I stepped into an enormous bowl made of trampolines. Bright neon-green padding ran in a grid-like pattern across the entire arena, separating each trampoline into its own little rectangle. The springy black fabric covered every available surface, including the walls.
I stepped down into the closest square, giving it a test bounce, and smiled. It doesn’t matter how old you get. It’s impossible not to smile when bouncing on a trampoline.
We had the entire bowl to ourselves. I could still hear the music and the screaming, but it sounded distant and not nearly as deafening.
Ellis bounced back and forth from square to square, the squeaking of the springs mixed with my own tentative steps.
“Is this part of your plan?” I asked.
Ellis stopped jumping and rested his hands on his hips to catch his breath. “I could’ve gone with the cliché dinner and movie, but I figured you could use a little bit of fun.”
I laughed. “You’re right. I could use some fun. I’ve been a little stressed since this guy from my past came back into my life and won’t leave me alone.”
Ellis shrugged. “Maybe he likes you.”
I laughed and jumped to another square. “He thinks he does.”
“Trust me, Len. He knows.”
“Okay, so what’s next? Or was your grand plan to make me work out against my will.”
Ellis held up one finger and disappeared through the curtain of netting, only to reappear with a bag of bright red balls.
“What is that?”
“I was thinking about what you said about me torturing you when we were younger. I was a punk kid trying to get the attention of the girl he liked, but I get how it may not have felt that way to you.” He dropped the bag at my feet and turned it upside down, emptying six rubber balls at my feet. “This is your chance to get me back.”
Ellis made his way to the other side of the bowl and opened his arms. “Let me have it, Len. All I ask is that you don’t aim for the face.”
“You want me to hit you?”
“If you’re ever going to give us a chance, you need to let go of the past, and if this is what it takes to get you to forgive me then so be it. I’m willing to take the hit.”
I picked up a ball, testing the weight in my hands and eyeing him as he stood, arms wide open, feet spread apart, muscles tense and prepared for impact.
I wanted to hit him. I really did. But I am an adult, and adults don’t solve problems by hurling rubber projectiles.
“I can’t,” I said. “This is childish.”
“You scared?” he asked that trademark smirk of his spread wide across his face.
“I’m not scared. This is stupid.”
“I agree, but continuing to punish me for the mistakes I made as a kid is also pretty stupid.”
Anger welled inside of me and I drew back, hurling the ball as hard as I could toward his chest. The ball hit its target with a loud thud and bounced away.
Victory swelled inside my chest.
“See?” Ellis said. “Feeling a little vindicated, aren’t you?”
“Shut up,” I said, hurling the next ball toward him.