Back in the fall, an awesome guy named Rob Kristofferson invited authors on twitter to participate in #TheOneWordStory project. Basically, we each picked a word, and let a story develop from it. A lot of people were excited to participate, but Rob recently has had to take a step back, so the project has been put on hold.
Since it’s kind of in limbo, I’ve decided to post my #TheOneWordStory here on the blog (and also on my tumblr blog) because I love it a lot and I want to share it with you and see what you think.
The word I chose was Obfuscate.
OBFUSCATE: (verb) render obscure, unclear, or unintelligible.
Boys, Baseball, and Biology
“In here, Jessie.”
I held my breath as I followed Chase Connolly into his bedroom. Boys’ rooms were supposed to smell like dirty socks and gym shorts, right? Last time I’d visited, it had smelled of day-old chocolate milk and cheese sandwich, but that was when we were eight.
“You want a soda?”
I blinked, focusing on Chase who stood by a mini fridge. He had a mini fridge in his bedroom? I glanced from him to the sodas and finally let out my breath.
“Ah, Dr Pepper, please.” The room actually didn’t stink at all. Smelled like that carpet dust stuff people sprinkle before they vacuum. I’d bet my bat and glove his mom did that for him.
He nodded, taking out two Dr Peppers and tossing one to me.
I squeaked—unladylike for sure—and leaned forward to catch it. Those years of little league are really paying off now, I thought.
Chase smiled. “Nice catch. Still got it, huh?”
He shrugged. “You played shortstop. You always caught the fly balls.”
How did he remember…? “Right,” I said. “Um, why don’t we get started?”
“Sure.” He laid down on his bed—a full, not quite queen sized—and reached under to pull out his biology book. I took a seat on the floor, my back to the bed, and got my book out of my backpack.
“Why are you sitting on the floor?” he asked.
I looked up at him. “Um…because there are no chairs.”
He gestured to his bed, raising a brow and giving a smirk I’d seen him use on girls many times.
A blush rose in my cheeks. “I’m good, thanks.”
“Come on, Jess,” he said, rolling his eyes. “We used to be best friends. Teammates, buddies. We can sit on a bed without it getting weird.”
I thought back to game days in t-ball and little league. After every game we’d get our snow-cones and then go back to his house to play Mario Kart. Alone in a room for hours, just him and me. And cheese sandwiches with chocolate milk.
I smiled awkwardly, then moved to sit on the foot of the bed.
“Was that so hard?”
I gave him a flat stare. “Shut up.”
He smiled. Not the smirk though, a real one this time. For just a second, he looked like the old Chase.
I took a breath. “Okay, start by telling me: what’s the last thing you learned in Biology that you feel you really mastered?”
He frowned. “Probably osmosis?”
“Osmosis. Okay, that’s a great starting point. So you’re familiar with diffusion too, right?”
“Um…I think so?” He smiled. His dark hair fell across bright blue eyes as he gave a halfhearted shrug. Even as a kid he’d always been just dumb enough to be cute, and smart enough to know he was.
I shook my head. “Okay. Let’s start from the beginning.” I turned my book to chapter one and found the practice quiz questions. Where ten years ago he used to help me with my throw, now I got to help him with school.
I watched him as he thought of each answer, taking his time like I knew he still did on the baseball field. Unless he was running or throwing, he tried to really consider things. Which pitch to recommend, how the next batter might try to hit, whether he should steal a base or not.
I envied him that—the time on the field. We’d played ball together as kids, sure, but when we reached middle school suddenly it wasn’t cool for a girl to know the batting average of every shortstop in the National League, so…I stopped talking about baseball. I stopped playing. Except with my dad, of course.
For the most part Chase knew all the answers, it just took him a while to think of them. It was like he could score a run, but he had to do it slowly, one hit at a time. He only had real trouble doing a Punnett Square and remembering the Taxonomy Order; both of which should be easy fixes with some one-on-one practice. We were only six weeks into the school year, so there wasn’t much to cover yet.
Gonna be a lot more tutoring in my future… I glanced up at Chase. He was staring at the four Punnett Squares I’d started. I smiled. Might not be a bad thing….
“Why don’t we try a real-life example?” I flipped the paper over and drew a blank rectangle. “What color are your mom’s eyes?”
“Green,” he said.
“Okay, starting with a hard one.” I laughed. “Green eyes are a special case, because they’re dominant over blue, but recessive to brown.”
Chase stared at me.
I bit my lip. “Sorry. Never mind. We’ll get to that.”
“Your eyes are brown?” he asked.
I blinked at him. “Um…yes?”
The blush appeared on his cheeks this time. He gave a half-shrug. “I just…they’re pretty. I never noticed before.”
I stared. “…thanks.” Where did that come from? “Okay, so what color are your dad’s eyes?”
