d be wearing a snazzy tux with a blue tie that matched my dress.
My fantasy was interrupted by Danielle’s waving hand in my face.
“Hello? You in there, Izzy?” she signed.
I laughed and nodded in response. I texted Duke back, which annoyed Danielle because she said whenever she was talking I wasn’t paying attention.
“It’s like talking to a wall,” she said. I then noticed everyone rushing into their classrooms and realized I was going to be late.
“See you later!” We both rushed to class.  

I sat in math class.
“Miss Ritts, is that a phone on your lap?” Mrs. Erickson signed to me what my math teacher, Ms. Anderson, had asked. Shit.
            “No, it’s a calculator,” I signed back. Mrs. Erickson laughed and shook her head.
            “Whatever it is, put it away,” my teacher said.
I did what I was told, sort of. My phone buzzed in my lap. The temptation to just look down was pulling at me but I resisted. The light finally dimmed after a moment of brightening up the seam of my jeans on my inner thigh. I couldn’t control myself. I could finally be heard by everyone, not just my dad, not just Mrs. Erickson. Now even Duke could hear my voice.
I looked at the clock. I needed to see what he said and I needed to see now. I raised my hand and asked if I could use the restroom. I even signed “may” I use the restroom because I knew that was one of Ms. Anderson’s biggest pet peeves. Mrs. Erickson spoke it as I signed and Ms. Anderson nodded her fist, meaning, “yes”. That was the only sign she knew.
I snuck my cell phone into my pocket and hurried to the bathroom. When I opened the door, there were three girls in front of the mirror reapplying makeup and chatting.
“She…whore…my ex,” was all I could lip-read from the tall blonde who looked like she was talking a mile a minute. I think they were seniors.
I immediately unlocked my phone and checked my text. It was Duke. Duke Hamilton. The only Freshman who made the varsity baseball team. The guy who pulled up to school in a Mercedes Benz. He was even asked to model for Abercrombie (which I think might have been just a rumor). We had been talking for a whole week. A whole “LOL” and wink faced filled week, thanks to Mr. Barnett, my sexist history teacher who paired us up for a project.
Duke Hamilton :) – What class r u in?
I started to respond but then erased it and typed something else. I had to seem “interested” but not “desperate” according to Seventeen Magazine. I decided to go with something simple asked him why he wasn’t in class today.
I walked back to class slowly, hoping Duke would reply before I walked back in. But he didn’t. When I walked into class, there was a movie playing. Yeah, I didn’t know there was such thing as a math movie either.  My teacher had put on the subtitles for me but I wasn’t paying attention. The person on the screen was a scrawny man with dark hair and pale skin, definitely not a known actor. I imagined him having a squeaky voice, from what I knew about squeaky voices. What did Duke’s voice sound like? Was it deep and manly or had he barely gone through puberty?
The bell finally rang. I walked out of class and immediately checked my phone. As I was opening Duke’s text, Mrs. Erickson signed, “What are you always doing on that phone lately?”
Mrs. Erickson was more than just an interpreter to me, I had grown up with her around. She was like the mother I’d never had. I felt like I could tell her things.
“I’ve been talking to this kid-”
“A boy?” she wondered excitedly.
We walked to my English class together and took a seat in our usual spots in the back of the room. We sat in the back in almost all of my classes. My teachers worried that Mrs. Erickson’s signing would be a distraction to the other students, which was understandable I guess.
English was almost as boring as math. We went over Act I of Romeo and Juliet, which I never got to reading. I was so preoccupied with texting Duke that I totally forgot.
My phone suddenly vibrated. I checked to make sure Mrs. Becker’s face was still turned towards the board and unlocked my phone.
Duke Hamilton :) – How come we never talked until this year?
I didn’t want to sound like a total loser and tell him the truth of how I just got a cell phone. I thought for a moment before answering. I felt Mrs. Erickson staring at me and slid the phone under my leg. Duke would have to wait.
“Make sure to start Act II. You never know when a pop quiz could be on your desk waiting when you walk in,” Mrs. Erickson translated Mrs. Becker’s annoying words. Mrs. Becker was one of those older teachers that had been around students for so long that she had begun to resent all of the good ones because of the few bad ones. 
When the bell finally rang, I tried to calmly make my way out of the classroom, squishing past people who lingered and stayed after for help.
I immediately unlocked my phone and answered Duke’s text. I pulled some B.S. excuse out of my ass about how we just had never had class together, which was so not true. Duke and I had gone to school together since kindergarten. I remember in first grade he was sent to the principal’s office for sticking gum in some girl’s hair. In junior high, he dated this girl, Brooklyn, but she ended up moving to Michigan.
I stopped at my locker to put my math book away and then proceeded to the cafeteria. I met Danielle and her boyfriend, Cole, at our usual spot. Cole was pretty cool. He had a deaf brother so he knew fluent sign language. I was the only person in my group who didn’t have a boyfriend.
“I’m famished,” Danielle signed to me. “Let’s go get some food.”
We walked to the lunch line. Danielle and Cole shared a tray and filled it up with muffins and salad. What a contradiction. I was usually just as hungry as them but I was too anxious to see Duke to worry about food.
As we were walking back to our table someone tapped me on my shoulder. I turned around to find no one there. When I turned back towards my friends, Duke was walking backwards smiling at me. He winked. My face began to feel hot and I knew I had to be the color of a tomato. All I could do was smile.
Danielle nudged me.
“He just winked at you,” she signed to me. The beauty of knowing sign language was being able to talk about almost everyone in the school without them knowing.
We took a seat at our table.
“What should I do?” We stared at him from across the cafeteria. He sat with all of the other guys on the baseball team and the lacrosse girls.
“Go talk to him!” she signed as if I should have already known.
“What? Are you crazy? How would you like us to ‘talk’?”
“Oh. Good point.” We looked at one another and started to laugh.
“Not everyone is as cute as your boyfriend, Danni,” Cole teased Danielle.
“So true.”
I would never admit it to Danielle, but sometimes I envied her and Cole’s relationship. They had been dating since the beginning of summer and even though it had already been four months, they still seemed happy with each other. I wanted to be with someone like that.
“We should try out for the lacrosse team,” I signed to Danielle. She and Cole both laughed.
“Yeah, you two and sports don’t exactly mix,” Cole added. He had a point, but maybe a sport is exactly what Danielle and I needed to embrace the full high school experience.
“What is that supposed to mean?” Danielle questioned Cole’s accusation. I felt a fight brewing.
“I’m just saying. I bet you two don’t even know what equipment you use in lacrosse.”
“We do too!” Danielle insisted.
“Okay, then what do you use?”
“Um, well, a ball-”
“And, uh, um- a racquet!”
Cole burst out laughing. Danielle stuck up her middle finger in his face; yes that sign is universal even to the “hearing impaired”.
“Izzy, we will be at lacrosse tryouts.” Danielle was ready to prove a point to her boyfriend. I looked over to the rest of the lacrosse team. They all had long, blonde locks and perfectly perky boobs. I couldn’t compete with them, but if I wanted to join the lacrosse team to impress Duke, I would have to.

Chapter 2:
Room 107. I walked in; the desks were arranged like a horseshoe that faced the board. Danielle was already waiting there. She looked up at me and waved me over to sit by her. There were many foreign faces that seemed concentrated on work for other classes. The teacher, young and firmly built, got up from his desk and walked to the center of the room. When he finally got the class’s attention he began.
“Welcome, everyone. I’m Mr. Wright,” he started to sign. This was the only class that I didn’t need Mrs. Erickson in.
