Sidelined

Stephanie Lennon

        We’re leaning against Mom’s forest green Toyota Corolla in the parking lot of my school waiting for the police to come.
        And even though Brother Big Shot was the one behind the wheel when the back of our car knocked the side view mirror off a parked car, this is somehow my fault.
        Typical.
        The owner of the parked car also happens to be my favorite 5th grade helper, Miss Henry. She is tapping her foot on the sidewalk. Her long legs must need to get somewhere fast. I feel bad that Josh has stopped her from leaving school on time. 
        The other kids in my class always joke that teachers and lunch ladies live here. In this case, I know it’s not true, because this tall drink of water (one of Josh’s favorite expressions) lives on my street. Josh likes to drive by real slow. He must like the flowers in her yard.
        I clear my throat, tighten my big boy shoes, and attempt to charm that scowl off her otherwise perfect face.
        “Did you get any carnations today, Miss Henry?” It’s a shame I don’t have longer eyelashes.
        She’s staring at her phone. I am sure she is sending some important text message or work email. Or maybe she’s Googling how to reattach a side view mirror.
        She looks up at me and smiles that big smile I look forward to seeing every morning. “Hey, David. Yes, I got two red ones. I have them in a vase on my desk. Learn any new words lately?”
        She is talking about the dictionary app she told me to add to my iPod. I am trying to improve my vocabulary.
        “Yes, Miss Henry! Today’s ‘Word-of-the-Day’ is inconvenience. It means having to unexpectedly deal with something annoying.”
        “Seems like a good word to use today!” She laughs. “How’s your brother doing?”
         Whoa. Wasn’t expecting that curve ball. My brother just ripped a chunk of her car off and she want wants to know how he’s doing? Girls are such complex creatures.
        “Uh, I think he’s okay. He’s mad at me, of course. But he almost always is.” I look down and kick the curb.
        “Yeah. He seems like the type to blame others for his own actions.” Her phone dings. “Hopefully we won’t have to be here much longer.” She puts her phone in her purse and crosses her arms. “You should do some homework while we’re waiting. Then maybe you can do something fun when you finally get home.”
        I giggle at the idea of doing homework in the parking lot of my school. “But then it would be parking lot work!” Smooth, David. No one’s ever made that joke before.
        She still laughs. She’s just that sweet. Always looking out for the little guy.
        The scowl returns to her face as my brother approaches our little slice of heaven.
        “Hey D, don’t you think we’ve annoyed Miss Henry enough for one day? Maybe you should go wait in the car?”
        I want to tell Josh to go suck on a gummy bear. Instead, I give Miss Henry the dopiest puppy eyes I’ve got, because I know she won’t be able to resist.
        “Aw, be nice Josh. We’re just trying to, ahem, pass the time. You understand that, don’t you?” She rolls her tumbleweed eyes in Josh’s direction.
        “Gah, I’m sorry. I made a mistake. That is not what I was trying to say at all. Seriously.”
        “But you said it. And it appears you need to start taking responsibility for all of your actions.” I have only ever seen her this serious during testing week. “Instead of  blaming your brother for maiming my beautiful car. Jeesh.”
         And just like that, even her comment is my fault. As he looks at me, I can see a butt-whooping in my future. A smorgasbord of knuckle sandwiches and baby bruised ribs. A healthy heaping of noogies.    
        I shrink into the sidewalk.
        Miss Henry returns to her phone.
        Josh has the nerve to open his mouth again. 
        “I made a mistake. Please give me another chance.”
        Another chance? He tore the mirror right off. Does he want to try again and do less damage? This isn't a video game, there are no do-overs.
        “I don’t want to be with someone who doesn’t know how to appreciate their own brother. Because if you can’t appreciate someone as cool as David, how would you ever be capable of appreciating me?”
        She thinks I’m cool? My heart is jumping Double Dutch in my chest. All of my hard work is paying off. Bringing apples and buying carnations and downloading fancy dictionary apps.
        “Let me make it up to you?” Josh gives me a quick squeeze. My brother sure can be sweet when he wants to be.
        Miss Henry puts her thinking cap on. She scrunches her face all up.
        Josh continues. “How about once we wrap up here, the three of us can go grab some ice cream together. Would that be a good place to start?” Wow, Josh has never taken me for ice cream before.
        And Miss Henry must be on a diet, because she waits thirty whole seconds before saying yes. Oh man, I have never been on a date before! As big as Miss Henry’s smile is, mine is even bigger. I don’t think my dictionary app has a word for this feeling.

 

Stephanie Lennon is a teacher and writer living in Brooklyn, New York. She is fuelled by coffee and cuddles. She will soon be published in Fiction War Magazine, Issue 5. She is currently working on a middle grade novel titled Miss White's School for Vivacious Voices. You can find updates and more at www.facebook.com/stephanielennonwrites