Dylan glowered at Cloey. “Yeah, well I can do it all on my own! Just you watch!”
He looked up at the gym set. It was intimidating for the seven year old boy, but he would show her. He would show her what she meant to him. His parents laughed at him. “Honey,” they would chide, “You don’t love Cloey. You have a crush. It’ll pass.”
He took the first rung in his hand and started climbing to the platform a little more than a head taller than him. “Ganna marry her.” The words were grunted under his breath as he took another step up.
Cloey scolded, “Dylan, are you talking to yourself? That’s so weird. You’re so weird.”
The tears started to sting his eyes, but that was okay: he reached the platform. “I am not weird!” He shouted louder than he meant to and the tears were about to start flowing. He sniffled. “I’m not weird,” he said with a more even tone. “I like you. I love you, Cloey. I’m going to….” He looked at the monkey bars and swallowed, then looked back to her. His face was beat red. “I’m going to prove it.”
“Then do it, weirdo. Climb the bars.”
Dylan lined up to do it. He had fallen three times, and finally he said he’d never do it again. The third time was a charm, the teacher said, and Dylan figured if he couldn’t do it when it was a charm he couldn’t do it ever. But here was Cloey telling him the only way to show he cared was to climb the monkey bars. And so he did, one hand in front of the other, slowly working his way across the abyss of wood chips so far below. He swore once he broke his leg when he fell, but it healed really quickly. He couldn’t walk for a whole five minutes.
Then it happened. For the first time in Dylan’s life, he reached the other end of the monkey bars. He turned, “Cloey, I did that for….” The words hitched in his throat. Andrew was holding his hand, the kid with the ripped jeans and grungy super hero shirt. He was a grade older, too. “But, no. Cloey!”
“Not now, Dylan. I saw it. I know you love me. But I’ll be back. Andrew wants to show me something.”
Andrew made an “L” shape on his forehead, and, losing his head for a moment, he shouted, “If you’re with him, you can’t be with me. So you have to pick.”
“Andrew. You can climb the monkey bars for someone else. And if you haven’t when I’m done, maybe we can talk.” She walked away.
Dylan kicked the wood chips on the playground, “Dammit!” Then he covered his mouth, ashamed of the word. And continued to think worse words. This wasn’t how it was to play out, he thought while watching Andrew walk off with Cloey. You were supposed to be the one. Dylan sat down. She said she would come back.