The Sea of Tranquility(6)


by Katja Millay

He always sits in the same position and he’s completely motionless. Ever since he caught me on Monday, I’ve been trying not to stare more than a couple of seconds each day. He hasn’t looked up at me again. I still get the feeling he’s watching, but maybe I just kind of want him to be. I shake that off quickly. The last thing I need is anyone’s attention.

Still, he is extremely nice to look at. Nice arms. Not douchebag workout arms, just work arms. I saw him on the first day in my shop class, but only for a second, and then he left and never came back. Now the only time I ever see him is at lunch. That handful of seconds I spend crossing the courtyard becomes the most intriguing part of my day. If I’m being honest with myself, those precious seconds are the only reason I still walk across this damn thing every day. I walked it on the first day to make a point. I walked it on the second day to see if he was still there and still alone. I walked it on the third and the fourth to see if he’d look up at me again. He didn’t. Today, I just wanted to look. So that’s what I’m doing when the pointed end of the heel of my shoe ends up lodged in the crack between two brick pavers. Beautiful. Fortunately, since I was walking pathetically slow to make the most of my stalking experience, I don’t end up face first on the ground. Not so fortunately, I am now stuck directly between his bench and that of Princess Sarah and her ladies in waiting. I try to nonchalantly wiggle my heel out from where it’s ensnared, but it won’t budge. I’ll have to maneuver my way down to kneeling and try to pull it out with my hands, which will be a feat of balance, but bending over in this dress is so not an option.

I kneel down slowly and slip my foot out of the shoe. Then I grab the heel with my right hand and yank it. It comes out easier than I expect and I stand up and slip my foot back into it. I glance to my left and see that statue boy still hasn’t moved. He seems utterly oblivious to my shoe debacle. It’s a small miracle, but small miracles are the only kind I can hope for right now, so I’ll take it. Too bad I haven’t gone completely unnoticed, because the next thing I hear‌—‌

“I think those are made for street corners, not school.” Sarah. This is followed by giggles and then another female voice‌—‌

“Yeah, does your dad know you left Hell dressed like that?”

“I thought her dad was in Transylvania.” More giggles. Seriously.

The insults here are really subpar. At least they could throw something mildly entertaining at me if they’re going to make me turn around. I look to my right to find the fountain of wit that spewed that gem at me. Several girls surround Sarah and are looking at me and, yes, still giggling. I guess I congratulated myself a minute or two too soon. I mentally run through my options A) Hurl said shoe at them B) Hurl insults at them C) Ignore them and walk away D) Smile my most demonic and unhinged smile at them. I’ve chosen D, the only real option of the bunch. I won’t ignore this, at least not in the slink away with my tail between my legs way. Besides, since I’m apparently the spawn of Satan, or possibly Dracula, depending on who you ask, it can never hurt to throw a little crazy out there just to drive the message home before the weekend. I stare them down for a few more seconds, debating whether to unleash the smile all at once or just let it subtly drift across my face, when I’m interrupted by a voice behind me.

“Enough, Sarah.”

Sarah’s mouth, which was open in what I suspect was the formation of another display of her scathing wit, clamps shut so fast I think I hear her teeth clash. I turn around, even though I kind of know that the only person in that general vicinity is the last one I would expect to be all knight-in-shining-armor. Not that the situation even called for it. It was hardly an attack. It was more like a sort of lame insult version of karaoke. A performance by amateurs. Something you mock rather than fear. I can tell these girls wouldn’t have stopped there, and if I was the type to care it might have hurt my feelings, but I don’t care and my feelings haven’t been hurt in a very long time.

At this point, I’m completely turned around and mine aren’t the only eyes on the boy in the bubble. In fact, there are quite a few sets of eyes watching him now, waiting to see if anything else comes out of his mouth. I feel like I’ve found myself in the middle of a Twilight Zone episode, where everything around me has frozen and I’m the only one who can move. But I don’t.

The boy’s eyes are trained on Sarah, giving her a look that matches the don’t-fuck-with-me tone in his voice. His glance flicks to me for a second and then he’s back to staring at his hands like nothing at all happened. I’m contemplating moving now but I can’t seem to find my legs just yet. I turn away from the boy and catch Sarah staring at me now. The look on her face isn’t carved out of jealousy or even bitterness, which is what I kind of expect; it’s forged out of one-hundred-percent-pure, rock solid, WTF. As much as I’m trying to keep my face blank, I have a feeling that my expression quite possibly looks a lot like hers, but probably for very different reasons.

She seems perplexed as all hell that he said something. I don’t really know this kid well enough to know if his interference is the most surprising element of this whole situation. If you ask me, the weird part about it is how everybody reacted. They all shut up. They didn’t question him, didn’t laugh or ask why, they didn’t ignore him and continue with the ridicule, and they didn’t turn their derision on him. They just stopped. He said enough and that was that. Because I said so. End of story. Don’t make me have to tell you twice.

In the mere seconds that I have been standing here, everyone else has gone back to what they were doing and maybe it’s my imagination, but the decibel level seems to have dropped just a bit, as if no one wants to be heard discussing what just happened. What the hell did just happen?

