Sorry everyone, I know you were looking forward to meeting the Lady of Varanar, but I just could not get the words to come out right. Hopefully I'll have 41 up tomorrow. If not I'll finish up a second part of Greg's story. Yay for filler stories.
The morning had started out warm and comfortable. Students had walked into the school with their light jackets draped over their arms. Only a few of the upper classman actually wore their letter jackets. The jackets only served to keep the students from freezing in class. It seemed impossible for them to find the perfect temperature. Either it was too hot or too cold; students would drift off to sleep either way.
None of us actually suspected what we were going to find when we got out of class that afternoon. We all knew that a cold front was coming. Warm weather in late December always meant the same thing to anyone who knew anything about weather patterns. All of the cars in the parking lot were frozen over by quarter inch thick sheets of ice.
I had to wait for the bus, which was not anything to laugh at. I had to wait for a good thirty to forty five minutes after school for my bus to arrive. It was the one with the turtle. Everyone that rode the bus ragged on it. It felt like a shuffling little turtle too.
The upper classmen poured into the parking lot with the students they usually gave rides home to. They swarmed around the cars and started picking at them so that they could get inside and turn on their heaters. I watched as many of them tried to use flimsy little plastic ice scrapers to get rid of the solid sheet on their window. Many subsided to beating their windshields.
I saw one girl pouring bottles of water over her windows. She kicked the tires when ice started to reform on the windows. Her friends were giggling as they huddled together to try and keep warm. They were wearing band letter jackets. They were too hot in the summer and just did not do the trick in the winter. At least that is what the seniors griped about. I heard the same thing about their uniforms. Band nerds.
“Fuckin’ cold,” my best friend Alan mumbled under his breath. Puffs of white clouds were issued from his mouth.
Experimentally I huffed out some air and watched the cloud of fog dissipate. I smiled with satisfaction and turned back to Alan. “Yeah, it is.”
“I only brought this fuckin’ jacket. How am I supposed to keep warm in this?” he asked and tried to pull the denim tighter around his skinny body. The kids around me were rubbing their hands together and breathing hot air into their palms.
“I hear there is a concert tonight,” I told Alan.
“Band,” he said.
“Oh? Yeah, I heard those geeks talkin’ about bit.” He rubbed his nose. “They’re damn proud of their drummers.”
“I hear they’re worth seeing,” I said. “’specially at the spring show.”
“Man, not worth it,” he said. “Dancers are pretty and all, but their dances are boring as hell, ‘cept for the hard on.” He laughed in a retarded fashion and I chuckled uncertainly along with him.
“Yeah, I guess,” I said and scuffed my feet on the cold concrete. “I just thought you might enjoy seein’ it. They always put on a show.”
“Yeah, but the other bands bore you to sleep,” he said. He had been in band the year before. He played the trumpet but was not very good so he quit. “They were fun last year though. Even had a bass player.”
“Cool,” I said and shivered. It was cold. Too cold.
“Oh, there’s Claire,” Alan said and shifted as though he wanted to leave. He and Claire had troubles getting along. Claire said it was because Alan was crude.
Alan was crude, so I had no contradiction there. I was just as bad when she was not around though. “Hey Claire,” I greeted with a shy smile. She always made me shy.
Claire was tall and a bit big, but she was the smartest person I knew and I respected her for that. She never mean to Alan, but her barbed comments struck a nerve. I never had the heart to tell him that he deserved it. He did cuss too much and he did do a lot of stupid things.
“Hey, Greg,” she said kindly. “Hello, Alan.” She looked over at Alan for a moment and then looked back at me. “Are you guys going to go to the concert tonight?”
“No,” Alan said.
“I was thinking about it,” I said and Alan looked at me as though I had betrayed the man card. “You know, for the final show.”
“Yeah, it’s usually awesome. They also always give the directors presents in a hilarious way. You really should go, Alan. You might find you enjoy it.”
Alan shrugged. “Aren’t you cold?”
Claire nodded. “Yeah, it’s cold. My dad is a little late picking me up though because of the traffic and the fact that his car froze over too.” She would not ride the bus because she said her route was over crowded. Her first day on it there was not enough room for them to even ride three to a seat.
“Think your dad could give us a ride?” Alan asked hopefully.
Claire shrugged. “I don’t know. I can ask him. Where do you live again?”
It turned out that they lived on the opposite side of town. She declined politely. “If it was me I’d take you, but my dad has problems with boys,” she explained lamely. She was embarrassed.
“I thought your parents bought you one. A car, I mean,” Alan said trailing off into a mumble.
“Yeah, but I’m only fifteen. I can’t drive yet. I do have a learner’s permit though.” She realized that she was babbling and quickly shut up.
It was one of those cute little flaws of hers.
“Hey, Claire, if you pick me up we can go to the concert together,” I told her and she smiled at me. My heart felt like it was constricting. She was the most clueless person I have ever met next to my reflection. She would probably deny that you were asking for a date unless you spelled it out for her in a novel.
“I’ll ask my dad if he’ll pick you up,” she said and reached into her jacket pocket. “What is your number?”
“You have a car but not a cell?” Alan asked.
“You have a cell are waiting for a bus,” she snapped in a sudden flare of temper. She hated cell phones and it was a sore spot too for her. She believed students should not have cell phones and they definitely should not pull them out in school. She was weird, but I liked her anyway.
