You know you have the potential for stalking when you wake up and the first thing you do is go to your bedroom window to peek out and spy on the house next door. I don’t know what I was expecting to see: trash littering the lawn from their all-night party, drunken guests crashed out under the trees. What I didn’t expect to see was my mom sitting in a lawn chair on their front porch engaged in conversation with some guy in an expensive business suit. It wasn’t the vampire boy or the puzzle freak. No, this guy was very different. The way he was dressed screamed success. Gray and white pinstripe suit, black framed glasses, hair combed neat. He could have been a lawyer, doctor, or maybe a college professor. And there was mom, animated in the moment. She didn’t have a drink in her hand either. It made me wonder if perhaps an alien spaceship had come down last night and stole my mom, leaving a strange doppelganger in her place. It also made me wonder just how many people had moved in next door.
Stepping from the window I retrieved my cell phone from the dresser and woke it up from sleep mode. I checked the photo gallery to see if someone had snuck in and used the camera again. No, it was still showing the photo of the boy’s chest emblazoned with the tattoo that read “loveless.” It was easy to tell the person was young, his skin smooth and flawless. No blemishes or moles, no acne or skin tags. This boy had been the perfect canvas for the tattoo artist. On a good day I would have stared at the photo awhile and fantasized about what the boy’s face looked like, but not today. “Prick,” I muttered, and put my phone back to sleep.
I got dressed in my usual school attire of blue jeans and t-shirt. The knees of the jeans had holes in them. Not the precut ones you can buy now. No, I had these pants for years and am happy to say they were faded and worn from actual use. The t-shirt was a novelty thing I had picked up online. It was white and pink and had a hello kitty type character on the front. I wouldn’t usually be caught dead in a girly shirt but the fact the Hello Kitty type character was carrying a chain saw and the severed head of an Angry Bird made it a lot cooler. I put on my glitter converse shoes and began to look around for my book bag. It was nowhere to be found. Oh that’s right; I had left it sitting on the front porch when I had come home from school yesterday.
I bounced down the steps and was about to open the front door when it began to open from the outside. I jumped back startled. It was my mom coming in from next door and in her hands she was holding the book bag. She was also holding a stern look.
“What was this doing outside?”
“Sorry, I forgot,“ I replied. “I was just coming to get it.”
She nodded to let me know it was okay, which was totally unlike mom. She should have been lighting into me about the money it costs to replace lost school books or to remind me that dad would probably want his backpack back when he got out. I wondered what he would need it for other than packing up and getting the hell out of this crazy house.
“I’m going to need a ride to school,” I said throwing the bag over my shoulder. I wouldn’t normally ask her, but then again I never found her sober this time of the morning.
“Okay, dear. Let me get the keys. I have to go in to work before you get off school. You don’t need a ride home do you?”
“No, mom. I’ll walk. Or take the bus with Angela. Her mom will give me a ride home if I want.”
She didn’t seem to be bothered by the dig, and soon with her keys in hand we were heading out the door. Down the steps I followed her, both of us daring to look over at the house next door. To our equal dismay, everything looked quiet and calm. No one was outside, not even the puzzle man.
The ride to school started off relatively quiet, both of us lost in our own worlds, but finally I couldn’t take it anymore. “So, who were you talking to over there?”
“Oh, that was Mr. Tomoko. He’s our new neighbor. He was apologizing for an apparent loud party he had over there last night. Did you hear anything?”
“Yeah, I heard a little. Did he say what the party was about or who the guests were?”
She gave me a weird look. I had been blessed with my father’s lack of tact and overabundance of curiosity. She smiled. “He said it was a business party for associates and different interests he had dealings with.”
“Oh hell Nora, I don’t know. Investments I imagine. Why all the questions?”
“I just like to know who’s moving in next to us. They could be serial killers for all we know.”
She shook her head in exasperation. “The apple doesn’t fall very far from the tree, does it?”
“At least it falls.”
After that we drove the rest of the way in silence. At school, I got out of the car without so much as an ‘I love you’ or ‘see you later.’ I was turning to close the door when mom leaned across the seat.
“Nora,“ she said, “look, I’m sorry I haven’t been there for you lately. I know this has to be a difficult time for you.”
I froze. “Difficult? Why?”
“Well, you know, being fifteen and all. Trying to find your way and place among your peers. I remember it was an awkward time for me too. I didn’t know what I wanted either.”
Suddenly it dawned on me. She had heard the rumors, too. It had taken awhile but things do travel across Facebook and eventually land in front of your parents. “Mom, it’s not true…”
“What’s not true?”
I didn’t know if she was feigning ignorance or whether I was just reaching, so I shut up about it. “Nothing. Never mind, I’ve got to go to class.”
