CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO
9.00am, Thursday, 6 July, 2017

                After cordial introductions, Dee sat in the guest chair across from her BB&N guidance counselor, each of her girlfriends simultaneously meeting with their own counselors. “The most important idea I can convey to you is the high regard in which we at BB&N hold you.”

“Thank you, Ms. Ester. We are looking forward to being active members of the school community.”

Looking at a sheet in front of her, “And yet, Dee, I’d be remiss if I didn’t express my misgivings about your proposed academic schedule. You’ve chosen all AP courses, a difficult workload in itself, and you’re also proposing to take two extra courses as well, Chinese and Astrophysics. The workload you propose is at least unusual; unprecedented, really.”

“I’ve spoken with my course advisor and he made the demands very clear to me. But the workload won’t overwhelm me, and I do need challenge to maintain interest.”

The counselor shook her head and smiled. “I’ll bet you do, my dear. I’ve read over the text you submitted to Tyngsborough High in lieu of attending classes – pretty amazing. But if you have any trouble, please come to me at any time during the year and we’ll drop a class or two without leaving a mark on your record.”

“Thank you, I will.”

“And you’d like to defer out of our three-sports requirement?”

“Yes. I’ll substitute a daily body-building program, plus intensive basketball practice. I’ll be playing on the school team.”

“Have you met our girls’ basketball coach? Do you know of her? Marion Stevens? Quite well-respected.”

“Sorry, I don’t. But I’m sure I’ll meet her. My girlfriends will play for her and I’ll go to the games whenever I can.”

“But you’ll be playing. Mr. Whitney, our Athletic Director, is effusive about the impact you’ll have on the team: playoffs and championships, and all that spirit.”

“Yes, of course, I’ll play. I love basketball. I’ve already been in contact with Coach Bevilacqua.”

“Coach Bevilacqua? He coaches the boys’ basketball team.”

“Yes.” A pause.

“Goodness!” The counselor shook her head. “Boys play much bigger and faster than the girls; and a lot rougher.”

“They’ll need every advantage,” Dee.

Ms. Ester chuckling, leaning back, “Well, I can see you are going to be an adventure. I hope we’re ready for you. I’m definitely looking forward to it.

Her hands flat on the desk, Ms. Ester rose saying, “Now what about that tour?” 

11.30am
After rushing back to their apartment and changing into fashionable Newbury St. attire, including skirts, blouses, and low-heel shoes, the girls rushed out of the apartment and nabbed a table for a beat-the-crowd sushi lunch in Sakura-Bana, in Boston’s Financial District, five minutes from their apartment. The conversation dwelt on school issues.

For getting to and from school, the car a no-brainer – leaving the apartment at seven thirty will get them to school plenty early. Going home a bit more raggedy – depending on sports or other school activities. Those waiting for the last to finish her after-school activity will do homework – each day decided on an ad hoc basis.

And food? Breakfast by committee. Ten minutes to prepare eggs, coffee, and rolls for everyone. Lunch? Salads and fruit at school. Dinner a big deal – family time. During the school week they’d eat delivery, ordering on the trip home. Thirty minutes to set up and get themselves comfortable. Dinner at seven, likely, homework afterwards. Friday and Saturday nights offer dinner out options. Part of Saturday and Sunday they’ll prepare for an all-family Sunday dinner – a holiday every week.

They came close to resolving every issue any one of them could dream up. They finished lunch and headed out

During their forty-five-minute walk to Nike town, Laini barraged them with details from a guidebook: “If we’re going to live in Boston, we have a lot of catching up to do.” Perhaps because the day so spectacular, the three endured her running commentary: the Norman B. Leventhal Park at Post Office Square, Boston’s Downtown Crossing, the Boston Common with the Brewer Fountain’s bronzes of Neptune, Roman god of water and sea, Amphitrite, the Greek sea goddess, Acis, the river spirit, and Galatea, the Roman sea nymph, the Tadpole playground, and the Frog Pond.

They crossed Charles Street to the sedate and manicured Public Garden boasting majestic trees and shrubs as well as exquisite flower beds, and pedestrian footpaths that include a suspension bridge traversing the Garden’s enclosed lagoon, itself incessantly crisscrossed by the elegant and popular Swan Boats.

