I didn't see Carter until lunch the next day. He and I were sitting with the rest of the soccer team at our usual table in the back of the cafeteria, near the wide, dirty windows. I didn't think those windows had ever been cleaned. They largely resembled the back of Austin's truck, which had about three inches of mud caked onto it from the time we'd tried that shortcut to his grandparents' house. Our table was off in the corner of the room, as far away from the teachers as we could get; the disgusting state of the windows was still worth it.
I took the seat between Carter and a kid named Danny Greene. "Boys." I gave them each a nod. I noticed that Carter had a giant sheet of paper in front of him. It had two columns and a lot of lines with people's names on them. It looked like a sign-up sheet.
"Hey, Nick . . ." Carter turned toward me. His tone was overly casual, and he was using that voice he had when he wanted something. "You wanna do the fashion show?"
It wasn't really a question. Every year, the Parent Teacher Association hosted a fashion show to fund-raise for their organization. Mrs. O'Connor, as a board member, usually incontrovertibly enlists Carter to get the male gender to sign up for it. I generally feel obligated to participate.
"When is it?"
"Friday," Carter answered me. "My mom's going to get your tux tomorrow."
"Nice." The fashion show was easy. Most of the guys were supposed to go and get their own suits, since we were supposed to model formal wear, but Mrs. O'Connor always got mine for me. She knew me well enough to pick out one that I would want. Also, I hated shopping, and she loved it; it was like a win-win situation.
I felt my phone buzzing in my pocket, and I pulled it out to read a text from Madison. You first. - Madison. I raised my head to see her looking at me from across the cafeteria. She held my gaze for three, long seconds and turned to sit with the other, overly dramatic senior girls.
"Oh, hey, Carter," I said, like I'd just remembered something. "You still need tutoring hours?"
Carter is a member of the National Honor Society, and my school required kids in that club to complete a certain number of community service hours each quarter. Carter liked to get his hours by tutoring people.
"Yeah, what's up?"
"Madison Hayes wanted me to ask you if you can help her with trig." I motioned toward my phone. Okay, so maybe setting up a tutoring date was lame, but that was me thinking on my feet. I wanted our arrangement to move quickly.
Carter dug through his ham sandwich like I'd just asked him for the time of day. That wasn't a good sign. If he wasn't in to her, then what I was doing was going to take ten times longer. "Yeah, sure. Tell her tonight, five o'clock at the town library."
"Thanks, man," I texted Madison the details. "I hope she knows where the library is."
He laughed. "Right? Nah, it'll be fine. I think Madison's smarter than she pretends to be."
Something about that statement struck me as odd, but I couldn't place my finger on the reason. I had to agree with that though. Madison wasn't stupid. My eyes landed on her seat on the other side of the room, and she looked back at me. I was too far away to see her expression, but she looked happy.
Moving right along, I thought to myself. That was good.
* * *
Soccer practice was canceled that afternoon because Coach Sullivan was having his portrait added to the county coach's directory. I wasn't really sure what that involved, but I could imagine it was quite the ordeal. Coach Sullivan canceled soccer less often than I wear the color pink, which to say was the epitome of never.