Just based on the first chapter of my new story, what do you think is a good name for it?
It was in Government that she first noticed him. He sat on the second row to the back, and looked oblivious to the teacher’s, Mr. Randall’s, droning speech about communism.
Rae had never noticed that Mr. Randall’s voice was monotonous and boring before.
If he’d have given this speech three months ago, she’d have probably be sitting in the very front, instead of the very back, pencil in hand, scribbling notes down furiously.
Now she had a pencil in her hand, but instead of paying the least bit of attention to the teacher, she was deciding what to draw.
It was becoming so bad now that she couldn’t even make the slightest decision.
His neck and shoulders flexed, just lightly.
Suddenly she had the idea.
I’ll draw him, she thought. That was his nickname in her mind, him. Not that she didn’t know his name. Everyone in the school, maybe even the whole county, knew Lyle Cooper’s name.
His name was like crack to the addiction of the gossipers at the school.
So, unfortunately, was Rae Kingston’s.
She hadn’t been acting at all like her old self in the past three months.
She avoided homework, ate unfashionable amounts of junk food and consumed non low-fat chocolates; quit the cheer squad, Student Council, and Spanish club. And worst of all (in their minds) she didn’t accept one single date. Not one. She avoided boys like the black plague.
She’d had a boyfriend around the time when her dad died, too. Blaze Stolson. Blaze was an overachiever, grade-A student with a smile that could melt butter. Not to mention he’s captain of the basketball team. Now, Blaze had completely forgotten her name. If they passed each other in the hallway, neither one would look at each other.
It was all due to the fact that Rae shut all communication down.
Besides, Blaze’s rep couldn’t afford her early life crisis.
She didn’t really care after awhile, anyhow.
Eventually she would stop caring and go completely numb. The thought didn’t scare her.
All she really cared about right now was her mom. She didn’t care about any of her other family. She didn’t care about any of her classmates or old school friends.
She couldn’t care less about her old friends.
Rae was so far away from that now.....she couldn’t be farther away from her old self.
She neglected her school work. She went from being an A student to a D student in less than two months.
Rae was a senior-before her dad died she was thinking of going to Princeton or Duke. Perhaps even Stanford.
That was all gone now.
She was hardly college bound. She might not even graduate high school. But who cared, anyway?
She certainly didn’t. Her mom was too distraught at the moment to care. And the rest of her family was careful about the whole situation and would never dare to confront her about it.
Same with the teachers. They had let this go for a long time, not wanting to talk to her about it because she still seemed to be depressed.
Lyle Cooper, Rae thought. Whenever her mind came close to thinking about dad, she always retracted it and pulled away from the memories. She could always find a distraction. Usually it was food, or the really old movies starring Audrey Hepburn that was all she seemed to be renting these days.
Right now-it was Lyle Cooper.
That name was synonymous to Rasputin or even Vlad the Impaler to some.
One of his friends, a real whack-job named Jordan Ferguson, drew something on his open notebook.
It was probably something dirty.
Lyle coughed back a laugh.
The class suddenly went quiet-Mr. Randall’s speech had abruptly ended.
“What was that, Mr. Cooper?”
But Lyle was still coughing.
“Mr. Cooper, if this is another one of your attempts to disrupt my class, then I’ll have to ask you to go to the office, right now.”
“But sir!” Lyle and Jordan’s friend, Jack Hayden, the mouthy one exclaimed innocently, “he wasn’t doin’ anything....” But Mr. Randall had already made up his mind.
“You and Mr. Cooper both go to the office then.”
Lyle shrugged, unhurt, and walked out the classroom door.
Just before he left though, Rae could have sworn she saw a small smile appear on his face for the smallest of seconds, and she could also have sworn he’d meant for her to see it.
He must have seen the drawing-which was him with a cross between Rasputin’s and Vlad the Impaler’s facial hair.
It truly looked devastatingly terrible and unattractive.
How weird, Rae’s thought, that he even knew I was drawing him.
Then her mind wandered back to the many times she’d attempted to draw her dad as a kid. The paintings were awful-and most of the time you couldn’t even tell what she had painted because the watercolors tended to drip and blend.
He always praised her handiwork though.