When they got to the heroic equestrian bronze of George Washington, Dee led them on a detour – to the northwest corner of the park and another heroic bronze installation with the inscription: CAST THY BREAD UPON THE WATERS. “I’ve loved this piece since I first saw it in February and I’ve wanted to share it with you ever since.”

They spent five minutes walking around the angel, touching her, and otherwise admiring the installation, officially named “Angel of the Waters,” and continued their way, pledging to return with the mindset to admire the piece. They crossed the A street – Arlington, those Back Bay streets running east to west named alphabetically – turning right, west onto Newbury Street, on their way from A, Arlington, to E, Exeter, where, on the northwest corner of its intersection with Newbury Street, stood Niketown, the building’s sole tenant.

Inside, the building’s bones, including its steel support structure and aluminum ventilation ducts, provided a black, white, and gray background to the vibrant colors of sneakers, sports jackets, more sneakers, sports bras, jerseys, t-shirts, baseball caps, even more sneakers, sweats, and still more sneakers – thousands of square feet of them, displayed on walls and racks throughout an endless series of small rooms crammed onto several floors.

The girls browsed, stopping and commenting on this pair or that, that jacket or this, trying things on, returning them to their hangers or racks. They saw some basketball shoes but none that said “I’m the one.” They strolled the basement level, first floor, and second floor, testing their stamina, until the third floor when they broke for a bathroom session, Laini sitting on a seat in the lobby outside, declaring she’d had enough.

On the way down and out, they each bought a pair of above-the-ankle sneakers, Laini saying, “The heels are killing me. Do you mind if I change into the sneaks?” Four pairs of new sneakers walked out of the sports store, unanimously ready for a pick-me-up, finding the Thinking Cup café after walking just two blocks east, across the D street, Dartmouth, and the C street, Clarendon.

Rejecting the only outside tables available, “No umbrella,” Laini saying, she feeling sun-susceptible, saying, “I don’t know what’s going on with me.”

Dee, “Well, I know that as soon as we get back, Tufts Medical will get a call for an immediate appointment for a complete checkup. You’ve been a little sluggish lately.”

“No. Right. No objection from me. Meanwhile, let’s go in and sit – coffee and chocolate will suit me better than a doctor right now. And air conditioning.”

Inside, they snagged a table by the window, cadged the adjacent table from a compliant patron just leaving anyway, and slid them together. On one side, the tables shared a bench along the wall, chairs completing the setup. Laini took a place on the bench facing into the café, leaving the others to fetch cortados and double-chocolate chip cookies all around. Returning with the cookies and napkins, Lori-Baby sat on the chair opposite Laini, facing the street. Dee, carrying two coffees, took the other chair facing the street, on Lori-Baby’s left, leaving Stella, with the remaining two coffees and the inside bench seat beside Laini, opposite Dee.

Several tables removed, an obnoxiously loud woman bragged to her two friends about the extravagances of her latest trip abroad, her booming voice and mannered gesticulations holding hostage all the café patrons within twenty feet. Lori-Baby deflected the girls’ attention to the sidewalk where a slender, well-dressed woman picked up her toy poodle and tucked the resisting pooch into her large handbag until only the bitch’s ears showed. The woman hoisted the bag over her right shoulder and passed through the building’s exterior door, down the several steps to the café door, opened it and entered the café. 

Lori-Baby looking at the scofflaw, “Hey, no dogs allowed. I caught her in the act.”

“Call Lt. Sam,” Stella.

“Citizen’s arrest,” Laini.

Suddenly Dee’s heart stopped, started, stopped, fluttered back to life, and pounded out of control. She gasped for air but forgot how to breathe, gripping the table to stop the vertigo. Out on the sidewalk, peering in the café windows deciding whether he should come into the café, a young, handsome collegiate in jeans, about six-four, slim but solid, carried a large gym bag and sported a worn red t-shirt that read, Kirkland: Where intelligence is just another big word.

Alternating their attention between Dee’s hyperventilation and the cause of it, the girls watched as the hunk held the exterior door for a couple exiting the building, he smiling friendly as they passed. Not privy to Dee’s melting heart, he still waffled, not releasing the open door.