I nodded, writing a key beside the squares. “So we’ll use a lowercase b for blue eyes, and a capital G for green eyes. Capital B usually stands for brown eyes, but you don’t seem to have any of those in your family.”
“Good,” I said. “Things would be a bit more complicated if it wasn’t.”
He laughed, and butterflies fluttered in my stomach. I cleared my throat. “Now, there’s two genes involved in deciding whether you have brown, blue, or green eyes. The first determines brown or blue, and the second determines blue or green. Does that make sense?”
He winced. “Not really…”
I wrote Dad on the right side of the box. “Look. Your dad has blue eyes, which are recessive to everything. If he was carrying a brown-eyed or green-eyed gene at all, that’s what would be coming through in him. But it’s not, so we know that he’s only carrying blue-eyed genes.” I wrote four lowercase bb’s beside Dad.
Chase frowned. “Okay…”
“Now your mom has green eyes, which means she is also not carrying any brown-eyed genes, or they are the ones that would be manifesting.” I wrote ‘GG, bb, Gb, bb’ under Mom. “But because we know you have blue eyes, we can assume she is likely carrying a blue-eyed gene recessively.”
He looked up from the paper and raised an eyebrow. “You know my eye color?”
Holy foul balls, Batman, the boy was sitting very close to me. I froze for a split-second, then scoffed. “Please, Chase. Your eyes are so blue they could make a dolphin seasick.”
“HA!” he guffawed, looking away. He ran a hand through his hair, looking back at me with another genuine smile.
I tried to keep my grin to a smirk but I’m not sure I succeeded. And the fluttering in my stomach flared up again.
“Wow, um,” he shook with silent laughter. “I’ve never been complimented quite like that before.”
“Well, there’s a first time for everything.” My eyes widened after saying it, and I felt my face grow warm yet again. I was starting to think I wouldn’t be able to tutor this boy for very long.
It took me a moment to realize we were looking right at each other. His eyes were intent on me, his mouth open slightly. Then his gaze flickered to my lips, and back to my eyes.
I looked away and shifted my sitting position. Away from the boy. “Right. So, um…here’s what your parents’ Punnett square looks like starting out. All blue on Dad’s side, and some green and some blue on your mom’s side. All you have to do now is combine them to see what the statistical probability of each resulting child’s eye color is.”
He grimaced. “My turn?”
I nodded, handing him the paper. He caught my eye as he took it, and smiled his real smile.
He stared at the paper. “Thanks. For helping me, I mean.”
Damn fluttering stomach.
“Sure,” I said. “What are friends for?”
His eyes met mine, and I knew what he was thinking. We weren’t friends anymore, not really. Hadn’t been for a long time.
He smiled. “We should hang out more.”
I looked to the floor, and couldn’t help smiling too.
From the corner of my eye I saw him refocus on the paper. His expression turning serious, he carefully combined each of the letters the way I’d shown him earlier. I leaned forward to watch, trying to ignore the smell of infield dust and baseball glove leather coming from him.
When he finished, I smiled. “You got them all right.”
He grinned wide. “Really?”
“Yep. So can you tell me, from that, what are the chances of your parent’s kids having blue eyes?”
He stared at the square. “Um…it’s fifty-fifty, isn’t it? Blue or green?”
“Sweet,” he said, looking genuinely pleased.
I pulled out my book again and opened to the Taxonomy section. “Now let’s come up with something to help you remember these.”
He nodded, tossing the paper on the floor and sliding it under his bed.
“Here’s what I think will help,” I said. “We’ll come up with a sentence to help you remember the Taxonomy Order. What’s your favorite thing to eat, or talk about, or something?”
“Baseball.” He said, grinning like a five-year-old who got a pony for Christmas. “I love to play baseball. Or watch it, or talk about it.”
I nodded. Should’ve seen that one coming. I knew a lot about baseball. I could do that. But I had to do it so that he came up with it himself. I’d hid my baseball knowledge since those days of pariah-level banishment from the cool-girl crowd in middle school and I wasn’t yet prepared to make it known again.
Focus, Jessie. “Look at these letters,” I paused and ripped a sheet of paper from one of my spiral-bound notebooks and wrote out the letter for each classification from the top of the page to the bottom. Sliding one foot off the bed, I leaned forward so we could both see the paper easily. “What words come to mind when you see these?”
He frowned. It was adorable to watch his brows come together while he was thinking. “Double-play, Pitcher, Grand Slam…”
I wrote the words next to their corresponding letters. “Good. Good start.” Now, how to get him to come up with a sentence that made sense without me helping? “Anything else?”
He frowned deeper, staring at them. “D for Diamondbacks,” he said. “L…lucky?”
I wrote them in. “Lucky Diamondbacks,” I said. “Those are for Life and Domain. And you said Pitching before,” I wrote that in, and then slipped in Keep for the K.
