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Author's note: what inspired me to write this was Stephenie Meyers. You'll notice the similarities of One Shot and twilight Undoubtedly.
Love or Life? How could I decide? Was I ever going to be able to? Both had characteristics that propelled me in that direction like a rubber band being pulled by either thumb. But You only had one shot at Love. If I went with love I’d be happy for all eternity, but my other alternative was life, which in itself was a decision, Life or death?
I’d have to choose by the end of tonight, I just hopped my decision wasn’t made for me.
Malcolm’s face crowded mine and I couldn’t look away. How old was he? I wondered. Something about him made me wonder.
He walked away then, keeping his eyes on my face as he walked.
“Claire, Claire, Claire.” He repeated.
“Claire?” It was Violet’s voice this time, the witch.
“What?” my scratchy voice asked.
“The life you once knew is going down the drain.” She told me, she too was walking around in circles, staring at me.
“You’re not going to scare me.” I called from across the long hall.
“Just keep telling yourself that.” Nigel laughed and sped across the room within seconds. He sank his teeth into my neck.
I had been staring out the front window since I had returned home at three o’clock, nearly two hours ago. This was the way most days went, if I had a choice. I would get se-cure, with my books set out in front of me, my pencil in one hand, and then look sideways and become transfixed with whatever the across the street neighbors were doing.
It wasn’t that I was gawking, but I would simply become insanely fascinated, captivated with their individual routines.
It hadn’t been silent in the room; I’d just been in a different mental state for the last two hours. “Claire?” Herman, my father, broke my gaze by saying my name.
I cleared my throat suddenly, “Yes?”
“How has she gotten to high school?” He laughed, talking about Anna Belle, My half sis-ter’s, sense of humor. She’d just gotten through telling him that she always wanted an epiphany. She was under the impression it was a drink. I had been doing my Spanish homework, but as she walked into her room all I wanted to do was laugh.
Shrugging I said, “Because she’s fabulous.” I closed my binder and went to my room. I turned down the long hallway, my two sisters shared the biggest room in the house, my room was across the hall from theirs and my father’s room was at the end of the hall.
I opened my door quietly and shut it as soon as my entire body was in. I dropped my book bag on the oversized computer desk chair that my mother had found in the streets when I was 8.
I put all of my binders and notebooks on the side of the desk dedicated for them. O.C.D ran hard in both sides of the family. I took a deep breath readying myself for the homework I had. I walked to the other side of the room to look out the window before homework.
I could see my green jeep, Anna Belle’s blue Toyota, Mady’s red Honda, and my father’s shiny black truck all lined up in a row in the drive way and I smiled. I took a step away and went over to the TV and hit the on button. I hardly ever watched it, I just couldn’t stand to be in a silent room, and its only purpose was for sound. Another effect of the O.C.D. that I just hadn’t seemed to outgrow.
I grabbed my binders and started doing the homework I had set aside. I took the papers to my bed and leaned on my fuzzy purple pillow before starting my chapter 8 section 11’s review. They hardly ever took more than half an hour and if you literally sat down and read the section you’d have no problem.
I paid no attention to the TV talking to me against the other wall, just trying to finish the assignment before 5:30, when I was supposed to report to the restaurant and help out my father.
He is a chef, well, more like a short order cook with a sense of humor. My mother, who had died 3 years ago, was the baker. When she died my father took over, I helped as a wai-tress, my across the street neighbor and best friend, Ben was the butcher. His mother Doris was the baker and on occasion Anna Belle and Mady would come in, but only to eat, they never had helped out.
I looked up at the TV just as it switched from show to commercial. Which was one thing that angered me about TV’s, just when you wanted to watch it they showed you commer-cials for skin miracles, food preservers and waterproof, oversized, Ziploc bags.
I heard a tiny knock on the door and said, “Come in.” My door slide open above my flush carpet that seemed to grow like grass as my father’s face appeared in my door way.
“Hi dad.” I smiled, watching him with a weary expression.
“Are you ready to get going? I’ll drive today.” He said as if it was a bonus. As if that would get me in the car faster than a book report due tomorrow with Anna Belle as my partner.
“Yup.” I nodded and closed my binder with my finished section review. I grabbed my jacket and purse before leaving the room. I closed the door and followed him out to the dri-veway where he was the last one parked, I got in the passenger side and relaxed as I didn’t need to drive.
When we got to the restaurant I got out before him. I saw a couple of familiar cars, and some unfamiliar. I saw Ben’s dodge and his mother, Doris’s van. Ben’s dodge wasn’t really his; it was his deceased father’s dodge. I walked faster than my father any day so I ended up at the door before him.
I walked in and most of the seniors who remembered my name yelled, “Claire’s here!”. “Hi!” My favorite oldies were a 40 some year old couple who always bickered and argued. Ron and Karen were not only funny to watch but funny to listen to. Ron was cheap and usually kept to himself when he wasn’t with his daughter Erika, or his wife. Karen was the complete opposite, she often came in the afternoons alone just to hang out with the old men and women, and she was outgoing and talked when she ate.
“Hi, guys.” I greeted them, slipping behind the counter to grab my apron and rag. I walked in the back, “Hey, Ben, Doris.” I said to them as I washed my hands gently in the employee only sink; we had a choice of both lavender scented and pomegranate scented.
“Hi Claire.” Ben said without looking up from his butchering block, he was cutting down the rib side of a cow.
“Hello Claire.” Doris said on the other side of the room as she was taking a batch of dough from a giant mixer. The restaurant had its own bakery, which Doris ran; she was al-ways bringing new things and asking my father if she could add it to the menu, the latest choice of hers was homemade glazed donuts, which were a big hit with the elders who still had real teeth.
I finished washing my hands and returned to the front of the house. The old men were talking to my father. “What’s up, fill me in.” I told them with a smile.
“Ya know, Herman, your Claire is one heck of a girl.” One of the men named Carl told him, while waving at me.
“Awe thanks Carl.” I said going to the sink in the front, wet my towel and wiped down the counter.
“Hello Pat.” I said to my neighbor.
“Hi Tony.” I greeted my mailman.
“Hello Owen.” I said to my mother’s friend’s husband.
“Hey Claire, can I get a refill?” He asked pointing to his cup of coffee that was already filled to the top. “You’re good.” He smiled.
“Hi Alicia.” I greeted my mother’s friend.
“Hi Yvette.” I smiled at one of the town’s hair dressers.
“Hello Claire.” She said as I reached the end. I draped it on my side and went to the end where the orders were fulfilled and where my father worked his magic with the help of a Sous chef named Zach. I picked up the first plate above it was a sticky note put in place by Doris who was a waitress when I wasn’t in. I took it to table seven, where a family of three sat; Zoë the daughter went to my school. I walked down the row to a family of 4, a father, mother, son and daughter. I recognized the son and daughter, Missy and Luke.
I took their order, of drinks, and went back and got them. As easy as it sounds it could be easier, I’d been working in the restaurant since I was 14, but helping since I was 13. The year my mother had died and my father had decided the restaurant was his best bet of earning a profit.
I peeked into the back a minute after handing out their soda’s and getting their orders, I taped them so my father and Zach could see the order and looked back, Doris was cutting out Donuts and donut holes and Ben was grounding beef in the grinder, Zach was quickly chopping onions and my father was pouring gravy on mashed potatoes. He handed me the plate of meatloaf and I took it to table eleven and handed it to a senior citizen named Su-san. She thanked me and I smiled. I walked back to the front of the restaurant, I looked around, no one had come in, no new dishes were made yet and I had gotten to everyone. I stopped and went in the back, to catch up with Ben, he had missed school today.
“Hey Dude. What up with the absence?” I asked.
“Oh, umm your dad took me fishing.” He looked at my father. “We caught some big ones, man.” He added at the end. His blue eyes sparkled and his mop of hair bounced as he talked to me.
“Awesome.” I nodded, “Well you can copy my notes for science and English if ya want.” I offered, seeing as the restaurant closes at 7 on week days, I figured he could copy them and give them back tomorrow.
“Thanks Claire bear, what did you do in history?”
“Oh, we watched a movie and he assigned chapter 8 section 11 for Friday.” I told him.
“Sweet, four whole days to finish it.” He said, “What did you do in business manage-ment?”
“Went over our current events.” I nodded.
“’Kay.” He smiled and set the ground beef aside and picked up chicken breasts, he sliced them long ways then sideways and put them in another bowl. I walked down to Doris.
“Hi Doris.” I greeted her again.
“Hello Claire Would you like a donut hole?” she asked. I smiled, nodded and took a glazed donut hole.
“Thanks Doris.” I said swallowing it whole and moving down the hall toward my father and Zach.
“Hi Claire, how goes waitressing?”
“It is great; I get tips of 3 dollars sometimes.” I laughed.
“Awesome.” He told me.
“I know right.” I laughed, “So you caught some big fish today Dad?”
“An eleven pounder, Claire’s it was magnificent, you should have seen the sucker when Ben caught him, oh wait he’s in the freezer if ya want to see him.”
“I’m good.” I laughed as he handed me the plate.
After a night of waitressing I was tired, but not tired enough to take a shower. I had Ben wait in the dining room at 10:15 when I got him my notes then he went home. And when I got in the shower I promised myself to spend a little more time on my brown waves, when I was done I dropped some eye drops into my emerald green eyes. And I curled up in my bed with my purple comforter and fuzzy purple blanket.
I snored as loud as I could, purposely, well most of the time. If I didn’t snore I’d wake up to Anna Belle and Mady snoring a room away.
Anna Belle was a text book example of a blonde; she’s a cheer leader and an idiot. She normally got up at least 2 hours before me just to shower again and straighten her locks, only once a week did she curl it (Or leave it alone, it was already curly.) , and she only wore it up once too, and her eyes were blue. Her wardrobe consisted of one word: Pink. Every-thing she ever wore was a shade of pink, okay that was an exaggeration.
Unlike Anna Belle, Mady was a redhead, with curls. She was Anna Belle’s best friend, and between the two of them they could manage a D average. She was always texting someone. And her wardrobe wasn’t pink; it was blue, very pale blue and very dark blue, which in turn went with her blue eyes.
Like always I woke up at 6, giving myself exactly an hour to eat, make my bed and stop in at the restaurant before going to school.
Today wasn’t an exception.
“Claire?” I heard my father say through the door.
“What is it dad?” I asked.
“I’m going to the restaurant and then to work, I just wanted to let you know that the money for your field trip is on the table.”
“Thanks dad.” The field trip was in 3 months and we were going to the beach for an overnight stay.
“Love you: see ya at 3:30.” He said through the door, I heard him knock on Anna Belle and Mady’s door next and say the same thing.
I stood and cracked my back muscles. I got dressed with the TV playing the news.
“So John it looks like the snow is coming tonight and into tomorrow morning, there is a chance of snow tonight but it isn’t as bad. The total accumulation estimation is 1 foot.” Just as he said it my head jumped up to listen, my tight jeans stopped at my knees. I sat at the edge of the bed just staring at the man on the TV.
It went to a commercial and I pulled up my jeans, then I chose a black long sleeved thermal t-shirt and a skin tight black jacket, and I pulled my shoe laces so tight I could feel the feeling in my toes slowly leaking away as I tied them twice. I turned the TV off then, grabbed my bag and left the room. In the hall way I literally bumped into Mady. I noticed her gold necklace that read, Madeline.
She just kept walking.
I dropped my bag on the ground next to the counter and picked up the remote near the fridge and turned on the TV, back to the news channel so that I could listen to the report as I ate my Lucky Charms.
“Umm, Claire, I was wondering…” Mady said slowly.
“I’m not doing your chemistry homework.” I told her without turning.
“Fine, you’re so loosing points on your popularity.” She said.
“Oooo, scary.” I laughed.
“What’s scary?” Anna Belle asked coming in the room.
“I won’t do Mady’s homework so she said I’m losing popularity points.” I explained as gently as I could.
“Oh, Mad’s, that isn’t nice, and Ceria already did our chemistry homework.” She said patting my back, “Claire, you don’t lose any points.”
“They aren’t real!!” I shouted.
“But they are important in popularity.”
“I don’t need to be popular.”
“But you are.” She sighed.
“Do you realize how many rumors have circulated about Ben and you?” Mady asked
“No clue and I don’t care.”
“Of course not.” Anna Belle said leaving the house.
Mady followed after in high heeled boots. I finished my cereal, looked at my watch and it said 6:15. I turned the TV off and left the house. I got in my jeep quietly, trying not to sub-consciously start singing the Halestorm replaying in my head. I put my bags on the ground in the passenger seat. I turned on the radio, crossing my fingers hoping it was playing. I backed out of the driveway, quickly and heard the song I was waiting for.
I sang along for the rest of the song as I pulled up beside Ben on the high way near the restaurant. I waved as he waved and I turned as he turned. I parked in my spot, I had a post too. He parked in his spot, next to mine. I left my bag in the jeep as I went in. I got out and waved.
“Hey Bestie!” I greeted him.
“Hey Claire Bear.” He waved again as we got closer his arms wound around me, and hugged me. “What’s up?” he asked letting go and stepping away, but keeping his long arm draped over my shoulder.
“Not much, oh did you hear about the weather?” I asked, “It’s supposed to snow a foot tomorrow and tomorrow morning.” I said getting the door for the both of us.
“Hey Dad, need help?” I asked loudly calling in the back. Zach only worked after school and Doris was working on her bakery items.
“Nope, I’ll be okay.” He called back, “Just get the guys their coffees.” I knew every se-nior’s personal favorite flavoring and seasoning.
“Hey Walt.” I greeted him as I poured the coffee into the cup.
