The audition went great, and Iwas placed in the advanced choir. The director gave me a schedule change formand sent me to the front office. On the way I checked the time on my cell –4:00 –Plenty of time. I’d do this, grab some food at home, and still have timeto kill before my night class.
I walked into the office and headed toward the main secretary’s desk whenRyan came out of a door off to my left. I looked and saw that it was thenurse’s office. He was still speaking to the nurse, looking confused, when hesaw me. He gave a quick upwards nod, as he continued his conversation. Passing,I heard him say something like, “… so weird, I mean that doesn’t just happen,does it?”
I reached the secretary – a skinny woman with highlighted hair who lookedlike she’d spent too much time in the sunbeds – and gave her my schedule changeform. She looked at it and quickly made alterations on her computer withoutsaying anything to me. I waited awkwardly, not knowing if I should stay thereor go sit down, when she printed out my new schedule and said, “There you gohon.”
“Thanks,” I said, looking it over. My choir class was now in firstperiod, and English was moved to fifth, but still with the same teacher. Ishrugged; sounded good to me. I left the office, looking back once to see theback of Ryan still chatting with the nurse – that side looked great too.
I got into my car and headed home. A song by Taylor Swift came on and Isang along to it, bobbing my head and imagining I was a pop star on stage infront of thousands of people. As I pulled into the driveway I saw that my parentswere both still at work; they’d be home before I left though, and they’d behungry. I raided the kitchen for something to make for dinner.
I popped it in the oven and set the timer. Then I set my school thingsout on the counter, reviewing the day as I did. For having been an outcast somany years back in PA, I felt like I did pretty well on my first day. Iactually made a friend in freshman-Danny, and developed a crush on Ryan, whoalready had a girlfriend…, classic me.
I heard my parents come inside through the garage door (no one could parkin there for all the camping equipment) and said “hi” as they entered, talkingback and forth about their day.
“Oh, this woman. You wouldn’t believe what she said to me, honey! Oh, hiMaelie, how was your day?” Mom kissed my cheek and kept talking. I didn’tspeak; experience told me she wouldn’t hear it anyway. Dad’s eyes were riflingthrough the mail separating checks from bills, and he didn’t look like he waslistening to mom much either.
The oven timer rang.
I hopped down from the counter and took out the lasagna, getting platesand forks out while it cooled. Then I served up a piece for each of us and gavemy parents theirs, going back to the counter so they wouldn’t feel interrupted.
I ate in silence, listening to Mom rant about a client, and when she wasdone Dad ranted about a team that wasn’t getting their work done. Around 6:30 Itook my plate to the sink, rinsed it and put it in the dishwasher beforegathering my things up and saying loudly, “I’m going to my night class now,I’ll be back later.”
“Bye,” they said in unison without looking up, before going back to theirdinner and divulging. I took the car keys once more and left quickly.
My night class – astronomy at Pikes Peak Community College – wouldn’ttechnically start for another two weeks, but the instructor had offered honorscredit to anyone who wanted to start early by stargazing with her forrecreation. I took her up on it.
I arrived on the roof of the science building at 7:00 on the dot; just asProfessor Jennings had finished adjusting the telescope. Only one other studentwas there – a skinny pimply guy who looked to be in his mid-twenties.
Jennings showed us a great view of the moon, some constellations, and theplanet Jupiter; which was incredible. (Did you know you can actually see thered from here on earth? The planet is huge!) She asked us to research a bit onJupiter, and write a one-page essay of our thoughts on the planet and it’sappearance… she seemed a bit hippy to me when she gave the assignment, and Iknew then that this class would be a piece of cake.
We finished around 8:30. I knew my parents wouldn’t care what time I gothome, so I went to the college computer lab to look up Jupiter online. I founda few things, and printed them out. When 9:30 came, I decided that I’d betterget home.
Walking to my car, I was reading an essay on the constellation Pisces. When I read that you could seeit from the northern hemisphere in autumn, my eyes began searching the sky as Ispun and walked at the same time. Honestly, I must have looked like an idiotjust doing that; but then my idiotness increased ten-fold.
Walking backward now, (I’d finally found Pisces!) I ran right into something and dropped all the papers I’djust printed out. They scattered in the wind and out of the corner of my eye Isaw someone run after the faster ones to try and help me. I gathered the ones Icould reach as quickly as possible, trying to make sure they were in order.
