Jordan Gregg moved in about a month before the end of the school year. Mom found the timing of The Gregg’s move the sort of odd that borders on downright scandalous, what with enrolling two kids at Glenville just weeks before summer break. I’d been at camp for half the summer and up at my Dad’s in New York another quarter, which is pretty much the whole summer. You’d think we’d hung out or at least bumped into each other at some point, but I guess he was busy, too. I plain hadn’t seen the guy since we got off the bus, right at this very spot, on the last day of just a few short months prior.
“So, what’d you do all summer?” Mom had encouraged me being nice to him, but I’m not going to lie, I didn’t really like the guy. Just because he lived on the end of my road didn’t mean he was going to be my future best man or something.
“Not like there’s much to do around here. Somehow I’ve managed. Been texting this girl, Harriet, since like June. We’ve got a couple classes together,” he said, lifting the strap of his leather messenger bag. Not really the response I except, but his arrogance was coming on strong.
“Harriet who?” I said looking up from my phone where I’d just hit send on a text.
“There’s really more than one girl named Harriet in this rinky-dink town? God, am I in for a treat. Brown hair. ‘Bout a head taller than you. Harriet Greer,” Jordan’s tone was about as cocky as the brand new designer polo, pastel shorts, and boat shoes made him look. I feel like asking him if he thinks Glenville is a floating school and the district one giant regatta course. Because it’s not.
“Yeah, I’ve heard of her,” I tell him, which was defense mechanism for ‘yeah, I’ve only known her since kindergarten and have spent every first day of school since wondering what she’ll be wearing and rehearsing conversations for those precious pre-bell homeroom minutes.’ “Where’d you meet her?”
“Ice cream shop. June. Was there with my mom and sister. Best thing this town has to offer was behind that counter. I swear, she gave me eyes every time she worked that soft serve machine,” he backhands me on the shoulder when he says this, but I don’t budge. “I played the shy new kid angle and wrote my number on the back of the paper that was wrapped around my cone and gave it to her. I had a text from her by the time we got home.”
I looked up the road. Why does the bus always run late on the first day of school? “So you see her at all after that? Last I heard she was dating someone,” I said, looking back at him and squinting at the sun hitting my eyes as it spiked over the tree line.
“She said it happened like two months ago. Haven’t hung out with her yet. Dude, we’ve been texting on the reg since the ice cream shop,” he tells me, maintaining an uncomfortably long duration of eye contact.
I knew she broke up with Brett Lengel just before summer. She had this habit of dating dickwads. Brett dumped her so he could be single his last summer before moving to college. They had been together since our freshman year and I knew she’d given it to him and he was the first and it wasn’t like that didn’t get under my skin, I’m sure it’s just since no one’s given it to me yet the whole thing is shrouded in mystery. Nevertheless, I’m no fan of Brett Lengel. It was just odd that Jordan was laying all this out, I mean, Harriet and I had three classes together last year and we had become pretty tight, like I’d finally broken the goofball bookworm persona and had become the goofball bookworm who sits next to you and makes you belly laugh harder than anyone else ever has. It was a happy spot to be in. We texted a handful of times over the summer and she hadn’t mentioned knowing my new neighbor. “You have?”
“Yeah, man, a lot. Like a-multiple-times-an-hour-lot ” he says, feeling pretty good about himself.
“What do you guys text about?” I ask him.
“Just like whatever. I don’t know. What we’re doing and shit,” he fixes the collar on his polo. The strap of his bag flipped it up in the back.
“It’s funny she never mentioned you to me,” I say, silently cursing myself for the warble in my voice.
“To you? She a friend of yours or something?” It is incredible how quickly the inflection one places on a single word can turn acquaintance into nemesis.
“Yeah, she’s my friend. She’s kind of like everybody’s friend. I wouldn’t look too far into her texting you a bunch. She’s nice like that, probably just wants you to feel welcome.”
The bleep and chirp of my R2-D2 text tone interrupts the silence following my warning. I thank God for this reprieve. I open the response to the text I’d sent just after Jordan walked from his driveway to the bus stop.
“Anything important?” he asks nudging the air with his nose in the direction of my phone, which I find really snobby, considering.
No how no way was I going to tell Jordan Gregg that on the walk down the road from my house I’d been drafting a text to the girl I’d had a crush on for over a decade in which I’d wittily pulled this playoff–slash-confession about how this was the first first day of school in years that I wasn’t wondering what Harriet Greer would be wearing. No how no way was I about to tell him I was now looking at a picture Harriet had taken of herself just moments ago, just to quell my curiosity. I just smile at him and silence my phone. Hearing the bus chug from off in the distance I move automatically toward the spot where it would stop, praying I’d be the one to end her dickwad streak and she’d be quick to realize Jordan Gregg’s conceit.