Back Around: Chapter 1 (NaNo Story)
I hate it when he texts me. It’s not him, it’s not texting, it’s not that I don’t like receiving meaningful texts from my best friend. But it’s the fact that he would text me in the middle of the day purely for the stupid reason of sending me a smiley face. Not only does this mean that I’ve just received a senseless text which wasted my minutes, but I am now stuck checking my phone every other minute to see if he’ll send me another text.
“Genie, darling, if I see you look at your phone again while on shift I’m going to throw it in the trash.”
I look up to see my bosses face beaming at me. Her bright red lips are smeared into a wry smile that I’ve seen about a million times. She peers over the desk at me sitting down on the hardwood floors, which probably aren’t the cleanest now that I think of it.
I stand up and slid my cell phone back into the back pocket of my jeans. “Sorry, Dona, couldn’t resist.”
She laughs, throwing her head back, “Oh, darling, I’m just playing with you. Seriously, you’ve got to lighten up.”
I turn my grimace into a smile and laugh good naturedly.
“So… what are you up to?”
I shrug, picking up my Agatha Christie book from beneath the counter. “Jordan texted me earlier, I was just checking to see if he had sent anything new.”
Dona bats her eyes dramatically as I pretend to be interested in finding the dog eared page I was on last. “You guys dating again?” she asks in her cheerful, prying way.
I look at her from behind my book, trying to throw my best annoyed eye daggers. Today was just not the day to be playing with me. “No.”
“Well, that’s a shame. It’s always so cute when you’re together.” She leans her elbow against the counter top and lets her head relax, which makes her dark brown hair fall all over the page I was beginning to read.
“He always comes in with a love –struck expression on his face, and he flounces about his work like a butterfly.” She sighs, and then looks at me, “And you’re everywhere when you’re together with him… you’re the happiest person in the world… much more happy than today.”
I slam my book shut and thrust it back beneath the counter, glaring at her. “Dona. I’m really not in the mood today, okay? Today has been really slow, and I’ve had a rough morning. I’m really just trying to make it through the day without exploding-”
“You hardly ever explode.”
I growl in annoyance at her interruption and then stare hard at the ceiling. I try to compose myself, trying to go within and find my patient side which I hardly ever loose. “Okay… okay…I got this.”
The front door to the shop opens wide and the bell rings out across the store, sounding like Christmas and lightening my mood immediately. In steps a tall woman with bleach blond hair, closely followed by a tall muscular man with slicked back brown hair.
Dona smiles at me and pats my hand, “Sorry, darling. I leave you be.” She walks off, calling out before she leaves the room, “Smile!”
I plaster on my brightest sales woman smile and greet the couple. “Hello, how can I help you today?”
“Yes,” the woman says, “We’re just coming in to check your prices.” She’s wearing biker clothes, like almost everyone else who comes in here. They both look fit and healthy.
“Yeah,” the guy says behind her, his voice harsher than I thought it would be. “There are so many bicycle shops around here it’s hard to choose one.”
I nod to everything their saying as if it’s news to me, but I have this same conversation with people every day. “It certainly can be tricky. Here’s a pamphlet,” I hand over one of our colorful glossy pamphlets with pictures of creeks and trees and dirt trails. They open it up and I point my finger to the numbers on the bottom. “Here’s our prices, and here’s what we offer,” I point to the bold black letters. “For two it would be-”
“Well,” the woman cuts my off, grabbing up the pamphlet and stuffing it into her shoulder bag, “we’ll consider, and in the mean time we’ll look around at the other shops.”
“Thanks for your time,” the man says.
I smile pleasantly and nod my head, “Thank you for dropping in.” They turn and walk out the door. The couple come back later on in the day and the rest of my day is spent smiling at customers and peering at my phone, just in case.
Driving up to my old school every day, is like driving up to a house you lived in years ago and still visit all the time. It’s in some way nostalgic, and weird. Every day it’s the same, I drive up I go around the loop, I get weird looks from the teachers who are just leaving and I see him, sitting by himself on the same painted red bench that’s faded a bit through the years.
When he sees my car drive in he stands up, shrugging his back pack on to his thin set shoulders. His hair, brown and finally no longer looking like a buzz cut, makes an effort to rustle in the wind, but only the longer parts in the front are able to do so. His tall lean figure stands out like a sore thumb, but maybe even more sense there’s no one around but a few straggling teachers still talking by the entrance of the school doors.
I roll down the window, letting in the cold Virginian air. He peers in at me with his sly smile and twinkling eyes. “What’s up?”