“I’m glad you could all make it to the Southwest District After School Program for the Hearing Impaired.” I had to get used to the way he signed certain things. It was different than how I learned.
Mr. Wright told us about how he wasn’t always deaf. He said that he was in a really bad car accident when he was a kid. He told us how he “knows what it feels like to sometimes feel like an outcast” and how that lead him to a bad heroin addiction when he was a teenager. He was going down a “horribly tragic path” and even dropped out of high school. But “thankfully” that all changed when he met Paul Stanley, the singer from the band KISS (yeah, I wasn’t sure who they were either). I guess this Paul guy was born with “Level three Microtia” which caused him to go deaf in one ear. After Mr. Wright met this guy, he got his GED, got into Gallaudet, and lived happily ever after teaching the rest us “hearing impaired” people that anything was possible no matter what our “obstacles” were.
Gallaudet was one of the biggest and best deaf universities around. Danielle and I both wanted to get in. Lucky for her, she had an aunt who worked there so she was bound to get in. I had to work my ass off and get good grades.
In the middle of Mr. Wright’s grand speech, I felt my phone vibrate. I looked down at my lit up phone. The name on my screen read, Duke Hamilton :).
As I was just about to type in the last number of my passcode to unlock my phone, Danielle nudged me and gave me a look that made me put my phone in my bag. Danielle already had a boyfriend. She didn’t realize that every text from Duke was crucial and needed to be answered ASAP if I wanted him to ask me to the Fall Ball.
“It’s so important to stick together as a team,” Mr. Wright signed. I wasn’t sure what he was talking about since I missed the first half of his signing.
“I want us to all go around now and say our name, grade, and favorite movie.”
Most of the people were sophomores and juniors with just a hand full of seniors. Danielle and I were the only freshmen.
“Hi, I’m Danielle. I am a freshman and my favorite movie is probably Mean Girls.”
I was next. I was nervous. I hated signing in front of large groups of people and it didn’t make it any easier that we had to stand up.
“Hi. My name is Isabelle but you can call me Izzy.” I felt my hands moving a mile a minute, flailing all over. They probably thought I was a mess. “I am a freshman as well and my favorite movie is The Notebook.” The Notebook? I sounded like a total cheese ball but my mind went blank and that’s the first thing my hands signed so I went with it. My fingerspelling was sloppy out of nerves. At that moment I was glad I couldn’t hear anything because I’m sure if I could I’d hear people snickering and making comments from my embarrassing introduction.
“Thank you, Izzy,” Mr. Wright signed. I sat down.
After everyone’s introductions, Mr. Wright handed out an article. The title read, Is There a Substance Abuse Problem Among Deaf and Hard of Hearing Individuals?
“The woman who wrote this article is Debra S. Guthmann.”
I skimmed through it. I guess it basically talked about how deaf students have a higher risk of becoming dependent on alcohol and/or drugs.
“Did you guys know that one in seven deaf individuals are substance abusers opposed to one in ten hearing individuals?” Mr. Wright signed.
I couldn’t care less about the drug addicts and alcoholics of the world at that moment. I was more concerned about getting asked to the Fall Ball by the hottest freshman in school.
“Miss Ritts, would you mind signing the first paragraph?” Mr. Wright signed. Thankfully I was paying attention.
“Sure,” I answered. “Communication difficulties often exist in family systems with a Deaf member…” I wondered if Duke was at baseball practice? If he was, I could walk by the fields after class.
“Thank you, Izzy. Danielle would you like to read the next paragraph?” Mr. Wright signed.
Danielle began to sign. I reached into my bag and pretended to be searching for something. I opened Duke’s text. It was from almost thirty minutes ago.
Duke Hamilton :) – We need to work on our history project still :P
He brought up the project, which was a good sign. That meant we would have to meet up after class. I debated on whether or not I should ask him if he was at baseball practice or if I should just walk by the fields after class and “coincidentally” run into him.
After we finished the article, Mr. Wright let us go for the day.
“See you guys tomorrow,” Mr. Wright signed as he shuffled his papers together.
Danielle and I walked out the doors and into the courtyard.
“You want to get something to eat?”
“Yeah, sure. Chipotle?” I asked her.
“Sounds good.”
“Can we walk by the fields real fast?”
Danielle stopped in her tracks and burst out laughing.
“You stalker!”
We laughed and then took the long way to the parking lot in order to see if Duke had practice. We passed tons of posters for the Fall Ball. It made me feel even more anxious.
We finally approached the fields. I spotted baseball uniforms but I wasn’t sure if it was JV or Varsity practicing. We peeked over the wall.
“Look at all those nice asses,” Danielle signed.
I gave her a look.
“What? I love a man in a uniform.”
I couldn’t help but laugh.
“You have a boyfriend!” I reminded her.
“So? I also have eyes. I’m still allowed to look.”
“Whatever you say.”
One of the players spotted us. We quickly ducked down. We laughed so hard, I thought I peed my pants.
We looked up again. All of the players were looking now, pointing at us.
“Holy shit!”  Danielle and I ducked down again.
We then spotted Mr. Wright walking over. Awkward.
“Um, hi, girls.” He looked as confused as any person would.
“Hi, Mr. Wright.”
“What are you two doing?”
Danielle and I looked at one another searching for the right answer. Mr. Wright then looked out at the field at the baseball players.
“Oh, I get it,” he laughed.
“Why did you take this way?” Danielle asked him.
“Well my step-brother is on the team so I give him a ride home.”
“Who’s your step brother?” I asked.
“Jake West?”
“Yep! You guys know him?”
Did we know him? He was a junior and Duke’s best friend, so it had to be the Varsity team.
“I have English with him,” Danielle signed.
“That’s cool.”
Mr. Wright waved to someone from behind the wall. Danielle peeked over.
“They’re coming,” she signed in her lap to me so Mr. Wright couldn’t see what she was saying.
“What do we do?”
“Fix your hair!” Danielle started flattening my messy hair down.
I could smell sweat and dirt approaching. The whole team was suddenly standing in front of us.
What…they…here, was all I could lip-read from Duke’s mouth. This was not how I imagined us “running into each other”.
I saw Mr. Wright sign to Jake, “I was helping them after class.”
“Thank you,” I signed to him. Mr. Wright nodded and smiled at me. Jake looked down at us. We made eye contact and he smiled. I had never really met him before, but he seemed nice. 

 Duke waved at me. I smiled back, clueless on what to do. I wanted to say hi. I wanted to ask how practice was. I wanted to see if he wanted to come to Chipotle with us. I was beginning to realize why deaf people become easily dependent on drugs.  The team walked away though, Duke following behind them. I wanted to yell out at him and tell him to wait, like I’d seen in movies. But I couldn’t.
“Nice seeing you ladies,” Mr. Wright took off also.
We stood up and headed towards the parking lot where Danielle’s mom would be waiting for us.
“Sorry, Izzy. You want extra guac on your bowl? That always makes me feel better,” Danielle tried cheering me up.
I tried to smile and nodded. 

Chapter 3:

I walked into my house after school. My dad wasn’t home yet. I went upstairs to my room. The thought of doing homework sounded about as good as eating cow liver. I threw my bag on my desk and decided to procrastinate for now, something I had gotten progressively better at since getting a cell phone. I decided to go in the backyard and see Juicy Couturtois. She was my Aldabra tortoise. I’d had her for ten years.
When I walked outside, she was eating grass.
