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Authors: Lucy Lacefield

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BOOK: The Season of Shay and Dane
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“She’s right here. Love
ya Dane.”

“Love you too, sis,”
something sticks in my throat. It’s a long way from home, and a long time
before I’ll be back again.

“Honey! How are you?” I
know mom, by now she’ll have been patiently pacing waiting her turn.

“Hi Mom. I’m doing
fine, just fine! Everything okay there?” I ask certain if something ever did
come up Kate would call me immediately.

“Sure! Everything’s
good. We miss you honey! Do you need anything?” Their voices are all I need
somehow to break up the monotony out here. My whole heart is in running, and
representing an Ivy League school is a dream come true, but even then the
demands get a little heavy at times.

“I miss both of you,
and no, I’ve got everything I need to get by. Thanks Mom.” I feel myself
calming down from the day just talking to them.

I switch the phone from
one ear to the other and raise my arm back behind my head, stuffing it under
the thickness of my pillow.

“Dane?”

“Yeah, Mom?”

“Son, is there anyone
special?” I could hear Kate’s protest in the background. Somehow I had gotten
spared of that question when they were out here—I guess she thinks she’s being
less invasive subjecting me to it on the phone only. I can’t remember one call
home where she hasn’t felt compelled to pry about girls.

“No, Mom. Don’t have
time.”

A click comes on the
phone and Kate’s voice joins in from another line. “Don’t worry about Mom,
Dane. She knows they’re like mosquitoes to sugar around you, and all of them as
shallow as their empty Prada bags they prance around with. And you know what
coach says—the worst thing for a runner’s legs is a girl.”

Shifting from my
comfortable position, my face feels warm, and I rub my hand across my forehead
and down my closed eyes and mouth, to rest on my chest. Kate’s right about the
girls, but even then not being out here she has no idea how hard it really is
on us guys, to keep any moral sense about us.

“Kate!” mom breaks in,
and jars any further thoughts for the three of us. This is the part of the
conversation I could live without.

“Yeah, well, it’s
getting late and I’ve got to get up early,” I cue them.

“Sure honey. We miss
you and we love you. I’m sending a couple of things along with Coach Malloy. We’re
all so proud,” her voice begins to shake a little.

“Don’t cry, Mom. I love
you both.”

“See ya soon, Dane,”
Kate chimes in before hanging up to go to mom I’m sure.

“See ya, Kate.”

“Love you son.”  I can
hear Kate near her.

“Love you Mom. See ya
soon.”

I’m beat.

The apartment’s quiet.
I heard the front door slam shut while I was on the phone.

I decide it’s worth it
to go to the kitchen and heat something up. My stomach’s been growling since before
I left practice.

8

 

 

shay

I’m not letting myself
admit that I took a little extra time getting ready this morning, or that I was
restless sleeping last night. I’ll chalk it up to the fact that this is the
first day back after spring break.

It’s 6:55 and there are
other people already here tying up a few last minute things before their first
students arrive.

I look around my room—everything
ready to go. It’ll stay this organized for about one more hour, before the
undergraduates are unleashed upon it. Oh well, we’re halfway through the
semester, by now some of them are beginning to understand this is the last haul
to pass the course and become a little more serious about their effort, and that
proves to give me somewhat of a break commanding them.

I look at the time on
my watch; three minutes have passed. If I’m going to do this I better get going
to the front door. I take a slow breath in, not to relieving. I can feel I’m
slightly trembling just inhaling.

“Okay, now or never,” I
say softly into the air.

I leave the door
unlocked, walking out of my room—with a back thought—stepping back in to grab
my satchel. How obvious would I be standing there looking aloof at the bench—no
bag. I grab it and rush down the corridor to the stairwell to get to the front
door.

As I’m getting nearer
the entrance I find myself going a little faster not to miss him right at the stroke
of seven—if he did happen to come. And then I begin to realize how much I’ve
been fantasizing about something that is more of an anomaly than a real
possibility and the feeling of disappointment starts to set in. But I make
myself a promise to follow through no matter what, urging my footsteps to keep
going and get outside. The bench can’t be seen from just standing at the doors.
I’ll have to actually walk down the steps that are overcome on both sides with
giant, decades old shrubbery, to even get a look.

Oh my God!

Now what?

