This is my first attempt at writing a short story because I do like writing in addition to reading. (More book reviews to come!)
Summary: Al is hit with a reverse love confession, job opportunity, and a new perspective of his childhood friend. Of course, his defeatist attitude doesn’t help him.
“Do you love me, Al?”
Do you love me?
Even if I squeeze my eyes tighter the question’s not going to go away. Way to go make things weird. Girls. Or, maybe I am the weird one? She did just spring it on me. Her cat-like eyes watch my face for any twitch of emotion. Nah, gotta play it cool.
I know better than to jump into something. If she’s asking if I love her, it might just maybe imply she has feelings for me too. Or, that I’ve accidentally revealed how much like her.
We were sitting under the willow tree of our university’s campus. The green shade covering our heads from the otherwise intense sun. Greasy lopsided sandwiches on foil laid in our laps, threatening to spill onto our jeans. Desiree or Dezzy, as I call her, grinned as oil dribbled from the corner of her mouth. After classes, we often hit up the sandwich shop near the school. Dezzy and I were too knowledgeable of our city to settle for the bare minimum of seasoned food from the campus cafeteria. In our youth, we had wrecked terror, journeying to any restaurant on the way from elementary school that let mischievous devil-children spend their cash. Mister Jones, who owned the sandwich shop, was the only adult we had ever known to have a half of mustache and the courage to discipline us. Dezzy had never accepted scolding well, being an only child and a daddy’s girl at that.
On the other hand, I don’t resemble the rambunctious eleven-year-old, who caused trouble just because he had nothing better to do. Maybe I grew up, Mister Jones made an impression on me, or I found a better hobby than knocking the salt shakers off restaurant tables and annoying customers. Dezzy, I don’t think has changed at all. Her high cheekbones are angular as ever, and her hips have rounded like her chubby, short stature. But, her attitude is identical to the troublemaker she always was.
I suck my teeth.“Girl, wipe your mouth.” A momentary distraction to her question. I make a move to clean her mouth with my handkerchief but she dodges.
“Why? It’s jest gonna get dirty again,” she said, matter-of-factly while licking the corner of her mouth clean. She stayed quiet for a moment and then cackled like a witch brewing a potion. Her leg crossed on top of the other and she scooted closer to me. I absentmindedly notice how close our jean pockets are to each other.
“Figures. You fail at silence and you’re going to weird someone out with that ugly laugh,” I said, poking her cheek. To anyone else, I would come off as harsh but not to Dezzy. A tall guy like me, who hovers over people’s heads and intimidates them. Despite my height, the “gentle giant” label never applied to me because I don’t go out of my way to be nice. I also don’t play basketball, so I can’t play the likable role. It’s not because I don’t like the sport. Gosh no, I love the sport with every puzzle piece that makes me a jigsaw. I just happen to have uncoordinated feet.
“Alfonzay,” she begins, breaking me out of a basketball daydream.
I sigh. She’s using my full name.
“Whaddya think ’bout Mista’ Jonesy’s job offer?” She leaned in front of me, no regards for my personal space, but I don’t mind. It’s Dezzy. Her hand is on the other side of my leg and the other balancing her weight in the grass. I see her hair dance a bit with the breeze prodding it into the east direction. “You neva tell me what yer thinking!”
I skirt around her statement. I am ignoring a lot of what she’s said today. Mostly because I don’t know what to say. I never know what to say.“Do you always talk in all exclamation marks? You know you can just talk without spit flying and volume.” She rolls her eyes, still in my face. Dezzy was not easily bothered.
“I notice you are still faking a Brooklyn accent. Dezzy, you are not a New Yorker. Your Dad is,” I point out.
Dezzy placed her hand on my shoulder. I wonder if she’s going to ask if I love her again. A part of me wants her to ask again, so I can I stutter out an answer. The other part of me hopes she has forgotten.
She does not ask again.
Instead, she’s puckered her lips.“What, Al? I kent hear ya? It sounds like yer jest ‘uh jealous southerner.” She smiles triumphantly at the authenticity that dripped into her fake accent. I guess Dezzy had just been lazy all these years. “Anyway, I can’t understand why yer not more excited! You will get ta’ take photos of basketball games! I know you’d be a great photographer.”
“Dezzy, are you being honest?” I point at myself with my own fingertips shining with grease. “I have butterfingers. I will fumble and drop the camera. I will take too many pictures of unpopular athletes and be hated. Or, I will only take pictures of the popular athletes and be called a kiss-up!” My voice rose with each uncertainty I list.
“You worry too much…Well, whaddya think, Al? Am I being honest?” she cooed to me. Dezzy moves away to watch me closely.
I’m not in the mood. After her sudden love confession, or uh, love confirmation and her nagging me about Mister Jone’s offer I can’t think. Dezzy’s a quick girl. She can juggle a million conversations without losing her spot in each one. She’s also a complicated person. I’ve seen her cry, purple mascara running and snot dripping, and then call it a joke or her most used one“acting practice.” It’s hard to know when she’s joking or telling the truth.