“Yes!” Dee, almost silently, without effect; and then again louder, this second, “Yes” the charm, he stepping inside.

“Dee, unfair! You forced him in, you mind-bender,” Stella.

Dee glanced at Stella, “Quiet, you. Fair in war or love: everything.”

“This poor guy doesn’t stand a chance,” Lori-Baby.

“I don’t give chances,” Dee’s eyes following his entry.

Laini grasped her hand saying, “Dee, you look more beautiful than I’ve ever seen you: perfect weight and shape, tanned, toned, gorgeous, vibrant, poised, and unreservedly charming – Aphrodite at sixteen.”

“Laini, you embarrass me.”

“Listen to her, Dee. Nothing can stop you,” Stella.

“Go get him, girl,” Lori-Baby, gently bumping her shoulder.

Dee’s eyes gobbled him as opened the café door, walked down the six interior steps, and took the place in line immediately behind the dog-lady, she bent over, perusing the display of desserts, salads, and sandwiches, her bony ass and bag with her dog perched on her hips effectively blocking the narrow aisle rigidly defined by the cases on one side and a line of chairs, backs to the aisle, all occupied, on the other.

“He plays basketball,” Laini.

“And he’s good; a regular Larry Bird,” Stella.

“And has no girlfriend,” Lori-Baby.

“If he does, I hope she takes disappointment well,” Dee.

After examining the display case, he looked up and caught Dee staring at him. He smiled and nodded, Hello. Mortified, she immediately turned her head and engaged Laini in conversation, Laini pretending along, marveling at the flush in Dee’s cheeks.

“He caught me staring. My face that red?”

“Not your eyeballs,” Stella, smiling.

“Who cares?” Laini.

“So hot, Dee. Don’t let him get away,” Lori-Baby.

“I don’t intend to,” Dee softly, head down, examining her cookie until she felt the blush subside, only then stealing a look up from below her eyebrows.

A space opened in the line. Everyone in front of the still-pondering dog-lady moved forward towards the register, Larry Bird patiently waiting his turn. Loud woman publicly announced that she wanted a cup of white tea, rose to get it, and spotting the gap in the line, shouldered her way past the compliant Bird, pausing at the adamant dog-lady blockade.

By now, doggie had maneuvered herself to a hind-leg stand, her forelegs resting heavily on the top edge of the bag, her beady eyes darting maliciously about. The loud-lady turned and, back to the dog-lady, squeezed sideways past, a little off-balance, a lot rude, her stomach pushing against the heads of two of the sitting customers. The lurking wolf -in-her-dreams drew her pathetically thin lips back from her nasty little needles-for-teeth, and, neck craned and eyes on the prize, flash-bit loud-lady’s rear end, penetrating her light dress and underwear, puncturing the canine-prized ass-skin.

Loud-lady jumped erect, knocked a sitting customer’s head, clutched her rear, and screamed. “Oooww! He bit me!”

Dog-lady spun around, her bag missing Larry Bird, banging biting-dog into the display case instead, retorting, “She most certainly did not.”

Loud-lady, also turned around, facing the dog-lady contradicting, “He most certainly did. How dare you! I’m going to call the police and have that rat put to sleep! Look at the sign: dogs not allowed in here.”

Larry Bird, a gentle giant towering over the combatants, looked around with a bemused smile, seeing Dee enjoying his quandary – of course. He turned palms up and hunched his shoulders mouthing, “What can I do?” Dee, twisting from the waist to watch, slowly shook her head, raised her brows, and mimicked Bird’s gestures, palms up and hunched shoulders, shaking her head and mouthing, “Nothing.” He returned her smile, melting her like butter on a hot baked potato.

“Dee, you dog! I’m so jealous,” Stella.

“Look at the hussy,” Lori-Baby, shoulder-bumping Dee again.

“Is this our sweet, innocent, doesn’t-date Dee?” Laini.

“Shut up or I’ll bite you myself,” dog-lady to loud-lady, hoisting her bag more securely on her shoulder, striding past Larry, up the café’s stairs, and out through the doors to the street where she lifted the wolf-wannabe out of the bag, set her on the sidewalk, and secured the human end of the leash. She looked left but turned right, west, in the direction of Niketown with nary a glance back.

