“Marco?” I stand in the refreshing lake water. Goosebumps spread across my shoulders from the breeze as I wait. Bobby, Ryan, and Jane cheat. They wait a second before responding, so that they can get just out of reach. There’s movement in the water and someone inhales before going under. I’m the only one who plays by the rules so I’m almost always “it.”
“Polo.” A hot whisper, then a splash. I lunge to the right and my hand collides with something warm and soft. I open my eyes; Bobby holds his nose and swears.
I just punched Bobby in the face. The cutest boy at school. The boy of my dreams.
“Sorry,” I say.
Ryan snickers, Jane’s eyes widen, my face flushes. Not only have I ruined my chance with Bobby, I’ve screwed up Jane’s chance with Ryan. She’s liked him longer than I’ve even known Bobby.
“Jeez, you didn’t have to punch me.” Bobby dunks his face under then comes back up. “You’ve got a strong arm for a girl.” He’s not smiling.
“Sorry,” I say again, avoiding his gaze. I blink away tears of frustration. My clumsiness has gotten me in trouble so many times, but nothing quite like this.
Bobby shoves my right shoulder. “It’s fine, but you better watch your back.”
I almost expect him to get even and hit me back. He smirks and shuts his eyes.
“Marco?” he cuts me off.
I dive under and kick my feet. Bobby’s muffled “Marco’s” and the group’s replies echo above me. If I stay down long enough. I won’t lose again. I open my eyes and through the blue tint, Bobby’s legs kick towards me. I can’t hold my breath any longer. I gulp air as quietly as I can. Ryan, Jane, and I form in a crooked triangle around Bobby, who’s standing still, listening to our every move.
“Marco?” he taunts. He pushes his hand through his dark, shaggy hair making it stick up. His hairless chest tenses.
No one says anything.
“Marco?” he asks again.
“Polo,” I whisper.
“Marco?” Bobby tilts his head to the side.
He glides over and I float backwards so I can watch him.
“Marco?” Now Bobby is whispering.
I’m up against the line of buoys, separating the shallow and deep end of the swimming area. I need to somehow get under them without getting tagged. I’ve never been this close to a boy before. He’s less than a foot away from me. He gives me a crooked smile and opens his eyes. They’re dark green. “I like you,” he whispers.
“Polo,” I whisper back.
My eyes go wide and Bobby laughs, his cheeks burn bright red. I’m sure they’re the same hue as mine.
Ryan makes kissing noises at us and Jane shoves him.
“You heard me,” Bobby says raising his eyebrows.
I dunk submerge my full body under the water. Bobby just said he likes me. Bobby just said he likes me. He could have any girl in school. One that is taller, thinner, more athletic, graceful, or more normal than me. I come back up, wiping my dark hair out of my face. I wait for the punch line. Bobby watches me with a gleam of worry in his eyes.
“I like you, too,” I say.