“I’m here for you if you are having problems.”
“I’m not having problems. I’ve got to go. Bye.”
I closed the door and was up the front steps of the school before she could say another word. Her car was still sitting out there when I disappeared into the cold confines of the school building.
I didn’t even make it to the first class before trouble came knocking. My guidance counselor, a middle aged woman named Miss Thomas, caught me in the hall and asked me to come to her office. She offered me a chair across from her well-ordered desk, and cleared her throat.
“Miss Williams, This is pretty late in the game. There’s only a couple school days left and I kept hoping you’d make an effort to pull yourself out of your, um, slump, but the truth is you are going to flunk tenth grade. “
Crap, I thought, shaking my head.
“Unless you want to take a few classes in summer school.”
“Aww man. Summer school? Are you kidding?”
“I won’t make you go, Nora. But if you don’t, you’ll lack the credits to graduate to eleventh. You’ll be held back a year while all your friends move on.”
For a moment I thought that might not be a bad idea. Let everyone who knows me get ahead, so the new students coming in won’t know a thing about me. The Trumps would be moving ahead, too. It would almost be like going to a new school with a different peer group. It seemed once you shifted up a grade, those that didn’t move up with you were forgotten or otherwise ignored.
She must have known what I was thinking. “It’s not as bad as it may seem. The classes are very small in our summer school program. The tutors are excellent and you only go half a day. Small price to pay to make up all the unsatisfactory work. “
“Can I think about it?”
“Well, we need to get you signed up if you’re going to do this. I’ll give you until tomorrow. But you are the last one to commit. Other students have already signed up and paid their fees.”
“Okay, I’ll let you know. Is that all you wanted from me?”
She nodded. “Yes, you can go on to class now.”
I got up and left her office in a bummed out mood. Summer was going to be wasted at a school desk. Angela would probably have three boyfriends before I even got out of school.
The rest of the school day was like a dull headache, the kind that is too small for an aspirin, but too big to think about other things. I coasted through my early classes and met up with Angela at lunch. When I told her about Summer school she was just as bummed as me.
“That sucks, girl. I was hoping we’d hang out all summer.”
“I guess we still can, but it will have to be in the evenings. No hanging out at the lake or boarding in the park.”
She shook her head. “Well, you got to go. You can’t ditch me and make me start junior year without you.”
“Yeah, I’ll probably go. When mom finds out, she’ll make me. My dad dropped out in the ninth so she’ll be pushing me not to follow in his footsteps.”
“I don’t want you to follow his footsteps either. Steaks are for eating, not driving through someone’s chest.”
Angela was the only one who could say something like that to me and not make it sound like some kind of wisecrack. I tried to laugh but my headache was getting worse.
“You got an aspirin?”
“Shit, you’re at the pharmacy now, woman,“ she said. “What you need?”
She opened up her purse and pulled out three different bottles of pain reliever. I’m sure one of them was probably illegal without a prescription.
After taking some of Angela’s magic it seemed like the rest of the day passed like a dream. In fifth period where I had been drawing hot manga boys the day before, she finally hit me with the burning question.
“So, what’s his name?”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t get his name.”
She frowned, disappointed. “Loser. You didn’t even go over there, did you?”
“Yeah, I did. It just didn’t turn out well. The guy’s an asshole. Won’t be drawing him again.”
“Shit girl, I’m sorry. I was hoping you’d get lucky. Better yet, I was hoping he had a hot cousin or something for me.”
I shook my head and laughed. “My Angela, always on the prowl.”
She grinned like the cat that has just eaten the tastiest fish. “You know it.”
“They had a party over there last night,“ I said.
“Yeah, I heard.”
“Really? What did you hear?”
“Grant and Nathan were talking about in first period. Apparently they went. Word has it that the Trumps were there.”
“I’m sure they were,“ I replied. It figures that the biggest hoes in the whole school would be there. My jerkface neighbor was probably drooling all over them. Hell, they may have even been the reason he had humiliated me the way he did.
“He didn’t invite you in or anything?”
“No, we didn’t make it that far.”
“Damn, total strikeout,“ she said. I had to agree, but if the Trumps had been in attendance I wouldn’t have wanted to be there anyway. At least now I knew not to waste my time with a certain cute Asian boy.
The sun outside was so bright it was killing my eyes. We were standing on the front steps of the building waiting for Angela’s bus. It was always the last one, which almost always put us in the line of fire when it came to The Trumps and others who loved to sneer at us. As one bus was pulling away, some stupid jock hung his head out the window yelling, “Come on, kiss her.” We both flipped him off. People are so stupid.
“So you coming to my house?” Angela finally asked,.