“Hi, Fatty,” I signed to her. That was her nickname because she weighed 450 pounds. I kneeled down next to her and rubbed her shell. My goal was to find a mate for Fatty so they could reproduce and save the endangered species of Aldabra tortoises. I lied on the grass as Fatty walked around the yard, her stumpy legs moving slowly. I looked up at the sky. The clouds. The sun. One of the clouds looked like a heart. I pulled out my phone and snapped a picture of it. More clouds floated by in the forms of creatures and faces. Two clouds in the shape of a boy and girl kissing came by. As I was about to take a picture, an airplane came flying through separating their faces. I felt bad for the clouds oddly enough. I decided to get up and go back inside.

I sat on my bed looking through the pictures of the clouds I took when a text from Duke popped up.
Duke Hamilton :) – Good seeing you after practice :)
I took a screenshot of the text. As I was about to send it to Danielle, my phone began to ring. It was my dad FaceTiming me. I answered. He was sitting at his office desk, a stack of papers that reached the top of his head on top.
“Hi,” he began signing. “I’m just about to leave work. What should I pick up for dinner?”
I had just eaten Chipotle with Danielle so I wasn’t that hungry but I knew I would be later.
“Whatever you want.”
“I’m thinking a breakfast for dinner type of night. IHop sound good?”
“Sounds delicious.”
“Great. See you later.”
He hung up.
I sent Danielle the screenshot. Within thirty seconds, she was FaceTiming me. When I answered, she was eating a doughnut.
“How are you already eating again?”
“I’m getting my period, what do you want from me?”
“Did you get my text?”
“Duh! Why do you think I’m calling? When did he send that?”
“Like, five minutes ago.”
“That’s a good sign.”
“Cole said he wouldn’t waste his time sending you that if he wasn’t interested and he’s a guy, so he knows.”
“Really? Where is Cole?”
“He’s downstairs watching ESPN with my dad. Boring.”
I laughed.
“We have to find out when lacrosse tryouts are,” I reminded her.
“Yes. We’ll check tomorrow.”
“What if we don’t make the team? That’ll be so embarrassing.”
“We’ll make the team, Izz. You think those girls are chosen because of talent? I heard they lost every game last year.”
“Oh shit. I think I just got my period. Talk later.”
Danielle hung up leaving me with an unpleasant image in my head.
I began to text Duke back. I asked him how practice went.  As I lied in bed, staring at the ceiling, I decided starting my homework was probably a good idea.
I sat down at my desk and pulled out my math workbook. I started reading a word problem. What was taking Duke so long to text back? I looked at my phone. I unlocked it to see what time I had sent my last text at. Two minutes had felt like an hour. I reread the word problem, not comprehending a word of it.
I started doodling on the side of the page; stars, hearts, cubes, and swirls. I felt the desk vibrate. Finally.
 Duke Hamilton :) – It was good. Are you coming to the game Friday?
There was no way I could go alone. Danielle had to go to dinner for her grandparents’ fiftieth wedding anniversary. How was I going to manage this? There had to be a way she could get out of it or at least leave early. I immediately texted her.
Five minutes. Ten minutes. Twenty minutes. I was still doodling on my math homework. There was no way I could concentrate. I pulled out my journal from the desk drawer. I flipped through some of my previous poems. I hadn’t written anything for a while but I was feeling inspired.
A silent voice between us.
I want to hear you say my name.
A silent voice between you and I.
We communicate through texting and games.
A silent voice between me and you.
My dad suddenly walked in. I quickly shut my journal. Danielle was the only one that new about my secret love for poetry. He had a to-go bag from IHop in hand. He set it down on my desk.
“Pancake time?” he signed.
I waited for him to leave the room before writing one last line in my notebook.
Cupid shot at my heart with perfect aim.
I then shut the notebook and put it back where it belonged in my drawer stashed under an array of other journals so no one would every find it. I met my dad downstairs.
We sat in front of the television set and watched a documentary called Blackfish. It was about a killer whale or something. I wasn’t that into it but dad loved documentaries. They were basically all we watched.
My phone sat on the coffee table next to my plate. It vibrated. I went to grab it but dad grabbed it first.
“No phones during dinner,” he signed to me. But we could watch dreadfully boring documentaries about fish?
I just nodded knowing I wasn’t going to win this one.
After dinner, I took Fatty my leftover pancakes and bacon then helped dad with the dishes.
“So how was school?” he signed in between washing dishes.
I set the wet rag down to respond. “It was good. Danielle and I are thinking about trying out for the lacrosse team.”
My dad paused.
“The lacrosse team? I didn’t even know you knew what lacrosse was.”
“I’m not that clueless about sports, dad!” Okay, maybe I was. And maybe Duke was a large part of my sudden knowledge of sports but, hey, at least I had some sort of motivation, even if it was a boy.
“I played lacrosse in high school.”
I passed a dish to my dad to be dried.
“What? You did? How come I didn’t know that?”
He dried the dish and then answered, “Yep! Captain of the team during my junior and senior year. I actually got a full ride to Duke to play.”
“What? Why didn’t you go?”
“I married the love of my life instead and had a beautiful daughter with her.” My dad kissed me on the forehead and then walked upstairs to his room. I smiled at him as he walked away. I felt bad for dad. Mom died while in labor so I never got to meet her. From the pictures I’ve seen, she was stunning. I felt guilty sometimes, like I took the love of his life away from him. I sometimes wondered if I was just a lemon.
I saw my phone light up from the corner of my eye. It was Danielle.
Danielle My BIFFLE FO LYFE <3 – Should I say it’s the night of lacrosse tryouts?
She was a genius! I texted her back, agreeing with the plan. There was no way my dad was going to let me go to a baseball game with full intentions of dating a boy. He was still living in the seventies.
“Your mother wasn’t allowed to date until she was sixteen. I asked her out the day before her sixteenth birthday and she wouldn’t agree until the next day,” he always said to me. “Girls these days have no respect for themselves and my daughter is not going to be one of those girls,” he insisted. I was going to have to tell him something that he couldn’t reject.
I went upstairs and finally made it through my math homework. My dad walked in a little while later to say goodnight.
“You need anything?” he asked.
 “I wanted to ask you if I could go to the baseball game on Friday?”
Dad looked at me suspiciously. There was no denying that I despised everything about sporting events; the overly crowded bleachers, the sweat, the smell of teenage boy body odor, and the fact that I never knew what was going on nor could anyone explain to me what was going on.  
“Who would you go with?”
“Danni and probably Cole.”
Dad just stood there, staring at me, like, past my eyes and into my head, trying to figure out what my ulterior motives were.
I interrupted his thoughts, “I just want to be more involved with school and I’m gaining a new appreciation for sports.”
He raised his eyebrows with absolute confusion, as well he should.
“I guess I can’t argue with that,” he shrugged.
“Thank you, daddy!” I stood up and squeezed him.
I felt him laugh as I embraced him.
When I finally let go, he looked at me and said, “Does this mean you’re going to start watching Monday night football with me?”
“Let’s not get carried away.” We both laughed.
He then kissed my head and went off to bed, closing my bedroom door behind him.
I texted Danielle and told her I was in the clear. She was probably already asleep though. Duke then texted me.
Duke Hamilton :) – I’m going to bed. Sweet dreams :} Zzzz

 Chapter 4:
            I walked into school still half asleep. I yawned. I went to my locker to get my history book. When I opened it, a blue, sticky note fell out. I picked it up.
I can tell you don’t know,
How your smile brightens up my day.