“Hello Catherine.” He called me by my middle name, Ben and I exchanged a shrug as he sat down in front of me.
“Do you want some coffee?” I asked.
“Sure.” He shrugged again as I poured the vanilla cream into the cup and the two pack-ets of sugar, I handed it to him and watched his grin widen.
I handed Jack his cup and started Stephan’s. “Aren’t you going to be late?” Russell asked. I looked at my watch and it said 6:49.
“Oh, crap.” I said aloud. “Gotta go, can you finish your cups?” I asked but didn’t stick around long enough to see if they had nodded or verbally said yes.
I drove quickly to the school, behind Ben and ahead of a silver truck. I parked in spot 132, mainly because it was one of the only spots left.
I grabbed my bag and sped walk to the main building. I got there at the same time as Ben, both of us speed walking to homeroom, which we had together. I made it in the room before him, but I was one of the last people in. I put my bags on the table in front of me and slid my chair sideways to talk to my best friends.
Emily was the geek; everything she did was either an A or a B. She wore glasses and her hair was frizzy and in tight black curls that fell against the tan skin of hers.
Kate was the athlete, everything revolved around her sports teams, Soft ball, basketball and Volley ball, and her hair was the perfect length for her, it fell just above her shoulders in red waves, and her green eyes were never expressionless.
Elizabeth was the girly girl, like my sisters, she had blonde waves and brown eyes.
“Hey.” I smiled, “Sorry I’m late.”
“No biggie.” Elizabeth smiled, “How’s the restaurant?” She asked, still smiling.
“Great.” I nodded, and said at the same time.
“Really? And how’s it going with Ben?” She asked, “Anna Belle said—.“
“Don’t listen to Anna Belle.” I stopped her mid sentence.
“I don’t normally,” She said defensively, “It’s just the whole Ben and Claire bit is a bit believable.” She laughed gently.
“No its not.” I said scrunching my face and shaking my head.
“Umm, yeah it is, Claire.” She laughed
“Is it really?” I asked Kate and Emily.
“Kind of.” Kate shrugged.
“You guys are so cute together.” She told me, “Don’t worry about his height, you’ll grow by the end of senior year.” She promised.
“I don’t like him, I swear.” I said holding up my hands.
“We believe you.” Emily told me, “But Anna Belle had a very convincing story.”
“Let me guess, she saw us groping in a graveyard?” I asked, “A movie theatre? His Car?”
“She said that you snuck out of school yesterday just to go see him at his house, and since his mom works at the restaurant with your dad during the day you two were at the house alone and you guys hooked up.”
“I thought you said it was believable.”
“It is.” She blinked.
“I was in school all day, I saw you in 5th period,” I said to Kate, “I saw you all during lunch, I saw you in 6th,” I said to Emily, “And I saw you 7th and 8th.”
“But she said you came in late, as in you were there at 7 or 8.”
“We all have homeroom together now, I have 1st and 2nd period without you guys but I was with Olivia.” I said.
“Likely story.” Emily sighed then laughed.
“It’s not funny, I’m serious, and I don’t like him.” I said.
“We believe you.” They all promised as the bell rang.
I grabbed my purse and books and made my way out the tiny door in the front of the room, and turned down the long hallway, Kate on my left and Elizabeth and Emily on my right.
“See ya in business.” I called walking into the English room.
Mrs. Bonneville was the best English teacher in the school, teaching English was bonus; it was my strong point other than science and History. I walked in and saw her sitting in front of her computer.
“Hi Mrs. B.”
“Hi Air.” All the teachers had gotten into a habit of just removing the ‘C’, ‘L’, and ‘E’ and keep the ‘A’, ‘I’, and ‘R’. Which I was fine with I just needed to get into a habit of remember-ing Air was my nick name, and I wasn’t at that point yet.
I sat in my spot, quietly taking out my pen and notebook, Mrs. B was strict about few things but if class was in session than we were taking notes. She kept ordered isle seats, but we were allowed to sit somewhere else. I sat in the back corner by myself in an empty isle and row. Elizabeth and Emily were in Gym and Kate was in business management.
“Okay, you know the drill, Amber?”
“Here” I said quietly doodling on my page.
She went through the list quickly, sometimes not even bothering to say the person’s name, just looking up and marking them, at the end of attendance she picked up her school phone, “Okay, I’m done with attendance, send her up.” She said into the receiver.
“Okay, we have a new student.” She said and almost everyone looked around the room.
“Is he invisible?” A kid named Matt asked, making the whole class giggle,
I rolled my eyes.
“Nope, and she is a girl.” She smiled in the front of the room.
“What’s her name?” A kid named Reggie asked.
“Her name is Bridget Ember.” She told us, just as the big door of the English room opened a medium sized girl walked through. She had the palest white skin, it looked crea-my, and she had the most perfect blush about her rosy cheeks that no make-up could’ve ever artificially made. Her hair was long, it was down and it reached lower than I’d ever seen hair reach, and it was pale brown, almost red, if it had a few more golden strands it could’ve been mistaken for strawberry blonde like Mady’s hair. It was parted to the side and had a wide sky blue head band. Her eyes were blue and bright, they caught your attention and kept it, easily, I could feel that I wasn’t the only one staring and she didn’t seem to care.
Under her eyes there was a purplish shade under both of them, and to my surprise they weren’t make-up covered, as if she either didn’t care or she was proud of the bruise like shades. Her outfit accentuated her height and made her longer, she wore a long pair of black-not skinny-jeans, they didn’t look tight, but they weren’t baggy either. Her shirt was long sleeved and a white thermal, it was covered by a gray checker patterned vest. And she wore boots; unlike Anna Belle’s that were high heeled, Bridget’s looked like a pair of hiking boots.
Note to self, introduce her to Ben. I thought.
“Come on in, Bridget, you’re welcome here, take a seat.” Mrs. B suggested. I felt eyes on me and I turned back to face the board as I hear the chair of the table next to me pull out.
“Hi, I’m Bridget.” She introduced herself.
“Claire Voorhees.” I held out my hand, trying to be friendly, she took it and her eyes went blank. “Are you okay?” I asked.
“Oh, I’m fine.” Her smile was friendly, and accepting.
“Well, welcome to West Union.” I smiled and turned toward the board again.
“Thank you.” She said as Mrs. B started her lesson. 35 minutes later we were finished with the notes and waited for the bell to 2nd period to ring. I turned in my seat to face her completely.
“So, you new, where’re you from?” I asked.
“New Jersey.” She smiled, “I’m so glad to get away from there for a couple more years.”
Her eyes darted away from mine, as if trying to come up with a story, “New Jersey was my hometown, we came from Florida.”
“Oh.” I nodded, not believing her story for one moment. “So what are you doing here?” I asked.
“My mom is a doctor, she got reassigned.” She told me.
“Let me see your schedule.” I said. She opened her binder and slid the first piece of pa-per into my waiting hand.
“History, Science, Math, we have together, oh and well lunch.” I smiled. “We have histo-ry next; I’ll show you the other classes on the way, ‘Kay?” I asked.
“Sure.” She nodded, willingly as the bell rang. I got up and walked out the side door, she was behind me, and walking a pace slower, repeating something in her head aloud, quietly. She obviously wasn’t shy, but she was acting it more or less. I stepped to the side and pointed.
“That is Mr. Long’s room, he teaches Math.” I continued down the hall, “That’s Mr. Keeve’s room, he teaches science.” I said pointing to the next room, “And that is the gym, and there are the locker rooms.” I said. “And here is the history room, Mr. Weise.” I said turning into the history room that wasn’t very large, and the chairs were connected to the table, which didn’t give anyone much room to get comfortable.
As she got her paper signed I got to my seat, I watched as she moved the last desk closer to mine. “Do you mind?” She asked.
I shook my head, “Nope, No worries.”
“My mother used to say that.” She smiled.
“My birth mother died and my uncle adopted me, with his wife.”
“Oh, I’m sorry; my mother died 3 years ago.” I nodded, “I’m right there with you.” I smiled, and she looked at the board and shook her head as if to say, As if.
“My father died too, in the…War.” She smiled.
“Oh, in Iraq?” I asked.
She hesitated and then nodded.
“My dad’s still alive.” I told her, “He owns the restaurant down the street; I work there at night, and my neighbor and his mom, Ben and his mom, Doris.” I told her.
“That’s great, maybe I’ll stop on the ride home,” She said gently trying not to hurt my feelings.
“You might have a couple of classes with my immature and slow on the uptake Sisters, Anna Belle and Madeline.” I said again.
“I have three brothers and a sister, well adopted siblings.” She told me, “Genesis and Aaron are married, but Nathan, Max and I are still single.”
“Is Max smart?” I asked.
“He is,” She said kindly.
“Maybe he should date Anna Belle.” I smiled, “And you and Ben.”
“Oh, umm, Claire, we don’t date.” She said unobtrusively again.
“I’m just not into dating at the moment,” She told me, shrugging.
“Whatever floats your boat?” I chuckled and turned back to the board where Mr. Weise had written notes. I quietly wrote the notes into my notebook in blue pen. He went over the notes aloud and mostly to the first couple of girls in the front row who were nodding and agreeing with his opinion. Megan and Morgan sometimes called ‘Goo Goo’ twins because they made too many of the guys in the school drool on their desks because of their looks, they both had wavy blonde hair and the biggest helmets in the world, and they weren’t even comparable to Anna Belle and Mady.
By the end of the period I was leaning on my hand, just hoping for the bell to ring seconds early. I looked over at Bridget and she was sitting up, paying attention, diligently.
I shook my head and told myself she was probably just gone to sleep early, or maybe she just enjoyed History.
The bell rang in another couple of seconds, dismissing us from second period. I had Business next, With Kate, Elizabeth and Emily. I showed Bridget to the Spanish room and kept walking down the hall toward the Business management room, Mr. Stanley was a great business teacher, and he was still only a couple of years older than us, Only 23 and teaching at the high school he’d graduated from.
I took my seat, next to a guy named Falcon, his parents were out there, and named their children after birds, he had two sisters named Cardinal and Raven.
Ivan sat on my other side and Kate sat in front of me, Elizabeth in front of her and Emily behind me. I sat down, the first in the room and got my binder full to the edges of notes.
“Hi Claire.” Mr. Stanley said.
“Hi Lu—I mean Mr. Stanley.” I said, I wasn’t allowed to call him Luke to his face.
“Hi, Kate.” I said as she walked into the room.
“Hey, Claire, so guess what happened?”
“Hold on, I’ll tell you when Elizabeth and Emily get here.”
“’Kay,” I agreed, when Elizabeth and Emily walked through the tight entrance, giggling and laughing.
“Guess what happened?” She said again, with the two of them.
“What?”We said together at the same time.
“I’m dating Evan!! He asked me out last period!!” She said, so excited, I was the first to hug her, but I felt Elizabeth and Emily latch on too.
“Dude, that’s great, Congratulations.” I smiled at her.
“Thanks guys, you know how much I like him.” She smiled, “He just looked up at me to-day, and started talking to me during gym, He asked me out, and I am officially not availa-ble.” She smiled.
Evan Wyatt was a guy who came to our school a year ago from his reservation, the state shut down the reservation’s school and made the students go to the regular schools, Evan didn’t really care. His older sister and brother came here too. Anita, who was graduating this year already, started taking her motive as her elective, which was only an option for seniors and her twin brother Chase did the same.
“Now we need to get you guy’s boyfriends.” She laughed then winked, “I have a few ideas.” She was always saying how good Elizabeth and Todd got along.
My smile dropped immediately, I really hopped she wouldn’t try and match me up with someone like Ben or William or Ian. If my plan would happen, Ben and Bridget would be dating by tomorrow afternoon.
I took my seat quietly, and went back to writing the notes Mr. Stanley had written on the whiteboard on front of us, trying to imagine my life with a guy Kate or Emily would set me up with, and by the end of the minute I was frowning, I wasn’t sure whether it was because in my mind the date went horrible or because it went fine and I was unhappy about that, I had totally blanked out. And when my mind came to I was still sitting in the business room, Mr. Stanley lecturing about functional businesses and Matrix businesses. I leaned on my hand, and I saw him notice.
As if to say Go ahead he nodded and went back to describing the matrix design, and for the rest of the period I watched him outline the branches unaware of the girls in the first row passing notes behind his back. And every time he looked back to see if we were behav-ing they acted like they were copying the notes.
I rolled my eyes simply, waiting for the bell to ring. When it finally did I walked down the hall to Mr. Keeve’s room alone. When I got there Bridget was standing at his desk, as he signed her paper. I smiled, waved and went to my seat. Once he signed it she walked over to me, and sat at the desk next to mine, he had given her a science book, and she had it clung to her chest. I smiled and just like every class before Mr. Keeve had notes written on the board, this time projected from his laptop, and we had to copy them into a notebook while he lectured about them, as typical as it sounded I could pay attention. Science was my best subject; I graduated from 6th grade earth science with a 100, for all four marking pe-riods.
He started his lecture then, “Valence Electrons are found in the outermost energy level, and they determine the atoms chemical properties,” He smiled in my direction and nodded as he saw I was the only one taking notes as he spoke, everyone else was yawning or doing the homework.
“Electrons are not found between levels, but jump from one level to the next.” He told us as I wrote his exact words into my notebook.
“An atom that has the same number of protons but a different number of neutrons rela-tive to other atoms of the same element is called an isotope.” He said again, changing the screens on the laptop. By the end of the period I was the only one still paying attention; even Bridget was staring out the window, at the different busses and cars passed by.
