With Candi’s help, since she was the biggest, they hauled a few of the set pieces out of storage. It was plain bits and pieces of the flats had been reused for years. He could see lettering in French in places on the back, hidden side of some of them. A previous crew had just turned their hand-me-downs over and painted fresh buildings on the back side.
“I wonder how many layers down it goes,” he said, chipping at the paint with his fingernails.
Suzy, the little one, and Clare, the quiet one, began arranging the set flats according to the diagram.
“No,” he shook his head. “We need to reverse the blacksmith shop. Candi, would you help?”
Soon they had the old sets laid out in roughly the same order as the diagram. It was like a jigsaw puzzle, only with nails and wing nuts.
“Now all we have to do is put facing on that one, and paint them.”
The girls all clustered around the diagram and they agreed.
Candi got them to show up after school to help with the painting. Sam agreed to help.
“That’s great. We don’t usually get any of the cute guys to help,” Suzy confided.
“Sports and stuff. They’re all taken, and the geeks like to play with the lighting and the sound system. Plus,” she whispered, “we can sometimes get a little rough.”
“Oh?” He grinned. The idea that Suzy could get rough with anyone was a little humorous.
She nodded. “Man eaters, all of us. Except maybe Clare. She just licks them to death.”
Clare was blushing like mad and bashed Suzy on the head with a three ring binder.
“Hey, cut that out.”
But they all behaved themselves when the bells rang and they spread out the drop cloths to catch paint splatters. Candi eyed him up and down when he picked up a bucket. “Do you have any grubs to change into. You don’t want paint all over you.”
“I’ll be careful.”
“It’s not you who will cause the spills.”
He nodded, but started covering wide areas with sky blue. The girls retired around the corner and came back with their hair bundled up in scarves, and wearing old, splattered coveralls. He sighed. He didn’t have any old grubs. But maybe what he was wearing would soon be assigned to that job.
They had the flats soon covered in broad areas, but it’d take another day to get the detail lines in place.
When Suzy asked if Clare could take her home, he offered. “I’ve got a Jeep. I’ll drop you off.”
Candi raised her hand. “I could use a ride as well.”
Suzy shook her head, “It’s your own fault for having a car.”
Suzy pointed to a bench. “Stay right there while we change, unless you want to come help?”
He smiled. “Oh, I’m okay.”
She unzipped her coverall down, showing a hint of lace and sauntered out, hips swaying.
Candi shook her head. “Don’t mind her. She loves to tease.”
Clare patted him on the shoulder and shook her head sadly at the doom that awaited him. She picked up her books and left.
Suzy rode next to him, with her hand on his leg as far as her house. She winked. “You’re welcome to stay longer.”
“I’m still here,” reminded Candi from right behind her.
Candi moved up to the front seat. He said, “You should have asked for the front seat. It’s tight quarters back there.”
“Suzy wouldn’t have put up with it. She needed to get her hands on you.”
“So she’s the man eater she claims to be?”
She shrugged. “I think it’s all an act, but one of these days, she’ll get some guy to take her up on her offer.”
He nodded. “I’ve heard some girls are just ready to get pregnant.”
She chuckled. “Don’t discount a girl’s hormones.
“But look here.” She plucked at his sleeve. “I told you. Paint splatters all over this.”
He looked down. “I hadn’t noticed. They’re tiny.”
“But they need to be treated quickly. Here, this is my house. Come on in. I’ve got something to deal with this.”
He followed her in. She dropped her books on the table. “Take that off and I’ll run it though a quick wash cycle. The paint is water based. We might get it out.”
Looking around cautiously, he didn’t see signs of anyone else about, but taking off clothes in a girls house sounded risky. He waited, with his fingers on his buttons.
She shook her head. “Don’t be a baby.” She began unbuttoning them herself. Soon he watched her stalk off towards the washing machine.
The house looked normal enough. He didn’t feel like sitting down.
She came back, bright eyed and carrying a coke. “Here. I hand-scrubbed it a bit and I think the paint will come out. Have a seat.” She sat down on the couch and patted the space beside her.
“I probably should head on home.”
“But without your shirt? It won’t take too long.” She reached out and took his hand and he sat.
She leaned toward him. “So, you’re Steph’s cousin? What made you change towns?”
He sipped the coke she handed him. “Um. Parents. Dad took a new job and so we moved. Couldn’t have happened at a worse time, either.”
“I was varsity. Baseball, football, track, all that. It was a small school, so I was in demand, you know? In this place, it’s so big, I’m lost in the whirl of too many people with better seniority than I’ll have time to get.”
“Lost in the maze, huh? I get it.” She took his hand. “I’ve been pretty lost in this school too.”
As he looked in her eyes. He couldn’t help notice that in all the shuffling to get his shirt in the washing machine, somehow, she’d managed to lose her bra. Her breasts were swaying under her blouse, and he could see the nipples making their indentations.
He nodded, and leaned back. “Yes. I guess it’s easy for anyone to get lost at a big school.” He looked over at the stack of books on the table.
“What kind of classes are you taking?” He snatched up a textbook. “Calculus, huh?”
“Just the usual old boring stuff.” She squeezed his free hand.
He saw her name on the cover. Julie was scratched out and Candi was written in in bold letters with a heart over the ‘i’.
“You change your name or something?”
“Yes! I was so tired of being a ‘Julie’. Everybody knew me, knew what to expect out of me. It was the start of a new year, and I wanted to be a new me. Other girls were changing their names. Why not me?”
“Yes. Like her. And ‘Angela’. I was surprised she didn’t buy herself a pair of wings. She had angel stickers all over everywhere.”
He looked at her. “Why Candi?”
Her eyes glittered and she licked her lips. “Because I could be very sweet--to the right guy.”
He nodded. “You probably would be.”
Pretending to be oblivious to what she was doing, he picked up another book. “Oh! History. That reminds me. I have an essay due. I was having so much fun with the painting and all, I forgot about it. I really need to go take care of that.”
He dropped her hand and stood up. “I guess I’d better take the shirt now, even wet as it is, and go deal with it. Sorry. I shouldn’t have taken your time with it.”
She protested, but he was firm. “It’s my fault for not being prepared for the painting like you guys were.”
With a downright sullen look, she stopped the wash cycle and extracted his shirt. He wrung it out over the sink and put it on.
“Really sorry, but I’ve got to go.”
He almost ran back to the Jeep.