Your eyes make my heart glow.
You’re not like all the other girls who are always looking to put themselves on display.
The rest of the sticky note was torn off. I rummaged through my locker and I searched all over the floor but it was nowhere to be found.
I looked at the note again. I reread those four lines over and over until I had the note memorized. As I shut my locker, Danielle approached me.
“What’s up? What is that?” she noticed the note in my hand.
I handed it to her, still somewhat shocked. As she read it, her eyes widened. She then looked up at me
“Please don’t tell me you’re giving this to Duke?”
“What? No! I found it in my locker.”
            She smiled relieved.
“Thank goodness. I was going to say, let’s not get all Taylor Swift up in here.”
            “This is fate! He’s into cheesy, love-y, dove-y poetry too.”
“Are you sure it’s from Duke?”
“I don’t know! There’s no name. I mean, who else could it be from, right?”
“Well, I don’t know. You have first period with him. You should ask him.”
“What? No way! What if it wasn’t him?”
 People began rushing to class.
“We’ll discuss at lunch,” she said. I grabbed my bag off the ground, stuffed the note in my back pocket, and headed to history.
When I walked in, I saw Mrs. Erickson already waiting for me in the back row. Duke was sitting a few seats over from her. He winked at me. I sat in the seat that was closer to him. He scooted a seat over so we were now right next to each other. I looked at him. The note lingered in my head. I smiled at him hoping it actually brightened his day.
We looked at one another. Mrs. Erickson then tapped me on the shoulder warning me that Mr. Barnett was about to begin.
“I hope everyone brought their rubric for the project because you will have time to work with your partners today,” Mrs. Erickson signed everything Mr. Barnett said.
“I want you guys to first get out a piece of paper and answer the following questions on the board.”
As I was struggling to find paper, a hand flashed in front of my face waving a paper in hand. It was Duke’s.
I nodded my head as a way of thanking him.
I stared at the questions on the board. I didn’t have clue on how to answer them but I pretended to write something down so I looked smart. I could see Duke tapping his pencil against his desk from my peripheral vision. He wasn’t writing anything, which made me not feel as bad.
I sat there waiting for everyone else to finish up. Duke’s paper was still blank. He began drawing something on it. It was a tic-tac-toe box. He put in ‘X’ in the center then placed the paper on my desk. I couldn’t help but laugh a little. I stuck an ‘O’ in the top right corner. After two cat’s games, Mr. Barnett finally told the class to send all their papers forward. Duke passed his paper full of tic-tac-toe boxes forward with confidence.
 “Alright, everyone. Get with your partners and start working,” Mrs. Erickson signed what Mr. Barnett said.
            Duke and I faced each other. He pulled out another piece of paper and began to write something on it.
Do you have your rubric?
            I nodded my head and then shuffled through my bag. It was an embarrassing mess but I eventually found the paper. We had to present a PowerPoint on Civil Rights.  
            As we were reading through on how we were going to be graded, my pencil rolled off my desk onto the ground. We both reached down at the same time to get it and clashed heads. A pulsing pain surged through my head.
            Duke tapped Mrs. Erickson on the shoulder. He began saying something to her. She then turned to me and signed, “He said he’s sorry.”
            I smiled and signed to Mrs. Erickson, “Tell him I’m fine.”
            Duke began writing on the sheet of paper again. It was easier.
So you’re coming Friday?
I think so!
After every game the team goes to Dave & Busters if you want to come.
Yeah. That sounds really fun. Can I bring a friend?
I could feel Mrs. Erickson looking over my shoulder to see what we were writing.
Yeah. Bring anyone you want.
            Mrs. Erickson then tapped my shoulder, signaling for me to look to the front of the class. She began signing what Mr. Barnett was saying. There was only a minute of class left and we had barely progressed on the project. I guess that meant more after school time together.
            Everyone stood up and walked out of class. I tried to quickly gather my things so I could walk out with Duke but he had already taken off.
            Mrs. Erickson and I exited the classroom.
            “He’s the boy you’ve been texting isn’t he?” she signed to me as we waited outside Danielle’s class for her to walk out.  
            I couldn’t hold back a smile as I nodded my head.
            “He’s really cute.” Mrs. Erickson gave me a thumbs up.
            Danielle finally came out of her class.
            “How was Bio?” I asked her.
            “Pretty boring.” She yawned.
            As we walked through the hall to our next classes, we saw a large circle of people gathered around the staircase. We squeezed our way through the crowd to see what was going on. There were rose petals scattered up the stairs and a banner hanging across the railing that read, “Fall Ball with Aaron?” At the top stood Madison Michaels, she was a sophomore, and Aaron Wood, he was a senior. He handed her a bouquet of flowers and she hugged him. She gave her friend her cell phone to take a picture.
            What if Duke asked me at school? What if he asked me at home? My dad would be so pissed. What if he invited me to the baseball game this week because he planned on asking me there? I imagined Danielle and I at the game during the last inning. All of the sudden the game would be paused and Duke would stand in the center of the baseball diamond with a loudspeaker in hand and Mrs. Erickson next to him to translate for me.
            “Izzy Ritts,” he would say. “Would you go to the Fall Ball with me?”
            We would then meet halfway between the center of the diamond and the bleachers. I would agree and we would seal the night off with a kiss. Our first kiss.

            Mrs. Erickson’s waving hand in front of my face unfortunately snapped me back into reality. I just wanted it to be Friday night.
            When I saw Danielle and Cole at lunch, I told them about Dave and Busters after the game. They both agreed to go.
            We sat down at our lunch table. Mr. Wright came walking out of the lunch line with a plate of pizza in hand.
            “Hi, girls,” he smiled at us.
            He walked over to Jake’s table where Duke was sitting. He had a tray in front of him with an array of food; pizza, a muffin, salad, a chicken sandwich, and two cartons of chocolate milk.  The lacrosse girls walked up to their table. They twirled their perfect blonde locks around their fingers as they giggled at nothing. Was that the trick? Making boys feel like they were funny?
            “We should go ask them when tryouts are,” Danielle said.
            “Yeah. We should.”
            Danielle stood up. I wanted to ask but not in front of all the baseball guys.
            “You coming?” she signed to me.
            I looked at Danielle then at Duke’s table. Mr. Wright was still standing there talking to Jake. As my mind held me down, my body finally stood up. We headed towards the table. We passed the nerdy stoners, the anime freaks, the wannabe musicians, and the wrestlers until we finally approached Duke’s table. He was chowing down on his chicken sandwich and would only raise his head to chug down his first carton of chocolate milk.
            Jake looked up at us and smiled. I had never realized how blue his eyes were before. Danielle tapped Mr. Wright on the shoulder.
            “Can you ask Jake to ask the lacrosse girls when tryouts are?”
            “Sure thing,” Mr. Wright said. He then turned to Jake and signed to him. We didn’t know Jake that well, so it would be weird if we asked him.
            Jake nodded his head and tapped the blonde girl, whose dark roots were in desperate need of hair dye, on the shoulder as she was talking to Duke. She turned around. He started saying something to her. Duke then looked up at Danielle and I and smiled. Was that a good sign? Or was he laughing at us? The girl then pulled two slips of paper out of her bag. She handed them to Jake.
            Jake then turned back around to Danielle and I.
            “Tryouts are Saturday morning. 8 am,” Jake signed. “You need to bring these forms filled out when you go.”
            “Thank you!” Danielle signed back. We took the forms and walked back to our table.
            “When are tryouts?” Cole asked us.
