Dani crossed her arms and admired the work they had accomplished so far. A couple hours ago the school’s gymnasium was empty, with only a few piles of junk in the corner. But now, she and Simon were nearly finished constructing an entire obstacle course for the gym teacher. It wasn’t anything crazy, just some tires and cones, with arrows taped on the ground to direct the kids. There was an inflatable part at the end that Dani figured the kids would like a lot, though.
“Okay,” Simon said. “All that’s left to do is put the arch up at the start.” He was looking at a clipboard with a sketch of what he planned the night prior.
It’s crazy how efficient he can be, sometimes, Dani thought. She walked toward the wall, and squatted down to pick up the box with the pieces to build the arch. Her fingers wiggled between the cardboard and the floor, as she tried to apply what she had learned working out with Ryan over the past two weeks to lift it. It barely moved. No luck. The one thing I didn’t mind about testosterone was being able to pick things up.
“Simon, I’m gonna need some help, here,” she said, slouched over and letting her arms dangle.
He was across the gym straightening some of the cones when he looked up. “Oh, sorry,” he said before jogging over to Dani. “I forgot how heavy this thing was.”
“Yeah, I haven’t been exercising quite long enough to...see any improvements at all. really.” She laughed.
Simon chuckled back. “It’s fine, you’ve helped a ton.” He continued to talk as he bent down and grabbed the box. “And you can still help me set it up.”
The two opened the box by the start of the course and dumped the pieces on the floor. Each piece was just a large chunk of that plastic they make playground equipment with. Dani wasn’t sure what that was called, exactly, but she did know what these pieces reminded her of.
“It’s just like we’re building with giant legos,” she said.
Simon smiled. “Kinda, yeah.” He started separating the parts into different piles.
“Except we have to build it exactly how the instructions say,” she said.
“Well that’s how I always did it, anyway.”
Dani rolled her eyes. “Right. I forgot how much fun you always were.”
“My bad, should I build a rocket ship with these, instead?” He grinned and held up two random pieces.
Normally Dani would have just laughed and started a new topic, but, feeling extra sassy in that moment, she kept going. “The kids would probably like it better than some dumb arch.”
Simon looked at her, pretending to be hurt. “Oh, is my arch idea dumb?”
“Well you could just put a line of tape on the ground and call it good. Do you know how late it’s going to be by the time we get home?” She started to build up her side of the arch.
“It’s barely even dark outside. And besides, the school had this arch in storage and I thought it would be cool. It makes the course look more ‘official,’ you know?” He now had his side nearly complete.
Once again, Dani found herself rolling her eyes. “Yeah yeah, okay, I’ll give you that. The arch is...neat. Anyway, where’s Rachel? Why isn’t she helping you with this?”
Simon stopped his work. “Uhh, yeah I mean should would, but...she had homework.”
“Oh, cool. Not the homework part, but cool that I got to come help. This has been pretty fun! Looking around at the school I went to years ago has been super trippy.”
“Yeah, I’m glad you’re here,” Simon said. He resumed working immediately.
Soon, they were connecting their sides of the arch together at the top. Well, Simon was. Dani could barely reach high enough to complete her side.
Upon finishing, they headed to the gym teacher’s office. He had to work late on some other project and that’s why he couldn’t build the course himself. Or, something like that. Dani wasn’t paying too much attention when Simon explained it to her.
When they reached the hallway where his office was, Dani stopped. She was staring at a list of the names for that hallway and recognized the gym teacher’s. How is this guy still teaching? He was old when I went here, he must be ancient now! After a few feet, Simon noticed and turned around.
“Something wrong?” He asked.
“Uh, I just don’t really want to see an old teacher right now.” Her heart started to beat quicker.
“Oh, fair,” he said. Luckily he seemed to understand her predicament and continued on. When he reached the office door he knocked and entered. Then immediately left.
What is he doing? Dani thought. Simon was looking around, confused. Wait.
Before she could come to the conclusion on her own, a familiar voice caused her to turn around.
“There you boys are! I’ve been tryin’ to find ya!”
It was the gym teacher. Simon was far enough away that he had to do a light jog to actually participate in the conversation. As he ran back, Dani started to panic.
Do I tell him? There’s no way this old guy won’t be weird about it. And he knows me. Or, knew. If he remembers me then I just can’t. She tried to avoid eye contact as she waited for Simon to catch up, but that was hard when he was right next to her and nobody was talking. She faked coughing to excuse her backing up a bit, and before long Simon was next to her.
“Simon! What’re ya’ doin’ over here?” The man yelled. Dani flinched when he did. Why do old guys yell so much?
“Sorry!” Simon said. “We got done and went to find you. I don’t know how we missed each other. But everything’s done! It should be good to go for tomorrow.”
He slapped Simon on the back. “I’m sure it’s great! You’ve only done good work around here!”
He’s still yelling.
He turned his attention to Dani. Fuck. Here we go.
“And you!” He said, still using way too high of a volume. “It’s been such a long time! Daniel, was it?”
Simon stepped in. “Er, Dani.”
“Right, Danny! I forgot you liked to be called that. And I see your hair is longer than ever! I figured you would have gotten sick of it by now. Might be time for a haircut soon, eh?”
Dani gave a weak smile, trying hard to keep her breathing steady and not let her voice shake. “Ha, maybe. It’s pretty late and we should get going. Nice to see you again, bye.” She said, entirely in her old voice. The second she was done talking she waved and turned around, speed walking to the main exit. She heard a bit more talking but couldn’t make it out, and didn’t want to, either.
Dani was waiting outside Simon’s car for less than a minute when she saw him leave the school. He lifted his keys up in the air and she heard the doors unlock. She wanted to thank him before getting in, but knew trying to say anything right then could cause her to unleash the tears she was trying to fend off. Instead, she just gave him a thumbs up and got inside.
Simon got in, and for a moment said nothing. He started the car and began to head back to their apartment.
Eventually, Dani found the energy to speak. “Did you tell him?”
“No,” he said. “I didn’t think you would want me to.”
“Good. You’re right, I didn’t.”