When the new girl Mary showed up in geography class, Ted felt his throat go dry. When she sat in the wooden chair next to him, cold sweat crept down his spine. And when she led him to the creek after school to show him how she caught frogs bare-handed, his heart soared. That night at dinner, he blushed when his dad mentioned the new girl, said something about knowing her uncle. He felt a red flush creep up around his ears and into his cheeks, but hoped his dad was too busy burning the steaks and his mom was too busy keeping his sister Sal in her highchair to notice. He refrained from reaching to scratch his back where he itched from the grass, a reaction he always got from new spring shoots. Once, when he and his best friend Mike rolled down Sotter’s Hill in their underwear, his mom had to take him to the doctor for antibiotic cream. But this time he didn’t scratch, and he didn’t mind. All through dinner he recalled lying in the grass with Mary, how he’d taken his shirt off in the hot afternoon sun, how they’d found the softest spot at the edge of the trees, how he’d kept as still as he possibly could and never run out of things to say as the breeze whispered across his shoulders, her neck and knees.
He went to bed itching to go to school the next day.