Continued from: Earworm: Part 4 — A Crab in the Sand
Hope was exchanging one book for another in her locker when someone called, “Hope.” She turned and saw Joel running up to her. The late bell was approaching and a few, scattered students dug in cluttered lockers for books, lost pens, pencils, homework assignments crammed into dark corners. But Hope accepted that she would be late. She was always late third period. It was an unspoken rule, Mr. Levin’s class started five minutes later than advertised—a five-minute buffer where students leisurely wandered into the classroom. Mr. Levin liked being the nice guy too much to bag tardiness. As for Joel being late, he had Gym third period, and God help the gym teacher reprimanding the quarterback during football season.
Hope handed Joel a book. “Hold this a minute,” she said as she foraged and reorganized. The late bell rang. Hope shut the locker. She took the book from Joel, pressing it to her chest, and she regarded him with a smile that cut dimples into her cheeks. A few seconds of silence passed before she said, “Did you want something?”
“Me? No. Why?”
“Because you ran up to me calling my name.”
“Oh. I was just, you know, saying hi.” He switched his weight from one foot to another and ran his hand through his hair. “Hi,” he said.
“Hi.” She regarded him a moment longer. “Then, I guess I’ll talk to you later?” she said, turning to walk to class.
“You busy tomorrow night?”
Hope turned to face him. “Tomorrow night?” she said, feigning ignorance.
“Why?” she said, over-feigning ignorance.
“I was just wondering,” he said with a casual shrug. “Are you?”
“I don’t think so.” She leaned against the lockers, hugging her books to her chest.
“Oh, well, do you think, um, maybe you’d like to do something or something?” He glanced around the hall to make sure they were alone. “You know, with me?”
“Like a date?”
“No,” Joel said. Hope raised her eyebrows. Joel saying, “All right, yeah. I guess.”
“You guess? I’d like to be sure before we went.”
“Yes. I am asking you out on a date, all right?”
“Why didn’t you just say that in the first place?”
“Look, you want to hang out Friday night, or not? You know, maybe we could, like, do something or something… What’s so funny?”
Hope spoke between hitches of laughter, “You. You’re always so confident and sure of yourself, but you suck at asking a girl out. I’ve just never seen you so flustered.”
“It’s just weird. I mean, I’ve known you forever and always wanted to…I mean, we’ve been friends so long, but you were with Sean… Look, do you want to go out with me or not?”
“Well,” Hope rolled her eyes, letting the word hang in the air.
“Really? Good. Now, that wasn’t so bad, was it?”
“Yeah. It kind of was.”
“Okay, fine, I gotta get going. I’ll see you later,” Joel said. He ran off to the end of the hall, waved back at Hope, and then cut down another hall. Hope watched him go, and when he was out of sight, she walked off to Mr. Levin’s class.
Continued in: Earworm: Part 6 — The New Kid
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