Authors: Yesenia Vargas
Before Ariana met Lucas, there was Carlos…
Read their story now.
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“I wish you’d just go to school here,” Mayra said. “I feel like I can’t even fully appreciate the awesomeness that is senior year if you’re leaving at the end of it.”
Ariana gave her best friend a smile from her desk.
“Well, it’s just an idea.” Ariana’s stomach did a flip just thinking about it, but at the same time, she thought it would be amazing to have a fresh start. “We’ll see if I can even get in.”
She browsed around UGA’s site some more and looked at pictures of the campus, including the famous arch. Legend said if you walked under it before graduation, you’d never actually graduate. Next, there were pictures of the gigantic football stadium. She imagined being surrounded by entirely new people.
“Oh, you’ll get in. No question about it, with your grades.” Mayra shut her laptop.
Ariana smiled and bookmarked the UGA application link. The computer’s fan sounded angry. The early decision deadlines were in about two months. She had plenty of time to fill out the applications and decide where she wanted to go. So far, she was set on UGA.
“What do you think you’re going to major in?” she asked Mayra.
“I have no idea.” She lay back on the bed. “Maybe nursing.”
“You’d make a good nurse. You helped nurse Jimmy back to health after…you know.”
Mayra threw a pillow at her. Thank goodness. She had not wanted to say it out loud. It had been about eight months since the whole thing with her ex, but she still didn’t like to talk about it too much.
“It was the least I could do,” she said. “He helped both of us out at that party, and then…” She shook her head, and Ariana could tell it was time for a subject change. Hey, that would be another good reason to move away. To make sure she was far away from him.
“Do you still think about him?” Mayra asked quietly.
She sighed. “Sometimes, in the beginning,” she admitted. It felt good saying that out loud, even though her throat felt funny. “But I hardly ever think about him now.”
“That’s good,” Mayra said, sitting up.
“Let’s go get some air,” Ariana said. They could hear Jimmy and Ryan dribbling a basketball outside.
They walked outside. Her parents were getting rid of weeds in the garden. Jimmy and Ryan were playing one-on-one basketball in the driveway. Their dad had gotten Jimmy that basketball hoop in fifth grade, and he had never stopped playing since. She could still hear him begging for it like it was yesterday.
Jimmy dribbled the ball as Ryan tried to guard him. He was well over six feet tall now. He had grown four more inches over the summer. He was the tallest sophomore in school. Not only that, he had taken on weight training, and he definitely did not look like a freshman anymore. She watched Mayra stare at him as he exploded towards the hoop, past Ryan, and dunked the ball.
“Can we play?” Mayra asked.
Jimmy looked at them. “Sure.”
“Go easy on them,” their dad said with a smile.
Jimmy and Ryan smiled. She didn’t know how Ryan understood the Spanish. Maybe he was starting to pick it up from hanging around all summer.
“Me and Ryan against you and Ariana,” Mayra said.
“Yeah.” Ariana agreed with her hands on her hips.
“Fine,” Jimmy said.
“Sounds good to me,” said Ryan as he threw the ball at Mayra.
She and Ryan began the game. Mayra quickly passed the ball to Ryan, who shot but missed. Jimmy grabbed the rebound, and Ariana ran around, trying to get open in case he decided to pass to her. She wasn’t that good at basketball, but she tried.
Jimmy did pass to her, and Ariana shot the ball, aiming for the square on the backboard. It went in. She gave a fist pump.
“Nice,” Jimmy said as he gave her a high five.
She smiled and got ready as Mayra took the ball out again. Ryan ran behind her, and she moved to cover him. Jimmy was closer to Mayra anyway. Mayra dribbled the ball and tried to get past Jimmy. He was behind her, a little too close, not giving her any room to pass, move, or shoot.
Mayra kept dribbling, and Ryan pretended to go one way and then another. Ariana couldn’t keep up. Mayra managed to pass to him, and this time, Ryan’s shot went in.
It went on like this for a while. When both teams were still tied at ten points, Ryan spoke up. “Let’s go to twenty.” Everyone else nodded and continued, too out of breath to reply. Ariana wiped sweat from her brow. Her parents finished weeding and sat down to watch the game with a drink in hand.
A few minutes later, Ariana was completely out of breath, but Jimmy was just getting into his groove. They got ahead by a couple of points. Ryan and Mayra still gave it their all, weaving in and around the court, making passes and shooting.
But it wasn’t enough. Jimmy and Ariana’s team had nineteen points, and Mayra and Ryan had seventeen. Jimmy threw the ball at the hoop from down the court, and it rebounded. Ryan quickly grabbed it and put it in himself.
