Every bit as quickly as she’d waved at him, Andi snapped her attention back to the front of the classroom just as the coach turned from the blackboard. Likewise, Benjamin shifted all his focus there, hoping his expression said, Note? What note?
All the while feeling the note in his hands, its sharp corners poking at his ever-sweatier palms.
The coach read something from the textbook about coastal erosion, then turned back to the board to begin the laborious process of writing out the phrase ‘coastal erosion.’
Benjamin unfolded the note before his palm-sweat made all the ink smudge beyond legibility.
Andi’s cursive was flawless.
Saw you & friends outside your house yesterday. Halloween costumes? Were you rehearsing a skit for drama class or a pep rally?
It was rare Benjamin found himself at a loss for words. She — Andi — was curious about what he did?
More crucially, she drove by the house yesterday and saw him and the others gallivanting through Voidville?
He re-folded the note into its original origami rectangle (with convenient pull-tab) in seconds, mulling over its message.
Well, of course Andi would want to know if Benjamin and the others were doing something for a pep rally. She was captain of the JV Flag Corps. Anything that might impact her crew’s time to perform their own routine, she’d need to be aware of. Likewise, drama class. Andi was effectively second-in-command, being the best actress in the class, if not the school. She’d want to be up on what the other students were doing, since midterms were in a few weeks.
And then there was the rest of the note: that she’d gone by Benjamin’s house, seen him and the others running around in their piecemeal outfits, and…
Benjamin thought back to the mother who’d picked up Eury’s friend, and her what the hell…? expression. Was this note Andi’s version of that confused look?
He and his friends and acquaintances, dressed in such a way that it required the power of their collective imagination to recognize them as the movie monsters they were supposed to be, goofing around and playing make-believe while Andi Brennan looked out the passenger window of her parent’s car and watched them in utter bafflement.
It took Benjamin a moment to place what he felt: shame. The burning shame of peer pressure, of the urge to ‘grow up,’ the sick need to stop being ‘childish.’
He’d felt it before, that sickness, mostly last year after the funeral and all the fundraisers and candlelight vigils and MADD rallies and all the rest of it. This was a world where people died without reason, and here he was, journeying to Fantasyland in his front yard, before the whole neighborhood. The shame, the ache to abandon what made him happy was overwhelming then.
But like all sicknesses, he recovered from it in time.
With a quick glance at the front of the room, Benjamin unfolded the note again and, Bic pen at the ready, scratched out a note in blocky letters that contrasted with Andi’s superb penmanship.
None of the above! [Smiley Face] Be glad to tell you about it after class.
Another rapid re-fold, and Benjamin wrote ANDI on the blank side of the rectangle. He tossed on the desk to his right like the veteran note-passing accomplice he was.
“Was that a note? Mister Vail, did you just pass a note?”
The coach’s voice was like slightly inebriated thunder.
“No, sir.” Benjamin got to his feet in a second, desk scraping on the floor as he moved. He hoped the quick motion and noise would distract from the girl to his right who’d intercepted the note, so she could do her non-narc duty and hide the damn thing.
“Could’ve sworn I saw you pass a note there, Mister Vail.” Always with the Mister, always with that little jab that said I’m using respectful language, but I do not, nor will I ever, have any actual respect for you.
“Miss Mayer, did Mister Vail pass a note to you?” The coach wriggled a piece of chalk between his fingers, glaring.
“No, sir,” she said, her voice a squeaky whisper.
The coach cupped a hand to his ear and leaned forward.
“No,” she said again, louder. “No, he didn’t, sir.”
“And if I come back there and look around, I won’t find a note?”
“No sir, you won’t.” Benjamin couldn’t help but look out of the corner of his eye, and saw the note poking blatantly out of the back of the girl’s jeans. She hadn’t quite tucked it deeply enough to hide it.
“Well, maybe I should check anyway, just to be –”
The bell rang, and the tension in the room popped like a soap bubble. Someone even gave a little gasp of surprise at the noise.
The coach looked over the class a moment longer, then waved a dismissive hand. “Get out of here. See you at the pep rally — remember,” and he raised his voice over the clamor of twenty students grabbing their books and scraping their chairs, “it’s mandatory!”
As he exited into the hallway, Benjamin looked back to see Melissa Mayer handing the note to Andi. The redhead unfolded it, read it in a quick scan, then looked up to meet Benjamin’s eyes in the crowd.
For the second time that day, she smiled and nodded.
But this time, she walked straight toward him, following him to his locker.
“So it’s something mysterious,” she said, standing by while Benjamin swapped out his Geography book for Earth Science. He looked around his ajar locker door, expecting to see mockery on her face, only to find a curious grin.
He was aware then of the five minutes they had between classes, and the impossibility of condensing years’ worth of epic storytelling and gaming complexity into a concise explanation that wouldn’t also make him sound like a lunatic.
So he opted for the quick, cheap version.
“Have you ever heard of Dungeons and Dragons?” he asked.
Today’s Words: 1007
Total Words: 4298
Notes: So far, this feels more like YA (sub)urban fantasy than horror. I know what I’m working towards, plot-wise, so hopefully the scariness will pick up before too long.
I’m attempting to write a Halloween-themed horror novel in October! Visit Day Zero for more information or Day One to read from the beginning, and check out Countdown to Halloween for more blogging that’s altogether ooky!
(And the cat is Valentine — I figured the presence of a black cat would make things that much more Halloween-y!)