"You have a lot of nerve, bird," I said. "Quinn and Noah were so brave today, but you had to take a jab at them, and at Kennedy and Brody and me. As if people can be turned gay! Now Kennedy is mad at me because of what you said."
"I know you don't like Kennedy, but he's my boyfriend!"
He opened his hands, pleading with me.
"Sure, you didn't mean it. That's the problem. If a joke is funny, you'll go ahead and blurt it out, whether it hurts somebody or not."
He bowed his head, and his shoulders slumped. He was sorry.
"I don't care," I said. "Go away."
He got down on his knees and clasped his hands, begging me.
"No," I said. "You deserve to sweat it for a while." Instantly I felt bad for the way I'd phrased this. He had fainted from heat exhaustion four days earlier, and he was probably dying in that getup. The night was at least eighty degrees.
He didn't take offense, apparently. He wrapped both wings around my leg.
I tried to step backward, out of his grasp. He held on tightly. His wings were at my knee, dangerously close to pushing my dress up higher than I'd wanted to hike it in front of five thousand people.
I glanced up at the student section. Kennedy pointed at me and laughed to everyone around him.
Imagining the only thing worse that could happen, I looked over at the team. Sure enough, Brody was watching us too. Suddenly, his friends slugging it out on the defensive line weren't as interesting to him. Shouldn't he be watching the game?
He raised one eyebrow at me.
I protected myself with the only weapon I had. I leaned way back, focused my camera, and snapped a photo of Sawyer's looming bird head, with Brody grinning in the background. The whole episode was so mortifying that I doubted I would find it funny by the end of the school year or when I was in college or by the time I turned thirty, but maybe I could laugh about it before I died.
"Hey!" Kaye came up behind Sawyer and slapped him on the back of his bird head. He spent PE with the cheerleaders. I guessed he and Kaye had been around each other enough, and he'd annoyed her enough, that she knew how to whap him in costume without hurting him. Or maybe she'd wanted it to hurt.
At any rate, he felt it. He let go of me and made a grab for her. She took off down the sidelines, behind the football team. He ran after her. All this happened so fast that I didn't even get a picture.
After we won the game, and the team and coaches and cheerleaders and Sawyer had surged onto the field for a group hug on the fifty-yard line, I watched Brody walk toward the stadium exit with Noah. The newspaper had said this would be a great season for the team and for Brody, but his talk with Noah looked way too serious for two friends who'd just won their first game.
I was thinking so hard about what could be wrong that it took me a few seconds to notice Brody was waving at me
. By the time I waved back, he'd given up waggling his fingers and was making big motions with both arms like he was adrift at sea and trying to hail a Coast Guard helicopter. Then he resumed his solemn confab with Noah. I watched them until they'd wearily climbed the stairs and disappeared through the gate.
That was the highlight of my night. Afterward, I met my friends from journalism class at the Crab Lab, but Kennedy was still giving me the silent treatment. He didn't offer me an angry word or even look at me the whole time. He just sat in a two-person booth and had an in-depth discussion about yearbook design with the sports section editor. A couple of times I overheard him pointedly say that placing pictures at an angle was a great way to vary the pages.
He was leaving the next morning to visit his cousins in Orlando and wouldn't be back until Sunday night. I wanted to make up with him so the fight didn't hang over our heads and tarnish the Labor Day weekend. But since he was still ignoring me, I knew he wasn't ready to kiss and make up. I didn't order any food, and I left a few minutes later. I had a lot of stuff to do at home.
I worked most of Saturday and Sunday. My friends were tied up, anyway. Kaye had a family reunion. Tia's dad was about to buy a fixer-upper mansion, and she was helping him get the house they lived in ready to sell.
I wasn't lonely. I actually looked forward to two days almost totally by myself. I planned to process the remaining photos I'd taken for the yearbook but hadn't yet turned in to Kennedy. I would also get my website ready to showcase the pictures I'd take of the 5K on Monday. If I got caught up with this work, maybe I would feel less stressed about corralling my classmates-including Brody-for the rest of the Superlatives photos during the next two weeks.
Both days, I helped Mom serve breakfast. After that, she spent her time working on the B & B-cleaning the guest rooms and bathrooms and the common areas, then painting or replacing boards on the exterior that were rotting in the fierce Florida sun and rain. Most days if I didn't talk to her while she was making breakfast, I didn't talk to her at all.
I also took breaks from my computer to check on Granddad, who lived alone a couple of streets over. I'd been doing this every couple of days since he and Mom had argued a few months ago. Granddad didn't like it whenever Mom said she was willing to take my dad back.
After I made sure Granddad was okay, I walked the other way along the beach road until I reached the private strip of undeveloped sand that Granddad had inherited from his family. When my dad had been around, he used to complain that we'd all be rich if Granddad would give in and sell his beach. Stubbornly, Granddad had never put it up for sale or even built a house on it. He liked to go there by himself and paint the ocean.