Amore And Pizza

Hey, I'm Avery. I thought I had it figured out, ya know? I thought I had distinguished the difference between love and imagination. I was SO sure that no one could ever love me. Especially someone so extraordinary like Niall. But for once in my sob story of a life, I WANTED to be proven wrong. But I was right. Again.

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14. Bump, Set, Spike, Are We Doing It Right?

     "We're singing a song from Pocahontas? Really?" I had nearly choked on my food when Kalley told me the song we had been assigned to sing in choir was "Colors Of The Wind" from the movie Pocahontas. I managed to force myself to attend school today. Tuesday. Kalley was excitedly telling me that in choir yesterday,which I missed, Mrs.Klein, our choir teacher, had given the class music for the song we were singing in October.

     "I'm not kidding!" Kalley was laughing along with everyone else at the table at my near-death experience. Today, our lunch table was filled to the brim. Liam and Carey sat by each other, Louis in the middle fake gagging at their affection, Harry listening in to our conversation, and me next to him. Gabrielle sat with us today, and she was right across from me laughing. Apparently she sat here yesterday, too. I was really happy about that. I guess she ditched her fake friends for some real ones. Everyone welcomed Gabrielle with open arms, thanks to my wise teachings. Louis ignored her for the most part, but they seemed to agree to disagree, if that made sense. Next to Gabrielle sat Kalley, then Zayn, then Niall. I talked to Niall a little, today. He didn't walk me to class, but I sat next to him in the car ride here. It was quiet. He hadn't said anything about yesterday, which made me a little mad. Maybe it was selfish, but Niall and I have been becoming really great friends, I was expecting him to come over. Not like Harry's appearance wasn't nice. It really was. I still didn't know quite what to feel about that. It was extremely awkward, but yet sweet.

     "Well, at least I don't have to practice that until tomorrow, I only have to worry about volleyball today." I coughed loudly.

     "If you're going to survive it." Gabrielle said.

     "I'll be fine." I hoped.

 

                                                                 *****************************************************

 

     But I wasn't. By the end of conditioning, I was wheezing. It was super embarassing! Today could've gone by without a hitch, if I hadn't been sick. The JV coach Julianne got on my case more than once for falling behind. I was willing to bet that I wouldn't get to play very much during Thursday's game, even if I was setter.

     "All right, everyone, I want Kalley, Gabrielle, and Avery up front", Coach Sally said."Ava, Natalie, you block." Sally had us do an exercise where she would toss the ball to me, I would set to either Gabrielle or Kalley, and they would try to spike without getting blocked. My sets were pretty bad. Thankfully Kalley and Gabrielle are talented enough to pick up my slack.

     By the end of practice I was beat. Kalley, Gabrielle and I rode in Gabrielle's car. It was a Beetle. Yellow, too, to fit the stereotype. Go figure, right? Blonde haired, blue eyed girl chewing bubblegum riding in a yellow beetle. 

     "What if she doesn't let me play Thursday?" I said. 

     "Avery, you're barely getting over a cold, Sally is nice. She'll understand." Kalley assured me.

     "Yeah",Gabrielle added. "So you weren't on top of your game, so what? You had a good excuse." I nodded. 

     "Anyways, since we're on the topic of you being sick, I did tell Niall he should go to your house. I don't know why he didn't. But, I heard that you got taken care of anyway." Kalley was teasing me. I turned around from the passenger seat to glare at her.

     "It was just some soup. It's not really a big deal." Kalley raised her eyebrow while Gabrielle snorted. "What?"

     "Just, slow down, Avery." Gabrielle said. "I hope Harry isn't just being Harry. Maybe he likes you. Maybe he doesn't. But he's never had a girlfriend before, and for a good reason. Just watch out, okay?" I nodded. I'd already had this conversation with Niall. I wanted to defend Harry for some reason. But all my friends have know him for years. I didn't really know him at all. They were right, though. But not just about Harry. I had been thinking lately that things were happening to fast.

     "Well enough with the heavy. Gabrielle, turn on the radio." Gabrielle happily obeyed Kalley, turning it up so loud I thought my head would explode. Which I think would be a good thing, because my brain needed some spring cleaning.