When the bell rang for 5th period I got out of the chair, Bridget was alerted and followed behind me, “Which way was the math room again?” she asked.
“Just follow me; I’ll introduce you to my best friend Kate.” I told her, as her smile turned into a frown. She was obviously jealous and I instantly felt bad. “I’m sorry Bridget; I’ve known her since 1st grade.”
“No, No worries, I’ll be fine.”
“You can sit with us, and at lunch.” I told her, as I walked to the math room. Kate and Evan were already there and holding hands.
“Hi Kate.” I greeted her.
“Oh, hi Claire.” She said with disgust.
“What the hell is your problem?” I asked her to her face.
“I don’t want to be friends anymore.”
“Why the hell not?” I asked.
“Because you are such a nerd I don’t want anything to do with you.” She said pushing my shoulders back.
“Oh…” I said taking deep breaths, as she pushed me back again, and I pounced. Sudden-ly Mr. Long was in the room, holding Kate’s arms back, while not only a guy named Kenny, a guy named Paul and a guy named Zach were holding me back, and not doing a good job of it, I kept sliding out of their arms and swinging at her. But in a few seconds Bridget had a hold of my wrists, and she was staring into my eyes.
“Stop.” She said simply. I involuntarily let my hands down and wiped the hair from my face and picked up my bag, I walked out of the room then, ignoring the shouts coming from Mr. Long’s mouth. I looked back and Bridget was walking behind me.
“I can’t believe her.” I said.
“I know, some best friend.”
“Not anymore, and Elizabeth and Emily will probably will side with her, like the morons they are.”
“That isn’t nice.” She said simply. I continued walking to the office.
“Hi Claire.” The secretary said.
“Hi, I’m leaving now.” I told her.
“Why?” She asked.
“I literally just got in a fist fight with my best friend,” I said, “I’m suspended, that’s it. I’m going to the restaurant to explain this to my father and get ready to have a very long phone conversation with my two other best friends.” I told her.
“And I’m going with her, just to make sure she’s alright.” Bridget said simply, turning to leave. I nodded and walked out the office door and went out the door and walked slowly to my jeep.
“You want to come to the restaurant?” I asked, “I’ll buy you lunch.” I promised.
“Sure, why not?” she laughed, “Can you give me a ride, Normally Nathan is driving, I don’t want to take the car and leave him without a ride home.” She giggled at the end, look-ing up.
“Sure.” I nodded opening my door than reaching over to unlock her door; she opened the door and put her bag on the ground. “I just needed to get out of there.”
“I understand, but will your father?” She asked.
“Probably not, but I’m not going to worry about it.” I told her. “I just want to wait my tables and go home.” I said again.
“I’ll stay home tomorrow too,” she smiled.
“But, it’s your second day, and you didn’t even finish your first day.”
“So, I’ll just have my mom call them, she has a way with people.” She winked at me.
“If you say so.” I nodded turning onto the road to the restaurant, I still had three inter-sections to go straight at but I wasn’t thinking about that.
“Are you sure you’re alright?” she asked, “You were hitting pretty hard back there.”
I didn’t say anything, ignoring her question.
“How’d it start?” She asked.
“She pushed me, so I pushed her back, and she pushed me back and I pounced.” I told her.
“Oh, because I wasn’t paying attention when you hit her. I walked back in after you guys were being held back.
“I don’t know what came over me.”
“I see it all the time, another side of you comes out, like you have Bi-polar or something, there’s a normal you and a you that comes out not too often.” She explained.
“You see it often?”
“My father, who died,” She said, as if I forgot, “Used to hunt…..a lot, and he, um, his hunter side came out and he’d go after way more innocent animals than necessary.” She told me as I pulled into the parking lot.
“We’re here.” I told her, getting out. I walked fast to the front door. “Did you guys finish making your drinks?” I asked as soon as the door was open wide enough so that someone could hear me. I heard about three yeahs and a few yes’s, and as I walked behind the coun-ter I slipped my jacket off and my apron on. “Sit down, Bridget they don’t bite.” I told her, and she burst out laughing, like my joke wasn’t 50 years old and she had just heard it now.
“Okay.” She said, calming down and sitting down.
“Can I get you a drink?” I asked.
“I’m okay.” She nodded.
“Are ya sure? Are you hungry?”
“Yeah and no, I’m okay. Seriously.” She told me.
“Okay, just making sure,” I said, looking down the row, there weren’t too many people that were normally here during the days that school was out and I worked, but today it was the same.
I walked into the back of the restaurant then, my father was stirring a pan of lasagna noodles as they boiled. Doris was in her side rolling out a square of dough, and cutting out perfect circles and putting them on a cookie sheet. Zach was stirring a bowl of lettuce leafs and putting perfect portion sizes on the plates lined out in front of him, then poured our signature dressing.
“Dad?” I asked.
“Claire, your school already called here, and I just want you to know, I’m very proud that you can defend yourself, and they wanted me to say that I was angry and punish you some-how, but I can’t Claire, baby girl, your finally coming out of your shell and I like the person who you are, you don’t let anyone hurt you, mentally or physically.”
“Gee, thanks Dad.”
“I agree, Claire, you used to let so many people cut in front of you at the play ground,” Doris said to me, “It’s great for you to stick up for yourself once in a while, it helps people know that you mean business and you won’t take their crap.” She nodded and put the cookie sheet into the double oven above the microwave.
“Thanks guys, how long am I suspended for?” I asked.
“For the rest of the day and tomorrow.” He nodded.
“Want to help out?” He asked.
“Duh.” I laughed and went back out to the front of the diner. “Well what do you want to talk about?” I asked, “All of you guys are okay right?” I asked loudly to everyone in the di-ner. Once again I heard a bunch of yeahs and a lot of yes’s. “Okay.”
“Well, are there any open jobs available?” She asked.
“You can work here.” I suggested, “As a waitress like me.” I laughed, “It couldn’t hurt.”
“Sure, just give me a schedule and introduce me to my boss.” She said seeming interest-ed.
“Come on,” I said getting up and walking with her to the back of the restaurant. “Dad?”
“What Claire?” He asked without looking up from his lasagna pan.
“This is my friend Bridget and she said she wants a job, I said we could use another wai-tress.” I told him.
“Sure honey, waitressing is your department, I’ll just pay her.” He laughed then smiled, “I’d shake your hand, but umm,” his hands were covered with spaghetti sauce, “I’d rather not.”
“That’s okay sir, do I get the job?” She asked.
“Sure, pudding.” He nodded, and Bridget and I shared an expression.
“Okay, well do you want me to start today?” She offered.
“Sure, Claire get her an apron, and a pad.”
“Already ahead of you,” I said reaching for an apron and the pads by the swinging door. I handed them to her before nodding at my father and going back to the front of the restau-rant.
“Good, Claire.” He shouted down the hall.
“Thanks Claire, I’m glad I have something to do other than sit at home with my family.”
“Oh, wow, you’re so kind.”
“Well, Nathan and Max, normally hang out in front of the TV, and goof around.” She laughed.
“Sounds fun.” I smiled, “School will be over in an hour.”
“Yeah,” She said taking out her phone, she looked like she was texting, but I could never be sure with her. “Texting Nathan to let him know where I am, and where he can pick me up at 10.”
“We close as 8 on week days; we aren’t a fine dining restaurant.” I laughed.
“Okay, well that makes me seem dumb,” She said opening her phone again.
“Not even remotely.” I laughed, and watched as some of the regulars filed into the di-ner, Bridget looked back at me, and then we started taking orders.
It was 3 when the bulk of the regulars were in place, sitting in booths or at the counter, either eating their dinners or drinking their drinks. Bridget was doing a great job waiting tables, and getting drinks for the thirsty customers, I thought she was going to give me a break from the personal hell that my father had volunteered me for years before, but here I was, working just the same amount of work.
My father was doing his normal walk around while Zach was in the back doing his job. Doris was doing what she could to help, but as normal she was over doing her job of baking her cookies and breads and what not.
“Hey guys.” Ben shouted as he walked through the door, high fiving all of the old men and women near him. I giggled as Bridget started to fix her hair.
“Hey dude,” I said leaning over the counter waiting for my high five, “This is Bridget.” I said.
“H-H-Hi, I-I’m Ben.” He said stuttering as he met her eyes.
“Hi, I’m Bridget.” She said extending her hand, he took it and smiled, lovingly.
“Bridget is going to be another waitress here.” I told him.
“I’m a waitress.” She told him, not letting go of his hand, his fingers wound through hers, then pulled away suddenly.
“’S okay.” She nodded, still smiling gently.
“Hey, where is Domenic?” I wondered absentmindedly; during the week when he wasn’t at football practice Domenic, Ben’s little brother helped out with dishes for his mother and my father.
“He’s studying at your house, he wants to date Mady.” Ben said taking his coat off and sitting down at the counter, next to Bridget I might add, I watched as silently his hand and her hand met under the table. I tried not to notice by grabbing a cup and getting Ben his favorite combination drink, he liked for his cup to be filled to the center with raspberry iced tea, then another quarter of it be filled with lemonade then fill it to the tip with water.
“Seriously?” I asked dumbfound that the football captain didn’t already have a girlfriend.
“Yup.” He nodded.
“Wow.” I shook my head. “So did ya hear? I got suspended.”
“Yup, I heard, and wow was I shocked, Claire Bear, I’ve seen you lash before, but never anything as major as what happened. You gained points ya know, especially with me.” He laughed and looked down to look at Bridget’s face, unsure if he’d lost points for liking my fighting.
“Well…” I couldn’t think of anything to say to make this situation any awkward.
“Hey, did you meet my mom?” Ben asked Bridget.
“No.” she shook her head and got off the stool, to follow Ben to the back of the restau-rant so she could meet his mother.
“Ma’am can I have a bottle of barbeque sauce?” a women asked to my side.
“Sure.” I nodded, and in the same instance I heard the door open, and the irritating bell ring. I reached up onto the top of the shelf to get the bottle, but I ended up standing on my tippy toes and still not being able to reach it, when an extremely pale arm reached farther than mine to grab it from the tips of my fingers and when I turned around to thank the per-son I was blinded by his beauty.
Standing in front of me was an angel or at least a look alike. He had black hair that fell in curled, shiny locks down the sides of his face. It was parted down the center and I could perfectly see his pale blue eyes, and they were staring into mine. His face was like a piece of art work, perfectly proportioned and like a model. His lips were open, in the shape of an ‘o’ as if he was about to say Wow.
I smiled, “Thank you.”
“No problem.” He said handing the bottle to the lady behind him, and looking back at me.
“Thank you.” The lady said to him, he nodded, and kept his eyes locked on mine.
I giggled quietly, mostly to myself. I walked back to the other end of the counter, leaving him at the end, still staring. I brushed a piece of my hair away from my face, hoping that the unknown man would stop staring at me soon.
“It was nice to meet her.” Bridget said to Ben, coming back into the front of the restau-rant and looking at the man, who was still on the other side of the restaurant. I could feel his eyes on mine, and I was getting more and more self conscious by the second.
“Nathan?” She asked.
I peeked and he wasn’t looking at me anymore, he was looking at the ground, “Are you ready to go?” He asked not looking at her.
“Yeah.” She nodded, stepping away from Ben, I heard her say quietly, “Call me.”
“Okay.” Ben said before nodding and letting her hand go.
They left out the front door; she walked quicker than him, to get to the car Nathan had driven here in.
“Wow, Claire Bear, Great job picking friends.” He nodded, “She is gorgeous,” I swear I could hear his heart pounding, he was in love, and love at first sight came to mind.
“Who was he?” I asked still staring out of the clear door in front of me.
“Her brother Nathan, He and I have Business together.”
“Cool?” I said mainly because I wasn’t myself I heard him talking but my mind wasn’t comprehending.
“Whoa, Claire Bear, I think I’m in love.” He smiled, and sat at the counter, and grabbed his book bag, and started doing his history homework, a little less quiet than hoped, he was mumbling sappy love lyrics to himself while writing his essay on his lap top.
“Yeah.” I said pulling my eyes away from the window, “Why did he seem so angry?” I asked him.
“How am I supposed to know? I’m not a mind reader.”
“Ha-ha, ya know, I’m suspended from school tomorrow,” I told him leaning on the coun-ter, letting it hold me up.”
“Well, Claire Bear, you gave your best friend a nose bleed and a black eye.”
“Really?” I thought, “Everyone will probably hate me on Friday.”
“Actually, almost everyone all day thought that she deserved it for how she used to treat all of you, she was the one who told Anna Belle about us, she was the one who told everyone about Elizabeth getting her period during the DC trip. She was the one doing eve-rything.”
“How did you know?” I asked, “Did she tell you?”
“Evan is on the track team.” He said as if that explained everything.
“They only started going out today….right?”
“Yeah, publically. They’ve been hooking up since freshman year in silence.”
“Of course, all those nights that she couldn’t study she was sleeping with him?”
“Yup, some best friend.” He laughed.
“Do Elizabeth and Emily know?”
“I think so, Rachel and Penelope took them under their wings, and they even sat togeth-er during lunch.” He said matter of factly.
“Yup, Evan and Kate sat with there now even smaller group.” He told me, still typing his essay.
At 7:15 I was driving myself home, my father was still at the restaurant, finishing up something that needed to sit over night, Doris was with him and Ben was in my car driving along side of me.
Once I reached my house, I turned the car off and sat in the car quietly for a few seconds. I was trying to come up with a reason for Nathan to be angry, had I offended him, had I been mean and imagined looking up to him like he was an angel, had I really been of-fensive?