            “Saturday at eight in the morning.”
            Cole burst out laughing.
            “What?” Danielle signed.
            “The thought of you two trying out for any kind of sport that involves coordination is funny enough but eight in the morning? That’s just comical!”   
            Danielle gave him a look and then slapped him on the back of the head.
            “What was that for?”
            “For being a dick.”

            After school I walked straight into my room. I wasn’t that hungry. My dad was still at work. I felt my phone vibrate in my bag. I rummaged through the mess pulling out textbooks, notebooks, pens, and pencils until finally finding my cell phone at the very bottom.
            Duke Hamilton :) – So ur trying out for the girl’s lacrosse team?
            I decided to wait a few minutes before answering.  I grabbed my journal and went in the backyard to feed Juicy Couturtoise. She was huddled in her shell when I walked out. As I sat on the lounge chair waiting for her to come out, I opened my journal to write. I reread what I had written so far.
A silent voice between us.
I want to hear you say my name.
A silent voice between you and I.
We communicate through texting and games.
A silent voice between me and you.
Cupid shot at my heart with perfect aim.
I looked out at the pool. I tapped my pen against my journal.
A silent voice between you and me.
Our love for poetry is one in the same.             
            I looked over at Fatty. She was out of her shell and walking around. I set my journal down on the chair and stood up to give her a handful of berries I found in the refrigerator. She sniffed them before taking a bite into the palm of my hand.  When I went to sit down, I realized I still hadn’t texted Duke back. I pulled my phone out of my back pocket and answered. I told him Danielle and I were trying out together but the whole waking up early thing was going to be an issue.
            Duke Hamilton :) – LOL
            I hated when people replied with one-word answers. It made it very difficult to respond to. It made me question whether or not he wanted me to respond at all. I sent a smiley face back to be safe.
            When I walked back inside, dad was home, a pizza box sat on the island.
            “How was school?” he asked.
            “It was good. Lacrosse tryouts are Saturday morning.”
            “Great. You want me to teach you some of the basics before you go?”
            “Yeah. Sure.”
            “Have you fed Juicy today?”
            “Yeah, I just did.”
            “Okay. Good.”         
            I peeked inside the pizza box to see what dad got. Cheese with pepperoni, onions, green peppers, and sausage. The usual. I took a piece and put it on a paper plate. I picked off the all of the toppings leaving just the cheese and sauce. Dad handed me a cup of soda and we headed to the living room with our plates of food. Tonight’s dinner documentary was called Inocente. It was actually something I would suggest to a friend. It was about this 15-year-old, undocumented immigrant girl and her journey as an artist.
            After dinner, dad and I decided to go to Dairy Queen for a much needed dessert.
            “I’m so proud of you,” he signed to me as we sat at a booth eating our blizzards.
            “For what?”
            “Getting so involved with school this year.” He took a spoonful of ice cream between signing. “You’ve matured a lot in just the past few months.”
            “Thanks, dad.”
            “What time is the game Friday?”
            “Seven o’clock.”
            “I was thinking about stopping by after work.”
            Wait…what? Did he say he wanted to come to the game? Like, Duke’s baseball game?
When I didn’t respond, he signed, “You’re okay with that right?”
I felt so bad. I quickly took a large bite of my blizzard and then nodded my fist.

At school the next day, I told Danielle about my dad coming.
“That’s a joke, right?”
I shook my head.
“That’s going to be so awkward. Does he realize you’re going to watch Duke?”
“Obviously not!”
“You are screwed.”
“Thanks, Sherlock.”
We parted ways and went to first period.
Duke was sitting in the back in his normal spot. He had his uniform on today because of the game. Mrs. Erickson wasn’t there yet.  I took the seat next to Duke. He looked up and smiled at me when I sat down then continued playing a game on his phone. I felt my phone vibrate in my pocket. I pulled it out. A text from Duke. I looked over at him before opening it up. He winked at me and gave me a half smile.
Duke Hamilton :) – U still coming 2 the game 2night?
I looked over at him and nodded my head. He then sent me another text with a thumbs-up emoji.
Mrs. Erickson finally walked in. Her hair, which is usually down and curled, was in a slicked back ponytail. She was looking a little disheveled. She took the seat next to me.
“Are you going to the game tonight?” she asked.
“Yeah. My dad is going too.”
Mrs. Erickson laughed. “Yes. I heard. Are you okay with that?”
I gave her a look. She nodded her head understandingly.
“I couldn’t say no though! I felt awful.”
“Yeah. That’s a tough one. Hopefully he won’t be there long though.”
Then it hit me.
“Why don’t you two go out to dinner?”
“Your father and I? Wouldn’t that be weird?”
“No. He could use some womanly attention anyway.”
“I don’t know. That would be inappropriate given the circumstances.”
Dad hadn’t dated since he met mom a gazillion years ago and Mrs. Erickson- soon to be Miss Reynolds- was in the middle of a nasty divorce. It was almost fate.
“This is great!”
            Mrs. Erickson laughed.
“Don’t get ahead of yourself. I haven’t agreed to anything quite yet.”
            Class finally began. I could hardly pay attention though. I was figuring out how I was going to get my dad to ask out Mrs. Erickson.
            Duke and I had to work on our project again. Of course, both of us being the conscientious students we are, we achieved virtually nothing. Duke waited for me after class today. Obviously we couldn’t really say much to each other but an occasional smile was enough for me. He waited with Mrs. Erickson and I at Danielle’s classroom. I saw the shocked look on her face when she saw him standing there with us.
            “Hi, Izz.”
            The captain of the lacrosse team walked out of Danielle’s class. The one who needed to dye her roots. She greeted Duke with a hug. He waved to me and then walked away with her.
             “So was he waiting with you or was he waiting for her?”
            “Well, I thought he was waiting with me but I’m not quite sure anymore.”
            We laughed it off and walked to our next classes.

            At lunch, being that Danielle and I were both menstruating, we grabbed a tray and filled it up with almost everything in the cafeteria.
            “I have the best idea,” I said as I grabbed an Uncrustable and threw it on the tray.
            “I’m going to set up my dad and Mrs. Erickson on a date tonight.”
            “Wait, why?” Danielle put two cookies on the tray.
            “So that way he won’t come to the game. Duhhh.”
            “That’s freaking genius.”
            “I know. How do I get him to ask her though?”
            We walked to the checkout line. The Asian lady who was always working had a huge cold sore on her lip so we decided to go to the next line.
            “I think you should just play up on the whole divorce thing and that she seemed really down today.”
            “Yeah. He really likes her because she’s always been there for me so hopefully he’ll think of it on his own.”
            “He totally will.”
            We went and sat at our table.
            “Where’s Cole today?”
            “He’s retaking a Chemistry quiz.”
            “That sucks.”
            I opened up the Uncrustable as Danielle picked at the orange chicken bowl they served as hot lunch today.
            As we were pigging out with no regard as to who was watching, Duke, Jake, and two other baseball players came walking towards our table.
            “Um, are they walking over to us?” Danielle signed to me.
            “No way. There’s no way.”
            “Wait, here,” Danielle handed me a napkin. “You have jelly hanging from your mouth.”
            “I’m such a fat ass.”
            “Self-admitted so it’s okay.”
            I quickly wiped my face. The four boys in their uniforms were standing over us.
            Jake began signing, “You guys want to sit at our table today?”
            Danielle and I looked at one another.
            “Yeah, sure,” she agreed for the two of us.
