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One Morning, In Ninth Grade

By Scott Lucero

It was late winter and the sky still held that blue it has only when it’s cold, the crispness of the air holding everything still and bright. It would warm up that afternoon, I could tell that the minute I left the house, but that morning I had to pull my ski cap down over my ears and stuff my gloved hands deep into my coat pockets. My breath formed clouds that trailed behind me as I walked down Azalea Drive toward her house.

It was a brown split-level home and Chris’s room was in the basement. I’d never been in her room. Usually she opened the storm door the second my foot hit the stoop. I gave a quick rap, pop-pop, and after a few seconds I tried again, pop-pop-pop. Nothing.

This had never happened before, and I wasn’t sure how long to wait. School would start soon but I didn’t want to leave her hanging. I opened the storm door quietly, and I knocked on the hollow wooden door. Nothing.

Ok, I figured, she’s either gone or not going.

But as I stepped off the stoop I heard the door ease open, slowly, uncertainly. The sun pierced the sky so brightly that I had to shield my eyes.

Chris’s blonde hair was tangled and disheveled and it flowed all down the front of her. Her eyes were dim and she was rubbing them with her fists.

“Oh man,” she yawned and said through the screen, “I overslept. I’m so sorry.”

“It’s okay,” I said. “I’m sorry I woke you up.”

“No, don’t be. I’m going to be late as it is, I’m glad you knocked so hard.”

While she spoke she stuck her hand in the soft, brown flannel shirt she was wearing and scratched her shoulder. She hadn’t buttoned the top two buttons and I saw the exposed skin of her shoulder as she scratched. She rested her hand on her shoulder, inside her shirt, rested her head on that same shoulder, and apologized again. Her hair seemed to get messier, and she smiled with the warmth of the day in her. She squinted at me and said she’d see me after school.

As she shut the door, I breathed deeply and bounced off the porch. She was the sexiest thing I’d ever seen in my life.

 

Scott Lucero is a writer and teacher. He lives in eastern Kentucky with his wife and children. His most recent work has appeared in memoir (and…) and PLUCK! The Journal of Affrilachian Arts & Culture.

Photo "Naked Back" courtesy of Anthony Burns, Newcastle, UK.


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