Home once more, Brian helps his mother fix dinner. She reminds him that he missed his appointment with the parish priest, but is happy that he’s out with friends. Brian doesn’t dare tell her what is really going on.
They had fun over dinner. Brian hadn’t realized how subdued he’d been the last few weeks. He couldn’t say he was exactly depressed, but he was certainly stressed by the recent events. Having someone else to talk to about it, who understood and didn’t think he was crazy, had made a world of difference.
Brian went to bed early that night, determined to get a better night’s sleep than he had the night before. Fortunately, his rest wasn’t interrupted by nightmares or bears. He woke the next day feeling rested and ready for whatever the world handed him.
The sky was cloudy as he headed for the bus stop. It looked like it would rain again. The temperature had dropped during the night. He could see his breath in the early morning air. He was usually the only one at his bus stop, but today there was a new kid sitting on the bench under the awning.
Brian walked up warily. He didn’t know the person and wasn’t sure if he could trust them or not. Being so far out of town, they got tramps and transients. Just because the person sat at a school bus stop didn’t mean he or she was a student.
The person didn’t look up when Brian stepped under the awning. Instead the stranger fiddled with an iPod which apparently wasn’t working right. A few muttered curse words confirmed that assumption. The person smacked the iPod with a flattened palm, cursed again and shoved the device into a pocket.
A baggy, navy blue, hoodie concealed a short, slight frame. Straight, brown hair stuck out from under a multicolored beanie, concealing most of the face. Jeans and boots completed the anonymous outfit.
“Trouble?” Brian asked quietly.
The person gasped, looking up at him. “I think I managed to delete all my music,” the gruff voice complained. “Either that, or something else is wrong with the damn thing. It won’t work.”
“Man, that sucks. Mind if I sit?”
“Help yourself. Not my bench.”
“I’m Brian Casey.”
“Jordan Barrett.” The name and voice did nothing to clarify the gender issue.
“You must be new around here. I’ve never seen you before.”
“My folks wanted a quieter, simpler life. So, instead of living in the suburbs, they picked his tiny town in BFE. I can’t even get cell service unless I’m standing in the center of town. So much for keeping up with my friends back home.”
“Guess you’ll have to make some new ones,” Brian said quietly. He wasn’t sure what to think of the mouthy, disgruntled teen. He dearly wished that either the name or the clothing was different so he’d have a clue if he was speaking to a boy or girl. He still couldn’t tell and he didn’t think it was polite to ask.
“Yeah. Not like I had so many, ya know? Not one to be popular.”
“Me either. Gotta work too hard to be popular. Besides, I prefer being anonymous.”
“Whatever works, right? Of course, my parents are upset that I’m a social pariah. They were head cheerleader and captain of the football team. They went Greek in college and belong to the alumni association of their high school and college. Mom was also Miss Teen Spirit when she was in high school. I told her I wasn’t interested in being named after a deodorant—or a song. She so didn’t get it.”
Brian chuckled, nodding. “I’m lucky. My mom couldn’t care less if I’m popular. She wants good grades. Can do that standing on my head.”
“You any good at math?”
“Yeah, pretty good. Why?”
“Because I suck ten kinds of suckage at math. I need someone to help me. Dad said he would, but he’s about as patient as a wet cat. Mom’s blonde.” Jordan said that as if it meant something special.
Brian, who was also blond, looked confused.
“Dumb blonde?” Jordan snickered. “I guess it’s contagious.”
“I may be blond, but at least I’m good at math.” He tried not to sound offended, but didn’t conceal it well.
“Oh, touchy! If you can help my math grade, I forgive you for being blond and promote you to honorary brunette.”
Brian chuckled. “Mighty kind of you.”
© 2016 Dellani Oakes