“You have a problem, asshole?” Angel demanded his face inches from Jesse’s, his forearm at Jesse’s neck.
Jesse’s face reddened as he struggled to get the words out. “I-I’m was jus’ messin’ with her.”
Angel turned to face Sarah, without loosening his grip on Jesse. She stood there wide eyed a hand over her chest. “Are you okay?”
Sarah nodded. “Yeah.”
Angel turned back to Jesse face which, by now was nice shade of deep crimson. He pushed him one more time against the bleachers, slamming his head against the wood sidings.
“Get some fucking manners,” he snarled.
Released, Jesse fell to one knee, coughing and gasping for air. Again, Angel turned to face Sarah. He took a few steps her way. She still held her hand to her chest, and her eyes remained on Jesse who continued to cough, now on his feet. She finally looked at Angel, with those eyes that were beginning to haunt him.
He was determined to not clam up again. “Are you sure you’re okay?” He fought back the urge to pull a strand of hair away from her face. She smiled at him for the first time.
“Yeah, thanks.” she replied, “You didn’t have to do that. He was just being a little pushy. I could’ve handled it.” She stood up straight putting her hand to her waist.
“Yeah, maybe you could’ve. I just don’t have patience for idiots.”
A few people noticed the scuffle and slowed as they walked by, but not enough to call the attention of any teachers.
Again she turned to watch Jesse huff away embarrassed, still coughing and rubbing his throat.
“He’ll be fine.”
Sarah shrugged and they started back slowly toward the gym.
Walking so close, side by side, Angel was distracted when their hands touched for just a second. He refocused on his reaction to seeing Jesse push himself on her. It was typical of him to want to help, but he had gone a little overboard. He could’ve just pushed him off. Instead, he really wanted to see Jesse hurt.
He stared at her now, eyes narrowing. “Is he a friend of yours?”
Sarah glanced his way but turned away quickly. “That’s not what I would… call it.”
Angel tightened his jaw and stared straight ahead. “What does that mean?”
She focused on the cheerleaders, who were now staring at them, especially Dana. Angel was oblivious to them, his eyes fixed on Sarah now.
She finally looked back at him. “We hung out once, a long time ago.”
Hung out? “You dated him?”
She never completely looked him in the eye, and the frustration was getting heavier. Jesse was one of the biggest assholes he knew. He couldn’t imagine her being involved with him in any way.
They reached the gym before he could push further, and she gazed at him. She put her hand on his arm and every hair on his body stood at attention.
“Thanks again for what you did back there.”
Angel couldn’t help stare at her eyes.
“I’ll see you around.” She took her hand off his arm and began to walk away.
What? That’s it? No way was he letting her get away so fast. He grabbed her hand as she turned from him. It was soft and small in his big brawny hand. His heart raced.
She turned to look at him and he tried focusing on something other than her eyes but it was impossible.
“Are you going to the game on Friday?”
She studied him for a moment and then cleared her throat. “I can’t. I’m working.”
A few guys turned the corner and strolled toward them. She tugged her hand, but he held it tight. He glanced at the guys and back at her.
“Work, uh? 'Til what time?”
“Not sure yet, I’m babysitting, so it depends on what time their parents get home.”
She tugged her hand again, this time just hard enough that Angel let go, and she started to walk away again.
Angel frowned. “Well, there’s a party after, maybe you can go to that, if they get home early?”
She was at the locker room entrance, when she turned back to look at him.
“Maybe.” She waved and disappeared behind the door.
Angel stood there staring at the locker room door. This was ridiculous. Why was he so bad at this all of a sudden? Then it dawned on him. He’d never actually asked a girl out. The irony made him chuckle. He’d always just hook up with someone at a party, or dance, and then ended up parking with her somewhere. Even with all the girls he’d been with, he’d never been inclined to actually ask any of them out, and now that he was trying to, he sucked at it.
Sarah sat on her bed staring at the phone. She'd been home for a few hours already, and hadn’t told anyone about today. She couldn’t wait to talk to Sydney. She’d already left two messages for him, and he still hadn’t called her back. Sarah glanced at the clock. She hoped he called before seven. That’s when her mom called on Wednesdays, and they only had a miserable fifteen minutes to talk. Sarah jumped when the phone rang. She grabbed it and flipped it open.
“Lynni?” Sydney had always called her by her middle name, said she just didn’t look like a Sarah.
“Yeah, it’s me.”
“You sound different,” he said.
“No just happy to hear you,” she was almost giddy. “Listen, I’ve been dying to talk to you. You’re never gonna guess what happened today.”
“Really? Let's hear it."
Good ole Sydney, he sounded just as excited as she felt.
She made herself comfortable on the bed. “Okay, remember I told you about Angel,”
“You mean, the Angel?”
She eagerly brought him up-to-date about her afternoon. When she mentioned the party, Sydney asked, “You gonna go?”
“No, I can’t. I’m… working.”
“Are you kidding me, Lynni? This is your chance to have some fun out there, you can’t pass it up.”
“I’ve already committed,” she said. “And, the Salcidos’ pay really well. Besides I wouldn’t know anyone… well except for Valerie.”