            We grabbed our lunch tray and stood up to follow them back to their table. I could feel everyone’s eyes on us. We placed our tray on the table and then sat down.
            “You two sure know how to eat,” Jake signed to us.
            Duke began saying something to Jake.
            “Duke said he likes a girl with an appetite.”
            All of the players nodded their heads in agreement.
            “So you guys are coming to Dave and Busters tonight, right?” Jake signed to me.
            “Yeah. That’s the plan.”
            It was nice being able to sign to someone my age that could also speak and translate things.
            “Good,” he smiled.
            The lacrosse girls were walking out of the lunch line and over to the table. They stopped in their tracks when they saw Danielle and I. They gave each other looks of confusion.
            They continued walking over. The captain sat on Duke’s lap. He shifted in his chair uncomfortably. She stuck one of her French fries up to his mouth but he rejected it with a shake of his head.
            After lunch, Danielle and I ditched our fifth period class and went to the library instead. It was Friday and the thought of any more class sounded torturous, especially with so much on my mind.  

            I went straight to Danielle’s house after school. Her mom, Adriana, picked us up. I always loved going to her house because Adriana always made authentic Mexican food.
            “How’ve you been, mija?” Adriana asked. I had picked up some Spanish sign language over the past few years from Adriana.
            “Good. Busy with school.”
            “I cannot believe my two babies are in high school!” she signed and then kissed us both on the head.
            She put a plate in front of both of us with a burrito, beans, nachos, and homemade guacamole.
            “They’re hot so be careful,” she warned us.
            I burned my tongue on the first bite. It was worth it.
            After we ate, we went into Danielle’s room. We were going to make t-shirts with Duke’s number on them.
            “You know who’s actually really cute?” Danielle signed as she grabbed two plain white t-shirts out of her closet.
            “Yeah. He’s pretty cute.”
            “He’s got the perfect body. You should go for him instead.”
            I laughed. “But Duke is so perfect.”
            “Perception isn’t always reality.”
            “Thank you, Dr. Phil.”
            She threw a shirt at me then pulled out her box of glitter glues, markers, and scissors.
            “What’s Duke’s number again?”
            We decorated our shirts and then left them to dry. My phone started vibrating. It was my dad FaceTiming me.
            “Hi, dad.”
            “Hi, Izz. You getting ready for the game?”
            “Yeah. We just made shirts for it.”
            “How was school today?”
            “It was good.”
            “Hi, Mr. Ritts,” Danielle butted in.
            “Hi, Danielle. What time are you guys leaving?”
            “Probably in an hour or so.”
            “Okay. I’m going to stop at home and then I’ll be there.”
            Danielle and I looked at one another.
            “Okay. I invited Mrs. Erickson too but I doubt she’ll want to come to a rowdy game. She looked rough today.”
            “Yeah. I think that divorce is draining everything out of her.”
            “Poor thing.”
            I could see the disturbed look in my dad’s eyes. He lowered his gaze down towards his desk and began tapping his finger.
            “Maybe I should take her out somewhere. Would you mind if I didn’t go?”
            “No. Not at all. I completely understand.”
            “Alright. Let me give her a call. Have fun tonight.”
            “Thanks, dad.”
            We hung up. Danielle and I looked at one another and started jumping up and down.
            “Mission accomplished,” she said.
            Our shirts were finally dry. We put on workout clothes though because Adriana thought we were going to lacrosse tryouts. We threw our shirts in a big bag and fixed up our makeup.
            “We’re going out for grandma and grandpa’s anniversary so you guys have a ride home, right?” she asked as we exited the car.
            “Yep. No worries.”
            “Have fun!”
            We met Cole by the field.
            “Hey.” He and Danielle greeted with a kiss.
            “Has it started yet?”
            “No not yet.”
            “We’re going to go change real fast.”
            We went into the bathroom and put our homemade shirts on.
            “How does it look?” I asked her.
            “You look hot. Let’s go.”
            We walked back outside. Cole was talking to a group of guys. Danielle came from behind him and wrapped her arms around his waist. He turned around and put his arm around her.
            “I’ll be right back,” I told Danielle. I went to the concession stand to get a water bottle.
            I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned around to find Mr. Wright standing there with an older man and woman.
            “Oh, hi, Mr. Wright.”
            “You here with Danielle?”
            “Yeah. She’s over there,” I pointed to the direction where Danielle and Cole were standing.
            “Tell her I said hi.”
            “I will.”
            “Oh, this my dad and step-mom.”
            I waved to them.
            I finally got to the front of the line. I pointed to a water bottle. The cashier was getting frustrated when she couldn’t tell which drink I was pointing to. After several attempts and an occasional eye roll from her, she finally pointed to a water bottle. I nodded my head. She handed it to me. As I was pulling out my wallet, Mr. Wright stepped up to the front and handed her money.
            “Thank you,” I said.
            “No problem.”
            I walked back to Danielle and Cole. The sun was just setting. The sky was a faded blue color with a pink-ish orange streak across it. The game was about to start. We went and sat at the bleachers in the student section. There were a lot of parents surrounding us. The other team barely had any people on their side.
            Jake was first up at bat.
            “Check that ass,” Danielle signed to me without Cole seeing.
I saw everyone around me clapping and cheering. The lacrosse girls were jumping up and down with their homemade signs in hand, wearing the skimpiest clothes they owned.
            Jake’s first hit was a foul. The next one he hit was a home run. He sprinted from base to base and slid across home. Everyone was clapping for him. Duke was up next. He striked out. He threw the bat to the ground in raging anger.
            “He looks pissed,” Cole signed to us.
            During the second inning I had to use the bathroom. Danielle came with me. As we were walking past the concession stand, I saw dad and Mrs. Erickson walking towards us.
            “What the hell?” Danielle signed.
            “What are they doing here? They’re supposed to be out to dinner.”
            We both turned around hoping they wouldn’t spot us. They walked right past us and down the bleachers.
            “They’re going to see Cole,” Danielle said.
            We ran to the bathroom and hid out in there for a few minutes.
            “Think they’re still there?” I asked Danielle.
            “Um, probably.”
            I peeked out the bathroom door. I saw my dad standing in line at the concession stand.
            “He’s right there,” I told Danielle.
            “Let’s just go out there. This bathroom is too hot.”
            “He’s going to freak out when he sees my shirt. You know how strict he is when it comes to boys.”
            “Here,” Danielle pulled my other shirt out that I had originally worn to the game.
            I threw it on real quick. We walked straight for the bleachers. My dad turned around just as we were going to pass him.
            “Hi, honey!” he came up to me and gave me a hug.
            “Hi, dad. What are you doing here? Where’s Mrs. Erickson?”
            “She’s watching the game. I’m just getting her a water bottle. We went to dinner and decided to come see you guys before we go to the movies.”
            “Oh, that’s cool. What movie are you seeing?”
            “We’re not sure yet.”
            We all walked down the bleachers. Mrs. Erickson was standing across from us. My dad went and stood by her. Danielle and I took our places back next to Cole.
            “What did we miss?” Danielle asked him.
            “We’re up now. 21 to 17.”
            With just a few minutes left, my dad came up to me.
            “Hi, Mrs. Erickson,” I gave her a hug. It was so weird seeing her in normal clothes. She and my dad would actually make a pretty cute couple.
            “We’re going to head to the movies now. You okay?” my dad signed.
            “Yeah, we’re fine.”
            “You have a ride home and everything?”
            “Yes, yes! Stop worrying and go have some fun,” I reassured him.