Dog-lady escaping, loud-lady picked up her rant, “Somebody stop her,” appealing to the baristas, rubbing her butt by way of explanation. But the giggling young servers behind the counter, otherwise occupied, paid her no heed, she then looking to Larry who blanked, his mouth forming words that never came. Loud lady again, “Well, someone better call the police.”

Emily, the store manager, to the bit-lady, “You may use my cell, if you’d like.”

Loud lady saying, “Silly girl. Why would I need your cell? I have my Apple 7 right here,” saying, “Oh, silly girl, just get me a cup of white tea.”

“We have three choices…”

“I don’t care. Just a plain cup of white tea.” With a final look of disgust at line-cut Larry, she dug out her credit card, receiving in exchange a bathtub-sized cup of tea, carrying it back to her table, this adventure ostensibly ending less fortuitously than her recent trip abroad.

As Dee watched Larry prep his medium-sized coffee and muffin at the condiment table at the rear of the café, the couple at the table next to theirs got up to go; and when Larry, refreshments in hand, turned to find a table, he saw Dee standing, waving him over, although he not hearing her say, “Stella, I want the bench. Take my chair. And hide that chair somewhere.”

“Dee, you got the balls. You owe me,” Stella doing as instructed, getting back to Dee’s former seat before their guest.

When he reached the table, no free-standing chair, Dee pointed to the space on the bench beside her. Shaking his head and smiling, he set down his double-espresso and chocolate mousse cake and slid in on the bench beside Dee, the chair opposite in hiding.

“Quite an adventure,” she smiled.

“Ha! I had no idea what to do.”

“What could you do? You got out of it as well as you could.”

“Yeah, well still, you know, you feel a little stupid. I’m at home crashing big bodies on the basketball court, you know? But caught between two angry ladies…” his shaking head and chagrined expression finishing the thought.

“You play?” Dee.

“Yeah, college. I’m not good enough for a Big Ten school, but I do alright among the lesser lights.”

“What position?”

“Power forward. What did you get from Niketown?” pointing to the bag.

“We just bought some everyday sneakers. We were looking for basketball shoes; we all play high school. Juniors, all of us.”

“What position do you play?”

“Lori-Baby and I both play point,” Dee indicating her friend.

“Yeah, but Dee plays for the boys’ team,” Laini squeezing Dee’s arm. “Laini,” pointing to herself, “And Stella. And you?”

“Phillip,” and to Dee, “You play on the boys’ team?”

“I do.”

“I never heard of that. You’re that good?”

“I am; but in dire need of practice. Up to a little one-on-one? You can see for yourself. I have permission to use the gym at school if you’d like to work out.”

“Actually, I would.”

“Alright!” She pulled out her phone, called up a “New Contact,” and handed him the phone. “Put in our number.” He did. “I’ll call or text you tonight and we can work out a time.”

“Oh, I work tonight. But give it back. I’ll put in that number, too.”

“Well, I don’t want to…” handing him the phone.

He took it, saying, “Oh, no sweat. My dad owns the restaurant; and we cooks get special privileges anyway,” returning the updated phone.

“I know about special privileges. I get a few of my own. Like the gym. Okay, then. About nine?”

“That works.”

Dee, “How old are you?”

“Nineteen; a freshman.”

“What’s Kirkland? It’s a great shirt. Funny,” Dee.

“Oh.” He laughed, a little embarrassed, a little proud. “Kirkland is the residence closest to the athletic fields, so it traditionally attracted the athletes. They always being ragged on as dumb jocks, Kirkland adopted the tradition of each year creating a new t-shirt playing up the dumbd theme. Shows we can laugh at ourselves. Not like that anymore – the dorm assignments by lottery now. I got this shirt from an alum.”

“Cool. By the way, we’re sixteen. All of us,” Dee’s finger drawing a circle.

“What school?”

“BB&N. You?” Laini.

“Hey, great school. Not far from us at all – Harvard.”

“Not too shabby yourself,” Lori-Baby.

After another fifteen minutes of banter, Dee, “Time to bail. Which way are you heading?”

“Into the North End. To the restaurant.”

“Do you want some company? We live at Harbor Towers.”

“Wow! Great! Just next door. We’re neighbors.”