After school, Jeremy and Steve met by the flagpole. “You ready?”, asked Steve. Jeremy ran his hands through his hair and popped a mint in his mouth.
“I guess. I mean, it’s now or never, right?” replied Jeremy. He and Steve bumped hands and Jeremy jogged over to the parking lot. “Hey, Candace” he called out. “Wait up a second.”
Candace turned around and smiled. “Hi Jeremy. How are you?”
“Fine, thanks. Did you do okay on that chemistry quiz?” asked Jeremy as they walked along together.
“I think so. Thanks so much for tutoring me. I don’t know what I would have done without you,” she said, reaching out and squeezing his arm. “Really, thanks.”
“So, Candace, I was wondering-“
“Here’s my ride!” announced Candace as they reached a Segway in a motorcycle parking lot. “Isn’t it awesome?” she asked as she caressed the handlebars. “I got it for my sweet sixteen birthday last weekend.”
“Wow,” was all Jeremy could say. He stared at the gleaming machine, painted a pale pink. Small speakers were attached to the handlebars, with an MP3 holder in between them. Below that, a crystal-embossed cup holder was attached to the stem, which he now saw was adorned with glittery silver roses. The wheel platform was carpeted with a champagne colored shag, and he could smell the lemony polish used recently on the shiny tires.
Candace pulled out her keychain and offered, “Do you want to take it for a spin?” She dangled the keys in front of him, grinning.
What could he say? “Sure, let’s see what she’s got. I mean, what he’s…uh, what it has,” said Jeremy, stepping up to the platform. Candace inserted the key and turned it to the right, starting up the motor.
“Push forward to go, and pull back to neutral to stop,” she instructed as she stepped back. “But try to go slow at first.”
Jeremy took a deep breath and put his hands on the handlebars. He pushed forward a millimeter and the Segway slowly crept forward across the parking lot. Okay, he thought, this isn’t so hard. He assumed what he hoped was a confident expression and pushed forward another five inches. The Segway shot ahead and raced straight for a light pole. “Shit!” yelled Jeremy and yanked back on the bars, pulling way past neutral. The machine abruptly reversed course and speedily backed up. Jeremy glanced over his left shoulder in a panic, inadvertently pulling on the left handlebar and putting the machine in a backward spin. He tried to remember what Candace had told him and realized she was yelling at him from across the parking lot. Suddenly the word ignition flashed in his mind. He grabbed the keys and turned them left, shutting off the motor so the machine immediately stopped. Unfortunately, Jeremy’s body continued moving and he was thrown to the ground in a heap.
He rolled over and took stock of his bruised body. Nothing seemed to be broken, at least. As his breathing returned to normal, he became aware of the activity around him. Brad McCabe was ten feet away, pointing his phone at Jeremy. “Dude, that was classic!” Brad shouted. “I got the whole tragedy on my iPhone.” He turned and ran towards his friends to gloat.
Candace hovered nearby, looking at him with concern. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah, I guess,” said Jeremy, standing up and brushing off his clothes. “Sorry about that. Is your Segway okay?”
“Yes, thank God,” said Candace. “My Dad would totally kill me if something happened to it. Or if you got hurt and sued us. That’s his worst fear. I mean, I’m glad you’re okay too,” she added, touching his arm briefly.
Jeremy took another deep breath and blurted out, “Candace, would you go to the homecoming dance with me this year?”
The question hung in the air for an awkward moment. Candace took a small step back to put some distance between them. “I’m sorry, Jeremy, but I want to go with an older guy,” she said quickly. “I mean, I really like you as a friend and everything, and you’ve been really sweet to tutor me, but I want to have a real high school experience. You know, have a guy who can drive me and bring me a corsage and everything. So, I’m going with this guy who works for my Dad.”
Jeremy shrugged. “Yeah, sure, I understand. It’s no big deal. Look, I have to, um, meet Steve, so I’ve got to run.”
Candace was already moving towards her Segway. “Me too. Have to run, I mean. My Dad will be worried.” She slipped her backpack on her back and stepped up on the platform, fumbling for the key. She revved the engine and shouted “See you tomorrow,” as she jammed the handlebars forward and sped off at what seemed like 20 miles per hour, her hair flapping behind her.