Disclaimer: I don't own anything.

Chapter 4 Warts and All

While dragging my garbage out to the curb I heard a commotion from Mclean's house. I looked over and saw my mom standing on their porch and my first thought was Is my mom making her that uncomfortable to start yelling or is my mom yelling at her. Then, I saw her dad yelling into their phone. Through the whole conversation between my mom and the Sweet's I just looked at Mclean. I noticed how uncomfortable she was like she was being inspected. I supposed that my mom made me feel that way sometimes but I was so used to it. When my mom was introducing us she glanced over at me and gave me a look. The kind of look you get when you are not being polite enough. So when Mclean was about to say her name I stepped in and said it for her. Then my dad arrived home from the lab. I figured that the family gathering would continue on without me so with a glance at Mclean that apologized for leaving her to face the wolves I went inside my house. I know my parents were just trying to be neighborly but a part of me suspected that my mother wanted to new people on her street to be on her side and I wanted to laugh at the thought of Mclean telling my mom I was drinking when she had been doing the same thing recently.

The next day all hell broke loose and I didn't feel like going to school. It's not like my grades would suffer. The fight with my parents was the final straw and so instead of going to the bus I went to the basement. I knew sulking was the wrong answer, but I couldn't face school with the memory of my mom's voice.

Around lunchtime I was walking up and glanced into Mclean's window and I was surprised to find that she was home and Deb was with her. Now I am not a nosy person but when I got back into my house this was eating at my curiosity then I checked my phone and heard the voicemail I got from my mom to come to lab and I went back to sulking.

To get my mind off of the fight I called Ellis seeing if he wanted to come over. We started playing basketball but here's the thing about Ellis and I. We. Suck. Not suck as in, oh, after some practice they'll be able to dribble better. Suck as in we only play with each other because with anyone else it wouldn't work. So neither of us was surprised when we banged the ball against the Sweet's house, although, I did feel bad. I just hoped they weren't home. My hopes were dashed when I saw Mclean come into her kitchen. She looked at the basketball rolling toward her on the floor with a startled expression. Ellis ran over to her to get the ball and that seemed to make her even more confused.

The ball came back over and landed in the street.

"What kind of a throw was that?" I yelled back to Ellis.

"Dude, you didn't even try to catch it." Was his reply.

"Because it wasn't anywhere near me. Were you aiming for the street?" I asked him because really you can't be that bad.

I took a shot with ball and watched it clang off a tree and bounce back toward me and, considering my basketball skills, I was expecting that. Then Ellis tried to make a layup and the ball went rolling off. We went back and forth failing at making shots until it banged into Mclean's kitchen again. She was on the phone but managed to grab the ball.

Ellis, who was obviously trying to save face, yelled. "Sorry! That was my—"

He never finished his sentence because she sent the ball flying it went into the backboard, through the hoop, and banged my head so bad I was seeing stars. The next thing I know I'm lying on the ground seeing Mclean run toward me. She seemed so flustered that I almost laughed and I couldn't help but stare at her.

"Holy crap," Ellis said. "What kind of shot was that?"

"Are you okay?" Mclean said as she dropped to her knees beside me. "I'm so sorry. I was just—"

I looked up the sky to stop myself from staring at her and, with amazement, said, "Wow. You are much better than us at this game."

I noticed she was staring at me and I couldn't help but stare back.

"Dude, that was incredible," Ellis said, obliviously ruining the moment. "You went down like a mighty one felled in the forest."

As I sat up I thought the imagery that brought up and I really didn't like to think of myself being cut down with an axe. I shook my head trying to clear those thoughts and to stop myself from looking at Mclean.

"I really didn't mean to—" She started, but I didn't want her to feel bad so I cut her off.

"It's okay." I shook my head again for good measure. "No permanent damage."

"That's a relief." Ellis said, bouncing the newly retrieved basketball. "I know he's much to look at, but this boys brain is like a national treasure."

I didn't appreciate the backhanded comment about my looks or the reference to my brains. He knew about the fight I had yesterday. So, resisting mentioning how he's has dreads in his hair, I gave him an icy look.

"I'm fine." I said to Mclean.

"And I'm Ellis," Ellis said sticking out his hand for her to shake. She just looked at him as she lowly shook it. "Now that we're acquainted, you have got to teach me how to do that shot. Seriously."

"No," She said quickly, I noticed she looked nervous and she flushed. "I mean… I don't really know how to do it."

"Dave's medulla oblongata begs to differ," Ellis said giving her the ball. "Come on. Please?"

I kept on noticing how flushed and uncomfortable she looked and I wondered why that was. Then I started to wonder why I cared so much. Sometimes I want my brain to shut up.

When Mclean's dad pulled into the driveway she started to look even more nervous and I felt the urge to comfort her. Again, I wondered why I cared.

She turned back to Ellis and said. "Look. I… I can't. Sorry."