Girl Code(9)

By: L.D. Davis

I glanced at Leo in the back seat. A tiny, almost imperceptible smile appeared at one corner of his mouth as he looked back at me, but then it was gone and he looked away.

Leo came home with us that day. Our English teacher had stuck us together on a project that was due when we returned from our break, but even though Leo and I didn’t agree on much, we did agree to finish up the project as soon as possible so it wouldn’t hang over our heads during our time off.

“Would you like something to drink?” I asked Leo after we dropped our stuff on the dining room table. “Like antifreeze? Cyanide?”

“Oh, you’re too kind, Tacky,” he said, touching a hand to his heart. “As much as I’d love a trip to the morgue today, I think I’ll settle for a Coke instead, free of any of your personal touches, of course.”

“How disappointing,” I responded before leaving the room.

I walked into the kitchen where my mother was peeling potatoes. Something meaty was roasting in the oven. The aroma was mouthwatering. I was tempted to open the oven and peer inside, but my mother hated that. She said it released all of the heat and made the cooking process longer, but the few times I saw Tack do it, my mom said nothing to him. He was her golden boy. We could do the same exact things, but I would always be the one to get in trouble for it.

“Where’s your brother?” Mom asked when I entered.

“I guess he’s in his room.”

“Did he have a good day, do you know? Did he sign up for baseball?”

I pulled two Coke’s out of the fridge. Shaking one of the cans vigorously, I said, “I don’t know and I don’t know.”

She didn’t ask me how my day was, or how my latest math test went, or anything about school. I was used to it, so I didn’t hang around to wait for it. My mother’s main focus had always been Tack. Tack was a superstar, had been one since peewee football, and great things were expected of him.

I had just handed Leo his Coke and sat down when Mom came in, carrying a letter.

“I forgot to tell you this came for you today,” she said, tossing it on the table in front of me. She walked away without waiting for a response.

I stared at the letter for a moment. It was from a university in Pennsylvania that had a writing program that was offered to a select few high school students. My application had consisted of various questions about my life and hobbies, and I had to submit a short story with it. I didn’t expect to be chosen. There were plenty of kids in the area that deserved it just as much, if not more than I did.

“Don’t just stare at it,” Leo said quietly from across the table. “Open it.”

I looked up at him, surprised for a moment before I remembered discussing it with Leslie in front of Leo. He knew what I was holding in my hands. I let my eyes fall back to the letter.

“It’s okay if I didn’t get in,” I said with a shrug.

Okay? It would not be okay. My pounding heart and sweaty palms were strong indicators of it so not being okay if I didn’t get in. I wanted it, and even if someone else did deserve it more than me, it didn’t mean I wanted it any less.

“You deserve to get in,” Leo said seriously. I gave him a cautious look because he was being nice. “Open it already.”

I took a deep breath and tore the envelope open.

“I got in!” I slapped the table. “Yes!”

“Congratulations,” Leo smiled at me as I jumped up to go tell my mom. When I reached the threshold, I heard the popping sound as he opened his can of soda, and then the liquid-like explosive noise as Coke splattered all over him. “Oh fu—”

“Mom!” I shook the paper at her. “The university accepted me into their writing program!”

“That’s great, Tabitha,” she said with a genuine smile.

“I know it’s going to be an inconvenience since it’s in the city, but it’s an opportunity of a lifetime,” I gushed and then squealed with happiness.

“I need a towel,” Leo said lamely from the doorway.

“As long as it doesn’t interfere with your brother’s games, it’s okay,” Mom said, handing Leo a roll of paper towels. She didn’t seem at all concerned with the fact that soda was dripping from his face and soaking his shirt.

The grin on my face faltered some as I clutched the paper. “Well, it will be every Saturday from nine to one,” I said. “I’m sure Tack will be okay if you’re a little late or miss a couple of games. It’s only for a few weeks.”

“Tabitha, you know I can’t miss any of his games,” my mother said irritably, like I was so wrong for even suggesting it.