At the end of a minute I went to get out of my car. I got out and walked into the house, Anna Belle wasn’t in the living room, like Mady and Domenic were. I tried not to look as they groped each other on the couch. I grabbed a water bottle from the fridge before going into my room.
Once the door was unlocked I went in, and changed into my pajamas, and lounged on the bed for a few seconds before laying back and turning the TV off, and going to sleep.
I woke up the next morning to the sound of a hair dryer, across the hall where Anna Belle had to straighten her waves by blow drying them manually. She was too full of herself to go in to school with waves like mine. I rolled around a couple of times, trying to escape the sound, but losing horribly because I was too crazy to ignore anything that loud.
“Why?” I said aloud, trying harder to ignore it and get an hour more of sleep, but I ended up getting up, I switched the TV on, the News channel greeted me with a blinding light. “Seriously? Is this pay back for beating my best friend up?” I asked an inanimate object that was invisible. I got up and walked through the dimly lit room for a second before reaching the light.
I got dressed in jeans and a long sleeved t-shirt for the winter days that caught you off guard, and especially since the weather man told us that the snow was supposed to come last night.
I tied my shoes the same way daily, as tight as I could, and double if not triple knotted. I sat at the edge of the bed starring into the TV, mesmerized by the screen.
“Wow, John were you right about the snow.” The news man said. “We had an accumu-lated 5 inches.”
I stood and grabbed my phone and MP3, before walking down the hall to the kitchen, grabbing a water bottle and my keys.
“Hey Dad.” I greeted him, he was tying his shoes the same way that I did.
“Ready to go, Claire?” he asked, his baseball hat already on and his mustache already combed.
“Sure.” I nodded. “Thanks for not killing me about the whole Suspended thing.”
“No Problem.” He smiled standing up and grabbing his coat from the back of the chair and leading the way to the door, “Do you want a ride or do you want to drive?” He asked.
“No, dad, you can drive.” I smiled. Driving had become a third nature for me, since I had learned how to drive when I was thirteen, Doris taught me and Ben how one hot day after swim club when they had to drive the big truck around the diner to the back.
“Great.” He smiled, opening his door and unlocking mine. I got in quickly, hoping to get there just as Ben got there, to see what happened, had he called Bridget yet? He drove down the hill slowly for once, “So, who is this Bridget girl?” He asked, “She seems differ-ent.”
“You’re telling me.” I laughed. “I just met her yesterday.”
“What is wrong with her?” He ignored me.
“There’s nothing wrong with her, I think.” I wasn’t actually sure, but whether or not there was it wasn’t Herman’s business in any manner.
“Well, do me a favor and ask, I don’t want a freak working for me.” He said peaking to the side at me, I thought he was joking. He wasn’t and I was furious.
“Do you realize my mother died when I was 14, and her two daughters from a previous marriage, who we didn’t even know existed came to live with me? My life leaks freaky.” I said to him, trying not to raise my voice, Bridget couldn’t be hardly as bad as I could’ve turned out.
“Yes, Claire you’re different too. But you fit in perfectly, she is just different.” He explained, turning on to Wreck Street, we were approaching the restaurant quickly.
“I don’t know if that is a compliment or an insult.” I said simply, turning around to face out the window of the car, and ignoring him as hard as I could. “I’m sorry dad, you know how I get.” I said in an apology setting.
“No Problem, Claire, I get the same way, as you already know.” He said pulling into the diner’s parking lot, parking next to a green Toyota and Ben’s dodge. I got out as soon as the engine cut, as it always did just as it was turned off. I walked quickly into the diner, forgetting to yell hello to the men and women who were regulars. They didn’t seem to notice.
“Ben?!” I burst through the door shouting with an eagerness that was close to tangibili-ty.
“What?” He asked, looking weirdly at me, as if I was crazy.
“Did you call her?” I asked, hopefully.
“Yes, actually.” He smiled as he spoke, and then as his cleaver came down his lips came up, into a bright smile that would have made anyone else smile, “I did.”
“And?” I said loudly, waiting for more details, “What happened? Anything?”
“We just spent about 4 hours talking on the phone about mindless details about our lives.” He looked over at his mother for a second; she was in the walk-in fridge rummaging around for the bowl of dough she had made last night, it was balanced on top of a carton of eggs, near a box of strawberries. “It was almost intoxicating. She’s like a ball of sunshine. Her spin on everything is just amazingly fascinating.
“And your mother?”
“Doesn’t know about her or anything about us.”
“So I can’t say anything about your girlfriend.” I gawked.
“A: She’s not my girlfriend, and B: Please don’t.” He smiled.
“No, dude I was joking,” I hit him playfully, “I’m counting on you, man. Benny Boy. You’ll still be my best friend after this.”
“Cool, Claire bear,” He smiled as his cleaver hit another piece of meat. “I’m staying here today, I told the school yesterday about it so I’m not in trouble, unlike you.” He said sticking his tongue out at me.
“You do realize Bridget works here now, she is coming to work today, not going to school, right?” I pieced it together for him.
“Yes, I would love to see her, so if she gets here and I don’t see her then you could very kindly let me know she is her, or point her in my direction?” He was fabricating.
“Of course,” I said, “Now can I have my morning hug?” I laughed, “Benny Boy.” I teased.
“Sure, Claire bear.” He said walking around the counter to hug me, as soon as he was in arm length I was winding my arm around him, his warm arms held me together.
“I love you Claire Bear.” He told me.
“I love you too Benny Boy.” I said letting go of him, and walking back down the hall way to go greet the regulars.
At 7, I was taking breakfast orders, from the elderly families who wanted to eat out all the time. Karen and Ron were one of them, Karen’s normal breakfast consisted of a cheesy omelet with bacon and sausage and Ron normally got a French toast pair with oatmeal.
“Okay guys, are you okay?” I said to them as I filled Ron’s cup to the rim.
“We’re great, Claire, Thank you.” Karen smiled.
“No worries.” I said patting Karen on the shoulder and going back behind the counter. I had gone through the process of filling and greeting the regulars who had taken over stools at the front counter.
“Claire?” I heard a quirky voice say behind me, I quickly turned to see the face who had said it, sitting in front of me, was Nathan.
“Hi,” I smiled, “How’d you know my name?” I asked looking into his face, his eyes we-ren’t pale blue at the moment, but his black hair was still falling down his face.
“Bridget told me.” He grinned slightly, like he knew a secret about me.
“Of course she did.” I nodded, sarcastically.
“My name is Nathan Ember, I didn’t introduce myself yesterday.” He said apologetically.
“No, you didn’t. I’m Claire Voorhees,”
“Nice to meet you.” He said still smiling.
“D-did you get contacts?” I asked politely.
“No, why?” I’d caught him off guard.
“Yesterday you had blue eyes, today,” His eyes were green, emerald. “They’re green.”
“That’s creepy.” He chuckled—quietly—looking away, distracted.
“There has got to be a reason, maybe your lying.” I smiled, realizing I was flirting with him.
“I lied, that’s it, and I wear contacts,” He smiled, “Sorry.”
“No worries.” I said wiping the table down.
“So, this Ben guy, he likes Bridget.”
“I know.” I said looking up and rolling my eyes.
“What do you suppose I do?”
“I don’t know, let them date.” I shrugged, “He’s harmless.”
“Should I?” He asked, “Should I?” He straightened his fork and knife.
“Why not?” I shrugged—again—while I looked away.
“He seems peculiar to me, something isn’t right with him, it’s like he knows something that nobody else knows.” He wasn’t describing the Ben that I knew.
“Maybe he does.” I said looking up at his angel face. His smile was spread out across his face and it was so engaging, I couldn’t help it when my lips curled at the ends turning into a grin. His wide green eyes that were definitely blue yesterday were open wide, taking in every detail of our menu, and when he realized I was staring at him they met my gaze.
Like a spark I could feel my legs step closer to the counter, to where he was sitting. I leaned into get closer to his face.
But within the few seconds of being so close his hands were in fists, and he was sitting so still it was as if he wasn’t even breathing. I stepped back, afraid he was going to attack me.
“Are you okay?” I asked.
He shook his head before catapulting himself out of his chair and out of the door. I stood still then, watching as he got into his car and started his way out to the high school.
“Huh?” I asked myself. Do I smell? I asked. Is something wrong? I asked. I walked back into the kitchen then, searching for answers.
“Ben?” I asked before grasping that he was with Bridget.
“What?” He asked, not looking at Bridget any longer.
“Do I smell?” I asked, “I know it is random, but I was having a conversation with Nathan and I leaned in to kiss him, and he almost ran out of the building.”
He stepped around Bridget and closer to me, His nose sweep down my hair, “You smell like apples, and your breath smells like mint. You smell fine.” He smiled at me before going back to Bridget.
“Hi,” I greeted her, her eyes were green too. Maybe they all wore the same prescription and color of contacts because I couldn’t tell the difference between Nathan’s eyes in my mind and the eyes I was looking into at the precise moment.
“Hi Claire. Nathan has always been fanatical about his life, don’t worry about him.” She nodded.
“Okay?” I asked unsure whether that was meant as a lecture or an instruction. “Will do.”
I walked back into the front of the building, trying to forget about it as much as I could, and take the orders as best I could without getting distracted. I was taking Rodger’s order when Bridget entered the front of the building. She saw that I was taking the peoples orders so she grabbed the coffee container and went down the row pouring coffee into the cups that needed it. Not before long did the entire building start to smell right, smelly construction workers and coffee mixed with home-style favorites. In other words: Home.
After the breakfast rush I had time to pour some water on top the window sill flowers as Bridget mopped the floors. I was still getting used to having help, and I was starting to enjoy having it. I wouldn’t have normally watered the flowers until lunch, after mopping the floors and sweeping the outside porch, like Bridget was doing now.
At lunch my father, Zach, Ben and Doris were still making food, while Bridget and I had our hands full with the lunch crowd. Although again most of them were elderly people or people who didn’t have lives. I was having fun sharing my job, and I was sure Bridget was doing the same, and Doris could focus on doing her job. I didn’t know why my father hadn’t hired a waitress in the first place.
I was just waiting for Seven o’clock so that I could see Nathan again. I couldn’t get his stunning face out of my head, with the perfect smirk, that was undecipherable, was he laughing at me or was he being serious. In my head his curls hung shorted than it really did, because I wanted to see his emerald green eyes that stuck out like turquoise in a pile of di-amonds, the way they would reflect off each other and brighten each other.
Bridget’s gaze was always either Ben or the job she was doing. She actually liked my Benny boy, and the guy I grew up with would have a girlfriend before I had a boyfriend.
“Do you like Ben?” I blurted out 20 minutes after one o’clock.
“Oh, uh, yes, Claire I do.” She tried to make it seem low key.
“Why don’t you go out then?” I asked, “It’s not like it is a secret. His mother can see it.
“I know, but I’ve been told by numerous people that asking the guy out is not the best situation to be in.” She shrugged shyly.
“Just ask him out. I’ll do it for you.” I said stomping into the back suddenly, my brain making up its choice abruptly.
She tried to block my way but I was quicker than she was, or I thought I was. She blocked me again. I was farther than I thought I would’ve gotten when she grabbed my wrists again, “Stop.” She said, and it was challenging to directly disobey. My hands flew down, against my will, I might add.
“Fine, but you need to, because you’re going to regret it.”
“I’ll do it soon.” She said cooperating.
“Okay.” I smiled, “I’ll buy you lunch.” I offered, compromising.
“No. . .I’m not hungry.”
“Oh, well I’ll be right back.” I said turning down the hall, “Dad, can I have my usual for lunch?” I asked.
“Sure.” He nodded toward Zach. I tip toed to Ben’s table.
“Guess what?” I giggled.
“What?” He said without looking up at me, “Claire Bear?” He was skinning some flound-er.
“She’s going to ask you out.” I told him and left, I grabbed a water bottle and went into the front again. I walked around the counter to sit at the stool and stare at her, she leaned on the counter behind her and sighed.
“Just do it.” I said, “You won’t feel good until you get an answer.” I told her.
She nodded and walked into the back, her shoulders hung high, and wide as if she was ready to talk—just not willing. I heard her punch the door open and walk up to him.
“Ben?” I heard her say. I was on the edge of my seat—literally—smiling.
“Oh—Bridget. Hi.” He was nervous it was clear.
“I know you like me, and I unquestionably—without any doubt like you—and I think—.”
“Bridget, of course I’ll be your boyfriend.” He said amiably, and pure heartedly.
“Oh, gosh.” She cheered as I saw her take the plate from Zach and walk to the front of the building. She handed me the plate and stared at me.
“Are you feeling better?” I asked.
“Spectacular.” She beamed.
I was serving a steak and potatoes meal when I heard the bell ring. I saw two figures standing close together, and before I realized who they were I was setting a place matt for them. The girls sat down at the counter as I walked behind it.
“Hi.” Emily greeted me.
“Hello.” I said simply.
“Hello, Claire.” Elizabeth said as if she had been holding that in for a while now.
“Hello.” I glared.
“Claire…We are so happy you punched Kate.” Elizabeth said.
“Yeah, Claire, thank you.”
“No problem,” I smiled, “I don’t intend to hit her again if that is what you are asking me to do.” I noted. It was a straight out lie, but if she started something again tomorrow I’d end up thumping her couple of times.
“No, Claire,” Elizabeth said as if she had taken that into consideration, “We just came to thank you for doing what you did.”
“You’re happy I hit Kate, and came to thank me?” I asked peeking to my side; Bridget was serving a tuna sandwich and looking over at me. “That just sounds wrong. What hap-pened to us?”
