The unsettling roar of rubber and metal dragging against tile erupts as the anticipated lunch bell rings; Connie waits a few moments before getting up from her desk, as she likes to avoid physical confrontation as much as possible. Thinking she was alone in the classroom, Connie gasps in response to a familiar voice addressing her from behind.
She whips around, almost dropping her books to the floor-- pleasantly surprised, she meets the steamy gaze of Christopher, her longtime crush and fellow peer. Connie's already bright blue eyes glow brighter in his handsome presence.
"I didn't know you were here, sorry. Hi Chris," her voice stumbles, "uh, what are you, I mean how can I help you?" no matter how she phrases her words, Connie feels completely tongue tied around her sixth grade crush.
"I wanted to ask if you're coming tonight, to Skateaway?" he asks.
Connie had asked her mother the previous night if she was allowed to attend the school-sponsored skating event, but since older brother Neil was unable to chaperone her, Connie's request was quickly denied. She knew what she had to do:
"Of course, are you gonna be there?" she asks in response. Chris grows a shy smile on his face as he nods to confirm.
12 year old Connie risks it all after lying to her mother and sneaking off to Skateaway. She takes the bus, of which she is forbidden to ride alone, and tries to keep calm as she independently travels further from home. In a strange way, Connie feels like a "real grown-up" on this journey, despite fearing for her life at the same time.
"Stop!" she yells, waving her short arms to signal the bus driver, who eventually pulls the clunky lever and opens the doors.
"You be safe now young lady," advises the driver, just as Connie jumped off of the bus and onto the curb.
"Thank you, sir" she replies, gripping her 1 dollar bill tighter than before, a crumpling sound escaping her coat pocket.
Connie takes her time walking the next two dimly lit blocks as she approaches her destination. The neon sign advertising "Skateaway - Family Fun Rink!" shines bright, illuminating the steady flow of cars entering the crowded parking lot. She inhales with her eyes closed, gathers her thoughts, and exhales slowly while paying the attendant $1 for entry. "This better be worth it," she thinks to herself. "He better be here."
Connie laces up her skates extra tight, anxious about the off-chance of falling in front of Chris (Connie has been skating since she was five years old, so she's more than confident in her abilities.) Something mysterious about Christopher makes her mind go blank and her legs feel wiggly. In a good way, though.
Five minutes pass, Connie finds herself an empty booth and sits down. Her eyes never drifting from the building's entrance.
Ten more minutes pass.
Thirty more minutes after that.
With only 20 minutes left before the event ends and the rink closes, Connie begins to unlace her skates. Eyes welling up with tears, her heart in quicksand, Connie sniffles softly and heads towards the exit.
"You are SO dead!" Connie looks to the left and spots Neil leaning against the wall. His face smug, his arms crossed, Connie can no longer hold in her emotions.
She burst into tears and runs into the warm embrace of her big brother.
"Don't get your snot on me" says Neil, using his favorite denim jacket to wipe Connie's red nose.