“Haven’t seen you for a while,” I said, leaning sideways against the rail. Funny thing about Tracer: he got nervous around me. Now was no exception. He raised one of his thick, post-like arms to scratch the back of his short-haired head, muttering what sounded like, “Yeah, been doin’ some stuff. You been doin’ anything cool?” I exhaled a sharp laugh, saying, “No, not really. Today’s been a complete waste.”
Tracer stared at me incredulously and, waving his arms in the air, asked, “Well, isn’t that what summer’s for?” His expression normally would’ve made me laugh, but it didn’t work that day. All I could manage was a small smile and sighed. “I guess. I just don’t like wasting time. Even when it’s summer.” I peered across the vast space of breezy summer air between the tree I was standing on and the next one.
He gently reached his hand out and touched my shoulder, like he always had at school when he wanted to tell me something without interrupting me. I glanced back up at his face to see concern written all over it. “Hey, Emmaline…are you okay?”
I rubbed the back of my neck and gave a wry smile. “No, I’m not,” I said, avoiding eye contact with him. He leaned forward on the rail with his hands clasped in front of him to match my posture. I blanked for a moment, trying to put words together in my head, but mostly, I was just trying to accept that what Sam did had actually happened.
“I don’t even know what I did,” I started, brushing back some squiggly, more blond-colored flyaway hairs. “One minute I’m talking to the lady at the front desk, and the next thing I know, my best friend is calling me an egg-headed snot-rag.” Tracer grinned for a second then realized it wasn’t that funny. I stared at my hands. “What am I supposed to say to that? I mean…I didn’t even talk to her yesterday! And she says I did, and now everyone on the face of the earth thinks that I’m a total dirt bag. Man, how does stuff like this happen? It’s just…ugh. I dunno what to think anymore.” I put both my hands on my head and inspected the space between me and the ground, some hundred feet below.
Out of my peripheral vision, I saw Tracer nod his head in understanding.
“I’m sorry,” he said, before following my gaze down. A moment later, he added, “I don’t think you’re a dirt bag. I think…you’re nice. Really nice.”
“Thanks.” I smiled briefly. He fidgeted again.
“Hey, do you…uh…are you gonna go to the big dance next week?”
“You mean the Harvest Festival?”
“Um, yeah,” he replied, rubbing his hand on the railing.
“Well, I was planning on it. You know, since it’s a tradition. It sounds fun to me,” I answered carefully, staying casual as I leaned back against the rail. “I figured I’d just hang out with you guys.” I glanced at him. “What about you? Are you going?”
Tracer thought a second and shook his head. “Nah…I don’t think so. There’s some other stuff I hafta do,” he said evasively.
“Aw, c’mon! It’ll be no fun if you’re not there! You always make stuff better,” I protested and knuckled his shoulder lightly. I wanted him to come. He always made me laugh, and a dance party is no fun if you can’t laugh.
He tipped his head down again, nervously tapping the rail with his palm. “I dunno…I don’t really like big parties…”
“Will you think about it?”
Tracer shrugged. “I guess so.”
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