Dad-with his scent of cigars and musty old books and who knew what else. Dad. With his slight Italian accent and love for all things with Oregano. Dad. Who bought the entire collection of Godfather movies and who, on every Wednesday night, watched The Sopranos reruns.
But dad was gone.
Rae couldn’t truly believe that he was gone. After all-the house was left completely like it had been three months before. His study was untouched especially. Sometimes, when they were drunk, his old friends would even come by on late nights and ask if he was still up.
Mom still kept her wedding ring on (granted-she never left the bedroom, except for food and to go to the bathroom, and sometimes to visit her mom and her sister, Aunt Lillian).
Rae was afraid to arrange anything differently in the house-and she always kept it spotlessly clean (like it still would have been if mom would ever come back).
God forbid that anything would change.
God forbid that she make anything but his favorite type of Eggo waffles in the morning.
God forbid that she forget or not do anything according to his regular schedule, just in case he came back anytime soon.
Her thoughts were doing this again-going back to her dad. This couldn’t keep happening. She really needed another distraction.
Her mind went easily back to the time warp of shopping lists and to-do lists that she had just waiting there in the back of her brain, should she need an immediate pain killer.
She’d need to drop by the grocery store tonight, after babysitting the Gordon kids for two hours, and before that she’d need to check on her mom, at least finish one homework item that needed to be done (so that she wouldn’t feel too guilty, just in case Tamara came-to and asked her about homework), and she needed to call Chelsea and tell her that she couldn’t work that extra shift at the bookstore after all. Mrs. Gordon had called her in the morning and asked her if she could baby-sit from five to seven tonight. It was an emergency. And she would pay her double for it. Rae couldn’t turn such an offer down.
She wondered how much of that would actually be done.
The bell rang for the end of class and the end of the day.
Luckily, getting to her car in the faraway parking lot wasn’t a problem anymore-since she never brought home more than one book.
Rae walked quickly to her locker (wanting to avoid any pitying stare from former friends) without talking to anybody.
She’d given up on having friends.
Rae shoved the Calculus book in her messenger bag. She hated Calc most of all her subjects, but she hadn’t done homework for it in four nights.
She zoomed passed humanity and nearly dived for the door, running into someone.
“Sorry.” She barely whispered, meaning to instantly pass by whoever it was quickly.
“Leaving so soon?”
The voice was a strange one. Rae was intrigued enough to look up.
Lyle towered over her several inches; he might even have been six foot five to her five four and a half inches.
But it didn’t matter.
“Yeah, so what?”
She was pissed. Why couldn’t he just leave her alone and let her by like anyone else would’ve?
“Well we’re having a row now are we? What fun. I adore rows.”
“Row?” Rae thought aloud, “since when have you been British?”
Lyle smiled and said, “Since I was born.” Immediately Rae could catch the hint of an English accent.
“Whatever.” She said, determined to move on to her car.
She hauled forward; Lyle stopped her with a mere tug of his arm. She fumed. Wish I had those cheerleading muscles now, she thought, when they’d actually come in handy.
Lyle shrugged his shoulders.
“All you have to do is ask.”
“For me to move.”
“Oh. Can you move.....please” she added that last word with a little annoyance.
But Lyle did what he said-he moved.
She was a yard or so passed him when she heard his voice again. It slipped back into its pure American accent and phrasing now.
“Just wondering, but would you possibly like to hang with my friends and me tonight?”
It was a date. No, she thought hurriedly, it isn’t.
But it was close enough.
“I don’t think so,” was Rae’s answer.
He looked slightly disappointed, but slightly amused. It made for a strange facial expression. But Rae had to admit it was pretty attractive, no matter how strange.
She turned back in the direction of her car again.
“If you change your mind,” chagrined, she had to turn again once more to face him, “we’ll be at the old Opera House, the one that’s run down, we’ll be there all night, come anytime you want. Rae.” He put an emphasis on her name.
How did Lyle Cooper even know her name?
This was the strangest thing that had happened in her life by far.
No, not the strangest.
That thing was also what she wanted to distract herself from thinking about.
She found herself still turned around to see him, but he had instantly disappeared.
What a weird, weird boy, Rae mused.
She faced her car again and this time, made her stride so brisk that she wouldn’t have been able to hear a thing behind her. Even, she thought, if it happened to be his voice.