Double Major

By: Catherine Gayle

“I’d better get over there, then,” Mrs. C muttered, dabbing at her eyes and fumbling with her bubble bottle, the ribbon unraveling in her hands.

I opened my mouth to reply to her, but nothing but a squeak came out. Jamie had just come back into the banquet hall, and suddenly he was all I could see. He was scanning the room, searching for something. Or someone. Like me.

Mrs. C turned her head in his direction, and then she gave me a pat on the cheek. “Here, give me those,” she said, taking the basket from me and giving me a nudge toward Jamie. “You’ve got more important things to do.”

“I—” I couldn’t speak because my eyes were filling with tears of dread over what I needed to say to him, and any effort at making words come through my lips was just going to end up making me cry.

“Go on. You’ve been looking for that young man all night, trying to talk to him. Now’s your chance. I can do this, and no one will miss you.” She gave me a little shooing motion with her hands, and somehow my feet started moving.

I’d hardly taken three steps when his eyes landed on me. He smiled, but it wasn’t his usual smile, and he started crossing over to me, closing the distance between us. I had to wonder about that awkward smile. Today ought to be a great day for him because his brother got drafted by his team…but then, his best friend had been traded. That had definitely put a damper on things. And I had a feeling I was about to do even worse than that.

But maybe I was giving myself too much credit. Maybe he didn’t feel as strongly for me as I did for him. Maybe to him, I was just like one of those girls who brought the signs to the games, and he’d only taken me to my prom because he’d felt sorry for the sick, bald girl. There was a part of me that was sure that was the case, even though he’d given me every indication—both then and now—that there was more between us than that.

Out of habit, I reached up and felt the soft, downy hair that was gradually coming back in. It was a little darker now than it used to be. I didn’t know if the chemo had permanently altered the color of my hair or if it was only a temporary change. Either way, I kind of liked the new color. I still wasn’t sure about how short it was. For some reason, I was far more self-conscious about having my hair like this than I’d been when I was bald. At least then, I’d been able to put a scarf over my head and didn’t feel quite so bare.

“I’ve been thinking about touching your hair like that since I saw you come in yesterday,” he said when he reached me, and I blushed like crazy at the thought of him running his fingers through my hair. He was blushing, too. “Can, uh…” He shoved his hands in his pockets and looked over his shoulder for a second. “Can we go somewhere and talk now? We’re running out of time before your parents will want to take you back to the hotel.”

I glanced over to where all the other bridesmaids were shepherding the guests into position, and my mom caught my eye. She gave me a look—the sort of look only a mother can give—and waved her hands at us in the same sort of shooing manner Mrs. C had done only a minute ago.

She was right. I had to do this. I couldn’t put it off any longer because he deserved to hear what I had to tell him in person. This wasn’t something I should say over the phone or by text message. I owed him more than that.

“Yeah. Let’s go,” I said, reaching for his hand.

He let me take it, and all I wanted to do was melt into him, to put my arms around his waist and have him put his around me and stay like that for as long as we could. Forever. But that wouldn’t be fair of me, so I settled for holding his hand.

We went out into the hall where all the dressing rooms were located, and Dana and Rachel were just coming out wearing regular clothes instead of their wedding gowns. Zee and Soupy had been waiting for them in the hallway, along with Maddie and Tuck. We passed them all on our way to a side exit of the building. Dana winked at me as we went by, and Zee slapped a hand on Jamie’s back, but none of them tried to stop us or said anything—not even Tuck, who seemed to think Jamie hung the moon. That kid always wanted to hang out with him.

The sun was just beginning to set when we got outside, and the summer sky looked like a watercolor painting—soft pink and Creamsicle orange mixing with lavender, with only a few fluffy clouds floating around up there. Even though the door closed behind us, we could still hear the celebrations going on from all the way on the other side of the building.

I wasn’t really in the mood to celebrate anymore. How could I be? I felt as if my heart was breaking in two, and I was the one causing it. I might be about to break Jamie’s heart, too, which led to a whole other sort of heartache.

Jamie didn’t let go of my hand. He just stood there, holding it in his and waiting.

I figured I’d better get it out fast before I lost my courage and couldn’t tell him. “I sent a video to Derek Hatch.” Only a single sentence in and tears were already falling down my cheeks. I batted them away with my free hand, impatient with myself. “He’s an entertainment agent based in LA—kind of a big deal. Mom and Luke and Dani helped me put the video together. It’s just some singing and dancing, and some footage from a school play I was in a couple of years ago. Nothing fancy.”

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