We found out that our friend wasn’t really our friend,” Emily said, “I love you Claire, and gosh I really loved Kate. She never really loved me, she just used me.” Emily was a relative of the nearby reservation, the same reservation that Evan was from.
“She said she didn’t know that Evan was my cousin.” Emily said, “But after a sit down with Evan he told me that she and he only started dating after she told him that she’d get my mom to take him and Chase to the reservation this summer. Since he lives with my grandparents.” She explained as if I hadn’t understood-But I had. “I’m living in a box; to keep to girl I am concealed.” Emily said, her eyes looking glassy, “But I’ve finally found the strength so I can leave that all behind.” She smiled, “Because yes my cousins are obvious heartthrobs.”
I nodded, those boys with the tan skin and the muscles and all the dark eyes, and the whole mysterious thing going on. Yup they were heartthrobs. Taylor Lautner didn’t even compare, not even remotely. It was as if the guys were blessed with good looks, and the girls were too, most were like Emily, Long black waves with the long thick lashes and dark eyes.
They might not have the whole mysterious thing like the guys but they were definitely up there because most of the girls at the high school with boyfriends were from the reser-vation.
“I get it,” I said, “And I’m coming back to school tomorrow, I’m allowed to.” I smiled and rolled my eyes, and tried to think of something to distract them, it came to me, “Oh, and this is Bridget,” I said motioning to Bridget who was staring at us from a safe distance away, she was walking closer as if she had seen it coming. She walked over with her hand held out and a huge smile spread across her face, one that was inviting and heartfelt as if she really wanted to be their friends too.
“Hey, I’m the new girl, Bridget Embers.” She said, laughing.
“Hi, Elizabeth Verona.” She said handing her hand and shaking, “Call me Liz, please.”
“Emily Greene.” She said smiling and doing the same, “Em?”
“Bridget and Ben are dating.” I said, smiling, because I knew Bridget wouldn’t have told them, and Ben definitely wouldn’t have told them, or maybe he would’ve. I wasn’t exactly sure.
“Congratulations. We always thought that our Claire Bear would have been the first to date Benny,” Elizabeth said, and Bridget watched as I cringed when they called me Claire Bear.
“How long have you been here?” Emily smiled.
“Two days.” Bridget shrugged.
“And you already have a boyfriend?”
“And a job. She’s a waitress.” I noted again, aware that Bridget wouldn’t have told them that.
“Awesome.” Elizabeth said high fiving her.
“Anything else you want to tell them, Claire?” Bridget wasn’t mad, but awkwardly out of place.
“Nope, I think they know the necessary stuff.”
“Here’s my number.” Elizabeth said grabbing a napkin and writing down her number and before giving it to Bridget Emily grabbed it and wrote her number above Elizabeth’s.
“And here’s mine.” I smiled, “I didn’t give it to you yesterday.”
“No problem and thank you.” Bridget said kindly folding the napkin and putting it into her pocket.
At six o’clock the restaurant was picking up its pace. Silently Bridget and I were sharing the position, and I was actually starting to get used to it. I was happy when nobody I knew showed up for Steak House Tuesday, some families came and most had kids in grades below me.
I was serving the regular meal to a couple that looked about ninety-nine, when the women patted my hand and handed me a twenty dollar bill.
“Sweetie, you look glum. Here is twenty to get the haircut and get the guy.” I smiled modestly, and thanked her before smiling and walking away with the twenty dollar bill, I walked by Bridget who was filling up Lou’s cup and smiled before leaning on the counter.
“That old lady gave me a twenty.” I smiled.
“Cool, are we supposed to keep our tips?” She asked.
“I do.” I smiled, “I don’t think my father cares.”
“Okay.” She shrugged and moved onto Mel’s cup.
I picked up the plate that Zach put in the window and took it to table 3, where Lisa Thompson and her son Randy were sitting; Randy was mentally handicap and was rarely away from his mother’s side. His father was a hard worker as a therapist, and so he never came to Steak house Tuesday or Southern Friday or Mexican Monday. Rumor had it he was sleeping with both of his assistants. I couldn’t care less, but to think of a man so selfish to put his “needs” before his son’s who was already considered helpless made me upset
“Here Linda.” I said putting the plate down.
“Thanks Claire.” She smiled and turned back to a dirty Randy. I walked back to the coun-ter, faster than before because Bridget was done with her coffee manning and had gone to the back to chat it up with Ben. I grabbed the two dishes in the window that my father had put there and took them to the right tables.
When I was finished with the Waver’s issues I went back to the empty counter to wait for more dishes to take, as Bridget walked back into the front.
“What was that about?” I asked.
“I asked if Ben could drive me home.”
“Oh.” I sighed as I took my ponytail down, ran my left hand through it a few times and put it back up, my father didn’t make us wear hair nets.
“Claire?” She asked unexpectedly.
“What?” I said, my eyes widening.
“Why do you hate it when people refer to you as ‘Claire Bear’?” She asked.
“Because it makes me out to be a bear, as if I’m mean or something. How did you know I hated being called Claire Bear?” I asked, it was Ben who had started calling me Claire Bear, and I called him Benny Boy.
“I was just observing.” She said defensively.
“Oh, okay.” I smiled, “I’ve never had a friend who observed so much.” It was pure ho-nesty.
“I do it out of—I don’t know—habit.” She said, smiling.
“When did you ever have to observe?” I wondered, because I couldn’t come up with a time in my short life when I ever had to observe.
“I don’t remember; just remember having to do it.” She smiled and shrugged.
“Oh.” I nodded, suspiciously.
“Please don’t interrogate me.” She begged.
“I wasn’t.” I said shaking my head and smiling to let her know I was okay, and she was free from an interrogation—for now.
“Okay, well is it seven yet?” She asked.
“In nine minutes.” I nodded toward to clock on the wall. It had my parent’s names in the center with a heart around it—if only everyone who walked in knew how important that clock was, it was a symbol of the love my parents had, even though she was dead.
“Okay. Do you think he’ll kiss me?” She asked me, hoping.
“Do you wear contacts?” I asked then, trying again for an answer.
“I do. I don’t know about Nathan or Max.” She shrugged.
“Because I swear you guys both had blue eyes yesterday, and today you have green.”
She looked at the ground for a second and nodded, “Contacts.”
I breathed in deeply and watched as the bulk of the guests started to filter out of the building. I was watching the back, Ben was washing down his table, as quickly as he could, Doris was wrapping a plate of bagels and Zach was high fiving my father. I started to take my apron off as I felt the pressure to get out the door creep over me. I threw it into the bin and put my coat on and grabbed my bag.
My father was walking ahead of me as he got into our car, Doris got in her’s and Ben got in his with Bridget in the passenger seat. I smiled at my father as he drove down the hill toward our house. Once we reached the house I couldn’t wait to get in and go to bed. I went straight to my room, changed into a pair of shorts and a t-shirt, and brushed my teeth before jumping into bed and falling asleep to the sound of Tuesday night news.
The next morning I woke up to the light that was coming through the window. It made the room brighter, and I was blinded as I opened my eyes. I twisted a few times before sit-ting up in my bed and turning on the TV. I was so used to having the background noise that I kept my phone and TV by me while I slept.
After a few moments of listening to the news I got out of the bed to get dressed. I chose jeans and a thermal long sleeve.
Once getting dressed I grabbed my bag and book bag and my cell phone. I walked out my room and into the kitchen.
“Hey, Claire.” He was sitting at the nook.
“Hi Dad.” I smiled at my father after he tied his long boots up his leg. Laid on the table were three dollars for my lunch, and a water bottle above it. “Thanks Dad.” I smiled and grabbed my car keys. “Bye.”
“Bye, Claire.” He smiled and hugged me on my way out the door; I wrapped my arms around his waist. He let go before I did and then I had to go.
I got into my car slowly and tried to warm it up; I wasn’t winning when I could see the breath coming out of my mouth. I just rolled my eyes and started down the hill, I found it surprisingly easy. I smiled when I turned past the restaurant and Doris’ car was parked on the side of the building’s parking lot. I didn’t turn at the red light; I kept going, straight to the school. I wasn’t going to be early, or late, I was on time, and I could see Ben’s car a few cars in the line back.
Once I got to the school I jumped out of the seat. I walked around the back of the car, on the back of the tires was a thin chain crisscrossed in diamond shapes around them. Snow chains. I smiled at the gesture that my father must have made.
I walked quickly past the groups of people staring at me, I was trying as hard as I could to just ignore them, and I was succeeding in the most part until I saw Bridget and Ben embrace, almost 20 yards ahead of me, I smiled as they hugged. I was more happy that I saw Bridget because that meant Nathan was here. I looked up at them twice more before reaching them.
“Hey Claire Bear.” Ben said, slinging an arm around Bridget’s shoulder, in his other arm were her books, his book bag was slung on his shoulder, like always.
“Hey, Bridget, Ben.” I nodded once while saying both of their names.
“Hi Claire.” Bridget said stepping forward, her arms wound around me, in my peripheral vision I saw Ben’s arm still in the air, waiting for her to step back into his arms.
“What’s up?” I asked, smiling.
“Not much, actually.” I heard Ben say, “I overheard a lot of people say that Kate and Evan and a whole bunch of their followers are skipping school for the next couple of days.”
I shrugged, “That is their business.” I told them.
“A couple of people thought that Evan was going to jump you when you got home from work.” He sighed, “But then Anna Belle and Mady didn’t want them to see their house, because living alone with their father is so embarrassing.” He laughed.
“Oh I bet.” I laughed with Bridget and Ben.
The bell to start school rang and I walked to homeroom with the both of them, Bridget’s homeroom was next door. I stepped in.
“See ya in twenty minutes.” I heard Bridget say, before a sound that sounded like a kiss-ing sound.
“Bye.” Ben told her after I sat down in my seat next to Elizabeth and Emily.
“Hi guys.” I smiled to my left, at Elizabeth.
“Hi, Claire.” She said turning her swivel chair towards me, and nodding towards Ben who sat behind me today.
“Hi Ben.” She smiled.
“Oh, Ben, did you hear that there is going to be a spring formal?” Emily said sitting down next to him, “You and Bridget are going right?”
“I’ll ask her the next time I see her.” He told her. I knew that look. He was exciting.
“I’m going to ask Jeremy.” Elizabeth said giggling to herself, Emily smiled.
“I’m going to ask Reggie.” Emily told us, “But if he says no I’ll ask Dylan.” She sighed, “So gorgeous.” She leaned back on the chair, closing her eyes.
“That leaves you Claire.” Elizabeth and Ben said in Unison.
“I don’t dance.” I said, “And besides I’ll be with my grandparents in April.” I told them, “I’m spending spring break in New Jersey.” I told them, coming up with the idea on the spot.
“Of course you are.” Ben rolled his eyes, “Do you want me to ask around?” he asked Elizabeth and Emily.
“Yup.” Elizabeth said as Emily nodded.
“Please?” I asked, “I’m really going to New Jersey.” I told them holding my hand up in honesty.
“Fine, Claire Bear.” Ben said shrugging.
“Thank you.” I replied, “Oh my gosh I hate waiting for the bell.” I said changing the sub-ject.
Once the bell rang Ben and I met up with Bridget, I was starting to feel like a third wheel, but I was sure Ben didn’t mind because at the end of the day nothing was awkward between us. He was my best friend; he ranked higher on the list than Elizabeth or Emily.
When I reached the English room I went in, Ben’s next class was science and it was a couple rooms down, so he and Bridget kissed again and she came in after me.
“Hello.” I said to Mrs. B.
“Hey, Claire, What happened to you yesterday?”
“Didn’t the office tell you? I was suspended.”
“For?” she said dumbfound, and obviously unaware of the reason.
“Hitting my best friend.” I said, I tucked the black lock blocking my eyes from hers be-hind my ear. I looked back at Bridget who had sat down and was getting her notebook out.
“Oh, Claire, hitting is never the answer.” She said shaking her head, but raising her hand. I high fived it and went back to my seat, directly next to Bridget’s.
“You’ve been dating for a day and you’re already kissing?” I asked.
“Yes, thank you, I never thought dating Ben would be like this.” She told me.
“No worries just don’t break his heart. Or I’ll break you.” I promised her.
“No problem, Claire. I don’t think I could ever cause him pain,” she said shuttering and cringing before turning to sit correctly in her chair. I noticed this and remembered it from somewhere. I turned around too.
She is so bubbly. I noted. And she stood out in a crowd; it was like she had a bullet painted on her back. I smiled and shook my head before taking the notes Mrs. Bonneville had finished writing on the board, each bullet pointed noted both made me smile and slanted down the board.
The rest of the day—until lunch—was an experience that equally bored me and made me wish for a split second that my life was more exciting. I remembered that preppy girls who had busy lives could never enjoy the simplicity of being able to sit in their from lawn, listening to the wind flying their hair around in circles and smell the roses.
Lunch was a quiet part of the day that surprised me. I had thought that people would’ve been talking all period about the information and stuff that I knew had to have been said about my absence yesterday.
But I sat next to Bridget and Ben, and our table slowly became a hot spot to people the poplars’ had dubbed weird. That included Kate and Evan. Elizabeth and Emily sat at the ta-ble with me, bringing in a new batch of freshman’s that had personalities unlike their popu-lar older siblings. Rachel Scott, Tiffany Scott’s younger sister recognized and talked to Eliza-beth the entire lunch period, offering to get lunch together as well. Olivia Michaels, Paul Michaels’s younger sister sat next to another freshman named Stephan Long; they nodded in acceptance, and awareness of each other’s presence. A junior named Tyler Cross sat next to Emily, and she tried to ignore him. He really liked her. It was evident.