I gave her my number and she wrote it on her hand. “I think it starts at 7:30… want to just show up at eight and miss the bad bands? The percussionists are all anyone wants to see anyway.” She tucked a strand of brown hair behind her right ear and stuffed her hands back into her pockets. “Are you wanting to go, Alan?”
“Will your dad want to pick me up?”
Claire rolled her eyes. “If you’re going to be like that…”
“No, he doesn’t want to go,” I said quickly. “I’ll see you at 7:30, ok?”
She nodded and glanced back at student parking. Along the fire lanes was where parents would come and pick up their children—the majority of them anyway. “My dad is here. I’ll ask him about it and give you a call later.”
“Ok,” I said. “Bye.”
“Bye. Bye, Alan,” she said and then dodged her way through the crowd of people. I watched as she approached the red pick up and got in. Her dad was a scary looking man. I was not looking forward to riding in a car with him. Maybe her mom would pick us up.
“Why do you even like her, man? She’s a drag.”
I looked at him with some annoyance. “She just isn’t your type of person.”
“You’re my type of person. How can she be your type of person?” he asked.
“You two are just too opposing. I’m in the middle. I like her, Alan, you can’t really blame me for that. You like strippers.”
He rolled his eyes. “Look, man, strippers are hot. They put out too. That chick isn’t going to let you kiss her. She’s an ice queen. She’s frigid as fuck.”
I frowned and snapped, “I was under the impression that fuck wasn’t frigid.”
“The fuck, man, it can be any temperature,” he said. “People can also be hot as fuck.”
I closed my eyes and counted to three before saying in a less than controlled voice, “Maybe you should say frigid as ice or hot as fire. It would make you sound less like a retard.”
“The fuck,” he said angrily.
“Your bus is here,” I said. His had the silhouette of a stork holding a baby filled scarf.
“Whatever,” he said. “I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”
I felt kind of guilty about snapping at him like that, but he did get on my nerves sometimes. He used fuck way too much for my tastes and I used it quite a bit. Though, I guess I should be honest and say that I hated the way he was talking about Claire. She was distant, but I could never describe her as frigid.
With the cold it seemed to take forever for the bus to get there. When the turtle finally arrived my legs and toes were so cold I could barely get up the steps and my fingers were incredibly numb.
Buses were not the best thought out creations of men, and yet they seemed to change very little over the course of American history. Sure, some of the noses were knocked off and the engines were put in the back or somewhere else on the bus. Hell if I know where they put it.
What was most annoying at that moment was that there was a line of sort for the heat. The air conditioners had box like units over our heads and took up window space, but the heater would bur our legs and leave our torso still freezing. Plus, the windows fogged up and obscene words with clever spellings ended up on them.
My right leg was sweating by the time I got off and was more cold afterward than before. I walked so fast home that I might as well have been working on a straight legged jog. It would have been an invention, really. Southerners were not meant for the cold. We all lived in warm weather for far too long.
I heard a techno version of Beethoven’s Fur Elise vibrating from my pocket. I pulled it out and checked the number. It was not one I was familiar with, but it was local and was not a cell phone prefix that I remembered. I knew it had to be her. “Hello?” I said flipping it open.
“Uh… hey… Greg?”
“Yes, that’s me. Greg,” I said stupidly.
“Oh, hey!” she said more confidently. “This is Claire in case you didn’t know.” She cut off again.
“Yeah, I guessed,” I said and stopped in front of my door and leaned against it. “What did your old man say?”
“Dad is not old,” she said playfully. “Anyway, he said it was all right, but be warned. He thinks it’s a date and wants to grill you.”
She sounded so serious my heart almost plummeted. I could feel it starting to lodge loose. “Well, it kind of is… isn’t it?”
“Oh!” she said, sounding embarrassed. I had only heard her embarrassed once. “Well, if you say it is. That’s all right.”
“Yeah… I just… I thought you didn’t like me… like that.” She gave a cute nervous laugh that made my face feel warm again.
“Well… I guess I do.”
“Oh.” She was quiet for a little bit. It was that awkward phone silence. Then she said quietly, “I like you, too.” She then said louder. “I’ll see you at 7:30, ok? Where do you live?”
I gave her brief directions and we hung up. When I walked in my mom asked me how my day was. I gave her the generic, “It was fine.” I went to my room. The walls were white with no posters. My bed and desk were the most personal things I had, and a computer was on my desk.
I flipped on my PC and started taking off my shoes. I opened my closet and tried to figure out what I was going to wear tonight. I was excited, but it was only a band concert, and a boy could get away with anything. I pulled out my best jeans and a pinstriped yellow and pale green button up shirt. I also found a nice black undershirt and laid it out on my bed.
I was typing in my password when my mom opened the door to my room after a brief knock that would not have given me time to tell her I was naked if I was. “Mom, seriously!” I said angrily.
“Sorry, sweety,” she said with an apologetic smile. “I was just wondering what you would like for dinner?” Her eyes scanned my room. They always did. “Oh, you’re laying out more clothes? Special occasion?”
“It’s no big deal, Mom. I’m going to a concert tonight with a friend from school.”
“What is wrong with what you’re wearing?” she asked with smug knowingness. Her smiled looked pleased. I was flushed with embarrassment.
“What does it matter?”
“Don’t get peevish with me,” she said firmly. Her friendly and welcoming expression turning into that of a jail warden right before my eyes. “I was just trying to be involved in your life.”
“Well it’s embarrassing!”
She snorted and rolled her eyes. “You’re going on a date then,” she said and left the room and shut the door.