The importance of being a team player - Chapter 10

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“Trying to be impulsive for once?” I jested back at Riley while rubbing the palms of my hands on my jeans in an attempt to distract myself from the pain.

“While I admire the gumption, this isn’t quite what I expected from your glorious return” Riley looked at me while shaking her head. “When I said you needed to break out of your shell, I didn’t expect you to take it so literally.”

She slowly walked over to me and offered to help me up by sticking out her hand. I hadn’t even said sorry or anything yet, but she was just standing there, helpful as ever. I could even detect a smile as I moved my gaze upwards to meet hers.

I accepted her hand so she could pull me back on my feet. “I’ll promise to ask for clarification next time,” I said to keep up our little conversational game.

“Now, let’s get inside quickly before anyone sees this hideous face of mine” Riley nudged in the direction of the house’s backyard with her head. I gave her a quick nod of approval as I followed my friend inside to the familiar living room past the backdoor. She was wearing a pink oversized T-shirt and some simple shorts underneath. Her hair was bound up in an immaculate bun on the back of her head, showing off a face that was unusually bare of makeup.

“First we take care of those Clifford-looking paws of yours” She swiftly continued before I could even get a word in myself. Without warning she slathered some kind of cream on my hands telling me to rub it in. Looking around the empty living room I noticed that we were suspiciously alone. It actually was a lot more empty than what I had grown to expect from this family, the only thing out of place was a big pile of neatly stacked boxes in the corner. Had I just really made this whole daring endeavor for no reason? It looks like her parents aren’t even home in the first place.

“That should take care of the burn, now let’s take a seat so we can get started,” Riley said to me armed with a wide grin.

“Get started?” I repeated while cautiously taking a seat on the big brown leather couch.

“Yes, with your apology? That’s why you’re here right? Let's not pretend like this is our first rodeo.”

“You’re… not… angry?” I stammered to the confident girl who had just sat down on the other end of the couch from me.

“I mean, I definitely was. Two days ago. Right now, I’m pretty chill, however….” she nodded her head back and forth while looking up to the ceiling.

Preparing my next sentence I first let out a big sigh. Only to follow it up with my most sincere words of this conversation so far

“I’m sorry”

“There you go! Was that so hard?” Riley mockingly said as she focused her gaze back on me.

“I don’t know… It’s just… I would have…” I was struggling to find my words. This was not what I was expecting this conversation to go like. Why couldn’t she just be properly hurt so she wouldn’t behave so relaxed towards me? Why did she have to be so confident all the time? Me being all sincere felt so out of place now. But now was I wishing I hurt her more? What is wrong with me!?

“I mean it!” I eventually yelled out. “What I said was messed up and I’m honestly surprised you’re not kicking me out right now. We have had arguments before, but not like this.”

“What you said was messed up, but not entirely off base. And did you really think I was about to abandon you in a situation like this? I mean that would be truly messed up on my part too,” she responded.

Thinking back about how I only got home with the help of Rachel I said to Riley “I mean… You kind of abandoned me at the mall when you walked off tossing curly fries in my face.”

She held up her finger and stated “Counterpoint! I was about to come back for you after going for a walk to cool down. But when I returned you were already with that fancy hockey friend of yours. I figured I would give you two some time together and so kept my distance. In fact, I even called my dad to keep an eye out for you coming home so that I knew full well when you got home safe. Those face fries, however, were completely deserved.”

I was honestly baffled hearing this. Had she really waited for like 20 minutes at the mall on her own? Only for her dad to send a message that all was good. That meant she had to wait at least 20 minutes more for her dad to pick her up.

“You did? Why didn’t you say anything?” I uttered.

“Because you clearly needed space. So, I figured I would give that to you.” She reasoned. “You seem to be going through some emotional stuff right now, and after talking about it with my parents it seemed like I might have pushed you a little too hard. A cat trapped in a corner can make wild jumps as they say.”

There was a bit of a comforting silence for a second as both of us pondered about the situation. It was only for a few seconds though before Riley picked up a dark brown pillow to hold on to while she smiled at me.

“Remember the whole Bree situation back in 8th grade? I think I called you an ‘Anti-social sock puppet of despair’ when you told me to stop talking to her.” Riley said with a slight chuckle.

“I was being a Scott Pilgrim level asshole during that time, nobody would have judged you in the slightest for ditching me. But while all my friends of convenience dropped me like a brick, you were still standing right by my side.”

I chuckled a slight bit thinking back about some of the stuff Riley got involved with back in middle school. I guess we have been through harsher fires. Meeting Riley’s gaze I couldn’t help but feel incredibly blessed to have such a great friend. Without even thinking about it, I moved my still-hurt butt to the other side of the couch, so I could rest my body on Riley’s.