“Here you go, Maelie. Sorry about that.”
I looked up, “Ryan?”
He laughed, “Yeah, it’s me. Guess we’re making a habit of this, huh?”
I smiled and stood, taking the papers from him. “Yeah. Um, sorry I wastotally not paying attention…”
“Hey, no big deal,” he interrupted. “Actually I’m kind of glad we raninto each other again,” he was becoming fond of that pun… I liked it. “Sorryabout Steph, she gets jealous pretty easily when I talk to other girls. Whatshe said saw rude, and I’m sorry.”
Hmmm… his girlfriend was jealous, huh? “It’s alright,” I said. “I wasnever very liked before anyway.”
He looked confused. The line between his eyebrows was really cute, “Whatdo you mean, before?”
I waved my hand, “It’s no big deal.” I liked the guy, but I wasn’t readyto share my life story with him.
He shrugged. “So what class are you taking here?”
“Astronomy,” I said confidently.
“Ah,” he nodded. “Hence the uh…” he pointed upwards.
“Yes, I had my head in the clouds, and was not paying attention to myfeet,” I laughed, and he joined in. “Are you taking something?”
“Yeah, just a Latin class. I like languages, and that’s the root for alot of the main ones, so I figured I’d go back to the basics.”
Wow. “Impressive,” I said.
He shrugged, “Thanks. Oh, I’ve gotta’ tell you what happened after you lefttoday though. Remember when you and I were talking and Steph came up? It’s kindof funny, but really weird at the same time.”
“What is it?” I asked.
“Well, right after you left, Steph was going on about where she wanted meto drive her. Then she ran her fingers through her hair and a huge chunk cameout in her hand! It was gross, and freaky! It literally left an entire baldpatch on the side of her head.”
I was trying with all my might to keep my look concerned, rather thanlaughing out loud.
“Well, she freaked out you know, so I took her to the nurse’s office, yousaw me there. The nurse thinks it’s stress, but Steph’s never stressed, she’salways been really laid back…”
He finally saw my face and stopped. I must have been doing a terrible jobof holding in my laughter because he said, “Oh go on and laugh!”
I did. “I am so… sorry…” I tried to say between fits. “I can’t imagine…oh jeez…” He was laughing with me now and it felt like we’d known each otherforever.
After a minute of giggling over Stephanie’s lost hair, our eyes met for amoment and he finally spoke, “Well, I’d better go, I’ve got some things I needto look up online.”
I nodded, “Yeah, I uh… my parents will probably be worried soon...” Yeahright.
He passed me, heading into the computer lab, when his backpack suddenlysplit open, spilling all of his things out onto the sidewalk where mine hadjust been. We stared at the mess. His jaw dropped and I rolled my eyes, shakingmy head at the randomness of it all. “This is a brand new bag!” he laughed, “Ican’t understand how it would just split like that!” We both knelt down togather his things, laughing through our noses. As I handed him my stack oureyes met for a moment and he said, “Thanks. I guess I’ll see you at school?”
“Yeah. I’ll be there,” I replied.
We stood, and he awkwardly reached out a hand underneath his armful ofbooks and papers to shake mine. I laughed and humored him before watching himwalk toward the computer lab.
I hugged my books to my chest and bit my lip as he went. He turned oncebefore going inside, and waved a little, making me laugh again. I really likedthis guy.
Once he was out of sight I took a deep breath and let my smile free. Allthe way to the car, I was practically dancing. When I sat down and started thecar however, my smile faltered. A great story like that is only really great ifyou can tell someone about it… who would I tell? My heart sank a little. Myparents wouldn’t listen, and even if they did they were unlikely to care. Myonly friend was Danny, and I couldn’t tell him… could I? I didn’t want to hurthis feelings, but there wasn’t anything between us except friendship. I mean,we’d only just met; he couldn’t have any expectations, could he? I sighed, andleaned back against the seat, closing my eyes.
My best friend from Harrisburg! She would love to hear this.
Smiling a little, I pulled out my cell and dialed her number. Then thecar’s Bluetooth technology took over, and I set my phone down, listening to thedial tone as I backed out of my parking spot.
