My Skylar(4)By: Penelope Ward
She taunted me in a sing-songy voice. “Bet you can’t catch me!”
We ran in circles around the park for minutes on end. Her braids were flailing in the air. She was too fast for me, and I couldn’t catch up to her. At one point, I sprinted, tackling her to the ground. “Oof!”
She held the device in a death grip as I tugged at it. “Come on. Give it up!”
She just continued to laugh, enjoying this a little too much. I had to think of something, so I started to tickle her. She became hysterical and begged me to stop. Eventually, I started to laugh, too. Before now, I couldn’t even remember the last time something had truly made me laugh.
After she couldn’t take anymore, she handed me the device out of exasperation. “You win. You win.”
We both lay on the ground, huffing and puffing. “That was fun,” she said. Her smile lit up her whole face, and it was contagious.
“Yeah…actually, it was.”
She smelled like candy, and her tongue was red, probably from a lollipop. “I’m Skylar.”
Then, I heard a woman’s voice. “Skylar! Come on, honey. We have to get home. I have soup simmering on the stove.”
She hopped up from the ground. “Well…bye, Mitch.”
“Hey—” I started to say something, but she ran off before I could. I watched her until she was out of sight.
She had made me forget about my worries, made me feel alive for just a few moments, and then she was gone. I felt a strange sense of loss. Would I ever see her again? Why did it matter so much?
Why was I still smiling?
I stayed on the ground for a while then noticed that the sun was starting to set. I walked back over to Gram’s car where she was looking down at the sweater she was knitting.
“Did you have fun, honey?”
I thought about it before answering. “Yeah.”
“Good. I saw you met Skylar Seymour.”
“Huh? Yeah…what…you…you know her?”
“Of course. She lives right across the street from me.”
What I loved about Mitch Nichols: He had pointy ears like Dr. Spock from Dad’s favorite show, Star Trek. He liked to suck on ketchup packets as a snack. And he called me Skylar, not Sky.
What I hated about Mitch Nichols: At the end of August, he would be gone.
That summer, in two short months, he became the best friend I ever had.
The day after our playground chase, I found a piece of paper that had been slipped under the front door. You can run, but let’s see how you shoot hoops. Meet me out front at three.
His grandmother, Mrs. Mazza, had a basketball hoop in her driveway that used to belong to her son when he was young. At 2:45, I sat by the window waiting for Mitch to walk outside.
He emerged right on time, bouncing the ball on the pavement, and I ran across the street.
Mitch didn’t say anything, just kept dribbling the ball with a smirk on his face as I ran around him. The ball nearly knocked me down as he suddenly passed it to me. I shot, and it missed, much to his amusement. He took the ball, bounced it all the way to the farthest end of the driveway then turned and shot it into the basket.
“Impressive,” I said.
After about twenty minutes of Mitch bouncing the ball while I ran around him, I decided to shake things up a little. “Let’s play a game.”
He approached me with the ball tucked under his arm. His shaggy brown hair blew in the wind. “I thought that’s what we were doing.”
“No. This is you showing off. I get it. You can play basketball better than me. Big whoop.”
He chuckled. “Okay. What do you want to do, then?”
I thought about it for several seconds and came up with the perfect way to find out more about him, specifically what was eating him yesterday. I was willing to bet it had something to do with why he was here for the summer. There was definitely a story there. Many summers had passed without so much as a visit to his grandmother. I would have noticed him.
“We’ll start here close to the hoop and each take turns shooting. If I miss, you can ask me anything you want, and I have to answer truthfully. If you miss, I get to do the same. Then we’ll step back further each time to make it harder.”
“But I’m gonna get it in every time,” he said.
“Well, then you should have no problem with this game, cocky.”
I was banking on him missing the shot at least once. I had nothing to hide, and it was a win-win situation for me, so long as he flubbed up a single time so that I could ask that one question.
He shrugged his shoulders. “Alright.”