Fourth Down BabyBy: Lauren Landish
A May-December Romance
The December wind bites at my ankles and around my wrists while I stand on the sidewalk outside the little ranch house, the snow flurries swirling between my feet. I really should have worn something heavier than just jeans and my letterman's jacket, but I was in a rush this morning, having slept like crap last night. Besides, Dad wouldn't complain. He was a Marine.
I should have slept like a baby, though. Friday night was the winter formal, the next to last big event of my senior year in high school, and I’m one of the big men on campus. I mean, as a starting defensive player for the regional champions, the Silver Lake Foxes, and a general badass, if I say so myself, I'm doing well in life. I even had a date lined up with Missy Ferguson, one of the basketball cheerleaders who’s a fun chick to hang out with. I'd had my tux, my hair was tight, and I had two condoms in my coat pocket just in case I got lucky.
I should have ended the night balls deep in Missy, who I know is a freak. She's like the perfect level between freaky and classy, and she's up front about it in an honest way that makes her even sexier. We've flirted off and on, circling each other but never hooking up. Considering both our reputations, everyone was expecting our night at the winter formal to be something worthy of Internet fame.
Instead, I went home alone last night, and Missy did too, after we both watched as Troy Wood, my best friend on the football team and the best athlete in school, danced one dance with Dani Vaughn. They aren't even dating. Dani's been dating Pete Barkovich since just before homecoming. But Dani is best friends with Whitney Nelson, who broke Troy's heart when she suddenly left school to go do some sort of international study course in Europe. Watching the whole thing put a damper on my mood.
All of which is why I'm standing outside this house, slowly freezing my ass off. I'm trying to work up the guts to knock on the door, and for some reason, I'm more scared of going up to this door than I ever was playing football. At least nobody on the football field has the reputation for literally taking balls with them. And Whitney's mom has always been seen as different from everyone else.
Still, the image of Troy and Dani dancing while Mario sang about letting him love someone is something I can't get out of my head, and I force my feet to walk up the walkway to the door, my shoes crunching on the light coating of snow that fell overnight.
I knock on the door, jamming my hand back into the pocket of my jacket as soon as I can. I really need to go to the store and buy some new gloves for this winter. This is fucking stupid.
I can't worry too much about my hands, though, as the door to the house opens and Patricia Nelson looks out at me. “Yes? How can I help you?”
“Miss Nelson,” I say, reminding myself that Whitney's mom isn't married. In fact, she's never been married. “I'm Cory Dunham.”
“Nice to meet you, Mr. Dunham,” Miss Nelson says, not too warmly, but at least she hasn't slammed the door in my face like I thought she would. She has a reputation for being intense and actually intimidating sometimes, and I can understand it as I shiver in my jacket. “What can I do for you?”
“Ah . . . this is really stupid, but do you mind if I come in for a bit? I’d like to talk to you about Whitney.”
I expect her to tell me to get lost, not that I can really blame her. She's the youngest mom in the senior class at thirty-six, and she raised Whitney by herself. She's gotta be tough to deal with that, though I've never really talked to her face to face before.
Instead, she studies me for a minute, and I can see her look at the football letterman jacket I'm wearing. She steps back and lets me in, then leads me to the little dining room, which is kind of sad with only two chairs at the small table. “Have a seat. It's pretty cold out there. Would you like some cocoa? Or coffee?”
“Coffee would be nice,” I say, sitting down carefully. My ass is numb, and I don't want to fall on my butt or thump into the chair. “Thank you.”
“So what did you want to talk about?” she asks, going into the kitchen area. “Milk and sugar?”
“Some sugar, please,” I reply, then clear my throat. “Well, to be honest, a lot of us have been wondering how Whit’s doing. I mean, she left so suddenly, and she left quite a few friends behind.”