            He laughed at me. We hugged and they left. Just in time. I ran to the bathroom again to change back into my other shirt.
            “How do I look?” I asked Danielle when I returned back to the bleachers.
            She fixed my hair and wiped the smeared eyeliner from underneath my eyes.
            We won the game by five points. After the game, we walked towards the locker rooms where the baseball players would be coming out of. All of their parents were waiting around for them. I felt awkward and unsure if I should be waiting there.
            I turned around when the smell of body odor covered up by Axe body spray was approaching. They were all walking out with normal clothes on.
            Duke looked over at me and gave me a head nod. Mr. Wright, his dad, and step-mom ran over to Jake. Jake’s mom squeezed him. He noticed me looking and smiled.
            Duke was the only one whose parents weren’t there. He stood around talking to Jake and his parents. They hugged again and then took off. Jake and Duke came walking over to us.
            “You guys still down for Dave and Busters?” Jake signed to me.
            “Yeah. Who’s going?”
            “The team and probably Leah and some of her friends.”
            “Who’s Leah?” Danielle asked.
            “She’s the captain of the girl’s lacrosse team.” Also known as, the girl who needed to dye her roots.
            Duke started saying something to Jake.
            Jake turned to us and signed, “Do you guys already have a ride?”
            I looked at Danielle and Cole. We all shook our heads.
            “Duke said there’s room in his car.” Duke was held back in the first grade so he already had his license.
            “Okay. Cool.”
            We walked towards the junior parking lot where Duke’s black Mercedes G-Wagon was waiting.
            Duke opened the door for me. I had never been in a car that nice before. Danielle and Cole got in back with me and Jake sat up front with Duke.
            Danielle and I signed to each other as the three boys talked.
            “Dude, he opened the door for you,” she signed.
            “I know! That’s a good sign, right?”
            “I mean, yeah.  Guys don’t just open doors for girls like they did in the 17th century.”
            We finally pulled up to Dave and Busters. Duke quickly got out of the car and once again opened my door for me. He took my hand in his. It took me off guard. I tensed up. Danielle’s jaw dropped when she noticed. She nudged Cole to look. He gave me a thumbs up. As soon as we walked inside where all the other baseball players were waiting, he immediately pulled his hand back and opened up the distance between us.           
            We joined his friends at a large, horseshoe shaped booth. I was squished between Duke and Jake. Danielle was sitting on the other side of Jake. The waiter came to the table and took drink orders. I had Jake tell him that I wanted a Sprite. I perused the menu. A burger sounded really good. The waiter came back a moment later with all of our drinks.
            “What are you getting to eat?” Jake asked.
            “I think I’m going to get the jalapeño burger.”
            “Damn. How do you eat so much and stay so little?”
            I laughed.
            “My stomach is like feeding a black hole.”
            We both laughed. “Mine too.”
 I felt Duke staring at us.
            Jake ordered my burger. Danielle and Cole were going to split chicken tenders and fries.     
            While we waited for our food, we decided to go play games. Duke and I played this game called Dark Escape. We had to wear 3D glasses. The whole point was to run away from this guy by shooting at him. I was really bad at it but Duke seemed like he had previous experience. When we were done, Duke handed me the tickets.
            Danielle and I played Dance Dance Revolution. Thankfully it was in the back where no one could see our uncoordinated asses jumping around. Jake spotted us and walked over and eventually the whole baseball team was watching. My face suddenly got hot. I could not mess up in front of Duke. When we were done, we headed back to the table.
            Our food was waiting for us. My mouth literally started watering. Underneath the table, Duke took my hand in his again. I smiled at him.
            Duke had a chili dog and chili cheese fries. The fries looked so good. He must of noticed me gawking at them because he held one up and offered it to me. I couldn’t reject that.  
I basically licked my plate clean. Jake put his plate of leftover fries in front of me. I started picking at them.
“I’m usually the one that finishes the girl’s plate,” he laughed.
“I’m a self-admitted fat ass. Just ask Danielle.”
The waiter brought our checks. Thankfully Leah and her posse never showed up. As I was about to put a twenty-dollar bill inside of mine, Duke grabbed it from me and paid for it with his.
“Tell him I said thank you,” I signed to Jake. He relayed the message to Duke.
When the waiter came back with everyone’s credit cards and change, we all stood up and headed out.
Duke was going to drive Danielle, Cole and I back to her house. Cole lived just a couple doors down from her so he would probably just walk home from there.
When we got to Danielle’s, her mom’s car wasn’t in the driveway, which meant her family was still out to dinner. That gave us time to change.
Duke got out of the car and opened my door for me once again. I smiled at him. I was surprised when he didn’t get back in the car. He walked us up all the way to the front door. Danielle took her house key out of her purse and unlocked the door. She and Cole walked inside leaving Duke and I on the front porch. He took a marker out of his back pocket. He then grabbed my hand and started to write something on it.
Tonight was fun
I looked back up at him with a smile and nodded. He then took my hand again and drew a heart.  He winked at me and then walked away. I had uncontrollable butterflies in my stomach that made me feel like I had to poop. As they drove away, I ran in the house and straight for the bathroom. Danielle walked in while I was sitting on the toilet.
“Oh my gosh! It stinks in here,” she plugged her nose.
“Sorry. Do you have any magazines?”
“Yeah,” she exited the bathroom. A moment later she came back with a stack of magazines in her hand.
She walked out with her shirt covering her nose and mouth.
I picked up the October issue of Cosmo. Dad never let me buy Cosmo. He said, “whores buy that kind of junk.”
I flipped through the pages, only looking at the pictures until I landed on page 136, “Sex Q & A”. The first one was from a twenty year old named Becky from Los Angeles.
Q: “Can I get pregnant if I have sex while on my period?”
A: “No matter what part of your cycle you are on, there is always a chance of getting pregnant if you are not using protection. Sperm usually stays alive for five to seven days. Even though you don’t ovulate usually until two weeks after period, someone with a shorter cycle (around 21 days) might ovulate sooner. Remember, the only 100% way to prevent pregnancy is abstinence.”

Who the hell would have sex on their period? Better yet, what kind of sick man would want blood all over his thing-y? I decided I had, had enough of Cosmo for the night. Maybe my dad was right after all. I stood up, washed my hands, and went to Danielle’s room. I opened her closet and pulled out the pair of pajamas I always used when I slept over. Danielle walked in her room. Her pajamas were already on.
“Where’s Cole?” I asked.
“I just walked him out. But anyway, gossip time!”
Danielle sat down on her bed next to me.
“He paid for you food, he never let you open your own door, and he played games with you all night.”
“I know,” I couldn’t help but smile.
“He totally likes you.”
“Don’t say that.”
“Because what if he doesn’t?”
“Then he’s a major douche bag.”
We laughed. My phone vibrated. It was Duke.
“He texted you already?”
“What did he say?”
I opened up the text.
Duke Hamilton :) – U up?
I showed Danielle the text. She grabbed my phone and started texting for me. She pushed the send button before I could even look to see.
She wrote, No, I’m sleep texting ;) LOL.
“So did he kiss you goodnight?”
“No. I wish. I thought he was going to! Look what he wrote on my hand.”
I stuck my hand in front of her.
“How romantic,” she teased. “I seriously thought he was going to kiss you though.”
“I know.”
We heard the garage door open. That meant Danielle’s parents were home. We got underneath the covers and decided to try and get some sleep. We had to be at lacrosse tryouts early.
“If your mom thought tryouts were tonight, what are you going to tell her for tomorrow?”