“Hello?” Came a whispering voice. Dang time zones…
“Jenna? It’s Maelie. I’m so sorry, I forgot about the time difference,are you okay to talk? Something awesome and weird just happened, and I have totell someone.”
“Maelie? Yeah, um… I wasn’t asleep, but my parents are, so I need to bequiet... what’s up? How are the mountains treating you?”
“Ugh. Honestly, they hang over me like a noose. I hate them. The rest ofColorado Springs has its bright side though,” I said, slyly.
“When you say ‘bright side,’ are you referring to the male part of ourspecies?” Ha! It had only been a few weeks since we’d spoken, but I’d alreadyforgotten how witty she was – that’s why we became best friends.
“Indeed I am,” I said, giggling like a child. “You’ll never believe whathappened today.”
I told her everything. From Danny’s attempt at charm to Steph’s hairfalling out, right up to Ryan’s bag splitting so I could talk to him a bitlonger.
“Wow,” she said, sounding impressed. “For a person who hates Colorado,you seem to be thoroughly enjoying Colorado.”
I nodded to myself and said, “I guess I am. It’s really weird though.Things have never gone so smoothly for me. I’m starting to wonder when my luckwill run out.”
“Don’t think that way,” she chided me. “Just enjoy it while it lasts. Whoknows, maybe it’ll last longer that way.”
“Yeah, maybe,” I agreed.
“Well hey, I’m glad to hear you’re having fun, but don’t enjoy it toomuch, ok? You promised that PA is your home.”
I smiled, “I know I did Jen. Don’t worry; I’m getting attached to aperson, not the place.”
“Yeah, but you don’t know how attached to the place that person mightbe.”
I laughed again, “Go to sleep crazy.”
“Yes ma’am,” Jenna said. “Night.”
I heard the line click, and the Bluetooth disconnected. Nice timing, I thought as I pulled intothe driveway.
I entered the dark house and tiptoed up the stairs. I stopped at the doorto my parents’ bedroom. Mom and Dad were sound asleep; they probably wouldn’thave been able to say where I’d been that night. That’s the scary thing aboutthe freedom they gave me. I have to take care of myself; otherwise I’m not suremy parents would ever notice my absence. What if I was kidnapped, raped orsomething worse? How long would I have to be gone before they became concerned?A day? Two days? A week or more?
I listened to their even breathing for a full minute before sighing andgoing into my room. Some parents wait up for their kids at night to hear abouttheir day. Some parents insist on knowing exactly where their kid is going, whothey’ll be with, and when they’ll be back. Some parents are so overprotectivethat they won’t allow their kid to be with friends outside the home….
At least they care.
I lay in bed staring at the ceiling, wishing my parents would show mesome kind of affection. They hadn’t in years. The last time my mother hugged mewas when I’d received an award for straight A’s in fifth grade. I remembered itvividly. My father had never said he was proud of me, or even that I did a goodjob at something. It hurt more than they knew, but I couldn’t tell them. Theyprovided me with everything I needed, and gave me a home. I would still be in adirty Pittsburgh orphanage if they hadn’t chosen me.
I rolled over and tried to push those thoughts out of my mind. Opening myeyes, I looked out the window at the stars, and smiled, thinking of my twochance run-ins with Ryan ‘Hottie’ Houston. I nearly laughed out loud as theimage of ‘Steph’ without hair flew into my mind unbidden again. I couldn’tbelieve all her natural locks were gone from her head… I wondered if she’d weara scarf or a hat to cover her bare head, or go with a wig…
They the image of Ryan, bent down with me, picking up his things afterhis bag had ripped open. He looked appreciative… and kind… and flirty? Was Iimagining it, or had that slight rise of his brow and curve of his lip actuallybeen there?
I didn’t really care, but it made me smile to imagine it.
I wish I could tell you that I dreamt about Ryan that night. Actually Idreamt about the Pisces constellation. It was weird. If you’re unfamiliar withthe myth, it says that Aphrodite and her son Eros were escaping from Typhon, agiant. They entered a stream and turned into fish. Keeping a string tied toeach of their fins so they’d stay together, they were able to get away safely.In my dream I was one of the fish, but I couldn’t see who the other one was. Ihad no idea what we were swimming from, or where we were going, only that weneeded to do it fast…
Like I said… weird.