“And Angel,” Sydney reminded her.
Sarah smiled. God, she wished he were here. If Syd went with her everything would be so perfect. “You don’t understand. I’ve seen the girls he hangs out with. They’re so sophisticated, and popular and … rich looking.”
She stood up; phone against her ear then walked over and stood in front of the mirror. She put her hand on her waist and smiled big batting her lashes, like the girls she’d seen around Angel and immediately felt stupid. Her breasts had filled in some what, making her feel a little sexier, but she just didn’t feel well put together, like those other girls. She looked at her less than exciting clothes, and winced. No way is Angels interested in this.
“Who cares? Let me tell you something, Lynni. It amazes me that you still think so little of yourself. I can guarantee you this guy would die for a chance with you. So he’s Mr. Popular, Mr. Football player, who gives a shit? Have you looked in the mirror lately?”
“Yes! I’m looking right now. I just wish you could be here to see the kind of girls he normally dates, and then you’d know what I’m talking about.”
“I don’t have to see them. I’ve seen you.”
Sarah sighed and plopped back down on her bed. “What does it matter anyway? It’s not like I’m gonna be here long. Remember?”
“You’re doing it again.” She could hear the annoyance in Sydney’s voice.
“Doing what?” But she knew exactly what he was talking about.
Before she left Arizona, Sydney’s parents offered to let her stay with them, so she could finish out her senior year there, but her mother refused. She insisted Sarah be with family. Sarah had argued Sydney’s family was more like family to her than Aunt Norma. They only visited Aunt Norma once, or twice a year. And she felt so close to Sydney’s parents. All those late nights and holidays her mother had to work, they’d gladly taken her in as one of their own.
She was so devastated when her mother refused, that she swore she’d never leave her room at Aunt Norma’s, except to go to school. So the first few weeks in California, before school started she sat around feeling sorry for herself. Sydney had made her promise that she’d make the most of it. He hated the idea of her being out here alone, and miserable.
“Remember?” he’d said. “You love the ocean, Lynni. It’s all you talked about when you got back from your visits to your aunt's, now you’ll get to be near it for months.”
Sydney encouraged, demanded, at one point threatened to stop calling and taking her calls if she didn’t try to make the best of it. So she had. She started running everyday at school, instead of coming straight home. She promised to try to get out on the weekend when she’d get a chance. So far, she’d made sure all her weekends were booked babysitting.
“It’s not like he asked me out, Syd, he just asked if I was going to be there.” She stood up and looked at herself in the mirror again and frowned.
“Will you promise me something?” he said.
Sarah hesitated. “What?”
“If he does ask you out, you’ll say yes. Hell, if anybody asks you out, you’ll say yes.”
“Syd, I can’t even talk when he comes near me. I can barely get a sentence out. I’ve made such a stupid couple of first impressions; I seriously doubt he’ll be asking.”
“You’re kidding me right? Man, you must have it bad for this guy, ‘cause you don’t’ even have to try to be likable. I know,” He paused. “Tell him a joke.” She heard him laugh and she knew why. “He’ll love how you can’t get halfway through it without cracking yourself up.”
Sarah started laughing and threw herself on the bed. “Shut up!”
Sydney was still laughing. “Just be yourself, Lynni. No more, no less. I promise you can’t go wrong,”
He was right about one thing, she did laugh a lot. Even though, sometimes she thought she did too much. Lately, the only one that could make her laugh was Sydney. She sucked in a deep breath.
“Okay. If anyone asks I promise I will.” She wasn’t too worried about it. “Oh except for Jesse.”
“Well yeah, of course.”
Sarah had met Jesse the very night she’d first laid eyes on Angel two summers ago. One of Valerie’s friends was going out with Jesse’s friend, so they hung out with them. Sarah agreed to go for a walk on the beach with Jesse that night, away from the crowd, and they sat down to talk. She had never kissed a boy back then, so when he asked if he could kiss her she let him. Before she knew it, they were making out, and when it started getting heavy she got scared and made him stop. He called her a tease, and they walked back to where the rest of the crowd was, silently.
Later, when she was back in Arizona, he called her to apologize and had called her, off and on ever since. Now that she was going to school here, he’d been a constant pest, asking her out, cornering her by her locker, insisting on walking her to class. After today’s incident, she hoped he’d back off.
She’d been talking to Sydney for about an hour when Sarah heard her other line click. She couldn’t tell who it was by the caller ID, but she was getting ready to wrap it up with Sydney anyway. She said goodbye to him, and clicked over to the other line.
“Hi, Sarah, this is Mrs. Salcido. Listen hon, Mr. Salcido is going to have to work late Friday night, so our plans are shot. We won’t need you to baby sit after all, but maybe next week?”
After she hung up, she sat there contemplating whether or not to call Sydney back. There was no need to call; she knew exactly what he’d say. She lay back on her pillow. What’s the big deal? It’s just a party, she’d been to plenty. She laid her hands that still gripped her cell phone on her pounding chest and stared at the ceiling. She could do this.