The young boy, determined and hell bound in getting a date, invited the entire table to the lake for fishing and hiking on Saturday, two weeks from tomorrow. Ben nodded before looking at Bridget, “Where is the lake?” She asked Tyler, her eyes searching for an answer.
“Across the river in High Land Heights.” He said.
Bridget whipped out a pocket sized map from her bag and handed it to Ben, who in-stinctively opened it to the area where the lake should’ve been.
“Right here is where the lake should be, but your map is about 60 years old, so it doesn’t show where they put it. In the 80’s they dug into the ground and made an artificial lake or pond or whatever you want to call it.” Ben said rambling on.
“Um, I’ll ask my folks.” She said shrugging. “Maybe they’ll go for the idea of getting me, Nathan and Max out of the house. Maybe Genesis and Aaron might go.” She said smiling up at Ben. Evidently he had gotten the same speech about her parents being her adoptive par-ents.
“Sounds great.” Tyler nodded and turned to face Emily again. “So, will you come?” He asked.
“Can I invite some friends?” She asked.
“Then I’ll go.” She said rolling her eyes at the young boy, he stood, as Emily took the cap off her water bottle, he shook his head and then grabbed the bottle from her hands and bolted for the doors.
Bridget, Ben, Elizabeth and I laughed, and with a quiet giggle the Rachel girl laughed, trying to fit in with the juniors ahead of her. I sighed at the discrimination between ages and leaned back in the hard metal chair, in my peripheral vision I noticed another freshman male take a seat next to where Tyler would’ve been sitting. He carried a tray of food, a slice of pizza, a can of coke and a smaller plate with healthy portion of Salad twice over.
He looked around the table, timid and frail looking, naturally the maternal instincts kicked in, he hadn’t of ever sat here before, was he new? I asked myself. “What’s your name, kid?” Bridget asked loudly taking the words right out of my head.
“Umm, Devin Acres.” He said as if the question was as personal as what status you were, which was both understandable and creepy.
“Are you new?” I said getting a word in before Bridget for once, she looked at me then.
“Yes, I’m a freshman.” He nodded telling me as he opened the coke in his hand and ripped the plastic wrapping off his fork, and straw.
“No. I mean, have you been here all year?” I reworded the legendary question that had first formed in my head.
“Yeah. I’m from, New Jersey.” He told me, his face led me to think something tragic had happened, but I knew better than to categorize people in this school.
“Which part?” Bridget asked again, taking the words out of my head, which would’ve been my next question.
“Phillipsburg, but umm, I’ve lived in Florida for the last year…” He said leaving me with too much to think about, because the bell to 5B rang, 5A signified that seniors had their classes first and ate during lunch’s 5B-5D. 5C for sophomores and 5A for freshman. Eliza-beth, Bridget, Ben and I stood and made our ways to our classes.
I had Math next, both Emily and Bridget were in this class with me. It was full to the edges with freshman, both popular and not. I took my time walking into Algebra 11, too many memories over the years had accumulated from the sadness and misleading signs, Oh, all you do is multiply it by 4, then subtract 3, and cross multiply them and get the value of x. All the years that I had spent in the West Union education system I still didn’t have a clue what they were talking about.
Once I was sure the bell was going to ring I walked through the door, and was stunned by all of the people staring at me. I walked slowly to the back table, where Emily and Bridget were sitting; they were giggling before I sat down between them and continued for the rest of the period.
The rest of the day went the same way. Every class I had where Emily or Elizabeth and Bridget were in they’d find something to giggle about, in the beginning of the year I would of gotten upset and annoyed by it but now it was a back ground noise that I couldn’t of cared less about.
Gym was the only other obstacle I had to face that day, and believe me it was an ob-stacle. Like its twin brother—math—gym had given me the biggest problems over the last 17 years. I’d gotten used to going directly to the back of the line and waiting my turn both patiently and hopping for a miracle where we’d either have a fire drill or late start resulting in a day of gym where I didn’t participate. Although most girls didn’t worry about the partic-ipating part and worried about getting near naked in front of a bunch of other girls. It was the opposite effect for me.
I made my way through the crowds of girls blocking my way to my locker, once I had squirmed past the few seniors in my class I got dressed in the Capri shorts in my locker, I took my sweater off and left the room, all we needed to have on to be considered dressed out was shorts, shirt and sneakers. I stood, leaning against the wall, waiting for Mrs. Pauley to take roll. And having a last name that came at the end of the alphabet wasn’t the most entertaining thing in the world.
“Hi, Tom.” She said to Tom Deader before stopping in front of an empty part of the wall.
“Did anyone see Mr. Embers?” She asked, “Nathan Embers?” she asked again, so Na-than was apparently in my gym class—not today—but he’d be soon.
“No.” Someone shouted from the other side of the wall where Mr. Quest was taking roll at the same time. By the look of the wall I could tell that we were going to play wiffle ball, because Base ball and softball evidently weren’t allowed. I sighed as she came to the end of the line, after taking roll, and pointed at Regina Zorn and said, “Field,” then pointed at Quinn Williams, “Hitting,” Then at Tanya Walker, “Field,” then at me, “Hitting,” She said smiling, I walked past the entire class to join Quinn in the hitting team.
Torture doesn’t even describe the feeling I got when I had to hit the tiny orange ball with holes in it not once, not twice, not even three times, but 5 times. The stupid, immature, idiot girls who stood in the front of the line, but made the people behind them go. And the absolute idiotic rule of ‘Boy, girl’ stung after hearing it the nine hundredth time.
I was happy when she blew her whistle, and I got dressed. I was never in a hurry, be-cause then final period of the day was science. Chemistry was both my best subject, and favorite. Beakers and test tubes—loved them all—but maybe I loved it had something to do with the fact that I had both regular physical science with Mr. Keeves and Chemistry with Mrs. Entopic, who enjoyed my company and graded me well.
And then when the bell to go home rang I was even more excited, it was Friday and the restaurant was a big distracter when it came to doing school work. I usually was thinking about how much Doris must wish Bridget and I were seniors, or already graduated, because she’d been helping out since the restaurant opened, since I had started waitressing at 13.
I got into my jeep, my mind already racing. I could see Ben pull out of the parking lot a few seconds later, Bridget in the passenger seat. Her arm hanging comfortably out the win-dow. I drove fast, turning down the right streets hurrying to let Doris get back to her job. Once I was at the turning point I was at a red light, so Ben pulled up beside me.
Bridget smiled, and waved; as I waved I turned into the restaurant. My father’s car was next to Doris’. As soon as I was parked I got out, I left my book bag on the passenger seat, even before I was in the building Doris was getting her apron off and walking to the kitchen.
“Hey guys.” I said calling out to all of the elderly men and their wives or daughters.
“Hey, Claire.” A couple of them called back at me.
“Fill me in.” I told them, and suddenly regretted the choice to ask, they filled me and Bridget in for the last two hours before our shifts were over. Ben drove her home again to-night, Nathan didn’t show up, and I couldn’t wait to get to bed, and tomorrow being Satur-day was just a plus. I drove how listening to the same Mixed CD that was in my cassette.
As soon as I was home I opened my door and dropped the book bag on the floor next to the desk, and went to the bathroom to brush my teeth and hair. Once I was finished I went back to my room to get dressed to go to bed. I slipped on a pair of shorts and kept the same t-shirt on, I flicked my shoes off and turned the TV on for some more back ground noise, Anna Belle and Mady usually listened to music from 8-12, or later.
I slipped into a sleep, deep and not too easy to escape.
The chirping of birds is what woke me up the next morning. As happy as I was that it was the week end I was expecting destruction to happen to the poor restaurant that didn’t open on Saturday.
“Hey, Claire?” I heard Anna Belle ask in my door way. I suddenly regretted leaving my door open.
She asked, “Did you finish writing your science report?”
“Yes. You can’t copy it.” I told her, sighing.
“How’d you know I was going to ask that?” She asked, dumbfound.
“I’m not an idiot.” I closed the binder I was writing in for dramatic effect.
“No, you’re not.” She sighed leaving my door, with a big sigh. I always enjoyed annoying the sisters that were so different from me. Anna Belle was definitely smarter than Mady, she always knew when she was being lied to, and when she was being told the truth, and Mady was much dumber than most in the school.
I stood from my desk after finishing this weekend’s homework; I got dressed in a t-shirt and a pair of jeans. I was going shopping today, hopping I wouldn’t run in to anyone. I flipped the TV off before grabbing my purse— that I rarely used—and left my room. I walked down the hall to the kitchen and reached above the fridge. I grabbed the aluminum bread box that my father had enlisted to hold grocery money, but it was usually his place to hide presents during the holidays, he knew Anna Belle and Mady didn’t have a clue what it was for, because they were always on freak diets, or had people feed them.
My hand twitched toward the hundred dollar bill pile but instead I took two twenties. I slipped on my boots and jacket. I grabbed the keys to my jeep and was on my way, I left a note on the kitchen counter and left. I greeted Mrs. Johnson two houses down and Mr. Mills across the street and to the left. I got into my jeep and started down the street, ready for a pile of people who came to the restaurant to greet me in the dairy isle. I started up the hill, going a steady 10 miles per hour hoping it was enough. I could see Ben’s car in front of me, going down the street, not as slow as I was going he made it to the red light way before I did, but we still ended up beside each other.
We nodded at each other. I watched as he turned right, as if going toward the closed restaurant and then changing his mind at the last second. I went straight and had to remind myself I had to keep my eyes on the traffic in front of me, an accident in town would cause more than a bruise or a broken leg.
I pulled into the parking lot, grabbing the purse I had with me and slammed the door shut. I walked quickly down the icy sidewalk to get to the main building, Price’s market was build about seventy years ago, and named after one of the town’s oldest lady’s, she had died a few years after it was built. I took a cart from the pile of them by the door and regretted my choice, it was a squeaky one, that was obviously annoying me, and evidently the people staring at it and me.
I made my way through the aisles. In the formation the isles were made you really couldn’t not go down one or two without forgetting something crucial for dinner on Thurs-days, or Tuesdays. I was constantly thinking that when our triple load of people at the res-taurant came in, telling us that they didn’t have something to make for dinner. I believed them, most of the time, at least.
I was walking down the coffee isle, trying to decide whether to get Peruvian coffee beans or Arabian beans.
“Claire?” I heard someone say behind me. I turned to see if it was another mild aged man wondering if he could have my father’s secret sauce recipe. I was surprised when it was Nathan standing behind me, a cart in front of him too.
“Oh. Hi.” I said tucking a piece of hair behind my ear, silently. Causally I threw in the Pe-ruvian coffee beans.
“Buying groceries?” He nodded toward my almost half way filled cart. A grin close.
“Yup.” I said pushing the cart then, hoping he’d get the point and ignore me.
“Umm. Claire about the day in the restaurant,” he started to decipher his mental words. He was having some trouble translating.
“Look, do you want to be friends or not?” Clear. Easy. Uncomplicated. I asked.
“I think considering the circumstances we shouldn’t be friends, but since I’ll be picking Bridget up from the restaurant we’ll be acquaintances.” He nodded.
“Whatever,” I said turning down the snack isle.
“Good Bye then.” He said pushing his cart the other way, towards the registers. I went down two other isles before running into Mrs. Long, my math teacher’s wife.
“Hello Claire,” She smiled at me.
“Hello, Mrs. Long.” I said politely, when I put the gallon of milk in the cart I rolled my eyes.
“How’s Herman?” She asked about my father.
“He’s not grieving as much now,” I said simply, hopping that would be all she needed for a brief update of the Voorhees’ home.
She nodded and continued down the aisle, stopping to get butter than going straight to the registers.
I did the same, hopping now that I was done with the side conversations for the day; I picked register eight, because I knew the guy checking us out.
Mitchell Gray was his name. He was from West Union’s only Indian reservation in High Land Heights. Locally the Reservation wasn’t well known, but since I grew up here with my Dad and my Mom, we grew up here too, I knew everything and everyone involved in mak-ing the Reservation so comfortable. Mitch was Trevor’s son, Herman’s best friend. Mitch was also a senior now, and he was hunky.
While I was a kid he and I were together a lot with Herman and Trevor, but that was a long time ago, and we hadn’t really seen each other recently.
“Hey Claire.” He smiled at me; apparently he remembered my name.
“Hi Mitch.” I smiled, putting my stuff on the table. He scanned everything twice, be-cause the old scanners didn’t work as well.
He told me, “Em told us about the trip to the lake, in fact she invited us.”
“Are you going?” I asked kindly.
“I think I will.” He was a senior, and already had a car big enough to cart around all of his siblings. He was one of four.
“Great, I’ll see you there.” I smiled taking out the money I had.
“Your total is thirty-eight seventy-nine.” he said holding his hands out for the twenties in my hand I gave them to him willingly.
“Bye.” I called over my shoulder going out the main exit.
“Bye, Claire.” He called back.
I was pushing the cart. Nearing the automatic door when I heard something. A quiet buzz in one ear that gravitated to the other soon. It caught me off guard and the only thing I could think to do was react and not worry about being in public. My head whipped around, the buzzing sound getting louder and then suddenly everything, literally everything stopped, freeze framed.
It had been the calm before the storm, I would find out. Everything was going slow, perhaps the easiest way to explain it was slow motion before the bomb went off.
I heard nothing. I’d gone deaf momentarily. I felt my mouth pop open, and then I felt the rush of air as the automatic door exploded.
I had enough time to close my eyes and turn. The shock inside me let out a scream. I had no idea where it had been building up from, but it had been. I realized quickly that this wasn’t normal; there was no way to explain this.
