“Sounds charming,” I laughed.

“Now you know why I – ”


He caught himself and clammed up.

“…why you sleep around so much?” I finished for him, eyebrows raised mockingly.

He winced. “Let’s not talk about that.”

Yeah, not really a topic of conversation I wanted to dwell on.

“Good,” I said.

30

We’d been trailing Ryan and Shanna for about three aisles when we turned the corner and found ourselves in the kids toys area. There was one of those six-foot-tall containers, a big rectangular wire structure, full of brightly-colored rubber balls.

Derek went over and grabbed a pink, swirly-colored one. He served it volleyball-style to me –

And I just let it hit the ground and bounce twice before I grabbed it.

“Come onnnnn,” Derek complained, like If you were cool you would do it.

“No,” I whispered, and looked around in alarm. “We’re going to get in trouble.”

“So?”

“I don’t want to get in trouble.”

“You just know I’d kick your ass in grocery store volleyball, that’s all.”

“I don’t think so. I was on my high school team.”

“Yeah, right.” He started imitating a chicken. “Baawwk - bok - bok - bok!”

“Oh yeah?”

“Yeah.”

“Fine.” I picked up the ball. “Ready, punk?”

“Ready, Ms. High School Volleyball Queen.”

I hit it to him. He hit it back – and then I jumped up and spiked it at his feet.

“Booyah, bee-yotch,” I said, throwing up my arms in victory.

“Hey, no fair, no spiking!” he laughed.

“‘No fairrrr, no spiking,’” I mocked him in a girly voice, then shook my head in mock disgust. “You’re such a wimp.”

“Oh yeah?” he asked as he picked the ball up, an undercurrent of aggression beneath the humor.

“Yeah,” I taunted him.

“Where’s the line?”

I pointed at the beginning of the toy section, where the cereal boxes ended.

“And where’s the net?”

“Top shelf.”

“Okay. Get ready, bee-yotch,” he grinned.

“Bring it.”

I couldn’t believe how much fun I was having.

We volleyed back and forth, him laughing, me giggling, hitting the swirly pink ball through the air.

“Party foul!” Derek yelled when I sent a pile of Raisin Bran boxes toppling to the floor.

“Shhhh!” I hissed at him.

“PARTY FOOOUUUL!” he yelled even louder, just to spite me.

Ryan and Shanna turned the corner just in time to see me spike another one. Apparently they’d already been through the checkout, because Ryan was carrying two plastic bags of groceries.

Shanna laughed when she saw me stuff the ball in Derek’s face.

Ryan panicked.

“What are you guys doing?” he asked, shocked.

“Waitin’ on you,” Derek said. “Come on, you’re on my team. Boys against girls. Shanna, get over there.”

“Okay!” Shanna squealed and ran over beside me.

“I don’t think this is such a good idea,” I said uneasily.

“Yeah, you’re going to get us thrown out,” Ryan agreed.

“No I’m not. Here.”

Derek held out the ball.

“No,” Ryan said.

Derek threw the ball right in Ryan’s face.

It bounced off harmlessly. Ryan just stood there like a statue, like he was not going to play this game.

Shanna and I laughed. It was impossible not to, with him acting all mature and Derek throwing his arms out like Whatcha gonna do, punk?

Ryan just glowered at Derek. “NO. This is stupid, cut it out.”

Derek reached in the bottom of the wire contraption and pulled out another ball, a yellow one. The entire time he stared at Ryan, his expression saying, Oh – look at that – oh, I got a ball! Oh crap! I’m gonna throw it! Holy crap! Whatcha gonna do? WHATCHA GONNA DO?

Ryan pointed at Derek like someone pointing at a dog about to poop on their lawn. “Don’t you dare – ”

BONK. The yellow ball smacked his face and bounced onto the ground, tap, tap, tap.

Ryan gritted his teeth but stayed where he was.

Derek took a victory strut, holding his arms out and nodding at me and Shanna like he was some kind of wrestler being an intentional a-hole for the crowd.

“Quit playing around, Derek,” Ryan ordered.

Derek got another ball. He did the exact same facial expressions – Uh oh – I got another ball – oh, oh, here it comes – here it comes – whatcha gonna do? WHATCHA GONNA DO?

Ryan cocked his head to the side. “I swear to God – ”

Derek threw the ball.

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