* * *
“Happy birthday, happy birthday, happy birthday,” Levi said as we left calculus. He had said it at least thirty times since he found out this morning.
“You can stop feeling bad now. I can feel the love.” I snickered.
“As you should. Oh, hey. Did you hear why they never have beer at math parties?” he asked as we stood by my locker. “I guess they don’t want people to drink and derive.”
Bad math puns from an odd, Southern boy.
Birthday officially made.
Before he headed off to his next class, he handed me a folded piece of paper. I opened it and couldn’t stop the butterflies that weren’t supposed to be in my stomach.
Happy Birthday, Art!
There was even a terrible drawing of what was supposed to be me eating cake or something. He was as bad at drawing as I was at the drums. Luckily we balanced each other out.
“Happy Birthday,” James said from behind me, sending the butterflies in my stomach fluttering away.
“Thanks,” I muttered, closing my locker and walking away.
James hurried beside me, clearly on a mission to ruin my birthday that was just made a few minutes ago. “Listen, I didn’t want to be the one to tell you this, but I heard a rumor that Levi was messing around with Heather Randall. I just thought you should know.”
“Why do you have so much interest in Levi?” I said, rolling my eyes. I could see the jealousy that James somehow had over Levi befriending me. It was annoying to say the least.
“I don’t want you to get hurt.”
“Well, aren’t you just the caring type?”
Before he could reply, Nadine came bouncing down the hallway and wrapped her arms around James’ waist. “Hey, you guys! What’s going on?”
James broke his stare from me and gave his girlfriend his smile. “Nothing, just checking in on Aria.”
Nadine smiled toward me. “He’s such a sweetheart. Speaking of sweet…what’s the deal with you and the Southern Casanova, Aria? He’s cute!”
James laughed nervously. “I doubt dating is the biggest thing on her mind right now, Na. Besides, rumor has it that he has a thing going on with Heather.”
Instead, I gave a fake smile to Nadine. “Levi and I are just friends.”
James sighed—relieved. That annoyed me, too.
“Mhmm. I’m just saying if it were me and the baby’s father wasn’t in the picture, I wouldn’t be turned off by the attention from Levi Myers. Plus, the way he looks at you is very different than the way he looks at any other girl here.” She smiled, pulling an annoyed James off toward their next class.
Was that true, though? Did Levi look at me differently?
I looked down at my protruding belly, rubbing my palms over the bump.
It doesn’t matter.
It didn’t matter how Levi looked at me. I wasn’t allowed to think of him in any way other than a friend. In a few months, I would be having a baby and my life would be forever changed.
On Wednesday, Simon invited me over to his house for ‘guy time’ as he called it. When I took the shortest walk ever across the street to Simon’s house, his mom answered.
“Hi, can I help you?” She smiled.
“Hey, yeah. I’m Levi, Simon’s friend. We were going to hang out for a bit.”
Her face lit up, and she placed her hands on her hips. “You’re Simon’s friend?!”
“Yeah, we met at school and—”
“Who’s at the door?” an older guy said, walking into their foyer.
“This is Levi. Simon’s new friend.”
The guy’s face lit up, too. “Simon’s friend?”
“I know! Isn’t it wonderful?! Come in, Levi,” the woman said, grabbing my arm and pulling me inside. “I’m Keira and this is my husband, Paul. Si, come on out, you have a friend here. And it’s not Aria!”
It would’ve seemed very strange and a bit rude how dramatic his parents were acting about Simon having another friend, but really they were just…overjoyed.
Simon came running out of his room and groaned. “You don’t have to scare him off, guys. Hey, Levi, what’s up? You can come hang out in my room.”
“I’ll order pizza!” Keira shouted. “And I’ll make some brownies! Levi, do you like brownies?”
“Mommm, chill out. We’re just playing video games for a while.”
Keira turned around to Paul. “Did you hear that?! They are playing video games!”
“I love brownies,” I cut in. A wise person would never turn down the opportunity for homemade brownies.
Simon rolled his eyes as I laughed. He took me to the hallway leading to his bedroom. I noticed all of the family portraits on the walls, and couldn’t help but wonder about one thing that didn’t fit into the story of the person I was growing to know each day. When we stepped into his bedroom, he quickly shut his door behind us. “Can you tell that I don’t get many visitors?”
“No big deal.”
“No big deal? My parents just had a heart attack because someone came over to visit me. Anyway, I’m glad you’re here, because I need your input.”
I glanced around at his extremely clean room. Nothing was out of place. His clothes were organized by color in his closet. He had his video games organized on his shelf in alphabetical order. He had more cleaning supplies than I’d ever seen.
He walked into his closet. “So we can play games and all of that stuff, but I really called you over for O.G.A.A.”