“That’s eighteen,” he said, breathing heavily. Jimmy grabbed the ball, bounced it to Ariana, and she bounced it back. Then he ran like hell down the right side of the court.
“Shield!” he yelled at Ariana.
Ariana stood like a brick wall in front of Ryan as he tried to follow Jimmy. He ran into her, but she stood firm. He didn’t get by quickly enough. Jimmy dunked the ball as Mayra jumped in an attempt to block him.
Jimmy ran back to the end of the driveway, laughing.
Ariana began laughing too. Not because they had won, but at Jimmy. His energy. It was more than contagious. She walked over to Mayra. “Good game.”
She smiled. “It was a good game.”
“You’re tough to guard.”
Ryan went over. “You’re not bad, Mayra. Maybe you should try out for the girls’ team at school.”
“Thanks.” She smiled. “But I hate the drama that comes with extracurricular activities involving girls.”
“Are you guys hungry?” her mom asked. “I have dinner almost ready upstairs.”
“Yes!” Jimmy ran up to her and hugged her. She looked tiny next to him. Even her dad, who was tall by Hispanic standards, looked short next to him. Jimmy picked their mom up, and she screamed. Jimmy laughed and put her down.
They all walked over to head inside, but Ryan hung back.
“Can you believe this big boy was inside my belly at one time?” she heard her mom say.
“I should head home,” Ryan said as he began walking down the driveway toward the street.
“Where do you think you’re going, man?” Jimmy went over and put his arm around him.
“I don’t want to, like, impose.”
“Nonsense,” Ariana said.
“Yeah,” Jimmy said. “I don’t even know what impose means.”
She told her parents what Ryan had said.
“Tell him he’s welcome at our house any time, and he’ll offend us if he doesn’t come in and have dinner with us,” her mom said. Her dad nodded and motioned for him to follow them. They began heading inside.
Mayra looked at Ryan. “They’ll be offended if you don’t come in and eat. It’s part of our culture. The Mexican way,” she said with a smile.
“Well, I’d hate to offend anyone,” Ryan said with a smile.
A couple of days later, Mayra and Ariana headed to their next class, Spanish for Native Speakers. It was their favorite class because they were both in it, and the teacher, Mrs. Randolph, was awesome. She was white, but everyone had been surprised at the fact that she could speak and write Spanish better than any of them.
They walked in. It had been a couple of weeks since school started, so everyone had a seat they always sat in. To ruin that order was unthinkable. She and Mayra went in with their books and headed towards the back, where their seats were. Ariana sat behind the only empty seat in the room, so she was surprised when a tallish guy came in and sat in it a few seconds later.
She looked at Mayra, who looked at him and back at her. Mayra was to Ariana’s left. Tallish guy put his books on his desk, took a note out of his binder, and walked over to Mrs. Randolph, who was still at her desk. The bell hadn’t rung yet, but most of the class was already in their seats, chatting with one another.
Ariana and Mayra went back to talking about their weekend plans even though it was only Monday. After having a boyfriend behind her parents’ back last year, Ariana had been grounded for a couple of months. Jimmy too, since he had helped keep her secret. But she had worked hard to prove to her parents that she wanted to earn back some privileges, and over the summer, her parents had loosened up a bit. She, Mayra, Jimmy, and Ryan were allowed to go out to the movies or the mall on Friday or Saturday night as long as they were back by eleven and check in every so often. And those were the only places they had gone. After what had happened last year, they’d decided to stay away from parties.
Mrs. Randolph nodded and smiled at tallish guy as he headed back to his new seat.
He caught Ariana’s eye as he sat down. She didn’t realize her mouth was open until he had already sat down. She closed it and cleared her throat.
Mrs. Randolph got up from her desk and walked to the front of the class. “Buenas tardes a todos.”
Some people replied good afternoon back in Spanish.
She smiled. “Today, we have a new student in our class.” She continued in Spanish. She glanced at and smiled at the guy in front of Ariana. “His name is Lucas, and he’ll be with us this semester. Some of you might already know him.”
A couple of guys wolf whistled at him or shouted hi. Lucas smiled back.
So he wasn’t new new, Ariana thought. She thought she’d seen him a couple of times before. Her high school was huge, and she wasn’t that popular, so she didn’t really know a good part of her class.
Mrs. Randolph turned on the projector and began the day’s lesson on Spanish art.
Ariana found it hard to focus, though. She kept staring at Lucas’s hand on top of his books. He had strong hands, and a couple of veins down his arm popped out. She wondered why he had switched classes. That normally only happened the first week of school. Maybe the second. But this was the third week.