225/366 – Lab Partners

Day 83 of 100 Word Prompts: Risk

I’m just going to do it, Ethan thought as he paced back and forth on the sidewalk. He turned down the path toward the house and began his approach. He thought of a million things at once, the way his sandy hair laid on his head, the freckles on his cheeks, and the jeans and t-shirt he had selected. He shook his head when he thought of Annabelle opening the front door and seeing him, thought better of it, and turned back for the safer, more familiar stretch of sidewalk where he had started.

“What’s wrong with you?” Ethan muttered as he shook his head and tried once again to get himself ready to knock on the door. “You can do this!”

“No, you can’t,” Ethan replied, turning on his heel. He shook his head and argued with himself.  “Annabelle is the coolest girl in the whole school! She is smart and funny and great with style. Not to mention how gorgeous she is! There’s no way she would say yes.”

“What if she says yes?” he reasoned. “After all, we’ve known each other for the last twelve years. We’ve been chemistry partners all year, and she laughs at some of my jokes.”

Ethan sighed, thinking about the melodic sound of Annabelle’s laughter. The way her lime green glasses rose up on her nose and her ears moved slightly with her smile. The way the sun filtering through the windows caught her freckles and smile took his breath away even when she wasn’t in front of him.

“I have to do it. I have to tell her that I like her!” Ethan said, puffing his chest out as he turned back down the path to her front door. He nearly made it halfway when he felt the familiar bubble of anxiety build in his stomach, threatening to make him sick.

“I can’t do it,” he reasoned. “It’s too much of a risk. What if she doesn’t like me? What if she stops being my lab partner after I make her feel uncomfortable? What if she decides that she can’t even stay in the same school with me anymore and moves across the country to some far away and exotic town, like Toledo?”

Ethan could feel his sweat gathering around his collar. He tugged on it to let more air in, and hopefully cool himself off. He hadn’t considered the fact that he may drive Annabelle away so totally that she moved and never came back. He wouldn’t risk it. He bowed his head and began trudging away, his despair nearly overwhelming.

“Ethan?” a familiar voice called from his left, making him look up. Annabelle was hanging out an open window on the second floor. Her smile gave Ethan butterflies as he completely forgot his misery. “What are you doing here?”

“Oh-I-uh-I-um,” he stuttered, putting a hand on the back of his neck what he tried to think of a good reason for him to be at her house. Then it hit him. “I-um wanted to-uh to ask you if you-um had written down the homework assignment from Mr. Sinclaire’s class? Yeah, that’s why I came here.”

“Why didn’t you text me?” she asked.

“Oh, yeah, I mean, I was going to, but my phone died! Yeah. Totally dead and I can’t find the charger in my room,” he lied.

Annabelle looked amused suddenly. “Yeah, I’ll bring it down for you. Wait there,” she said. Ethan saw her shake her head slightly as she shut the window and vanished from view.

“Pulled it off,” he muttered with a sigh of relief. Then he thought about the amused look on her face. “How long was she watching me? Did she see me talking to myself? Worse, did she see me trying to approach her door? Oh no, what if she saw the whole thing?”

The anxiety began building once again, deep in his belly. The front door of the house opened, and Annabelle emerged, wearing her rainbow jacket as she jogged up to him. She still wore a smile as she held out a little slip of paper for him.

“Here you go,” she said.

Ethan was lost in her smile again, noticing something different about her amber eyes. He wasn’t sure if she wasn’t merely kind to him after seeing his display of indecision out front. He took the note and nodded.

“Thank you,” he said, pocketing the slip of paper and patting his pocket. “Don’t know what I would have done tomorrow, not doing Mr. Sinclaire’s work. He would have been furious.”

“I think you would have been fine,” Annabelle said, her cheeks turning a faint shade of red beneath her freckles. “Is there-um, anything else you-erm needed?”

“No, no,” Ethan replied, patting his hands on his pants again, “I was-um, just hoping to see you.” He felt a surge of panic as he realized what he had said. “You know, to get the assignment and make sure that I do my homework,” he said, trying to cover himself. From his pocket, he heard the chime of a notification and closed his eyes, swearing silently to himself for lying to her about the phone.

“Alright, then,” Annabelle said, looking back at her house. “I guess I should get back inside. Still have some homework to do as well.”

“Alright. I’ll-erm,” Ethan swallowed hard, hoping that she didn’t hear his phone. “see you tomorrow?”

“Oh, yeah, I’ll-um, be there for sure. Mr. Sinclaire’s class. Middle row on the left,” Annabelle replied, pointing finger-guns at him. Ethan saw her eyes widen for a brief moment as she quickly put her hands down. “See you tomorrow!” she blurted before disappearing rapidly inside her house.

Ethan turned and walked toward his house. He felt better than before. It seemed like she would be there tomorrow, but she appeared awkward around him. Almost like he had made her uncomfortable by showing up at her house. He slapped himself in the forehead and swore silently.

Ethan shoved his hand into his pocket and pulled the slip of paper out. He stopped walking as he stared at it, his heart pounding in his chest.

I know you wrote down the assignment because we write it together and check each other’s planners for accuracy. You’re adorable. Check your phone.

Ethan felt another bubble of panic as he thought about the notification he had received when she had come out. He thought of how stupid both of his lies had been. How transparent she had found him. He pulled his phone from his pocket and looked at the screen in disbelief at the text message waiting for him.

I heard U talking about me. Do U really like me? Cause I like U 2.

Ethan felt his heart skip a beat as he turned around, glancing back toward her house. His eyes looked up toward the window where he had seen her last and could see her silhouette behind her closed curtains. Quickly, before he lost confidence, he typed back a message.

I do like U. I came here 2 ask if U would be my gf…

Ethan sent the message and waited. Even from two houses down, he heard the shriek of excitement from Annabelle. He had heard it countless times before over the school year when their teacher would announce experiment days. A broad smile spread across his face as the next message came through.

YES! R U still outside? – Annabelle

Yes – Ethan

Annabelle emerged a moment later, still wearing her jacket as she rushed him and jumped on him, pressing her lips against his.


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