This story is by Michelle Carey-Riehle and was part of our 2017 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Amanda stepped from the car onto the sidewalk. She almost didn’t say goodbye to her mom, who snapped her back to reality by honking the horn and yelling, “Have a nice first day of high school!”
Great mom, everyone is looking at me now, she thought. Her head was buzzing with all of the different noises; the sound of the school buses pulling in, the squeal of the girls reconnecting with middle school friends, the boys cat calling as the girls walked by. She was excited and nervous at the same time. Would people recognize her? She hardly recognized herself these days. All year long her body rapidly transformed. By May of this past year, she was about fifteen pounds lighter and actually had a date to the eighth-grade dinner dance. By the end of summer, she grew four inches and gained curves in all the right places. She was wearing a pair of Jordache jeans complete with a belt and short sleeved multi colored tee tucked in. Tucked in! Even she couldn’t get over how good she looked and felt.
“Amanda!” yelled her friend Karen. “Over here!”
“Oh my god, Amanda you look great!” Karen said as she smoothed down her freshly permed hair. “How do I look?”
Karen did not grow as tall as Amanda but lost some weight over the summer.
“Karen, you look awesome. You always do!” Amanda responded giving her a hug.
“I can’t believe we are in high school -just look at those senior’s and their cars! Holy crap we’re going to have fun!” Karen giggled as they compared their class schedules.
Amanda thought the freshman boys looked like grammar school students compared to the leather jacket unshaven god like seniors milling about before them.
“Awe crap!” Karen whined. “You don’t have one class with me except for lunch break. That sucks!”
“We’ll have to join a club or something so we can be together,” Amanda said as she reapplied her Bonnie Bell lip gloss. “I was thinking about trying out for the volleyball team. Wanna do it with me?”
“Me? Really! And make a complete and utter fool of myself? No way! You can do that on your own!” Karen said as she rolled her eyes and walked toward the entrance of the school.
Amanda played basketball in middle school but was never really good at it. She could not dribble and run at the same time. So, the coach put her in as a center and suggested at the end of the season that she might want to try out for volleyball in high school. As they walked into the building they heard a bell ring and started to panic.
“Are we late?” Amanda asked nervously.
“No, that’s the five-minute warning before the actual bell,” Karen said shaking her head. “My sister told me about it, but we’d better get to homeroom before we are late. See you at lunch!”
Amanda walked down the hall towards her appointed homeroom and acknowledged a few of her classmates from middle school along the way. Some of them took a second look after they realized who she was.
As Amanda entered the doorway to her homeroom a familiar voice bellowed from the back.
“Lookin good, apanda manda!”
She closed her eyes and cringed. Tom Morgan, she thought, ugh! Why does he have to be in the same homeroom let alone on the same planet with her? For some reason, he decided to make her his target all through middle school and teased her about her weight whenever he got the chance. Amanda decided to take the high road and smiled at him.
“Hey, Tom! You’re not looking too shabby yourself!”
That seemed to catch him off guard. Actually, when she took a closer look at him, he really didn’t look that bad. For a minute, she thought he was kind of cute.
By the end of the first day, she was exhausted but excited. She told her mom about the day then added that Tom Morgan was in three of her classes.
“Oh no!” “Is he being mean to you again?”
“No, not really. At first, he started with the apanda manda thing but after that, he didn’t say much only smiled and waved.”
“Maybe he is finally growing up,” her mom responded as she stirred the Kraft Mac and Cheese she was preparing for dinner.
“I signed up to try out for the junior varsity volleyball team,” Amanda added changing the subject.
The next few weeks went by quickly; filled with homework and volley ball practice. Amanda didn’t have time to realize that the weather had turned cooler until one day she left the house in the morning without a jacket and was chilled all day at school. It was then she noticed the leaves changing and smiled to herself. She loved this time of year, sometimes it was warm during the day and cooler at night, cool enough to wear her favorite sweater. She made the volleyball team and Tom was not giving her any trouble. In fact, he was her lab partner in Biology and he even saved her from the shenanigans of freshman Friday by offering her a ride home with his brother Rick. On the way home, It’s All I Can Do by The Cars was playing on the radio.
As Amanda was humming along to the song Rick asked, “Do you Like the Cars?”
“Oh yeah, they are one of my favorites and I just love their videos.”
Tom looked at her and smiled then looked away quickly. As she got out of the car she said goodbye to both boys and thanked Rick for the ride.
“Wait, you forgot your sweater!” Tom called after her as he got out of the car.
That’s when he asked her what she was doing for homecoming.
“I was thinking about going to the pep rally and football game with Karen. Are you going?”
“Yeah, for a little while. My brother is having a party after the game with his friends from the lacrosse team. Do… you….um…wanna come over? We could walk back together from the game,” He said as he jammed his hands into his jean pockets.
Amanda’s heart skipped a beat. Was he asking her out? And to a party that seniors would be at? She decided to play it cool just in case he was up to his old ways of tormenting her.
“I don’t know, Karen and I were planning a sleep over.”
“She can come too!” he quickly added.
Wow, she thought, that was easy.
“Ok, let me check with her and let you know in homeroom tomorrow.”
“Ok, see you tomorrow,” Tom said as he waved goodbye.
Amanda let herself into her house and raced to the phone and dialed Karen’s phone number.
“Hi Mrs. Stein, it’s Amanda. Is Karen home yet? No? Ok, can you have her call me when she gets in? Thanks.”
Her mind was racing. Does Tom like her as a girlfriend? This boy who tortured her for the last four years?
When Amanda and Karen met Tom at the pep rally the sun was shining and the sky a deep blue. Amanda could feel the crisp autumn air through her school sweatshirt. She was glad that she and Karen decided to bring mittens. The spectators were packed like sardines in the bleachers. Tom was sitting so close to her that his leg was brushing up against hers. She shivered a little and he put his arm around her to keep her warm. She couldn’t believe this was happening and looked at Karen as if to say that out loud.
After the game, Tom and Amanda went to the corner deli to grab a couple of cokes and pizza bagels. Tom stopped and faced her as they left the deli.
“Um, I had fun with you today,” He said as he stepped on a pile of leaves crunching them beneath his Nikes.
“Me too,” Amanda said.
He was quiet for a second and then continued.
“I am sorry for mocking you out in middle school.”
Amanda looked at this kid who she despised in the past and realized that she didn’t feel that way anymore. In fact, she was starting to fall for him.
They walked back to the school holding hands. The late day sun was shining and a chilled breeze blew some leaves off of the trees onto the sidewalk in front of them. They stopped again just before they got to the school football field and he turned to her and kissed her.
“Will you go out with me?” Tom asked in almost a whisper.
Amanda looked at him very seriously.
“On one condition; that you never, ever call me apanda manda again!” She said as she grinned.
“I promise,” he said as he leaned in and gave her another kiss.