Chase leaned closer to me. “Lucky Diamondbacks Keep Pitching…”
I bit my lip. He was really close to me.
“Close!” I said. “Keep Pitching Close?”
He raised a brow, turning to look at me. “Yeah, that’ll work.”
I swallowed. I could feel his breath on my neck he was right there. “Okay, so Lucky Diamondbacks Keep Pitching Close…close to what? Or for how long?” Was I sounding like I knew baseball, or not?
“Over,” he said, pointing to the O. His hand brushed mine as he pulled it back, sending a shiver up my arm. “Over Four Game Series!” he finished, pulling away and punching the air.
My whole body breathed a sigh of relief.
“Ha!” he laughed. “That actually happened you know. Aaron Hill a couple years ago was one of the only uninjured pitchers so he had to close four games in a row and—” He stopped, waving a hand. “Sorry, I could ramble baseball all day.”
I smiled, flipping through my book to the next section. “It’s worth rambling about,” I muttered. “The poor guy had to ice his arm for a week afterward.”
Chase paused. “Wait, what?”
I froze. “Hm?”
He looked me over. I didn’t move. I was the science nerd, not a jock or a cheerleader or even a gamer or a bandie, I was the forgotten-friend-science-nerd, here to tutor him so he’d pass the midterm and not lose his chance at a full ride scholarship. That’s it.
He didn’t know my dad got me season tickets to the D-Backs games every year, or that I had an awesome collection of cards under my bed the way he had his bio book under his. No one knew, and for a long time, I’d preferred it that way. Did I still?
I was blushing. I knew I was blushing. I stared at my bio book.
“Okay, so the next question is—”
“No, no, no,” he said, scooting closer. There was a grin on his face…but it wasn’t the grin I was used to him having. Not the smirk he used to hit on girls, and not the sweet smile he’d given me earlier, but some kind of adorable, curious, hesitant, excited combination of the two. Was that possible? He was looking right at me. Damn, his eyes are really blue….
He licked his lips.
Oh, sweet centerfield…
“Diamondback’s first baseman?”
“Paul Goldschmidt.” I gasped, clapping my hands over my mouth.
He laughed. “Starting pitcher last night?”
“Robbie Ray!” I said through my hands.
“You do know baseball!”
Obviously he could speak Muffled.
He punched the air. “This is awesome!”
My hands slowly lowered as I stared at him. A hesitant relief began to seep into me, dimming the fear. “You…you think so?”
“Are you kidding me?” he said. “The beautiful girl who I’ve had a crush on for years, is sitting in my room, she knows baseball, and can help me not fail biology and she likes Dr Pepper. This is like, all the dreams come true I never knew I had!”
Immediately, I became very aware of the fact that I was sitting beside him, on his bed, and the door to his room was closed. I swallowed. He kept laughing. My palms began to sweat.
“Do you still play?” he asked.
I shrugged. “Not really. There’s not exactly a girls high school baseball team.”
“True.” He nodded. Then he sat up and turned so he was facing me. “I’d practice with you. I mean, if you wanted. And I bet I could get a bunch of the team to join us.”
Teasing, taunting voices filled my head. I closed my eyes. I had to get past this.
“That…might be fun.”
Chase’s face lit up, then he tried to straighten it, to be serious.
He wasn’t very successful.
“Who’s your favorite player?”
I pressed my lips together to keep from smiling. “Nick Ahmed.”
He nodded, smiling. “Shortstop, of course.”
“You’re so predictable.”
He laughed, looking away.
I blushed. Again.
“Do you…” he started, “do you still play any video games?” he asked.
I shrugged. “Just the Lego ones.”
“I’ve got Lego Star Wars. Wanna play?”
I narrowed my eyes. “Which one?”
He leaned forward. “The combined one. All three.”
I gave a small smile. “Okay, yes, but, not until we get through the rest of these questions.”
He groaned and threw himself back on his bed. My smile widened. He really was cute when he wanted to be, the putz.
“Okay, okay, go. I am gonna kick your ass as Luke.”
I scoffed. “Please. Everyone knows Rey is the best character on there.”
“She’s untrained!” He sat up, turning to face me. “She’d never make it without help.”
“Well it’s a good thing she has it, huh?”
“Yeah, good thing they can keep her from ruining everything.”
“Ruin? And Luke is any better? If it were up to him he’d be at Toshi Station buying power converters and he’d never have done a damn thing with his life!”
Somewhere in there, I’d thrown my book aside, and Chase had moved closer. Even with my tirade, he was now only inches from my face. His mouth was open, like he’d been about to argue back but then stopped…and he looked just as surprised as I felt.
“Y-you,” he cleared his throat. “You were gonna ask me another question.”