“That I’m going to Cole’s house.”
“You’ve got it all figured out, huh?”
“Duh! Do you realize who you’re talking to?”
Danielle’s phone went off. It was Cole.
“How far have you and Cole gone?” I asked her. I don’t know where the question came from.
            Danielle looked at me before responding.
            “Why do you ask?”
            “I don’t know actually. Just curiosity I guess. I feel like such a loser sometimes. I’ve never even had a first kiss. Unless you count Ryan Gomez in the fifth grade during truth or dare at your birthday.”
            “Oh my gosh, I totally forgot about that!” Danielle burst out laughing. “Cole and I have done it all.”
            “Did it hurt?”
            “Yeah, like really bad the first time.”
            “How many times have you guys done it?”
            “I don’t know. Mostly whenever we’re at his house because no one is ever there.”
I couldn’t believe she hadn’t told me before. Sex seemed so scary and far away but maybe it was closer than I thought it was.
“So, do you love him?”
“I mean love is a strong word. I guess I couldn’t really picture myself with anyone else but I don’t know.”
My phone vibrated the whole mattress.
Duke Hamilton :) – U guys should come meet us at RR park ;)
RR Park stood for Red Ridge Park. It was a park down the street from school where everyone hung out at night. Sarah Springsteen from my English class supposedly lost her virginity there. People mostly went there to get stoned though because it was the only park that cops didn’t drive by at night.
I showed Danielle the text.
“You totally have to! This is your chance to get your first kiss.”
“How are we going to leave though? Your parents are probably still awake.”
“Tell him to give you thirty minutes. We can sneak out of the guest bedroom window.”
“Are you sure? This seems so sketchy.”
“I’m positive. You really think I’ve never snuck out to see Cole past curfew?”
I laughed. “Alright. If you say so.”
I texted Duke back. Adriana walked in a moment later. Danielle and I pretended to be asleep.
She flicked the closet light on. I felt her body heat leaning against the bed. When the closet light went off, we assumed she was gone. We opened our eyes and looked at each other.
“She’ll probably get ready for bed now and be asleep no later than fifteen or twenty minutes.”
I began to doze off but my phone woke me up.
Duke Hamilton :) – We’re on r way
Danielle and I waited five more minutes before we got up. She peeked out her door. Her parent’s bedroom light was off. She gave me a thumbs up. Danielle let me borrow a cropped top.
“If you got, flaunt it,” she said.
When I put it on and looked in her mirror, I felt naked.
“Are you sure? I feel skanky.”
“Oh my gosh. You don’t look skanky. You look hot.”
After we reapplied our makeup, we headed out of her room. She opened the door to the guest bedroom quietly to avoid it squeaking. She opened the balcony door, letting a midnight breeze sneak in.
I followed her down the stairs into her backyard. Her dog, Scottie, started barking at us. She grabbed one of his play toys off the ground and threw it into pool. He darted towards the water and jumped in. We quickly ran out the gate, making sure to close it gently without causing any more noise.
When we got there, there wasn’t a person in sight. We walked towards the swing set. I was about to text Duke when someone covered my eyes with their hands.
I turned around to find Duke standing there. I stood up and hugged him while Danielle and Jake were signing something. Duke took me by the hand and led me over to the jungle gym with the swirly slide, the monkey, bars, and mini tree house. Danielle and Jake followed. Duke got up on top of the monkey bars. I followed his lead. After we all arranged ourselves on top, Duke started shuffling for something in his pocket. He pulled out a joint and a lighter. It had taken me off guard. For one, I didn’t know he could smoke weed being on the baseball team and all. Second, I had never smoked weed before. I’d never even drank alcohol for that matter.
Duke lit it up. He took a hit of it. He blew out an “O” of smoke. He passed the joint to me. I looked at it, unsure of what to do with it. I looked at Danielle. She shrugged at me. I bit the inside of my cheek without realizing until the pain settled in.
I closed my eyes and counted to three. On three the joint was in my mouth. I inhaled. I then let out a cough, exhibiting my inexperience. My heart suddenly started racing. I thought I was going to have a heart attack. I couldn’t control my coughing.
“You okay?” Jake signed.
“She’s never smoked before,” Danielle told him.
            I passed the joint back to Duke and he took another hit. He passed it to Jake after who did the same. Danielle was so experienced the way she just inhaled so smoothly without coughing. She blew out O’s like Duke had done. I looked at Danielle and we both started laughing. Duke put his arm around me as he took another hit. He handed me the joint again. This time I took a long drag out of it. I attempted blowing O’s but they came out more like U-shaped squiggles.
            When Duke took one last hit, he turned to me and blew the smoke into my mouth. Before I could even react, he closed the distance between our lips and his tongue was in my mouth. Was I supposed to use my tongue too? Where should I put my hands? I felt so awkward and uncomfortable doing this in front of Danielle and Jake. He tasted like weed and peppermint. He finally pulled away.
            “What time is it?” I asked Jake when I realized we had to be up early for lacrosse tryouts.
            There was no way we were going to make the team on four hours of sleep.
            “We have to get back to Danielle’s.”
            Danielle and I hopped off the monkey bars. The guys offered to give us a ride back to her house. We all got into Duke’s G-Wagon. I started to fall asleep but sudden whiplash awoke me.
            I looked at Danielle, whose eyes were bulging out of her head.
            “What was that?” I signed to her.
            Jake turned around before she could answer and signed, “There was a cop.”
            My heart started pounding out of my chest a million miles a minute. If a cop pulled us over, I would be screwed. There would be no phone, no lacrosse tryouts, no Fall Ball, and no Duke. I turned around to see if the cop had pulled out behind us but he hadn’t moved.
            We finally pulled up to Danielle’s house. Duke got out of the car and opened the door for me. He walked us to the back gate. Danielle went into the backyard to make sure Scottie wasn’t barking.
            Duke and I stood there. He pulled the marker out of his back pocket again to write on my other hand.
           Thanks for tonight. Good luck tomorrow. 
            I took the marker and wrote on his hand.
            I had fun. Maybe I’ll see you tomorrow. =)
            Duke looked up at me and nodded his head. He leaned towards me. I thought he was going to go for a goodnight kiss but he surprised me with a hug instead. He walked towards his car and then they zoomed off. I walked through Danielle’s backyard, shutting the gate carefully. She left the balcony door open for me. I quietly made my way to her bedroom, where she was brushing her hair in front of her vanity mirror.
            “Did he kiss you goodbye?”
            “That’s okay. At least you finally got your first kiss!”
            “I know.”
            “How was it? Was he good?”
            “I mean, how do you judge a kiss?”
            “Well, like, was it slow, soft and sensual or gross and messy like a washing machine?”
            “I don’t know! I blanked out because I wasn’t expecting it. I mean, he wasn’t bad.”
            “We are so fucked for tryouts.”
            “I’m hungry.”
            “Awe, corrupted baby Izzy has the munchies! Pretzels and peanut butter?”
            Danielle went downstairs and came back a moment later with a huge bag of pretzels and a tub of peanut butter. We sat on her bed dipping the pretzels in the peanut butter.
            “I felt so weird kissing in front of you and Jake.”
            “Why? It’s not that big of a deal.”
            I shrugged.
            “I’m so tired,” Danielle yawned.
            “Me too. Boys are exhausting.”
            Danielle put the bag of pretzels and the peanut butter on her nightstand. She turned off the light and we laid down. I replayed the kiss in my head over and over again until I finally fell into a deep sleep. 

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