Surviving seventh grade with Super Awkward Weirdo Syndrome—aka social anxiety—is tough enough before Brian lands in foster care on the Worst. Birthday. Ever. As Brian struggles, Ezra wants to help but he’s hiding his Brian-crush. For both, opening up means risking rejection—or maybe discovering the best in each other, and in themselves.
Shoot. Don’t overthink. Just shoot.
The command flashed in my brain as I caught a pass on the schoolyard basketball court. I was coiled and ready with a clean look at the hoop. Still, I hesitated a half-second too long. By the time I let fly, Ezra Komizarek was running at me with hands outstretched and I launched too high. My shot fell short, grazing the rim just enough to spare me the humiliation of an airball.
No big deal. Everybody misses sometimes.
I didn’t shoot again all game.
My miss still haunted me as the bell rang. Everyone drifted into school in groups except me. I walked two steps behind Ezra and Tyrone Marsman. They talked, like regular kids. They joked and quoted movies they’d watched over the weekend at Ezra’s birthday sleepover. I tried to figure out how to join without triggering a social catastrophe.
Internal Argument #4,222
Me: I could say, “Hey, your birthday was last weekend? Mine’s tomorrow.” That’s an easy conversation starter, right?
Also Me: Are you kidding? That’s a guaranteed trainwreck.
Also Me: Think about it. They’ll ask what you’re doing for your birthday. “Not much,” you’ll mumble, reminding everyone you’re a friendless loser.
I stayed quiet. As usual.
As we filed inside, Ty slowed to fist-bump another kid and Ezra noticed me trailing.
“Hey Brian. Good game, huh?”
I was still flushed from playing basketball, which helped disguise my instant layer of fresh sweat.