I blinked. My heart pounded in my chest. “Could we maybe discuss the anatomical juxtaposition of two orbicularis oris muscles in a state of contraction?”
He smiled, leaning forward. “I have no idea what you just said.”
“Kissing,” I said. “It’s the…scientific definition of—”
His lips touched mine. Soft and warm, and he tasted like Dr Pepper. Then he kissed me again, and again, many small kisses that felt like one long one. Like a twenty-inning game that didn’t feel like twenty innings because the teams kept scoring.
His hand cupped my cheek, his calloused thumb catching on my hair. Just when I started to get bored with the repetitive kissing, he caught my bottom lip in his teeth.
Full disclosure: I made a noise. It was like a cross between a sigh and a moan? But that makes it sound way too sexy. It really wasn’t. It was more like a squeak.
But then, he pulled away.
My breathing was erratic, my pulse even more so. Chase had backed all the way across the bed and was leaning against his wall. He stared at me with wide eyes.
“I…” pain blossomed in my chest. I screwed it up. Somehow I blew my one random chance with an amazing guy, an adorable first baseman who tasted like Dr Pepper and smelled like a baseball glove and kissed like he was in the damn movies. “I should go.”
I picked up my book and snatched my backpack and phone from the floor before barging out the door.
I shoved my book in as I opened his front door and went to my car. Where were my keys? I knew I put them in the side pocket.
Got ‘em. I shoved the key into the driver’s side door and turned it just as Chase caught up to me. I opened the door and threw my bag in.
“Jessie! Would you talk to me?”
I paused. Tears burned in my eyes, and I blinked to force them away before I turned to face him, my car door a barrier between us.
“What did I do wrong?”
He shook his head. “What? You didn’t do anything wrong.”
“Then why did you jump away and look all scared?”
His eyes widened again but this time it looked like a light bulb had come on above his head. And then he frowned. “I…I was scared. A little.”
“What’s that supposed to—”
“I mean,” he said, “that was a really good kiss. And it…it surprised me.”
I stared at him. I’m a people watcher. And believe me, I watched the cute guys at school. I watched how they talked to girls, and teachers and their friends. Over the years, I had watched Chase Connolly talk to a lot of people. Never once had I seen him wear an expression so open, so…earnest.
“You,” he said, stepping closer to the door with a smile. “You surprised me.”
I bit my lip.
“Oh, don’t do that,” he said.
“Bite your lip,” he said. “Bad idea. You kept doing it upstairs and I swear my self-control was this close to snapping.” He held up his thumb and forefinger only a tiny bit apart.
I narrowed my eyes. Then I bit my lip again, letting my teeth graze over it.
Chase cleared his throat, closing his eyes and shaking his head. He took a deep breath.
Chase’s eyes shot open and a grin lit up his face.
“Come on,” I said. “I’m not sexy!”
“You really, really are,” he said.
The way he looked at me then made his normal smirk look like a three-year-old’s attempt at painting the Mona Lisa. My breath caught in my chest. He actually…wanted me?
He sighed, leaning against my car door. “Please come back? I really do need help with Bio, and…I really would like to play Lego Star Wars with you.”
I looked him over.
“I’ll give you another Dr Pepper,” he said.
I raised a brow.
“And,” he raised his hands, “if we finish by six we can watch the D-Backs game on my dad’s big screen.”
I couldn’t believe it. We hadn’t spent time together in years; this poor boy had no idea what he was asking for, pleading to spend time with me, watch or play baseball together, bribing me with sodas…. But, despite us going separate ways after little league, he likely still knew me better than anyone else our age.
And he was a good guy. A flirt when he wanted to be, but he could turn it off too. I’d seen him in serious mode on game days, when he’d wear his baseball jersey and blue jeans with Converse sneakers like they did in the movies. And he would barely talk to anyone, he was so focused on the game. I liked him. A lot.
I had for a long time.
I gave a hesitant smile. “You’re cute when you beg.”
“I can do this all day, sweetie.”
My stomach flutters went crazy.
I stepped around my door, shutting and locking it. “Actually we need to be done by five.”
He frowned. “Oh.”
“Because,” I said, grinning, “We’re going to the game tonight.”
I stepped closer to him, my palms sweating again, heart racing. “So, you’ve um…hit first base once, Connolly. You plan to do it again?”
A blush rose on his cheeks then, and his hands found my waist. “Who knows,” he said. “Maybe sometime tonight we’ll see second?”
I frowned and shook my head. “Not a chance.”
“Understood,” he said, nodding. “But it’s okay if I revisit first?”
I slowly slid my hands around his neck. His lips brushed mine as he drew me close. “Yeah,” I said, in a breath. “I’m okay with that.”
I had a lot of fun with this and I’m glad I got the chance to write it.
I hope you liked it too!