Teagan meets Finn again.
Finn. Thinking his name brings up a mix of emotions that are painful to sort out. We were best friends and then almost boyfriend-girlfriend in that middle school way. Then, he disappeared off the face of the earth.
That’s dramatic because I knew he was leaving. We spent the last day together without Kali who had unfortunately and conveniently got the stomach bug. I have a small patch of woods behind my house where an attempt at a tree fort stood. A wooden frame nailed together and covered with branches and debris was a constant work in progress starting in the third grade and lost interest as eighth grade loomed. Still, it made for a refuge when your parents started to wonder if leaving the two of you alone was a good idea.
Finn was a skinny kid who was a little shorter than me. For the first time ever, he had leaned forward and kissed me. Then we heard a crack and my dad was standing there. I don’t know if my face was redder or Finn’s. He awkwardly stumbled away and that was the beginning, and end, of our relationship.
After that, he promised to call, text, email, and Facebook as much as he could. Colorado was far but the internet made the distance easier. We couldn’t be boyfriend-girlfriend but we could be friends.
It took two weeks of silence to finally get that he wasn’t just busy. Finn deleted his Facebook and never answered my calls or texts. Now here he was, practically back from the dead. I keep my head down as the teacher walks in, refusing to see if he’s here.
“Roll call,” Mrs. Visini says. The class gets quiet and I take a few deep breaths. I’m not sure if I want him to be here to get it all over with or wait until the last moment possible.
“Bevill, Finn,” she says without any hesitation.
I hear a deeper voice speak than the one I was used to. My stomach does a few quick somersaults. When she reaches the third person on the list, I risk a peek in his direction.
It doesn’t take me long to figure out where he is. I first notice the blonde curls. When we were in middle school, he kept his hair cropped close, but now his hair waves and curls around the back of his ears.
My brain doesn’t want to comprehend that the boy in front of me is the same boy. He still has a lean frame but I notice the biceps peeking out from his shirt sleeve. I can tell he’s no longer shorter than me, but a few inches taller. I risk looking at what I can see of his face. There’s an arrogant smile when he looks at Madison and she smiles at him. I try not to openly sneer. Just because we were friends once, doesn't mean we will be again.
This is it. “Here,” I say.
I try to be casual about it, but my eyes lock with Finn almost immediately. The arrogant smile is gone. His eyes are so wide I can see the silver that rims the blue. I swallow and look away.
Sienna wasn’t wrong. Finn looking over his shoulder at me makes me jittery and it’s not all residual feelings. Finn is cute.
Mrs. Visini goes through the syllabus and tells us that tomorrow we’ll have to choose our lab partners. I half listen but my brain is going at full speed thinking of all the possible conversations we could have. Or we could not. He could just walk out.
I wondered after Finn made it clear he wasn’t in the picture anymore what I would say to him if I ever got the chance. In the beginning of ninth grade, I would go back and forth. Would I scream at him or would I be casual? If he was to suddenly pop into my life again, could I say “oh hey, Finn. How are you?” As my high school life went on and I dated a few guys and dealt with some aspects of my sexuality that I’m still dealing with, worries over Finn fell away, but they never disappeared completely. Sometimes I’d look him up on Facebook or Instagram thinking I could reach out. His Facebook was gone, but he did have a private Instagram. I would hover over the send invite button and then chicken out. It was disappointing enough that he never reached out, but I could tell myself he just hadn’t thought to look. Actually, being denied? I couldn’t make any excuses about that.
When the bell rings, I stand up and my stomach churns. I feel like Kali, not sure if the conversation or the waiting itself is worse.
I walk across the room with my head up, eyes on the opposite row of gray lockers. When I walk out the door, Finn is leaning against the closest one.
“Teagan,” he says.
I move out of the way and next to him. His arms are crossed and he jerks his head up in that guy way of saying hi to someone walking by, but then he turns his attention to me.
“Hi,” I answer, fumbling for words.
Before I can come up with anything more than that, he starts by saying, “You must be pissed.”
I almost forgot that yes, I was. I am. I decide to find the middle ground between screaming and acting like nothing happened.
“You did disappear after you moved.” My voice wobbles at first, but this is Finn. Six inches taller at least and undeniably attractive, but Finn. “Like there was no way to keep in touch. Sienna told me this morning you were back. How long have you been back?”
He pulls his hands through his hair, letting it go every which way. This question I hadn’t even considered until now, but it popped out and I’m left dreading the answer. “Three weeks,” he says. He even winces.
I feel stupid that tears prick at the back of my eyes.
Finn drops his arm and starts to use his hands to explain, in the very Finn way I remember. “Look, I’m an asshole,” he says and to his benefit, he keeps eye contact. “I know. I was trying to see you when I got back but you weren't at any of the parties. The guys said they hadn't seen you all summer.”
Jock parties. No thanks.
He must get my uninterest in that explanation from my expression because he reaches down to grab his bag then he puts his arms out. What? I raise an eyebrow. He gives me a half smile and I feel a little flip in my stomach.
“Can I carry your books?”
“I can carry my own.”
“Yeah but I actually want to.”
I hand him over the few binders I have. “Where's your locker?” he asks.
I don’t know what’s happening, but I lead him there. When I open it up, he arranges them, carefully. I don’t tell him that I was going to go on until lunch lugging them around and instead take the binder I need for English.
When I shut my locker, he’s smiling. I don’t smile back, but that doesn’t deter him. “I have to go to Stats, but I want to keep talking.” His voice is so much deeper than the last time I saw him. I wonder if I’ll ever be able to stop comparing the old Finn with the new one. “When’s your lunch?”
“Fifth,” I say. My voice is shaking, I’m sure of it.
Finn gives me that all too familiar smile again and it makes me wobbly. “Me too. I'll look for you there and I'll keep explaining. We really need to catch up.”
When I smile, his doesn’t disappear, but he raises an eyebrow. “Kali will be there too,” I explain.
This only makes him smile wider. “Then I'm in for it.” His eyes dance.
“Bye Finn,” I say, walking around him.
“See you fifth period if I don’t see you before then!” he calls to me. I wave in acknowledgement but don’t turn so he can’t see my smile.