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What If

She loved fall with its crisp air, spectacular leaves and hot apple cider. Fall brought cute little goblins in costumes and bags full of candy. Fall brought screaming your head off at football games. Unfortunately, fall also brought homecoming dances and boys asking questions that needed to be answered. It wasn’t that third-period algebra was boring, well no more than usual, but the teacher should have realized Olivia was a 15-year-old girl and quadratic equations were no match for her thoughts about Tyler. She was confused. He was kind of cute, and she sort of hoped he’d ask her to the dance, but what if he didn’t? What if no one asked? 

Thankfully, there were no more math questions to answer as the passing bell announced her freedom. Kids surrounded her when she entered the hallway. As she made her way to fourth-period English, she sidestepped one boy she didn’t know and gave a smile and a nod to two girls she recognized. She glanced down to make sure she had the right English book and then, when she looked up, she saw him. Tyler. He was walking toward her, coming closer, and for some reason, that made her nervous. Olivia thought he started to say something, but she wasn’t sure. What if he just wanted to say hi? What if he asked her to the dance? What would she say if he did?

Tyler was nervous. He thought she was walking toward him, but he wasn’t sure. Was Olivia sneaking glances at him? Asking her to homecoming had crossed his mind. What if he asked and she said no? Back in his junior high days it was simple: walk up to a girl, pretend to punch her in the arm and tell her that you’d sit next to her during the game. The junior high version of a date. But this was different.

Now they faced their first year of high school, their first homecoming, and the first of many what ifs to come. Even if Olivia said yes, what about a corsage? What color did she like? What if she wore a strapless dress? Where would he pin it? Are corsages something your dad gave your mom? Who did that anymore?

In Olivia’s mind, Tyler had it easy. All he had to do was ask. But if she said yes, they’d have to dance. Did Tyler even know how to dance? Oh God, it would be so embarrassing if all he did was sway back and forth like some 12-year-old. And his hands, where should she let him put his hands? Would he try to let his hands drift down and cup her butt? What if she yanked his hands up and caused a scene? That brought a wicked little smile to her face. Maybe, just maybe, she might want to wait a few seconds before she asked him to raise his hands. What kind of a girl was she?

Tyler wasn’t worried about his hands; he was worried about the top of Olivia’s head. What if she was taller than him? In the hallway, in tennis shoes, Olivia was clearly shorter, but put her in heels and sweep her hair atop her head, and he’d look like a little boy trying to dance with his mommy. Being 15 was hard.

Now he was trapped. Funny how her feet had angled toward him, against the flow of the traffic, to stand in front of him. She looked up. He looked down. She looked cute. He looked terrified as he began to speak.

Another time, another place. It was fall again. In the early morning, between dark and dawn, Olivia remembered. A small smile flitted across her face as she rolled over, brushed the low hanging grey hair out of her eyes and listened to the soft breathing of her sleeping husband. What if she hadn’t said yes, all those years ago?