 

                                                                     ***************************************************

 

     "Bump! Set! Spike!" We all yelled as one while Heather passed, I set, and Kalley spiked over the blocker's fingers, giving us a point. The score was 19-16, us trailing in the second set. We had lost the one before, so we needed to win this one to play three sets. It was Thursday, our first game this season. All of our friends were in the bleachers, cheering us on. Niall was the loudest. It was my turn to serve. Walking back to the serving line, I glanced up to see my dad giving me a thumbs-up. Niall was shouting my name. I rubbed the cool material in my hands, feeling the sticthing between pieces of leather. Was it leather? I shook my head to pay attention. I looked one last time at my dad, then tossed the ball in the air. I swiftly jumped in the air to connect my hand with the ball, making a resounding crack! The other team, well, they didn't have much of a chance. I kept serving until the set ended with 25-19. I heaved a sigh of relief. My team patted my back as we headed over to coach.

     "Okay, we need to keep doing what we're doing. They're tough. But we're tougher. We need to show them that. Bump, set, spike, that's it. Remember to cover your blockers! Now bring it in." Sally motioned for us to put our hands in. "On three. Tigers." We all yelled one, two, three TIGERS! Heading back to the court in my orange jersey and black spandex, I tried to suppress the cough the rose from my lungs. Ugh. I wasn't quite over my cold. 

     "You okay, Avery?" I felt Gabrielle put a hand on my back. I nodded.

     "Just need to shake this cold." She nodded and went to her position. The set started with the other team serving. Our team worked hard to do everything we had practiced. It paid off. Until we were tied. With the score 20-20, we needed to win the serve back. Chloe, another girl on our team, passed it beautifully to me. I made a window with my fingers as I set the ball to Gabrielle. She started her approach, leaping in the air to drive the ball hard into the faces of the other team. We all grinned as people from the stands cheered. Kalley was up to serve, serving with power and grace to take us all the way to 25. Cheering, we all ran to the back line and ran up to the net, telling the other girls "good game". It was, too.

     Our team was mobbed by fans as we broke from our huddle to make our way to the locker rooms. I was in a bit of a hurry, because to celebrate we were going out for pizza. And by "we" I meant Kalley, Zayn,Gabrielle, Niall, Harry, and yours truly. I noticed my dad politely pushing his way through other people to give me a great big hug.

     "You did so good, Aves." He held me back and looked at my face with concern. "You sure you're up to hanging out with your friends afterwards?"

     "Yeah, I'm good." He gave me a kiss on my sweaty forehead, told me he'd see me when I got home, and left. I started to walk towards the locker room when I heard my name being called.

     "Avery!" I felt Niall grab me from behind. I turned uncomfortably in his grasp. "Hey! You did awesome!"

     "Thanks," I said, pulling myself away. Ever since Harry came over, I had been having doubts in my mind about how all of this was going. Niall and I were so inconsistent, it made me feel like I was on a roller coaster. One day we were holding hands, and the next I was sick and he didn't even stop by to say "feel better". I wanted to slow things down. And Harry. Well, that just made things a whole lot more confusing. I couldn't possibly like him, but my heart ached when I thought of Monday. I needed to swallow those feelings down and burn them. I had to focus on Niall. Trying to juggle both was like trying to juggle flaming anvils, while a sumo wrestler was trying to kill you. Not so simple.

     "You okay?" He noticed my withdrawal. I nodded.

     "Yeah. I just need to get in the shower. I'll see you in a bit." I turned to leave, but not before Niall spun me around and gave me another hug.

     Leaning in my ear, he whispered, "Be quick, #24." He pulled back as I looked down at my jersey, which prominently displayed my number:24. I gave a small smile and ran towards the locker room, head in a blur.

     I hopped out of the shower, wrapped in a towel and dripping wet. I made my way over to my locker and put on some yoga pants, a gray zip-up hoodie over my jersey, and moccasins. I threw my hair up in a messy bun with a braid on one side. Satisfied, I walked out to find everyone waiting on me. Great.

     "Were you guys waiting for a long time?" I asked.

     Harry rolled his eyes. "You took forever!" Gabrielle punched him in the arm.