I’ll think about it in a few minutes, or after school, or maybe never, but right now I want to get the hell out of the middle of this courtyard. I make it across without any more shoe malfunctions, and mercifully, someone has stuck a book in the door to the English building so I’m able to walk right in. I glance down as I push through the door and see that it’s an art history book and sitting next to it is a smirking Clay, sketchbook, as always, in hand. I really want to ask if he knows what that was about, but I can’t, so I slip into the building. I make it halfway down the corridor and turn off into the stairwell and lean up against the wall, grateful to be alone in the quiet.

Before I can turn recent events over in my mind, I hear the door open again. I press my back to the wall of the stairwell, trying to make myself as inconspicuous as possible. If I press hard enough, maybe I can make myself disappear. I concentrate on the direction of the footsteps which are getting louder by the second. The cadence is slow and one foot falls ever-so-slightly heavier than the other. The steps are solid, but soft. They aren’t clumsy or awkward. It’s a graceful walk. Whoever it is, they’re taller than me; it doesn’t take them near as many steps to get to the alcove where I’m loitering. I wait for the footsteps to pass, but they don’t. They turn right at me and now I’m just hoping that whoever it is will simply ignore me. I look down at the floor so I won’t have to make eye contact and I wait for it to be over.

And then, before I can remember to hold my breath, a set of well-worn work boots stops in front of me. Steel-toed, if I’m not mistaken. I don’t need to look up to know who they belong to. I’ve been looking at those boots on the seat of an industrial metal bench for five days now. Apparently confusion and curiosity have turned me momentarily stupid, because against my better judgment, I do look up and it’s the closest I’ve ever been to him.

“I won’t do that again,” he says, impaling me with his sickeningly perfect blue eyes like he wishes I didn’t exist. But the way he says it isn’t angry. It’s just matter-of-fact. He’s completely calm. There’s almost no tone in his voice at all. He doesn’t wait for any sort of acknowledgement or response, even though right now I just might be pissed off enough to give him one, and it certainly wouldn’t be a thank you. Then he’s crossed the alcove and walked out the door on the other side of the stairwell as if he was never here at all.

I won’t do that again? No one asked you to do it this time, ass**le. Does he honestly think he just did me a favor? That, by calling attention to me and pissing off a bunch of vanity obsessed girls on my behalf, girls who will no doubt be seeking to save face when he is not around, he has helped me. He’s more delusional than I am. I’d like to tell him so. Too bad I don’t even know his name. And if I had a list of questions, what’s your name? probably wouldn’t even make the cut.

What I want to know is why anyone listened to him. They shut up like they were being reprimanded by an angry dad, because that’s exactly what he sounded like. It’s the same tone of voice he used with me just now. I’m almost surprised he didn’t throw a young lady on the end of it for good measure. Clearly, I’m the only one here who doesn’t understand why I’m supposed to listen to him. It’s as if he commands some sort of respect or reverence. Maybe his dad is like the principal or the mayor or a mob boss and no one wants to piss him off. Who knows? All I know is that I’m pissed off.

CHAPTER 6

Josh

I’ve gotten through the rest of the day without seeing the girl again. I’ve mentally flogged myself for opening my stupid mouth at lunch. If there was a reason for it, I might cut myself some slack, but the girl really didn’t seem like the helpless type. Maybe I was just trying to stop her from making enemies of those bitches. Maybe I just wanted Sarah to shut the hell up because I know she’s better than that. Maybe I just wanted the girl to look at me again.

The halls are already emptying out as I push my way towards the back of the school, against the flow of the rest of the students. I want to get to the theater wing before they lock the doors so I can pick up my level. I left it there earlier and I need it this afternoon. Plus, I won’t leave it overnight, anyway. It’s mine. It was my father’s. It’s old and wooden and archaic but I won’t use another one and I won’t take the chance that it’ll disappear if I leave it here; so I go back to get it. When I get there, it’s sitting where I left it on one of the unfinished shelving units I’ve been working on all week. I check my progress and run my hands along the edges. I’ll be done with the whole thing by next Wednesday. I could drag it out until Friday, but I’m hoping Mr. Turner will be done with the preliminary procedure crap before that. I’d like to get back to shop and work on something more interesting than shelves. I grab the level and head back out to the parking lot.

I’m almost to my car when I hear my name.

“Bennett! Josh!” Drew corrects himself almost instantly because he knows he sounds like an ass**le calling me by my last name. He’s standing in the next row of cars and he’s not alone. He rarely is, so it’s not surprising to see a girl standing next to him as he leans against his car in the pose I have grown accustomed to seeing; the one where he tries to look casually indifferent while he works out the path of least resistance into a girl’s pants or down her shirt or up her skirt. Whatever the case may be.

What’s surprising is the girl he’s talking to. It doesn’t take more than a glance to know who she is; crazy-long black hair, tight black dress that barely covers her ass or her chest, black spike heels, black shit all over her eyes. Eyes that are turning to glare at me right now. As I get closer, the blank expression she usually wears changes. It’s subtle and I doubt most people would notice, because the change is mostly in the eyes, but I can see the difference. It’s not blank. She’s pissed, and if I’m not mistaken, she’s pissed at me. I don’t get much of an opportunity to examine it because she’s walking away before I even reach them.