Except I know she’s 100% serious about this. I am probably a coward in her eyes because I am too scared to even fail. I don’t want to disappoint her but I can’t lie to myself. I can’t hide from her sharp eyes either, so I focus on the drooping willow tree. How I wish I could become like that tree, no tuition to pay and no Dezzy staring into my soul like a hawk.
I sigh. I have always been bad at expressing myself.
“Dezzy, I am going to mess it up somehow.”
“You prob will but if ya’ take the job you can at least make yer pockets fat. Don’tcha want some extra cash?”
I don’t answer her. I can only pull my knees up to my chest and hang my head. It’s like my defense mechanism, even as an eighteen-year-old I still cower like a kid. I’m nothing like Dezzy. To be honest, I was jealous of her for a long time. She doesn’t think before she speaks, but always know the right words to get through to me. I like that trait of her personality. Really, I just like her. Dezzy’s words make me want to believe her.
“Come on, Al,” Dezzy said to me. “I know yer scared about messin’ up, but don’tcha wanna take the job? You will get ta’ watch free games.” She pats my head until I look up.
“I don’t even like basketball that much,” I counter. The lie feels thick on my tongue.
“Yer wearing a basketball jersey underneath yer hoodie. Alfonzay, yer the only guy I know that buys a bunch of sports sneakers and knows he can’t play a lick of basketball.” She called over her shoulder to an imaginary person. “Oh girl, what position Al play?” Switching to her other shoulder she answered, “Oh, he don’t even play bench-warmer!”
Ignoring her attempt at humor, at my expense, I told her the truth.“Dezzy, I am a goof-up, that’s what my Dad said anyway.” I keep my face straight but inside my mind replays his words. I haven’t seen him in years, but his words revisit me every day.
“It ain’t whatcha step-dad, Mom, and I say, though,” Dezzy said, shaking her head. I want to smile at how much she cares for me, but deep down I can’t accept it.
I pushed my sandwich off my lap and laid down in the grass. Bringing my arm over my eyes, I am able to answer Dezzy without her stare.
“The only person who knows Alfonzay Richards is me, so I know firsthand, I ruin everything I do. Why do you care, Dezzy? And, don’t say because we are friends. A real friend wouldn’t set her friend up for failure.”
She said nothing.
The one time I wish Dezzy would keep talking and she shuts up. Figures. Maybe I deserve it. I never did answer her love confession-confirmation… whatever it was that she asked me. I can’t take a job that’s perfect for me less alone own up to having feelings for my only female friend.
Dezzy lets a ladybug crawl up her arm and sets it on a lock of grass before she turns to me. In the distance, I can hear the chatter of new students coming out of class. The peace we have had won’t last much longer.
“Dezzy,” I call.
“You really wanna know? Cause, I love ya Al, enough to tell ya that yer wrong,” she said, moving my arm away. Her brown eyes meet my hazel ones. I see a slight hesitance in her stature before she moves toward my head.
She pecked my lips and went to finish her sandwich, just as quickly as if she had done nothing. My heartbeat speeds like the legs of a race horse, and she just chews a Philly-cheese steak like it’s her last meal. I hope her slowed way of eating is because she’s embarrassed too. I immediately sit up. Wow, my eleven-year-old fantasy came true.
As I touch my lips, I think about her original question. Do I love her? Sure, I care about her and I think she’s beyond pretty. She’s the only one who doesn’t get tired of my constant whining. Sheesh, she’s the one that told me that I could make it as a college student.
Her kiss gives me a flood of questions that seem to get more asinine with each new one. Why are her lips so soft? Did girls naturally have softer lips? Should I have kissed her back? Did I even know how to do that? Maybe I should actually accept Mister Jone’s opportunity? Apparently, he and Dezzy see something in me that I don’t. It might be time that I trust their judgment.
“By the way Al, yer ‘uh total kissing-virgin. You ain’t grab me or nothing,” she said, doing her witch-cackle again. I see her lips spread out into a smile. I have such a hyper-focus on her lips since she kissed me.
Sometimes, I can’t stand her and my pride can’t stand it either. I want to kiss my annoying friend with her annoying ways and lips.
“Wasn’t a kiss; it was a peck. It has to be open-mouth to be a real kiss,” I murmured into my hoodie. My brows droop a little. Even I know, that sounds stupid. How will I ever graduate as a lawyer, if I can’t even argue my case of a kiss?
She jumped up, wiping her greasy fingertips on her glittery capris. I see grass stains on the back of her jean print. She grabs the foil and the remains to our sandwiches and skips to a trashcan. When she comes back, not surprised that I hadn’t left, she has a demand for me.
Her voice is half -teasing and half-serious.“Stop actin’ like ‘uh highschooler, boy. Ya betta kiss me, Al!” She blinks her eyes in an obvious trying-to-be-sexy way and I get a clear view of how full Dezzy’s lips are. Symmetrical and pink and glossy (partly from Philly-steak grease and the other lip gloss).
I absolutely do not gulp and am not in any way nervous. I stand up and try to tilt her angular face to the right angle like a museum curator hangs a painting up. Before she closes them again, she opens her eyes and gives me a reassuring look.
Play it cool, Al!
Our teeth clack.