     "No you didn't," she assured me. As a group we all walked outside to the parking lot. The crisp air felt good on my skin. It wasn't that far past 6, but the air was chilly. We headed towards Niall's minivan. Or, his mom's, technically. I was annoyed how everyone one of my friends had a car that they owned or at least could borrow. My dad was always gone with his or never let me touch it, even though it wasn't even worth a hobo's salary. I sat in the very back with Kalley and Gabrielle, while Harry sat in the middle, with Zayn and Niall up front. I could tell that Niall was expecting me to sit up there, but I felt more relaxed back here. Being sick was doing weird things to me.

     We walked into Pizza Hut finding it pretty empty. Kalley, Gabrielle, and I slid into one side of the booth, while the boys sat on the other. Niall kept giving me strange looks. I know my distance was sudden, but I really didn't want to explain. Mostly because I didn't even think I could explain it.  

     "I'm going to go order, everyone good on cheese, cheese, and uh, cheese?"Niall asked. We all laughed and nodded. Niall glanced at me. "Could you help me, Avery?" I looked to everyone else. I couldn't very well say no, plus, I didn't want to be mean, I just wanted to be a little away from Niall. I wanted to do this right. Our relationship, I mean. Right now, I didn't feel like it was going right.. I nodded, getting up to follow Niall to the counter. I took in his blond, floppy hair. It was cute in a dorky kind of a way. Niall was cute, like a person you wanted to squeeze. I thought of how different Harry was. Harry was hot. The kind of hot that made your palms sweaty and heart beat faster. The kind that made you nervous when he was close, making you trip over your words. I know, that sounds like "love". Trust me, I've read all the books about it. Literally. But this wasn't a book. It was the real world.

     I was snapped from my thoughts when Niall spoke to me. "What?"

     "I was asking if you were mad at me." Niall said.

     "Why do you think that?"

     "Because you have been purposely avoiding being near me today. You didn't sit next to me at lunch, made an excuse not to walk with me to Writing, ran away after the game, didn't sit by me here or in the van. What's up?" I bit my bottom lip. Should I tell him? A good relationship never really included keeping secrets.

     "Well, I just feel like we've barely known each other for two weeks, and we're already super close..." I bit my lip again. "I've only had one good guy friend like you Niall before, and that ended terribly. I just want to slow things down a little." I couldn't meet his eyes. He just stood in silence for a few seconds, until he hugged me. I gasped.

     "I don't want to mess stuff up either." He grinned and let me go to grab the pizzas. In silence, we walked back to our table to join everyone else. I felt everyone's eyes on Niall and I, of course they had been watching. I glanced up to find myself meeting Harry's gaze. He dropped it and looked mournfully at the pizza.

     Putting on a smile that didn't touch his eyes, Harry said, "Let's dig in." So we did.

     After spending a good hour pigging out and talking about our game, we decided to head out. I climbed in the back with Kalley and Gabrielle again, much to both Niall and Harry's dismay. All night Harry had been trying to make longer-than-appropriate eye contact with me, even kicking me under the table once. It's not like I was being mean, I was just treating him a little different than usual. Before I knew it, we were parked in front of my house.

     "See ya, Avery," Kalley and Gabrielle said in unision, cueing my departure. I said goodbyes to everyone as I climbed out and walked up the pathway to my front door. My dad had left the porch light on. I had my hand on the door until my other was in someone's grip. I knew whose it belonged to immediately. No one had hands that big except for him.

     "Hey, Avery, are we okay?" I turned to see Harry looking at me with worry. I pulled my hand from his grasp. Sighing, I told him the same thing I told Niall, varying it a little because he was a friend. I liked Niall more than that.

     For what seemed like a year Harry just gazed at my face. I began to feel extremely uncomfortable. "You like Niall, don't you?" True, I had never quite said it, but I thought it was pretty obvious. Among my many talents, unfortunately hiding my emotions wasn't one of them. I nodded, not meeting his gaze. Just as I gave in and looked up, his eyes fell. I saw them shining. "I'm stuck  in the friend-zone, huh?" Harry pulled himself together and grinned cheekily at me. "That's okay. See ya tomorrow, Avery." And without another word, not even his almost-constant goodbye wink which I realized I loved, Harry got in the van and drove off.

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