“Hi, Dad. Just a shirt. I got some paint splatters on it at school.”
He chuckled, setting down his laptop case. “I thought that went out with grade school.”
Sam sighed. “I was just helping some girls paint stage flats for their drama class.”
“Oh, girls, eh? Any of them pretty?”
He nodded. “Sure. All of them. In their own way.”
His father was a little overweight from sitting at a desk day in and day out. He sighed. “I remember when I could go play with the pretty girls.”
“Don’t tell your mother I said that.”
Charlie Whittacker set down his books next to the girl in the long black dress during the pep rally. “That’s the one you’re thinking about?” he asked, staring across the basketball court, watching Sam escort three girls to sit on the second row to the left. Charlie and Agatha talked in low voices and never made eye contact with each other. People could tell, just by the way he was dressed, that his mind was already in some ivy league school, and he looked a little out of place sitting next to a goth girl.
“Yes, if he doesn’t get himself in trouble.”
“Why do you think it’s him?”
“His aura, I told you.”
“Anything else? Something a real person could understand.”
“It’s the right year. He’s new, and there’s no one else in school that’s a candidate. Besides, he’s the guy in my vision.”
“The one where you die.”
“Then I should think you’d want to keep your distance from him.”
“It’s fate. There’s nothing I can do about it.”
“Maybe I should talk to him.”
“Don’t. He’s resistant enough. Anything you say would just push him farther away.”
“Have it your way.” He grabbed his books and moved on down the row.
Sam saw Agatha across the way at the pep rally. He always saw her. At first he thought she was following him around, stalking him, but now he wasn’t so sure. She was just extremely visible, dressed the way she was.
Suzy yelled in his ear, “Did you play baseball at your old school?”
“Yes. All the sports.”
Candi added, “He was a regular sports hero.”
It had been a week since the shirt incident, and although he finished the painting job with the girls and even hung around as the play started rehearsals, he was careful to flirt with them all openly and evenly. Candi had lost interest in that game.
Still, having someone to hang around with was better than being alone.
He tapped Suzy on the shoulder. “Who’s that guy?” He pointed at the tall red-haired guy moving down the aisle.
“Charlie Whittacker. Math geek. He was in Drama class last year, but he’s all tied up with science fairs and junk now. On the scholarship track.”
He nodded. One by one, he was learning his way around the school’s social circle. In his old school, the senior class numbered less than fifty. Here it was more like 500. But as always, there were the leaders, the club presidents, the ones in the race for class standing. There was no way he was likely to get in that league, not with his late start, but it was good to know who they were. And if they knew who he was, he could make some connections. More than those his cousins passed his way.
Not that he didn’t enjoy all the fuss and frantic busy-ness of the Drama group, but it wasn’t really his play, and he’d never been an actor. Mr. Dyson had asked if he were interested in reading for one of the lesser parts, just as a standby, but he declined. There were people who needed that opportunity, and he didn’t.
The cheerleaders came out and the band blasted into the fight song. All pretense of speaking were gone. It was ‘yell loud or no one could hear you’. He glanced to his left and saw Clare yelling too. He tried to listen, but he couldn’t hear her contribution. She even yelled quietly.
He’d learned not to discount Clare’s intentions. Suzy had been dead on, right from the beginning. Clare was interested in snagging a man as well. The one time he’d spent more than ten minutes alone with her, she’d talked in a low sultry voice that could easily get a guy thinking bedroom thoughts.
“Did Candi getcha outta yer clothes?”
He’d been surprised that her intentions had been that plain to the others.
“Just the shirt, for about two minutes. I had to leave.”
“I’d’ve tripped you and held you down ’til you quit strugglin’. I al’ays knew she’s too timid. But, still, she’ll be after that cousin or yer’s, Jason, next. Bet money she’ll have a man the old way by June.”
He’d chuckled. “Probably.”
Clare had given him a good long stare. “Why’re you still be’in a loner? Ya been here two week, what?”
It was a reasonable question.
“I won’t throw you outta my bed if ya get lonely. No chains an no babies. I’m ona Pill.”
Between cheers, Clare looked his way. She had looked like a quiet polite girl the first time he’d seen her. She gave him a smile and a twitch of her eyebrow that had a whole world of different meaning now.
But the question she’d asked that day still stood.
With all these girls throwing themselves at him, why was he playing the eligible bachelor?
Across the way, Agatha was still watching him.
You said Julie. Her name is Candi.
He watched as Agatha looked around for her cell and finally dug it out of her tote bag.
She looked across the noisy gulf at him and tapped.
Sorry. She’s been Julie for all my life. Don’t tell me she trapped you?
Nope. But she did offer some ‘special services’.
That ought to give her something to think about. Washing clothes is a service, right?
Agatha stared intently across the way.
I can see from here she’s still on the prowl. Be careful.
He looked over at Candi, and she was watching the crowd intently.
She noticed his attention and yelled, “Why don’t you introduce me to that cousin of yours?” Jason was out on the court, a big letter on his chest, holding two cheerleaders as part of their cheer.
He yelled back. “I’ll let him know you’re interested.”
Suzy rolled her eyes.
He caught up with Jason later.
“Sam. What’s up?”
“One of my lady friends, Candi Smith, is interested in meeting you.”
“One of... How many do you have?”
“I lose track.”
“Right. Who is this one?”
“You may know her as Julie.”
He frowned, thinking. “Maybe. She doesn’t want you anymore?”
Sam looked cautious. “I have been told that she’s looking to snag a mate the old fashioned way.”
Jason smiled, and then frowned. “Ah. Does that mean...?”
“Don’t get her pregnant, unless you’re ready to settle down, like right now.”
“Okay. I understand.”
“Still, she’s a good looking girl. If you’re in the neighborhood of the play rehearsals, just ask around. I think she’s one of your sister’s friends too, come to think of it.”
“I’ll think about it.”