By eighth grade, your bike can take you almost anywhere you want to go, even to the street where your biggest crush lives. Mention a bike ride and your parents are likely to say, “Sure, go ahead,” since it is a healthy and low-tech (or is it no-tech?) activity. Not that I would ever go 1.3 miles out of my way just to glimpse the gray-green two-story colonial that my crush, Forrest McCann, calls home.
OK, I’ve done it. More than once. Did it today, in fact, under a cloudy November sky. And what I saw when I pedaled past Forrest’s house nearly knocked me off my two wheels—a For Sale sign poking out from the lawn.
This was monumental. Forrest had always been part of my plan. I know it’s a little weird for me to think we have a chance, since Forrest is still with Taylor Mayweather. But we’ve known each other forever—since preschool—and we might be destined to end up together.
We’ve had our moments, you know. Already, this year, there was that time on the bus, the other time when we were scrunched together inside the same locker (a long story), and most recently, we had a laundry room moment that gave me plenty to think about, but no real answers. Before I fall asleep at night, I turn that moment over and over in my head, like a lucky penny.
But when I see him at school, I totally clam up. I can’t even spit out a hi or hey when I see him in the halls. I just nod awkwardly in his direction. He usually nods back, but sometimes he doesn’t see my nod and I wonder if people are wondering who I’m nodding at. Or maybe they are laughing at how I’m the victim of an unreturned nod.
Those times when FCM gives me a nod, I’m reminded that Forrest and I share a secret. A big one. Forrest Charles McCann knows about the pink locker. And he knows I’m in the Pink Locker Society. In fact, thanks to me, he was interrogated about the PLS by Principal Finklestein. It was just before Principal F. pulled the plug on our secret group. I had been dying to tell Forrest that Kate, Piper, and I have restarted the PLS without anyone’s permission.
But before I could get up the nerve to have that conversation, the For Sale sign changed everything.
* * *
I nearly shrieked my best friend’s name into the phone as I explained what I just saw. At this point, I had biked my way around the corner from Forrest’s house. I was shielded from the autumn sun by a stand of old gnarled trees. In the trunk of one of them was a plum-sized hole, like the kind you see in cartoons. I might have wondered what was in that hole if I wasn’t so desperately worried that Forrest McCann was about to leave my life forever.
“Calm down,” Kate said in her yoga voice. “Try to take cleansing breaths. Watch your stomach rise and fall.”
“Kate Parker, I don’t have time to find my inner peace. This is the end of my life!”
Kate is my best friend—but sometimes she just does not get it. It must have to do with the fact that she always has a boyfriend. She used to be with Paul, but now she’s going out with Brett.
“Kate, if Forrest moves away, how am I going to follow through on my two-year-plan to make him like me and finally dump Taylor?”
“Well, maybe you’ll have to speed up your plan.”
Kate is always saying things like that, but I have my own way of doing things. Forrest and I go way back, which complicates the situation. I can’t just walk up to him and declare my love. There are rules here and I’m following them.
I hung up with Kate, who promised to call me later. Sometimes I get the feeling that she’s tired of me talking about Forrest. I guess I don’t blame her, but talking about him is one of my favorite things to do. So I quickly pressed speed dial 3 and got Piper.
“Come onnnn, Jem. Why don’t you just talk to him? And ask what the deal is with the For Sale sign. I mean, that’s what I’d do. It’s not that hard.”
Easy for Piper to say. She attracts boys everywhere she goes. Once, she got a new boyfriend during a trip to the grocery store with her mom. They met in produce and by the time they reached the dairy aisle, they were a couple.
“I can’t just talk to Forrest.”
“Why not? I talk to him all the time. He’s really into his guitar these days. He’s even talking about not playing football next year to have more time for his band.”
Forrest has a band? Where have I been? And why does Piper know so much about him?
Piper knows me well. When I didn’t respond to her, she jumped in with more of her Piperesque straight talk.
“You should just go for him. Actually, you should have gone for him ages ago. But especially after everyone found out Taylor was the one who hacked the Pink Locker Society Web site,” Piper said.
Oh, Piper, you are right, but I just can’t admit that you are right.
“Jem, I’m just saying you can’t wait forever.”
I knew this was technically true, but I couldn’t imagine doing anything more than I was currently doing—thinking about making a move. I suddenly felt a buzz of suspicion about Piper. Then I heard it—an actual buzz.
But it wasn’t in my head. The loud buzzing was headed straight for me, from that funny tree with the hole in its trunk. It was home to a very angry family of bees. Angry at me, apparently. They spilled furiously out of that hole in a straight line—a real “beeline.” I flapped my arms like a bird and started running. They filled the air in front of me, and I felt them ping-pong off of me as I darted and dashed. Some collided with my face. I squeezed my eyes shut and ran. But where could I go? I opened my eyes, crossed the street in a sprint, and lunged at the only familiar house in sight.
Copyright © 2010 by Debra Moffitt