Chapter 2 - Catching Up
Lane walked beside Karla as they left the hardware store and turned up a path woven with tree roots and weed clumps as familiar as the pattern in an old hallway rug. Their arms brushed one another’s until finally, Lane blurted out, “Old Putty Face quit working at the gas station.”
“Why? Something happen to him?” Karla frowned.
“Don’t know for sure. Someone said he had another stroke and his face went from bad to worse. My mom said he couldn’t use his arm very well anymore.”
“It’s so sad,” Karla sighed.
“Maybe he just couldn’t deal with Tim and Nate’s
teasing anymore,” Lane whacked at a bush. “Or, maybe he’s dead.”
“Lane! Why’d you say that?” Karla stopped.
“I don’t know,” Lane suddenly felt awkward. ”Let’s just change the subject.”
Karla glanced ahead and swatted at a bug, “You brought it up!”
Lane wiped the sweat from her upper lip as they walked on and looked over at her friend. Lane could see, in that moment, all the unfolding beauty Darren saw when he had eyed Karla earlier. Her exotic face had smooth skin, and her full alluring mouth, boys always seemed to like, whether they knew why or not.
“So, what’s up with you and Darren?” Karla asked brightly, “You’re hangin’ out with him I see.” It was as if Karla knew her thoughts.
“Awe no. Not true. I just bumped into him in the hardware store.”
“So, you haven’t hooked up with him other than that?” Karla swept her hair off her neck.
“No, not really. I mean I’ve seen him around and we say ‘hi.’” Lane answered, feeling somehow very childish.
“Lane! You’ve got to come on to him a little. Otherwise...”
“...how will he know?” Lane finished, crossing her eyes.
“Well, not just that. Some girl will come along and do it for you! Definitely when school starts,” Karla added as matter-of-factly as a newscaster.
Lane slowed then nodded in agreement, “What do you think of Darren now?”
“What do you mean?” Karla slowed down too. “Do I think he’s cute now? Well, more than a year ago.”
“Definitely,” Lane smiled. “Do you think he has any idea that I really, you know...”
“Like him?” Karla glanced her way. “No, I think he’s totally clueless.”
“I’m so off his radar,” Lane laughed.
She began to swing the toilet plunger, the bag flying off on the fourth arc. She dropped back, crouched, and swung the plunger hard, like a bat this time. Karla ran ahead to catch the phantom ball, which made Lane run as if she had connected with the same ball. She tagged a parked car and then a tree, creating her own softball diamond.
Karla yelled, “It’s a double, folks!” They both grinned.
“Remember when you did that for real, and drove in two runs for our win against Taft?” Lane smiled as she caught up with Karla.
“Duh! I doubt if I could do it now. I’m totally rusty.”
“That’s why you need to practice right away. We have
only two games until playoffs,” Lane pulled her tank top away from her damp midriff. “We slumped after you left.”
“I’m going to try. Not promising anything,” Karla wagged her finger.
They turned into Lane’s front walkway lined with blue, pink, and mauve hydrangea, but it was the smell of fresh cut fruit that they noticed as Lane opened the door.
“I smell pineapple or something. Yum.” Karla dabbed her forehead.