And then, in another second there was someone shielding me. Their arm wound around me, pulling me down, banging my left arm into the cart and ricocheting it off of the other side of his leg.
I kept my eyes tight and closed while I let my ears do double duty. No one said anything, of course, I doubted that anyone actually still had their eyes open, but that might’ve been my innocence creeping up on me again. I wanted to believe that people in West Union didn’t like seeing people in pain, but I couldn’t have ever been more wrong.
I was front row. Standing directly in front of the door before it had happened. I was so close to the explosion that my hearing was off balance, obviously, but my entire frame was unbalanced. I screwed up my stepping, crossed my foot over the other as I knelt to escape the broken shards of glass.
Confusion hit me like a brick wall as soon as I was able to stand, thirteen or so seconds after everything had happened. After what had happened was over, the aftershock hit me.
“Claire?!” I heard several people say, “Are you alright?”
“Claire? Can you move?” I heard another familiar voice say.
I opened my eyes. Standing quietly, unpredictably beside me, was Nathan. His cart was pushed beside me. He brushed an arm down my back, dislodging a few pieces of glass shards.
I almost screamed when I saw the piece of glass sticking out of his arm. His arm had a long gash, maybe a four inch long wound with a large slice of glass sticking frighteningly out of the injured flesh.
The blood didn’t make me want to throw up, but the fact that he didn’t realize it was there did. How much pain could Nathan actually withstand? Was this normal? I curiously touched his arm. “Nathan?” I asked my voice cracking as I slid out from under his grasp. ,
“Is your arm alright?” He asked.
“Yeah.” I sighed and rubbed it twice, it sent an instant electric shook up my arm. “Is yours?”
He looked down carefully, “Of course.” He took the splinter out of his arm and threw it to the ground, and applied pressure to his arm.
“How did you—.” I started to say, but I was interrupted by the sudden yelling and shout-ing.
“What?” he asked, not hearing me at all.
“How did you. . . How can you stand that pain?” I said trying to remove his hand and fail-ing miserably.
He told me “What pain?” He removed his hand slowly, to show me that his arm was per-fectly fine. Had there not been a gash? Yes, of course there had been. I wasn’t wrong. I hadn’t imagined it.
“Claire?” the familiar voice. I turned to see Mitch, his apron off and his long locks pulled up into a long pony tail. He smiled.
“What?” I asked him nicely; still annoyed that Nathan would lie to me.
“The ambulance is here.” He told me, obviously avoiding the tension.
“I don’t need it.” I said stubbornly.
“Yes you do.” Nathan said grabbing my good arm and almost pulling me to the ambul-ance.
“Ow.” I said while he did this. He looked back at my face than he sighed and let go of me all together.
“She hit her arm and I think her head.” Nathan said to the paramedic I remembered being named Gary, and then I heard the calls.
“Get Devin out!” Someone shouted.
I looked at Mitch, “Where was Devin?”
“He was pushing outside when the glass exploded. He got hit with whatever it was that hit the glass.”
“Oh my gosh,” I tried to turn, to go check on Devin, but Nathan’s arm restrained me, pushing me into the ambulance gently.
Nathan rode with me in my car and Mitch who had seen everything rode in Devin’s van after being asked to ride to the police and give a description. Since the hospital and Station were side by side he agreed.
When we got to the Hospital, most of the people there were for me and Devin. I was al-lowed to walk to the emergency room, where they put a brace on my right arm and stitched my forehead up from where a few pieces of glass had hit.
Devin was in much worse condition than I was, his head had hit the glass and had left him with huge gashes across his forehead and his arm was cut open wide.
It was in the emergency room where I first saw Doctor Ember, who was Nathan’s adop-tive mother. The first thing I noticed about her was that she looked a lot like Nathan, black curls and blue eyes. She was just so amazingly tall that I was overwhelmed with her holding my arms.
“Hello, Claire . . . Voorhees.” She smiled. Her head was heart shaped, her chin stuck out, and her black hair was in curls, and her bangs were cut precisely so that they fell just above her eyebrows. Her pale skin was the same as Nathan’s and as Bridget’s. Her eyes were pale too, they were blue, and this surprised me.
“Hi.” I smiled; hopping this would be over soon.
“It seems that when you hit your bone, you sprained the muscle, so I’d like for you to wear this brace for the next few weeks, and your stitches will have to come out of your head in two weeks from now. You’ve got some good luck.”
“Can I go home now?”
“Absolutely.” She said.
I smiled and left the room, “You’ll need to stay a bit longer.” Mrs. Ember said to Devin.
I walked slowly to the lobby, where a lot of people had congregated. Ben and Bridget were sitting side by side, holding hands.
“Claire.” Ben said loudly—standing up quickly—letting go of Bridget’s hand and hugging me. Bridget was next to hug me.
“Your arm will heal soon enough.” She promised as Ben’s arm landed on her shoulder. I sighed as I looked around the waiting room.
“Claire.” Elizabeth and Emily said together in relief. “You’re alright.” They said in unison, they were always doing this, talking and walking together.
“Yeah, guys I’m fine.”
“What happened exactly?” Ben asked.
“I’m not sure,” I said honestly, “I was pushing my cart out and then the glass exploded.” I shrugged, “It just sort of happened.”
Ben nodded. “You hit your elbow?” Ben asked.
I nodded, I wasn’t going to tell them that Nathan had flung me out of the way and I fell. “I love you Claire Bear.” He said again trying to calm me.
“I love you too. Do you know if my father is here yet?”
“He pulled in a few seconds ago.” Bridget smiled.
“Okay.” I said turning to walk out the exit. But like I had expected my father was shout-ing at the nurse’s aide who told him I was in room 32, I ducked into the bathroom before he came running down the hall. I stepped out and almost fell over.
“Nathan,” I said breathing in his scent, “Sorry.”
“No I’m apologetic; I came around the hall too fast.”
“Can I ask you something?” I stepped closer to him.
“That depends,” he said leaning against the wall.
“Can you please tell me the truth?” I asked.
“The truth isn’t exactly something I can explain. . . ” he said.
“But there was definitely a gash on your arm, and then it disappeared,” I said trying to sound sane, I was sure it was there.
“No one will believe you,” he said not looking at me. Neither denying nor admitting any-thing.
“I wasn’t going to tell anyone, I can’t even believe it.”
“I don’t want to lie to the people I trust, they are all worried and I feel weird going along with a lie like this one—.” I cut him off.
“You aren’t going to let this go are you?” he asked.
He sighed, and rolled his eyes before leaving the hallway, he kept walking faster and faster. I moaned on the other end of this and walked to the room where Herman must have gone to. He was there, standing in the doorway. I tapped on his shoulder and he turned, and his arms wound around my waist, hugging me, trying to hug me without disturbing my arm that was up in a cast.
“I’m so glad you are okay.” He said, I saw his tear stained face, if I died he would be left with Anna Belle and Mady, I would’ve cried too if I were him.
“I’m fine, Dad. What happened to my jeep?” I asked unaware of its condition.
“Oh, umm they’ve got it down at the car lot, fixing the tires and replacing the windows.” He nodded, “So you might want to ask Ben for a ride to school.” He said apologetically, hopping I wouldn’t over react. I usually didn’t put myself in the position where I had to rely on other people, but every now and then I was forced. Not by him, more by Helen.
“Okay, I guess.” I sighed looking down the hall way as we walked the waiting room wasn’t as full as I had expected it to be.
“So, you can take as long as you need off from work, Honey.” He said, grabbing my purse seeing that I was having an issue putting it around my arm without the help of my other arm.
He drove me home in his shiny black truck, silently flipping through the channels. I watched as his big truck both scared little kids and intimidated them to pieces. He wasn’t a kid favorite, but his kids were an exception.
“Where are Anna Belle and Mady?” I wondered, “Did they hear?” I asked.
He nodded, “They didn’t really seem to care.” He said the obvious. Once he was parked in the driveway I tried repeatedly to open the door, but since I had to swivel my entire top half to open it with my left arm and disturb my right arm by shoving it against the door.
“Hold on Claire.” He said stopping my attempts as he helped me get out, “Oh, and I had a few of the EMT’s bring the groceries here while I was gone.” He told me as he assisted me to the door, then he unlocked it. I was really hopping that I could take a shower by myself, because I knew Mady, Anna Belle and I would refuse, and I wasn’t going to ask Liz, or Emily.
He helped me to my room, handing me my remote and my phone, hopping I’d recon-nect with someone. I was happy watching the show he’d put on, and was hopping the re-pairs to my van wouldn’t take much longer and the repairs to my arm wouldn’t either.
I casually picked the phone up, and dialed Ben’s number.
“Yellow.” Ben greeted me, happily and optimistic.
“Can you drive me to school on Monday?” I asked, hopefully.
“I’m not going at all next week, well maybe Friday if I’m back by then.” He reminded me.
I sighed, “Where are you going?”
“My mom and I are flying to New York to spend my father’s birthday with his family.” He said with just a hint of sadness near the end.
“Oh, thank you Benny Boy.” I rolled my eyes.
I told him, “Bye.”
“Bye Claire Bear, love ya.”
“Love ya.” I said before hitting the end, I wondered if that bothered Bridget, I dialed her number then.
“Hello Ember residence, Bridget speaking.”
“Hey, Umm, Bridget it’s me,” I started.
“Hi Claire, what is it you need?”
“Can you drive me to school next week, my car was damaged and my arm, well . . . is another story.”
“I would, Claire, but Genesis, Kaya and I are going to . . . the beach, to take advantage of the sun.” She said, I could hear the hint of happiness.
“Oh.” No emotion. No care. No manners. I was empty, so done with this.
“Umm, I can ask Nathan to drive you.” She told me, without me being able to stop her she called out, “Nathan can you do me a favor?”
“Absolutely, Bridget, no matter which.” He said in a brotherly way.
She said, “Can you drive Claire to school next week?” I heard him start to argue no, “You said no matter which.” She argued back. “He’d love to.”
“Umm, Bridget, I have to take a shower in an hour or two, and I might need help, I feel embarrassed asking but would . . .” I must’ve reworded about seven times, and I still didn’t pick the best way.
Bridget understood and said, “I’ll be over in a few minutes.”
“Thank you, Bridget, I couldn’t ask Ben, and Liz and Em are . . . Not the kind of people to help people in their times of stress.”
“No problem, if I was to be hurt I wish someone would help me like this.”
“Yeah.” I said kindly wishing I hadn’t of gone shopping at all, I wouldn’t be in this pain if I hadn’t of gone. I looked down at the cast concealing my elbow, and sighed as I heard a quiet knock on the front door, it amazed me how I heard it, it was so quiet. I sighed and got up out of the bed.
After my shower and with the help of Bridget she helped me get dressed. I repeatedly apologized, hoping she’d get the point that I was just as uncomfortable as she must’ve been.
Once we were done with the uncomfortable stuff she agreed to help me make dinner, after Herman told her that the restaurant wasn’t going to open back up until I was repaired and told them both that not going would be harder, we had both grown accustomed to be-ing at the restaurant until around 10. Herman, Bridget and I hung out in out tiny living room, chatting casually about all of the things that naturally came up. Conversation was al-ways easy with Bridget. Especially Bridget.
Dinner, corned beef and cabbage was pretty good. Bridget turned it down saying she had already eaten, Anna Belle and Mady ate the cabbage and potatoes, but turned down the corned beef. I ate one handed, really regretting going shopping now.
At 9:30 Herman went to bed. This was what I had been waiting for all night. My chance to talk to Bridget without Ben or anyone else.
“Do you know what really happened today?” I asked her, “At the store?”
“You were almost shot.” She told me, “Is there more?”
“No, Your Brother, Nathan, got to me and got me out of the way . . . but he got hit with a large piece of glass, it was sticking out of his arm, and then when he pulled it out it healed immediately.”
“That doesn’t sound believable.” She said rolling her eyes.
“But I saw it, and I swear I didn’t hit my head that hard, I saw everything happen, and I wasn’t imagining anything.” Or was I?
She sighed, “Claire.”
“What?” I said getting angry.
“I’d love to tell you something about us, my family and I, but it isn’t my business, I didn’t put myself in the situation where you were wondering, correct? It was Nathan?”
“It wasn’t you; Nathan made me curious as to what sets you apart. Are you like terror-ists?” I said hoping she’d say no.
“No, Claire, I think that if you wanted to know than you’ll need to find out from Nathan.”
“So, if you make Ben curious than you’d have to tell him?” I asked.
“I want to tell him, believe me I do, and I want to tell you, both of you would understand and we wouldn’t need to take the precautions that Kaya wants us to.” I suddenly remem-bered what Nathan had said to me in the store, I think considering the circumstances we shouldn’t be friends what was that supposed to mean?
“Why can’t you tell him to tell me?” I asked.
“Because it has to be his decision, I can’t be sure that it would be the right decision, I can’t see any further than what is sitting in front of me.
“You can’t see?” I asked suspiciously.
“Claire, I’ve got to be going now. Please forgive me for not being as up front as you wish me to be. I’ll call you tomorrow.”
“Fine.” I sighed as she helped me up from the couch then helped me get to my room, and then left all together.
I felt better being suffocated in the green room that my mother had painted seventeen years ago. All of the floor and finishing’s made in wood, a deeper brown than my hair. Once I flipped the TV on than I felt free to drift off into sleep, as deep a sleep as I could before waking up before three o’clock the next morning.