“Yeah, I’ll ride with you.”
“You don’t have to stroll the rest of the way. Mom can give you a ride ho…Oh My Freaking God!”
“What?” I nearly screamed at her. I was facing away from the buses and looking right at her, alarmed. She clutched her chest and nearly all the color went out of her face.
“I think I have freaking died and gone straight to St. Michael’s bosom.”
She was freaking me out. “What’s wrong?” I asked.
“That is the most beautiful boy I have ever seen. I want to throw myself at his feet and thank Jesus.”
I turned and nearly dropped my backpack. It was the Asian boy from next door. He was standing at the bottom of the steps looking right up at us.
“Konnichiwa,” he said.
I didn’t know if he was still making fun of me or not, but I heard Angela whisper softly to herself, “dreamy.”
“Konnichiwa,” I finally replied. “What are you doing here?”
He came up a couple of steps and stopped. “I..uh..wanted to apologize.” He waited for a response and when I didn’t give one, he continued. “And possibly…maybe..if you would allow me..to um…walk you home.”
I crossed my arms. He wasn’t getting off the hook this easy; I didn’t care that he was wearing tight leather pants and a white pullover shirt that seemed to hug his frame in all the right places. “I guess it depends,” I answered. “What are you apologizing for?”
He looked around, taking in his surroundings and the fact other students had stopped to watch the exchange. He bowed his head and whole upper body. “I apologize for …being insensitive and having a joke at your expense. My humor was not appropriate for the occasion. I meant no…dishonor.”
I uncrossed my arms and was getting ready to say something when he turned and went back down the steps, walking away at a brisk pace, as if he wanted nothing more than to get away. I looked around and noticed a considerably sized crowd had formed, including two of the three Trumps. They were smirking to themselves.
“Hey wait a minute,” I called out, to which he stopped so fast you’d think I’d threatened him. “What about that walk home?”
He looked up at me with those dark eyes filled with surprise. The sad look on his lips turned into a boyish smile. “I would like that honor, Nora.”
“I don’t walk home with people I don’t know,” I said.
Again, he bowed. “I’m Haru.”
I turned around and saw Angela, her eyes gone wide. It had been a roundabout way but I had gotten his name after all. She silently mouthed, ‘call me later’ as her bus pulled up. I noticed the Trumps were gone, too.
“Okay Haru,“ I said, walking up to join him. “You know where I live, don’t you?”
It wasn’t a short walk from school. It seemed even longer simply because I was walking home with a strange boy I had only spoken to once before, and even then I felt like I had done the talking. If he was in his element at night, you wouldn’t have known it by his ease at walking home under the burning sun, which in itself was surprising to me. If he was a vampire, how could he stand to be out in the direct sunlight without burning to ash? Hell, he didn’t even sparkle.
“I am sorry about last night. It was very rude of me.”
“It’s okay,” I replied. “You can make up for it.”
He raised an eyebrow as we hit Market Street, just three blocks from the school. “Oh yeah? And how is that, I wonder?”
“What did you say to me last night?”
He grinned. “Oh, you mean when you were looking at my chest to see how my shirt was buttoned?”
I looked away for a moment, embarrassed that he had noticed. “Uh yes, I guess so.”
“I said, Koko Omotemuki.”
“In English, please.”
He stopped and looked right at me. He touched his chin and said with a smile, “Face up here.”
My face really turned red this time. I don’t think a guy had ever said anything to embarrass me that bad before. “Oh, was it obvious?” I finally asked, trying to play it off.
“Um…yes.” He gave me an inquisitive look. “I just wonder if you do a chest inspection with every guy you meet, or if I’m something special.”
“No, it’s nothing like that…” I started.
“What, you don’t think I’m special?”
This stunned me. “I…I’m…I don’t know..I”
Once again he was having a laugh at my expense, but I wasn’t so mad about it this time. In fact, I kind of liked it. His eyes almost seemed to dance in the light as he spoke. I couldn’t look at them for long; they were too intense, and he seemed to know this because he kept trying to make eye contact.
“Seriously, “ he said, “what was the big deal? Was my shirt dirty or something?”
“No, I was trying to figure out something,” I admitted.
“Oh really. And that was?”
“I was trying to see if you had a tattoo.”
He raised an eyebrow. “You’re not very forward, you know that?” He laughed at the expression on my face. “Yes, I have a tattoo.”
I knew I was being bold, or forward as he said, but I had to know. “A moon with vines that says ‘Loveless’ across it?”
He stopped me with his hand on my arm and a look of concern. “No, that would be my cousin, Ryo.”
“Vampire Boys Of Summer” 2017 Paul D Aronson. All Rights Reserved.