Something was wrong with his tongue. It felt heavy. And thick. It was swelling inside his mouth, making it impossible for him to talk.
His ears were also popping, making it impossible for him to hear his own thoughts.
If he tried to stand, he felt sure his wobbly legs wouldn’t support him.
So he sat there. Alone. In his corner of the cafeteria. With his lunch untouched as he watched Julianne laugh and giggle with her friends across the room.
The dance was a week and a half away. If he didn’t ask her to go with him today, somebody else was going to beat him to it.
At times like this, he wished he had friends to talk to. Talking to guys might help calm his nerves and boost his confidence enough to get up and ask Julianne what he needed to ask her.
He had practiced plenty of times with his horse Storm. He took a deep breath, closed his eyes and recalled his simple approach. All he had to say was, “Julianne, will you go to the dance with me next week?”
That’s it. No fancy introduction. No long speech about how much he liked her. Just a simple question asked with calm confidence.
Only he didn’t feel calm or confident. What if she said no? What if she laughed at him? What if she told him he was an idiot for thinking she would want to do anything with him?
He glanced at his watch. Lunch was almost over. Any second now, she and her friends would be getting up to throw their trash away. That’s when he planned to step in. He had to get to her while her friends were walking away so that they wouldn’t all be staring at him when he talked to her.
Her dark-headed friend Persia scooted her chair back and stood up. The other four girls Julianne sat with followed Persia’s lead.
“You’ve got to take a chance, Javan,” he mumbled to himself. “It’s now or never.”
Javan wobbled across the room on his shaky legs. He was two tables away from Julianne when Gavin pushed his chair right in front of her. “Yo, Julianne. How about you and me go to the dance together next week?”
Javan balled his hands into fists and held his breath while he waited for her answer. He wanted her to say no, but why would she deny an invitation from the most popular jock in school?
She smiled and blushed and replied, “Nobody else has asked yet, so sure, Gavin. I’ll go with you.”
“Cool. I’ll text ya later.”
Javan hung his head and returned to his seat. Had he gotten to her thirty seconds sooner, she might have said yes to him. But now he would never know.
If he couldn’t win her heart in the cafeteria, he would have to do so on the football field by beating Gavin out for the role of starting quarterback when high school started in the fall. t