The sleep that I wished I had didn’t happen, I ended up waking up around 5:30 in the morning, and as sad as I was that I didn’t sleep in, I got up. I had the hardest time getting dressed, ever. I finished homework, lucky that my right hand wasn’t broken. This time I left my door closed, mainly because I hadn’t gone to the kitchen yet. The TV was playing the pointless infomercials, which were so off of my time, in fact I didn’t doubt my grandmother wasn’t watching them now too.
Being in the tiny room for so long brought my mind to the fact that Bridget was going to call me today, and that Nathan was going to drive me to school tomorrow. I watched one of the commercials advertising color contacts, which brought a smile to my face. The beautiful pale blue eyes that were said to change green when they wore contacts, but that excuse didn’t seem as likely to me as I thought it would be.
If I could’ve worn a different color eye than would I? Probably not, I was more than con-tent with the emerald green eyes that I had. And to the people around me, I could hear them sometimes, she’s different. Her eyes are weird. Too dark.
I watched a few more of the commercials before getting even more bored with them; I called someone who I would’ve never thought to call.
“Hello?” Mitch asked on the other side of the receiver.
“Hi, um, I know we don’t know each other too well, but would you mind coming over to my house? I need to talk to someone before my head explodes.” I said, trying not to freak him out.
“Sure, I think I remember where you live; I’ll be over in like ten minutes.” He said getting enthusiastic about us hanging out.
“Thank you, Mitch.” I said before I heard him hang up. I got down off my bed to go out to the kitchen; I peeked before stepping out in my purple sweat pant Capri’s and a T-shirt. My foot was suddenly cold as soon as it hit the cold wooden ground.
My father wasn’t there and his door to his room was open signifying that he wasn’t here, and Anna Belle and Mady were in their room doing some sort of hair thing involving aluminum foil and Anna Belle’s hair.
I walked over to the fridge; I grabbed two cokes out of it and a bag of chips from the top and walked slowly to the living room where, a tiny piece of paper was laid,
Went fishing with Ben and Owen, be back around five, have one of your sisters help you if you need help. Love you, Claire Bear.
I set the stuff down on the table and grabbed a bowl for the chips, and then I waited pa-tiently, with the TV on, for Mitch to get there.
Within a few minutes there was a light knock on the door, the wooden door was proba-bly older than the house itself.
I answered it with my good arm, obviously. He stepped through the door frame, with his arms extended, and as I stepped into his hug, I felt how warm he was, he was like a comfy pillow.
“Hello.” I smiled up at him when I pulled away.
“I’m surprised you knew where I lived.” I said motioning to the couch, I sat on one end, and he sat on another.
Herman usually took me to the reservation. At our house the two old geezers couldn’t fish or hunt.
Mitch rolled his eyes, “Don’t you remember when you were in ninth grade, and I was in tenth?” he asked.
“What about it?”
“Don’t you remember that play we were in together?”
“What play was that?”
“The play where you were Juliet and I was Romeo?”
“I don’t remember, I’m sorry, freshman year was such a long time ago.”
“I used to walk home with you, and we’d practice here, at your house.”
“Really?” I asked.
“Yeah, so you wanted to talk to someone?”
“My dad is fishing with Ben and his friend Owen, and Anna Belle and Mady are doing some hair experiment, and here I sit, waiting for some human conversations, I can only talk to stuffed animals for so long.” I sighed, as he laughed.
“How is your arm?” he started with the most obvious question. “Does it hurt?”
“Well, I really wish it wasn’t sprained, and that my head is all stitched up, like I’m the bride of Frankenstein, but I guess you can call me Frankie.” I sighed
“Come on, Claire, you have to admit having all of the attention yesterday was pretty cool.”
“Not exactly, I was kind embarrassed, and my arm was hurt and my head hurt,” I ex-plained, “It wasn’t the best thing in the world.” It’s a weird way to attract attention.
“Well, then maybe you shouldn’t be so clumsy, look both ways before cross the street.” He smiled before throwing his right arm along the back of the couch. I pulled my legs up and sat Indian style trying to come up with something to say to the gorgeous hunk of a man sitting in front of me. He was cute.
I smiled, “You were there, right?” I asked, wondering idly if he had seen everything that I had seen.
“Did you see a guy with me?” I asked.
“You mean Nathan?”
“Yeah, you saw him?”
“I didn’t see him get there with you, I saw him once it was all over.”
“But he was back there, and you saw him right?”
“Why are you so dependent on him being with you?”
“Because I’m not crazy, he was there when the glass exploded. He got hit too.”
“Oh, yeah, the guys at the car shop said your jeep is almost finished.” I stared at him, he had completely ignored me, “My Dad works there.” Was what he said next.
“Are you serious, you totally ignored me?”
“No, I was trying to sidetrack you, it didn’t work,” he sighed, “Look, Claire, I know that you really want to believe that he was there, but believe me, no one saw him, other than you.”
“I’m not crazy. He was there.” I said getting angry.
“The only way he could have been there was if he was fast enough to blur by all of our eyes,” and that was what I was trying to get out.
“He was fast, and his eyes change color, and he talks different than us, and he doesn’t eat food and he. . .” I sighed, this was really unbelievable. Mitch wouldn’t believe me even if he wanted to.
“Here, Claire, I’ll tell you what, you do your best to find other criminal offenses and I’ll ask around to see if anyone has any theories, and I’ll meet up with you at the Beach a weekend from now.”
“Awe, Mitch, thank you.” I said reaching over to hug him.
“No problem, Claire.” He said returning the hug.
“Ya know you can call me something like Ben, he calls me Claire Bear, I’ve grown accus-tom to it.”
“Okay, Claire Bear.” He said in my ear.
“How old are you again?” I asked.
“I turn nineteen in December, you?”
“I turn eighteen in April.” I told him, “A month from now.”
“Happy almost birthday.” He smiled.
“Don’t throw me a birthday party, please.” I rolled my eyes, “Ben and Liz tried last year and they got me a chocolate cake, and like a weirdo I forgot to tell them that chocolate makes me nauseas.”
“Did you puke all over the cake?”
“No, I was hugging Em, telling her thank you, and I gagged, and was inches away from her hair.”
“Oh, Gross.” He said gagging himself, and I sat laughing so hard.
“That was cruel.” He said as he finished gagging.
“Yeah, and her boyfriend—CJ—like a day later was like ‘your hair smells like strawber-ries and puke mixed together.’” I laughed again, reaching for the coke, Mitch’s hand reached it before mine and he handed it to me, already opened, “Thanks.”
“So what is new with you?”
“Devin is getting better,” he switched from facial expressions often.
“How do you know him so well?” I asked, curious as to why he was always talking about him.
“He’s from the reservation,” he told me.
“I didn’t know.” I said truthfully.
“Yup,” He sighed.
“What about your mom, Dawn, right?”
He nodded, “Divorced Trevor two years ago, Yvette and Dana live with her, Will and I stay on the reservation with Trevor.”
“Is getting better with living without her, he wants to move into the bigger house on the Reservation, so that Dana and Yvette would come back, but he doesn’t get that they want to be with their mom.”
“Yeah, fathers don’t exactly get that.”
“How long has it been since Helen?”
“You just always seem like you’re already over it, does it really take that little time?”
“If people don’t bring her up, I’ll be fine.”
“Oh, I’m sorry.” He said.
“No, dude it’s okay.”
“Okay, so what else do you want to talk about?” He smiled.
“What’s your favorite color?” I asked.
“Same, my mother painted my room green and then they saw that my eyes were green they thought that it was kind of creepy.” He laughed, and for the next couple of hours we talked about mindless details, books, songs, favorites, hates. We agreed on a lot of subjects, our favorite books were and agreed that In the end was the best song by Linkin Park. At around Noon he helped me make lunch, for us both, grilled Cheese and tomato soup from a can.
We ate in the dining room, right in front of the window, and we talked about how we both enjoyed the rainy weather west Union brought forward. Subsequently as we ate we watched TV, and ended up flipping the channel to the HBO channel and watching our favo-rite show.
At five when Herman came home, Ben and Owen joined him.
“Hey, guys.” I nodded toward them all when they realized Mitch was with me.
“Hey, Claire Bear, Mitchell.” Herman said shaking Mitch’s hand.
“Hello, Mr. Voorhees.”
“Call me Herman.”
“Okay.” He said smiling up at him.
“Did you kids get dinner?” Herman looked at me.
“Nope, Mitch helped me make lunch, though.”
“Good.” He nodded, looking back at Ben and Owen, who were both sitting at the nook.
“You guys want to stay for dinner?” He asked, In the end Ben agreed and invited his mother and Owen said Alicia was away and needed to stay with his eight year old son, Aus-tin and eighteen year old son Scott. Mitch was a good guest compared to Ben, they both sat on either side of me, and Doris, Anna Belle, and Mady sat on the other end, my father ended up sitting between Mady and Ben, Mady was happy once Domenic came in the door, it was after football practice and he had evidently found the note that Doris had left him.
I helped Herman and Doris with Dinner, Pork loin and roasted potatoes. Mitch and Ben both took two big servings and for once Mady actually ate dinner, I was just as surprised as Anna Belle must’ve been, and she ate too, talking quietly to Doris and Ben.
At seven-thirty dinner was over and Ben, Domenic and Doris left. I hugged Ben before he left, “Bye, Benny Boy, love ya.” I called from the door way. I turned back to Mitch, “Bye.” I said wrapping my arms around his waist and squeezing, as he did the same, just above my shoulders.
At the end of dinner it signified for Anna Belle and Mady to go back to their room, and they did, as Anna Belle walked past me I saw that strands of her hair were a lighter blonde than the blonde she had before, maybe the aluminum foil experiment was to lighten her hair.
“Night Dad.” I said before ducking into my room, knocking my arm on the door, but re-covering immediately. I turned the TV on, and picked my bag up with my good arm, and checked through it to be sure I had everything for tomorrow; I listened to my music, trying to drown out the sound of Anna Belle’s blow drier.
Nathan was going to drive me to school this week and I couldn’t have been more nerv-ous. I was always clumsy and obviously awkward. I always seemed to end up staring at his beauty, his perfect pale blue eyes or emerald green eyes were so astonishing that I couldn’t help but stare. And the tight pale skin that seemed to be sculpted and perfected so that their features were beautiful, and putting all of these features together made him unattain-able, someone so beautiful could never see someone so unattractive as me, and that left me with the feeling of failure, and it was worse than having the brace.
Bridget was just as beautiful as Nathan was, maybe even more, her pale brown hair that had first reminded me of Mady’s strawberry blonde hair, and it reached so much farther than I had ever seen hair reach, Her eyes were the same shade as Nathan’s but her eyes were wider, bigger and the shade looked more feminine and believable on her than it did on Nathan.
They both had pale skin that looked creamy and obviously attractive compared to my dry skin that required daily moisturizer. They both had a faint blush that looked real, and Bridget’s blush was a more pink shade compared to Nathan’s whose was more of a red, they both also had purplish bruise like shading under their eyes that stuck out, and neither of them seemed to care that they looked dehydrated or as if they were recovering from a broken nose.
And then meeting Kaya, she was gorgeous, her hair line was heart shaped and she looked more like a model, than a doctor who was 35, her hair was black like Nathan’s and her curls were like Nathan’s. She and Nathan looked the most like each other than Bridget did, but I still hadn’t met Aaron, Genesis, Max and Alton, I wondered nonchalantly if their looks, their features would make or break my theory. I still didn’t have one, they were all different, and they seemed to have something in common, the legendary secret that Brid-get had brought up.
I sighed and leaned back on my bed, trying to bring myself the comprehension that to-morrow I would be with Nathan twice, maybe three times and I was happy, but utterly em-barrassed that I might do something permanent, and change all of their outlooks on me as a person.
I looked up at the ceiling, still trying to conjure up enough self confidence to step out of the room tomorrow morning and into the world that I had catapulted myself into when my phone rang.
“Hello?” I answered eagerly without looking to see who it was.
“Claire?” Bridget said on the other end, “Are you okay? You sound winded.”
“I’m fine, I hit my arm.” I fibbed; it seemed like a good enough excuse that she would believe it easy enough.
“Oh, so are you okay?”
“I’m fine.” I said again.
“Okay, Claire, I’m sorry about last night.” She apologized for a second time.
“It’s okay, I guess, I just wish you could tell me, I hate being so out of it, and I expect to be friends with you for a long time.” I said hopping that would win her over, and she’d give in and tell me the mysterious secret that evidently set them apart.
“I didn’t make you promise so I can’t tell you, Claire. You are so observant, so percep-tive, I’m flabbergasted that you haven’t figured it out by now, and I have to be sentient that if I do something out of the average you’ll adjoin it to your directory of hints or fundamen-tals of what we are.” She said this, and I was waiting for her to add to it, and when she didn’t I sighed.
“What if I told you that you made me curious? What if I said it was your fault that I thought something was different about you?”
“You wouldn’t lie to me, you aren’t lying to me, I can tell. I’m not going to tell you, Claire.”
“Fine.” I groaned.
“I’ll tell you one thing, if you haven’t figured it out by now than you need definite help.”
“I already enlisted a friend in helping me figure out your secret.”
“Good, Claire, that was a superior initiative.” I heard her laugh on the other line.
“So, is he still driving me to school tomorrow?”
“Of course.” She said, “And I’ll be back on Wednesday of this week.” She told me, “You won’t have to be with him all alone.”
“Don’t do me any favors.” I said trying not to sound offensive.
“No problem, Claire I’ll see ya Wednesday, I’ve got to say goodbye to Ben.”
“Bye, Love ya.” She said before hanging up on me.
I closed my eyes, why did this mystery have to be so confusing, and so hard to guess? I asked myself before summoning the deep sleep that I had been waiting for all night, and when it came no one was happier than me.