His back is to me—he
hasn’t seen me yet—I could fast go back inside!

Too late.

 

 

dane

I begin to count the
empty buses as they go past to collect students. I’m sure the coffee is getting
cold by now. I can’t throw it away, it’s my only excuse to be sitting here on
this bench—
an offering
—an excuse.

What’ve I got to
lose—it won’t be the first time I’ve looked ridiculous in front of a girl. I’ll
just tell her that I thought the least I could do was replace her coffee and
see how she’s doing—any bruising?
What am I saying—she’s not one of my
teammates!
Jesus!
Why am I so nervous?

I twist my wrist to
look at my watch out of the sun’s glare. 7:00—ish. It could be a minute or two
fast or slow. If it’s slow I may have already missed her by now; it was about
this time that I clobbered her yesterday. For that matter I don’t even know if
she would show up here the very next day, what with classes Monday, Wednesday,
Friday and Tuesday, Thursday, most of them. Being here’s a roll of the dice.

. . . I’ll risk it.

Not even my dreams
could escape the thought of her. I tossed and turned all night, getting up once
to saunter into the kitchen and get a glass of water. They came one after the
other. . .  she was there in the stands waving the school colors as I crossed
the finish line. . . and with Kate laughing at my mishaps, as I took joy in
seeing them smile together. . . I saw her sitting with me on the porch swing back
in Kansas 50 years from now—looking the very same way. . . and I saw her in my
bed, softly breathing, asleep in my arms.

I sit the coffee on the
sidewalk beside the bench. My hand’s started to sweat a little, maybe from just
clinging to it for the walk here, or from my nerves that seem to be running way
too high. Anyway, if she does finally let me touch her hand and introduce
myself, I don’t want her disgusted by the warmth.

I rub my spread fingers
up and down on my jeans. The hardness of my thighs being pressed against this
bench, squeezed into heavy denim, makes me glad to get down to the stadium and
change into shorts. I roll my head around one time trying to shake away any
obvious unease. And take a deep breath in and out.

Just as I get a little
centered, I hear a glass door clang shut from up and around me, and footsteps
for the first time since sitting here. . . but coming from the building. . .

Not knowing if it’s
her, I don’t want to walk out to the end of the stairs as if I’m presenting
someone with a
bouquet of coffee
for the being the first person to walk
on them this morning.

The heightened anxiety
in me comes rushing up and I turn. . . and I can’t help the smile that controls
me immediately.

9

 

 

shay

His smile.

I find myself smiling
too before looking away to say good morning to a fellow grad student passing at
the bottom of the steps.

As I turn back, he’s
picking something up off of the ground. I’m glad that he’s approaching me; I
feel a little frozen in place.

“Hi.” He’s just as
gentle looking as he was yesterday, even in all of the commotion.

“Hi.” I feel for the
strap across my shoulder and slide my bag down to my side.

“I brought you a coffee
to make up for spilling yours. I’m sure sorry about running into you. Are you
alright?” He steps closer and offers me the cup. There’s a bag taped to the top
of it with little disposable creamers and packets of sugar. The thoughtfulness almost
makes me feel lightheaded, as if I’m in a dream state. As much as I wanted him
to be here, I can’t really believe that he’s standing across from me.

I reach for the cup, my
fingers lightly grazing his. Now I’m fully alert. “I’m fine, really, not
anything a couple of aspirin couldn’t help,” I nervously manage half-truthfully.
My body still reminded me this morning of the remnants of pain in some places.
“Thank you for the coffee,” I say, looking up at him. His eyes connect with
mine, and in them I can see all of the flecks of colors that make up hazel, in
the softest eyes I’ve ever seen on a man. And for a moment I feel compelled not
to shyly turn away, not instantly, like I would normally.

“I’m Dane,” he holds
his hand out. A thousand thoughts race past in one second, but not one of them
this time telling me to resist the invitation.

“. . . Shay,” I say,
sliding my hand into his. The length of his fingers cradles my hand in one soft,
fluid motion and he gently releases it.

“It’s nice to meet
you.”

 

 

dane

My nervousness has all
but left. Just having her here in front of me subdues me—I can’t explain it. And
the touch of her hand, she didn’t resist like she had yesterday, but of course
she was in pain and likely blamed me for being careless. Yet, I don’t even
think now that she would’ve thought that—just an accident.

