When I showed up at Teek's place that evening, she answered the door in a cotton-candy pink apron that enveloped her from chest to shins.
"Don't laugh," she said. "It was the only one I could find."
"I figured," I said. I couldn't imagine Teek would ever willingly wear pink.
"Come in, come in." She motioned me inside like she was afraid someone might see her. The apron actually kind of suited her, but I wasn't dumb enough to say that out loud.
Inside, Teek's mom, who had insisted from day one that I call her Janet, was clearing some cut-up photos and magazines off the kitchen table. Janet was always making collages. Teek had a big one in her room with Pink on a bright yellow background surrounded by sharks talking in magnetic poetry.
"Hi, Dillon," Janet said. "I'm getting out of your way."
"It's okay, Mom," Teek said. "We don't need the table."
"It's no trouble. It's Jolie's bedtime anyway." Janet crouched down to unstrap Jolie from her purple bouncy chair. I hadn't even noticed her there; Jolie seemed like a really quiet baby.
Janet scooped Jolie up onto her shoulder and Teek leaned in to give her sister a kiss on the cheek. "Night, Jojo."
"Don't be afraid to make a huge mess," Janet told us, before disappearing down the hall.
"She says that," Teek told me, "but I'll still be the one to clean it up."
I laughed. "I noticed your house looks…cleaner than usual."
"Yeah, every once in a while Peter'll get fed up with the mess and make us have 'family cleaning day.'" Teek made loopy air quotes around her head. "Or days. That's what I was doing all weekend. You're lucky to have a mom who cleans up after herself."
"Right now I have a mom who who sits on the couch and watches Seinfeld reruns."
Teek flinched. "Oh, right. Sorry."
"It's okay," I said. At the time, I was confident she'd bounce right back. "So where're we at with this cupcake project?"
"I mixed the batter already." Teek gestured to a red bowl on the counter. "So we just need to start coloring it and spooning it into the pan."
"Coloring it?" I peered into the bowl. The batter was white. "Are the cupcakes going to be pink too?"
"No, rainbow," Teek said. She stood on her tiptoes to open one of the cabinets and pulled out a stack of smaller bowls. "They'll be the most fabulous cupcakes you could possibly imagine."
"How's that going to work?"
She handed me two of the bowls. "We'll portion out the batter, add food coloring, then spoon it into the cups in layers."
"And that'll make a rainbow and not just a mess?" She shot me a glare for that. "Okay, fine, we'll do it. But it seems like a lot of trouble for just Sharon and Jenny."
"It's not just for Sharon and Jenny. It's for the Alliance."
"Oh, so Mr. Frakas too then."
Teek's glare returned. I knew I shouldn't be ribbing her so bad. She was proud of our tiny club. "Just start filling those bowls," she said. So I did.
When we'd moved on to spooning the colored batter into the cupcake tins, Teek paused between the yellow and green to ask if I wanted to come to Thursday's soccer game with her.
"What soccer game?" I asked.
"Uh, our school's soccer team's game? We do have those, even if nobody else seems to notice."
Teek was right about that—hardly anyone did. Courtyard Prep didn't care much about sports, so even though the boys' soccer team was probably one of the better teams Courtyard had, no one came out to fill the bleachers. I think everyone liked the idea of soccer, of having a team that did well during the season. We just didn’t care enough to actually watch them play. The soccer guys would say, Hey, you guys should come out for the game tonight! in the morning announcements and everyone would say, A game? Great! We'll try to be there! And if the team was lucky, maybe two people would show up.
I stuck a spoon into the blue batter to stall. I was with the rest of the student body on this one—watching a soccer game seemed like a waste of an afternoon. I planned to attend the Homecoming game, figuring that would satisfy my soccer-watching needs for the season. It worked for everyone else.
"Come on, Dillon," Teek said. "I've been going to the games and it's sad being the only one on our side. Sometimes the other teams even bring their cheerleaders—it's like, even when our team plays at Courtyard, they don't even have the home team advantage!"
"They've gotta be used to it by now," I said. Teek stopped spooning the green batter to roll her eyes at me. "Besides, you only go to the games for Jacob."
"That's not true! That's just….one of the reasons."
It was my turn to roll my eyes. Jacob Saddler, a senior, had been Teek's crush since the beginning of the school year and she'd done a poor job of hiding it. I didn't understand why she'd picked him; I'd never seen him show much personality and he wasn't even good-looking, just kind of pimply and average. But she made goo-goo eyes every time he said hi to her, so she must have seen something I didn't. And it just so happened he played on the soccer team Teek was so enthusiastic about supporting.
I'd opened my mouth to give her more grief when something occurred to me. "Hey…isn't Adam on the soccer team?"
Teek cocked her head to the side. "Adam as in Gozmen? Yeah, he plays midfield. Why?"
"Well, do the blue layer while you're wondering," Teek said, pointing to the bowl. She watched me dribble a layer of batter into the first cup before asking, "What's with the sudden interest in Adam Gozmen anyway?"
"What do you mean?" "Well, you were spying on him in detention."
"I wasn't spying," I said. "We…kinda started hanging out. During Community Service Club."
I laughed. "What do you mean?"
"Well, he's kind of a jerk, right?" Teek licked a bit of purple batter off her finger. "I dunno why you'd want to hang out with him."
"He's not that much of a jerk," I said, like I knew Adam well enough to make this assessment.
Teek shrugged. "I don't really know him. I know he was was dating Casey Thompson and that's about it."
“I think they broke up," I said. Adam had told me this at Taco Bell, right before asking me if I had a girlfriend in that weird, careful way people sometimes do.
"Then I don't know nothin'."
I watched her lean in close to the cupcake pan, eyebrows slanting in concentration as she added the final layer of purple to one of the cups .
"What time is the soccer game?" I asked.
"Same time as usual. Four." She shook off the spoon and looked at me. "Does that mean you're coming?"
I swirled my finger around the empty bowl of green batter and contemplated tasting it. But it was green. I reached out instead to swipe a dollop on Teek's nose before she had a chance to stop me.
"I guess I am.”
Up next Thursday, The Soccer Game.