ONLY A MATTER OF TIME

ONLY A MATTER OF TIME

From Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul IV

Only a Matter of Time

Love is everything it’s cracked up to be. It really is worth fighting for, being brave for, risking everything for. And the trouble is, if you don’t risk anything, you risk even more.

Erica Jong

The smoke billowed out of the second-floor windows. I covered my face with my backpack and used my chemistry book as a battering ram to bust through the windowpane. Smashing through the apartment door with one hand, I grabbed the child with the other and ran to safety, coughing but alive. And there was Bethany, who happened to be passing by. “You’re a hero!” she said as she flung her arms around me.

I had a rich fantasy life. It all revolved around the object of my obsession, Bethany Howe. Everyone called her B.H. Except for me. I loved to say the name “Bethany”—to myself, of course, because I rarely got within ten feet of B.H.

I first saw Bethany during our freshman year. I noticed her because she wasn’t trying to be cool. I stood in silent solidarity with her on that front. I had given up trying to be cool in junior high. I learned my lesson after an unfortunate skateboarding incident. I won’t go into too much detail, but it involved board shorts my mom constructed out of a pair of my dad’s old Levi’s cotton Dockers—an attempt to make a fashion statement that failed miserably.

Not trying to be cool can be very liberating. It takes away a lot of pressure and stress. I didn’t think Bethany had a skateboarding incident in her past. She was too cute for that. Her lack of coolness was just cool.

Two years went by and not much happened between B.H. and me. I would see her at lunch. Sometimes we had class together. The more I learned about her, the more I liked her. She had a part-time job at a day-care center after school. She liked to go to the beach. She had the most amazing smile.

I decided I would have to get her to notice me. I joined the track team for Bethany. I spent two hours hitting tennis balls off the backboard every day so I could make the tennis team—for Bethany. I read the newspaper every morning so I’d have something interesting to say in case Bethany decided to talk to me. Bethany was a good influence on me, even though we never spoke. I made new friends, became more talkative and outgoing, and got into pretty good shape. Now if I could only meet her.

One day, I was asked by one of my teachers, Mr. Houston, to go to the office to get some paper and videos. As I walked down the hall, I was lost in thought, having another Bethany fantasy. I loaded up on the paper for Mr. Houston and went to the AV room to get the videos. I was arranging the paper, thinking about Bethany. And then I heard a voice. “This tape is checked out.”

“Huh?”

“Excuse me, but the tape you want is checked out.”

I looked up. It was Bethany. She worked in the AV center.

“Hey, I know you,” she said. “You’re in my history class.”

I stammered something, inaudibly.

Then she stammered something, inaudibly.

Then we both tried to speak at once.

I was flustered. I wasn’t prepared. Our first meeting wasn’t supposed to happen like this—it wasn’t even a good hair day, for me. I started to leave, then turned back and muttered, “See ya, Bethany.”

“What did you call me?”

“Bethany. Isn’t that your name?”

“Yeah, but everyone calls me B.H.”

“But Bethany is such a pretty name.”

“Really?” She laughed nervously.

“Yeah.”

I couldn’t believe it. We were actually having a conversation.

“Aren’t you on the tennis team? I go to the matches sometimes.”

“Tennis?” I couldn’t remember what that was. Something about a racket and a court was all I could remember as she spoke to me. Then I remembered I had a match that afternoon and before I could talk myself out of it, I invited her.

The bell rang before she could answer and I realized Mr. Houston was waiting for his supplies. After school, I suited up for my match. I scanned the stands for Bethany but didn’t see her. I can’t remember the score but I won. I hoped she saw when I made an especially good volley or an ace.

After the match, I still didn’t see her. I started walking toward the locker room when I heard my name being called. I didn’t even know she knew it. I’d always hated my name but it sounded like an angelic ballad when she said it.

That afternoon at the entrance to the guy’s locker room I asked Bethany out. She told me she’d had her eye on me since freshman year too, but our paths never seemed to cross. I’m kind of glad it took so long for us to get together. The day Bethany and I met, even though my hair was messed up and I wasn’t wearing my favorite shirt, I was ready to meet her. And I didn’t even have to brave a burning building.

Tal Vigderson

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