“Nice shoes. You run?”
“Yeah, well, kind of.” Cory used to run with her dad back home. He was the one who got her into it. She should have been at tryouts now, not ditching the practice because she was afraid she couldn’t do the 5K in time to make the team. When she looked at the shoes dangling in his hands, she heard her mom’s voice, “But you’re not exactly the athletic type, are you?” Maybe she wasn’t.
David took a few steps toward the parking lot with her shoes. Cory leapt up after him. He turned, smiled at her, striding backwards. He swung the shoes, tied together by their laces, in a wide arc.
“Hey,” Cory called tentatively. “Wanna give those back?”
A few faces turned their way. Some kids, waiting for rides, jostled each other for a better view. David’s smile broadened. His Adam’s apple bulged more prominently as he tilted his head back and looked up. In an instant, his arm swung, his shoulder muscle rippled under the light t-shirt, and at the top of the arc, his fingers spread open wide like a Chinese fan. He held that position, arm in midair. The shoes flew upward in a straight trajectory, like a pair of matched doves.
Cory lost sight of them for a split second when the sun’s glare caused her to look away. She anticipated the thud, signaling their return to Earth, but there was none. The shoes caught on the overhead power lines, one on each side of the wire. They spun in their individual orbits, hopelessly twisting the laces, entangled with the wire. They eventually stopped twisting and hung, toes down, like her sister’s ballet slippers.
“All right!” David pumped an elevated arm. “First try!”
“Why did you do that?” She stood on the spot, gaping at the trapped shoes. Explaining the location of her brand-new running shoes to her mother flashed into her head. “What am I supposed to do now?”
Laughter exploded behind her. She spun. Enter the Greek chorus.
“Hey, sorry,” he said in a way that showed he wasn’t sorry at all. “I’ve never got them up there on the first try before.” He walked over to the bench to retrieve his lax stick.
“Today’s your lucky day, I guess.”
A bright yellow car pulled up, and he yanked open the passenger side door.
“See you around, Carrie!”
“Cory,” she said under her breath as the car sped off.
In the distance, the first few runners circled back from the first lap of the cross-country run. Cory went back to the bench and stuffed Candide into her bag. She stared up again at the dangling shoes and had to turn away, as if the sun were in her eyes. She hefted her backpack on one shoulder, the gym bag on the other and headed down the sidewalk, anticipating how sore she’d be after the half-hour walk home.
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