A cool breeze sent a cascade of leaves down the tree-lined street. Ren and Brady kicked up more as they walked home, still a little sweaty from cross-country practice but energized by the run.
“Wanna come over?” Ren asked. “Shoot some hoops?”
Brady shrugged. “Sure, even if I know you’ll beat me.”
Ren grinned. “Always do.”
When they got to the driveway, they tossed their bags on the lawn, and Ren retrieved the ball from the garage. Miraculously, it still had bounce despite not having been used in a while.
“I know,” Ren said, keeping the ball from Brady’s grabby hands. “Let’s play BIG.”
“Big? What’s that?”
“Like PIG, only with a B.”
Brady laughed, the sound echoing off the garage. “Are we in fifth grade now?”
“No.” Ren made an exaggerated fake pout. “I just want to.”
“Fine.” Brady scowled, but he wasn’t really mad. “You’ll still beat me.”
They played for a long time. Brady was wrong; it wasn’t all that easy for Ren to beat him. At last they were down to a tie, with both of them having earned a B and an I.
Ren eyed Brady sideways and then took a shot from an angle that would be almost impossible for Brady. The ball swished through the net.
Brady groaned and took his position in the spot Ren had thrown from. He aimed, threw the ball…and missed, just as Ren had expected.
“You win. Of course.” Brady wasn’t really mad; Ren could tell. He did look thoughtful, though. “You missed those two shots on purpose. You could’ve beaten me right away. How come?”
Ren flopped onto the lawn atop a small pile of leaves. Brady followed suit, folding his hands behind his head. He turned to Ren, waiting.
“Spell yours,” Ren said.
“Spell my—oh, my score? B-I-G. Is this a trick question?”
Ren snickered. “No. What’s mine spell?”
Brady’s eyebrows went up, but he said, “B-I. Aaaand…”
“Right.” Ren turned to look at him. “I’m kind of trying to tell you something here.”
“Well, I must be really dense because I don’t get it. Somehow, you only having the ‘bi’ part of BIG…” He sat partway up and propped himself on his elbows. “Oh, I get it. You’re bi. Ha! Did you get that off the internet?”
“Maybe.” Ren smiled, trying to look mysterious. It only made them both break out into fits of laughter.
Brady lay back down. “So, you like boys and girls? Or what?”
“Mm,” Ren replied. “Or anyone, really. More like gender’s not that important, y’know?”
“Got it,” Brady said. He nudged Ren with his toe. “And you’re gonna tell me who you like, right? I mean, you can’t keep your best friend in the dark!”
“No one right now. Well, maybe some celebrity crushes. I’ll be sure to keep you in the loop.”
“Good.” Brady sat all the way up. “Wanna come over and play a game we’re both good at? I found the ball for the foosball table last night. My little sister had it in her dollhouse, God only knows why.”
Ren grinned. “Maybe she was playing Apocalyptic Hailstones or something.”
“Knowing her, that’s probably true.”
They both stood and brushed leaves off each other’s backs. They grabbed their bags. Bumping shoulders, they walked up the street to Brady’s house.