We got to Marty’s house before he did.
I fidgeted my thumbs while we waited for him to arrive with his new daughter. Meeting new people made me nervous. That also goes for big parties, public speaking, and loud noises. I have a reason for that, but it isn’t one that I’m particularly proud of.
Mom bent down in front of me, “You okay?”
I nodded. I should be. It wasn’t bad right now or anything. I had moved to adjusting my glasses at this point.
Eventually, Marty opened the door and peeked his head inside. “Hey,” he said. “She’s outside, getting her backpack. Everyone be nice, okay?”
Mom and Dad looked at us and Corrine and I nodded.
Marty grinned and poked his head outside, “Okay, Violet, you can come in now.”
A Hispanic girl my age stepped through the door. She had long, wavy black hair and dark brown eyes. She was taller than Corinne but shorter than me, and she walked with a kind of elegance. I couldn’t stop staring at her. She was so pretty.
Corinne had stood up and looked back at me. “Stand up and stop staring at her, lover boy.”
My cheeks warmed as I stood up. Was I going to have to shake her hand? I hoped not. They were all sweaty by this point. When I get like this, my hands either get sweaty or really cold. It was not fun.
“Violet,” Marty said. “This is Simon and Corinne.”
“Hi,” she said.
“Hey.” That was Corinne.
“H-hello,” I croaked out.
Marty hugged Dad and kissed Mom on the cheek. I remember Dad telling me that Marty one-time kissed Mom on the cheek in high school – before Mom and Dad got together – and Dad got a little irritated at him. I don’t think he got irritated at him anymore.
Mom told Marty that she had brought the food, and the cake for dessert, and led him and Dad into the kitchen to set the table.
That left Corinne, Violet, and me alone in the living room.
“So,” Corinne started. “Tell us about yourself.”
Violet took a deep breath and said, “I love science, I just turned thirteen last week, and I’m from Cuba. Technically my name’s Violetta, but Violet is easier for everyone to say.”
Corinne brightened. “You’re from Cuba? That’s one of the spots I marked on my map.”
Oh yeah. Corinne’s map. She was constantly talking about traveling to different countries as soon as she was old enough. Her favorite one? Florence, Italy. She was always wheedling Mom and Dad to take a vacation to Florence.
Violet nodded, “Yeah. I’ve never been there, though.” She looked down at her feet and then looked back at us, “So, Marty told me about you two on the way here, but I want to hear some more from you.”
What had Marty told her about us? Did he tell her about my issues? I hoped not. It wasn’t something I liked other people to know. Only Mom, Dad, Marty, and Corinne knew that about me.
Corinne started first, talking about her maps and the stupid tree she likes to sit in.
Trees were far and few now, but we had this big red maple tree a few blocks down from us that she sits in every chance she gets. I tried going up there one time when I just wanted to be alone. I made it about three feet up and got too scared. Never climbed it again. Corinne, on the other hand, can sit in one of the top branches and just be there for hours.
I went next. I told her about my art, and Corinne told me to show her my sketchbook. My eyes widened at that. I didn’t like people seeing my sketchbook, much less someone that I’d never met before.
Before I could say anything, Corinne pulled my sketchbook out of my backpack. She may have tried to be helpful in situations that made me nervous, but she still did things like this. I guess if you don’t know what it’s like, it’s easy to brush it off.
I looked down at my fidgeting hands while Violet flipped through the book. Just take a deep breath, I told myself.
“Wow,” Violet said finally.
That’s it, I thought. She hates them. She thinks they’re horrible and disgusting and…
“You’re really good,” she told me.
I looked at her. “You think so?”
She nodded and smiled at me.
Her smiling at me made me a different kind of nervous.