Softly I hummed a little melody. “Thank you for being a friend.” While Riley managed to follow up in kind as she sang “Your heart is true you’re a pal and a confidant”

***

As the morning dawn settled down on the quiet Shamesburry suburbs, I woke up in the guest bedroom at Riley’s place. Looking at the clock I calculated that I had only 20 minutes before we would need to head out to catch the bus into downtown. I rolled myself out of the comfy blanket to waggle my way out of the room. Confidently emerging from the bathroom Riley greeted me. “Morning bud, was about to wake you up, are you feeling good?”

She was still dressed in the same pink oversized sleeping shirt, although she had clearly already taken care of her hair and face. The ocean blue eyes being presented as the central piece of her face’s art collection. All framed by 2 long strands of blonde hair going down the side of her face, and a small horizontal braid that kept back her slightly overgrown bangs.

“Uhm, yeah. I'll head home to pick up my stuff first, meet you out front in twenty?” I mumbled back to the chipper morning bird. She stuck out her thumb as a sign of approval before heading into her bedroom to complete the morning metamorphosis.

The New England sun shined bright and finally allowed me to wake up properly when I walked to the other side of the street. Stepping into the kitchen by using the backdoor I spotted my mother who was already wide awake reading her morning papers with an espresso at her side.

“Was it really so hard to at least say where you are going or even to sleep in your own bed?” my caregiver sternly asked. In fact, she didn’t even look up from her newspaper as she said that. “Sorry, I completely forgot that we needed to finish a school project over the weekend.” I lied in an attempt to dissuade further questioning.

My mother, however, didn’t seem too keen on letting me escape the breakfast table. While putting down today’s issue of the financial times she spoke. “And now you had to finish it all at night meaning that most likely its quality won’t exactly be to write home about. When are you going to learn to plan things out properly?” I was about to respond, but she was not letting me interrupt for even a second.

“Clearly you had the time because I hear you yelling at the computer all the time. Anyhow, your dad called. Apparently, his ship is coming into Boston next week, so he wants to see you” she sternly spoke.

Soon after my parents separated my dad started working as a maintenance engineer for big cargo ships. This means that he’s often gone for months as he sails all over the world living and working on these ships. He also has a small apartment in downtown Boston where he stays when he isn’t on the water. I love spending time with him, it's just too bad there is so little time I can spend with him due to his job.

“Oh, that’s cool. I'll Give him a call today," I responded as soon as my mother left some space open in the conversation. Only to be met by her starting to talk again as soon as I finished my sentence."

“I told him about that video game tournament thing you were talking about last week, where you wanted to go instead of grandma’s birthday dinner. Does it have a website or anything? Your dad said he wanted to come.”

“Uhm… a website?” I felt the hairs on my neck stand up as my heart rate increased to match that of a hummingbird. “It’s pretty underground, but uhm… I will send Dad the details.” I quickly said to get my mom off my back. My fight-or-flight response was also rearing its ugly head, meaning that I was instantly looking for a way out of this conversation. I looked at my phone pretending to look up the time as I pleaded to my mom

“I really have to go, I need to get my stuff and catch the bus.” Without waiting for an answer I pushed myself past the kitchen table. Behind me, I could hear my mom shake out the paper again as she resumed her reading.

It only took me 5 minutes to gather everything I needed for another dreadful day of High School education. And before I knew it, my feet touched the well-kept grass of our lawn. I could already see Riley was waiting across the street. Wearing a more casual outfit consisting of a leather jacket over a fitted white T-shirt. Her legs were covered by some light blue jeans on top of white sneakers.

“I know there is a ghost living in that house, but you look like you just met its twin sister in there” she joked as I reached the other side of the street. I sighed in a dramatic fashion and looked at her.

“Shit got more complicated again!” I said while throwing up my arms. “My dad is coming back on land soon and wants to come to the tournament.”

Riley casually shrugged, “That’s in like 3 weeks from now. I’m sure we will think of something by then”

“We?” I asked

She stretched out her arm and put down her hand on top of my hair, only to rough up it in a playful manner saying “And I thought you were supposed to be the smart one”

Riley then angled her head in an inquisitive manner while pointing her index finger at me “About that. During lunch, can I copy some passages off you for that English essay that was due today?”

“Today?” I asked louder.

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Comments

The noose is tightening

Dee Sylvan's picture

It's gonna be tough to avoid dad for the weekend. And Emily hasn't even asked Riley about playing in the tournament yet. Might be easier to drop the pretenses and just follow Riley's lead. Great story, Gwen. :DD

DeeDee