Billy Joe must have dropped his papers and equipment five times as he left the library. He had never felt so flustered before in his life. He really wasn’t sure what to make of it. Sure, he knew he had a thing for Suzy, but he was an athlete! Why was he suddenly so clumsy?
As he rode his bike home, Billy Joe daydreamed about Suzy. Suzy in a tight sweater. Suzy sternly teaching him geometry lessons. Suzy cheering for him as he pitched a shutout game. A blasting horn jolted him out of his reverie and into a curb. He flew off of the bike and landed in the grass, humiliated. He quickly stood up, brushed himself off and looked around, hoping no one had seen him. A couple of grade-school kids had stopped playing driveway basketball to gawk, but he didn’t care about them. He straightened his handlebars with the front wheel between his knees, got back on the back and rode home.
Billy got home after dark, and after supper. His mother was not at all happy about it. “Where have you been? Why didn’t you call? I’ve been worried sick.”
“Sorry Momma. The game went long and then I had to meet my tutor at the library.”
“Was he nice?”
“Oh! Uh, she was okay.”
“A girl math tutor! How about that? That’s great! Did she help you?”
“Well…” Billy looked at his dusty shoes. “She was kind of upset, because I was late. But then, yeah, she taught me something.”
“Billy, she is there to help you. Don’t be late again. Now go eat. I left everything on the stove so you can warm it up. Wash your hands!”
He washed his hands and left his shoes on. He and his mother both knew if he kicked them off now, dust would shoot out of the shoes and off of his socks, so it was better to wait until he showered. He nuked his food and sat at the table alone, daydreaming about Suzy. She was smiling at him while he sat in the dugout. His supper got cold but he finally finished it.
Billy walked out of the house with a slam of the screen door and put his bike and equipment in the garage. His last bike had been stolen, and his folks would be pissed if that happened again. He took his shoes and socks off on the back step, shaking the sandlot dust out of them and using his hands to sweep it off of his legs. He then tramped right through the dust to go back into the house, carrying it in on his feet. He was 14, after all.
His mom was on the phone gossiping with a neighbor, so Billy hopped into the shower. He locked the bathroom door first. He was very shy about undressing and though his parents always knocked first, there was only one bathroom and he would just die if Momma came in by accident and saw him naked.
He stood in the shower and his mind drifted back to the game. He had kicked butt, and felt really good about it. Then the surprise of Suzy at the library was the icing on the cake. He felt himself stiffen when he went back over the day, and blushed in spite of being alone in the shower. He nearly choked when his mother knocked on the door, startling him.
“Hurry up, Billy. You’re using all the hot water!”
He answered hoarsely, finished up and turned off the valve. What the heck was going on with him? He had never thought about a girl more than he had about baseball. This was crazy. By the time he got dressed, his erection had deflated and he was able to walk out of the bathroom.
“Your daddy’s going to be late tonight, Billy Joe. Do you have homework?”
He didn’t have much work tonight, just a little reading and a short geometry worksheet. But Billy went to his room and re-read the whole chapter of geometry. He looked at the exercises he didn’t have to do, and worked them out as best he could. He wanted to impress Suzy tomorrow so she wouldn’t think he was just a dumb jock.
Billy Joe was on time for his tutoring session the next day. He still didn’t understand a lot of what was going on in geometry, but he was very motivated to impress Suzy. She seemed to like smart boys; maybe if he was a good ball player and smart, too, she would like him. In the middle of the tutoring session, a librarian came over to them.
“Billy Joe Danforth?”
“Yeah?” Billy’s heart started racing. This was weird. Why would the librarian be talking to him?
“Come on over here for a minute, Billy Joe. There is a police officer asking for you.”
Billy’s stomach dropped. What had he done? What was happening? Time started to slow down like it did when he was calming himself before a pitch. He felt himself go pale, and saw Suzy look after him with worry on her face.
“Billy Joe Danforth?” asked the officer. “Come sit down for a minute. I need to talk to you.”
“What is it? What’s happening?” Billy was close to tears with anxiety.
“There’s been an accident, Billy. Your parents were killed in a head-on collision.”
Billy gasped. He was shaking his head. His entire body was trembling and he thought he might throw up. “No, that can’t be right. I just saw them this morning. How do you know it’s my parents?”
“This is Janice, one of our social workers, Billy. She will give you the details and figure out what you need to do next, and where you will stay.”
“Oh my God.” Billy was whispering. His throat was too tight to speak normally. “Oh my God. This can’t be happening. How can this be happening?”
Janice took Billy’s hand, and he let her. He sat limply, while she explained that since he had no other kin, he would become a ward of the state. She was very nice and spoke gently, but Billy couldn’t really hear anything she said. Or at least, he couldn’t understand what any of her words meant.