I glare at him, “I’ve spent all day checking my phone for text messages. You know I hate it when you send me useless texts.”
He opens the car door, setting his backpack down on the floor and then sits down. He gently closes the door and looks at me with apologetic eyes. “I’m sorry you felt that my smiley face emoticon was a useless message. I got the feeling that you were having a bad day and so I wanted to cheer you up. Apparently,” he bows his head as if he’s greatly ashamed of himself, “it did not work.”
“It made things worse,” I say shifting into drive.
Jordan buckles himself in as we lurch forward, “I’m sorry.”
“I don’t forgive you.” We drive down the hill and so start our journey back home. “Why would you think I was having a bad day anyways? We haven’t talked today?”
“Well, considering that it’s a Monday, and we ended our conversation last night on a bad note, I was thinking you would be a bit grumpy.”
“Last night’s conversation had nothing to do with my mood today,” I argue, swerving around a pot hole. “But I would like to talk about it.”
Jordan sighs, as if readying himself. “I really would prefer to discuss it over the phone, since you can’t kill me that way.”
I smile despite myself and glance at him, “I’m not mad at you for kissing me last night, just so we’re clear on that.”
“But you said last night that I shouldn’t have done it,” Jordan frowns in confusion. “Wouldn’t that translate into ‘I’m mad at you’.”
“Maybe for you,” I say shaking my head, “You have to remember that the day before last night we were discussing how nice it is to not be a couple any more, and how nice it is to be naturally with each other again.” I give him a sideways glare, “And then the next day, last night, you out of the blue kiss me. I’m upset at you for nodding and agreeing about being friends.”
“It was only until after that conversation that it felt wrong,” Jordan argues, “I do like being friends, I love it, but last night I wanted to be more than friends… and honestly I don’t know what came over me.”
I roll my eyes, “You’re saying that the smartest, and most stubbornly-set-in-opinion guy in world suddenly shut off his brain and let his hormones run free?”
Jordan makes an offended noise in the back of his throat, “So what if that’s the case? Are you going to stay mad at me forever for being human?”
“That’s not human, that’s being stupid.”
“I would have to disagree-”
“Is that diplomatic people’s catch phrase?”
“The way I acted was disgraceful, true, and I can understand your confusion and your annoyance at the way one day I felt one thing and the next I felt the complete opposite; but may I remind you, that you are no different?”
“I’m not the only one guilty of being contradictory.”
“Directing the attention to your opponents weaknesses is not called diplomacy, it’s called: childish,” I say, slowing to a stop at a red light.
“It’s called building up the argument,” Jordan says, grinning from ear to ear, clearly enjoying himself.
“My bad,’ I say sarcastically, taking my hands off the wheel to pick at my chipping neon green nail polish.
The car is silent for a minute, and I can tell Jordan is thinking of something professional to say. There’s not much that can stump sarcasm I’ve realized, except for a really good and thought provoking comeback, or more sarcasm.
“I’m sorry, happy?”
Green. I press the gas pedal gently and then look over at him. His thick eyebrows are knitted together thoughtfully, and he has his hands clasped in his lap. He looks like a professor.
“Yes.” I turn back to watching the road and the car goes quiet again.
Jordan clears his voice after a while, “Well, I do have an announcement. I was hoping that we could hang out at the café later and talk about it, back I can talk about it now if you would like.”
I smile, “That might work on a thousand other girls, but you know I’m as patient as an ox.”
“Yeah, well,” he says with a sly smile, “Thought I’d give it a try. So we’ll meet at the café at six?”
“Eight. We’re eating chili tonight and that’s always a long meal.” I turn slowly on to Jordan’s street, with its trees on either side and houses on hills. I glance over at him, as he counts mail boxes as usual. I turn slowly into Jordan’s steep driveway and push a bit harder on the gas pedal. We reach the top with the car only sliding once on the gravel.
Jordan grabs his bag and gracefully swings out of my car, like he does every day. He smiles at me and I feel my heart pounding in my chest harder than normal. “See you at eight.”
“See you,” I manage to say without my voice trembling. I wait and watch him unlock the front door, and then give me a little wave as he steps into his dark, empty house. I wave back and only shift into drive when the door has closed all the way and I’m sure Jordan doesn’t have any last ideas, like he’ll sometimes run after my car for.
I do the worst three point turn of the century and roll down Jordan’s drive way, and on the road back to my house, to a house I know will be a lot more noisy, bright and full than Jordan’s.