I was browsing the romance section at the bookstore for a new trashy romance novel that I could spend the night devouring when someone tapped me on the shoulder. I whipped around and reached for the keys sitting at the top of my purse to protect me. The guy behind me looked shocked. His face was vaguely familiar but I couldn’t quite place it.
“Reilly Barnes? I’m Jackson Scott, I lived down the street from you for a while” as soon as he said it I recognized him. “You probably don’t remember me” he said shyly.
“Of course I remember you, how could I forget” I said. Jackson Scott and his two half-sisters and eccentric mother moved into our neighborhood the summer before I was a freshman in high school. I remember because every time one of the old people that lived around us moved away or died Dakota and I would pray that some hot twin brothers our age would move in and we would have one of those fairy tale teen romances.
“What are you doing in town? Did you move back?” I asked him cautiously.
“Actually, I never left really. After I graduated any mom moved to Washington I went to stay with my dad and took some community college classes.”
“Oh wow, I had no idea, how is your mother?” I remember that I was going through my ‘save-the-trees’ phase when they moved in and his mother was in every way the hippie I wanted to be. She cooked chia seed brownies, and taught yoga classes at the local community center and even had healing crystals in her bathroom.
“She’s good, married now. This is her fifth, she actually just opened her own studio in Washington”
“That’s great! I think my mom mentioned seeing that on Facebook sometime.”
There was a brief awkward pause and I re-shouldered my bag before setting down the book I had been looking at.
“Well, look at you, all grown up” he said. I blushed a deep red and pushed my hair behind my ears. “I almost didn’t recognize you”.
“Yeah, you too” he was taller now, if that was possible. His large green eyes were unchanged but he looked older, more grown up. There were deep worry lines lining his forehead and he had a five o clock shadow that only came with age.
But somewhere he was still the goofy, skateboarding stoner that I had a massive crush on when I was a kid. The first time I met him I was laying out on my front lawn on a blanket reading a book in the late June heat and he skate boarded by me in the street reeking of pot. He wiped out in front of my house and his buddies doubled over in laughter. I peered at him over the rims of my huge sunglasses. I remember thinking that this was my moment, the moment that we met and fell in love.
I walked over to where he was and peered over him. He was still laying in the middle of the street and he had an arm slung over his face. He had ripped his jeans at the knee and I could see he was bleeding.
“Are you okay?” I asked him cautiously.
“Does it look like I’m fucking okay?” he jeered harshly. I took a step back, cursing my naïve stupidity.
I backed away slowly and he sat up. “I’m sorry.” I said before turning to go back to my house.
“I’m okay, just a scratch.”
“Yeah, he’ll live won’t you Jackie Boy?” one of his friends hollered.
I left soon after he stood up and his friends regained their composure.
I was always a hopeless romantic, especially as a kid. I used to devour books like they were candy, and from everything I had learned I was the dorky loser that was going to fall in love with a hot jock and we would then have a tumultuous relationship ending in a big display of is love and adoration for me at the end of our senior year.
In reality I was just a dorky loser who continued to devour books and never fell in love.
Seeing Jackson now, I still flushed with embarrassment thinking about the time I spent fantasizing about the boy down the street.
“You’re still reading these?” he asked picking a book out of my stack.
I blushed an even deeper pink color and stood up straight.
“Oh, they’re just, you know, something to pass the time. They’re awful but I can’t stop reading them.
You know what, give me that.” I said grabbing the book back. By now he was laughing at me and I couldn’t help but fight off a grin.
“Besides,” I added, “what are you doing here? I thought they didn’t let people like you in to places like these.”
“Contrary to popular belief, they do actually let dumb people into bookstores, we just tend to avoid them.”
Our banter was effortless and breezy just like when we were kids.
“Well, I should let you get back to this.” He said eying stack of books one last time.
“Yeah, right, sorry, tell your family I said hey.” I flustered awkwardly.
“Will do, see ya around some time Reilly.” He started to walk away and I returned to my browsing.
Then he stopped short and turned around. “You know what, why don’t we get coffee sometime.”
“I, uh, sure. Here, I’ll give you my number.” I said pulling one of my many sharpie markers out of my purse and scrawling my name across his hand. “Okay, here ya go, look forward to hearing from you.”
Look forward to hearing from you? Who was I?
I stopped mentally cursing my awkwardness just long enough to say goodbye to him again and this time he didn’t stop to turn around.