I release her hand; the
softness gliding off of my fingertips.

There’s no reason to
tell her I came back yesterday, or that I already knew her name.

A light breeze blushes
past us and I can smell the scent of her perfume. She reaches and tucks her
hair loosely behind her ear that’s brushed over her cheek. It’s very pretty, and
the auburn strands catch the sunlight. I turn away briefly, not wanting to
reveal myself, and pretend to look down the sidewalk at the people slowly
starting to cluster around, and then back up at the front of the building.

“Are you familiar with
the biology building?” she asks, following my gaze.

Her voice, the way she had
looked yesterday had haunted me and I had all but forgotten how gentle it was. “Only
a little,” I say, recovering and still not wanting to divulge that I took a
self-tour and found her picture, only to be escorted out by the janitor. “Are
you a graduate student. . . in biology?” About half of my classes are taught by
one, who’s only a couple of years older than me, so I don’t think it’s too obvious
asking—given the fact that I knew and couldn’t think my way around it too well
right now.

“Yes, this is my first
year here, in graduate school,” she says it with curiosity laced subtly in her
words. “It’s really the only building that I have to be at on campus.”

I don’t know if it was
intended, but that last part sounded like she wanted me to keep it is as future
reference—probably I’m reading a little into things.
There’s such an urgency
in me—hell.

I know I have to speak.
I can’t just stay standing here absorbing the good feeling from being near her.

“Do you have a class
here. . . in the biology building?” she asks hesitantly, before I find my words.

“No, my major’s in
business. I’m in my third year.” She seems to linger at that.

“I should be in my
senior year—well, fourth year,” she says. I can tell she’s getting a little
nervous. Her arms are lightly folded with the strap of her bag in the crease of
her elbow and she’s slowly rubbing one of her forearms. I give her a moment to
say more, sensing she’s trying. “I took a lot of courses my last year of high
school, and stayed enrolled during the summers in undergraduate.” It seems hard
for her even now to stay talking long, but she’s not trying to leave from the
conversation—not yet, and it makes me feel glad for her—glad for me.
She
should be in her fourth year here.
That makes her around 21, 22.

“Yeah, there are a lot
of people that finish early.” I feel secure again as I watch her; like I did
sitting beside her on the bench yesterday. There’s such a need to her—an unfamiliarity
for her. It’s like she needs me to be guiding us along, and it makes me want to
say something comforting letting her know that I will. “I didn’t have time for
any extra classes, though I think I would’ve liked that. Track took me out of
most of my afternoon classes the second half of my high school years. It was
the bigger focus.” Someone walks past closely behind me. The sidewalk is
starting to fill a little more. I step nearer her, moving out of the way. She
doesn’t step back though herself, putting more distance between us as we were a
second ago. I feel the excitement in me swell, but I know I can’t blunder now.
I have such control over everything else, focus, discipline, even getting good
grades—I need to be able to control what’s surfacing in me, or no doubt it will
send her off like a frightened kitten.

“I think it’s great you
run track,” she allows quietly.
I can’t take enough of her in
.

“Thanks. It’s provided
a lot for me.” I want to see if her expression changes, and if that makes a
difference. Likely she would read into it and maybe understand that I don’t
have the backing of a wealthy family. It doesn’t change. It could be she
doesn’t grasp my meaning entirely; I don’t know.

I think of the time and
the long walk to stadium—I know I have to show up at 8:00 sharp, but I don’t
want to check my watch in front of her. I decide to ask if she’s headed
somewhere, thinking she had been coming down from the entrance, and knowing she
probably has to be somewhere on time to.

“Oh,. . . yes, I need
to go into the chemistry building next door for a minute.”

“Yeah, I’d better head
off to.” I carefully catch her eyes, and gauging by them I can tell neither of
us wanted to move from our spots. When she looks down and to the side it’s evident
she saw it in my eyes to. “I’m glad you’re alright.”

“Thanks. . . and thanks
again for the coffee.”

I begin to turn facing
the sidewalk a few steps in front of me, conscious not to be abrupt to jolt her
into thinking I’m hasty to be leaving, and physically extending the invitation
to walk the same direction until she gets to the chemistry steps.

She accepts.

BOOK: The Season of Shay and Dane
2.08Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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