I fell in love with her that day in third grade when that asshole Dominic tripped me on the blacktop because he could. The whole yard got quiet. The yard duty hadn’t seen what happened, didn’t know that the jerk had tripped me. She only saw that I was on the ground, bleeding and trying not to cry.
I don’t know if she saw that Nicole was telling Dominic that she saw everything and that she was going to tell. If the yard duty saw or heard that, she didn’t give any sign of it. But I saw it. I heard it. And I also saw him flip her off. And when the yard duty was walking me to the office, to the nurse to clean me up, I turned back and saw Nicole take a basketball and bean that asshole in the back of the head as he started to walk away. The yard duty heard something then, all right. She heard the collective gasp of all of the kids who’d been bullied by him.
From that day on, I worshipped her. Too shy to ever voice that worship, I had to be content to worship from a distance. When the other guys started talking about who they liked in fourth grade, or who they wanted to kiss in fifth grade, or who they wanted to have sex with in sixth grade, I never named Nicole. She was my secret. Mine alone. The cruder we became about what we wanted to do with whom – and the talking about the acts predated the actual acts by a good five or six years, at least, for most of us – the less likely I’d have ever named her.
I was lucky that my worship didn’t have to occur from such an insurmountable difference as from another junior high or another high school. She was one of the few kids I went all the way through school with. Unfortunately, Dominic was another.
I didn’t really clash with him after that one tumble. Oh, he was still a bully, all right, but I ended up becoming an overnight growth sensation, so he left me alone. By the time he did his own growing, we were in different spheres of orbit. It did seem to me, though, that we both orbited around Nicole.
A girl who loved to play all the boys’ games in second and third grade, she moved over to the other side of the yard by fourth grade. Something happened to her over that summer that made her keep boys at a distance. Instead, she clung to girls, especially Rebecca and the twins, Christie and Donna. The four of them played four square or performed increasingly more difficult and more complex jump roping rituals.
How do I know this? Because those twins happen to be my annoying sisters. A cruel twist of fate had me in the same class as the twins, who were all of 11 months younger than me. But if you’re a boy, and you’re born in November, and the cut-off for going to school is October 31, you’ve got no choice but to ultimately be the only seventh grader with a moustache. And, in my case, you also got the privilege of being in the same grade as your punk sisters. Punk sisters who annoyed me to no end but who, thankfully, became friends with the girl of my dreams. And not just friends. BFF.
By eighth grade, all the girls had come around to trying to write the rules on which boy could talk to which girl; on which grade a boy had to be in to talk to an eighth grader; on what a ninth grade boy could say to a seventh grade girl. Like I said, they tried writing the rules, but the boys didn’t necessarily follow them. Hey, it’s not like all the girls followed them either. Let’s face it, you never knew what was the right thing to do and what wasn’t.
Or at least I never knew. Dominic obviously did. He was still such a major asshole, but the girls either pretended not to notice or had written “must date at least one asshole in junior high” in stone in their rule book. He played football. He had played football since he was eight years old. He was going to be a star in high school. You could have predicted that in third grade. He was brutal, and it was something to be treasured and encouraged on the field. And no one really ever tried to dissuade him from terror and violence and brutality off the field.
In junior high, he went steady with nearly every girl on the cheerleading squad for the Pop Warner team he played for. Including Christie and Donna. Let me tell you, I knew my sisters were silly girls, but I never would have believed they’d go with him. Christie fell for him when she was 12; Donna when she was 13. Thankfully, the going steady part never went more than a couple of weeks and their heartbreak never lasted longer than the actual going steady phase did.
But Nicole never did fall for him. Then. Like me, she never really went out with anybody. She steered clear of all the bi-monthly crushes, or at least she did outwardly. Maybe, like me, she harbored feelings for someone that she kept all to herself, buried deep within. I would daydream that maybe it was me she loved. Maybe it was me she worshipped from afar (or secretly from up close).
Dominic and Nicole got together for real when we were sophomores in high school. He was, as predicted, the football star. She was beautiful and smart and talented and not a cheerleader. They were a couple for a long, long time. And then, one day, they weren’t any more. She was pregnant. And that asshole, true to form, had nothing to do with her ever again.
[This is being entered in the Write Stuff Short Story Contest. In case it might not go without saying, I am not a teenage boy. The story is a work of fiction.]