Chapter Two: The Perils of Trying To Go Home

 

The dismissal bell was a sound that Miranda had been dying to hear ever since the recess period event. While the day hadnít been any better or any worse up until that point, the day had been pretty weird from the start. The recess period event only served to make the tacitly unusual day into a nightmare.

As she gathered up her things, stacking her books neatly on her desk, fighting off the nudges of the other students already packed and swarming around her to make haste for the exit, she thought back to the conversation that she and her mother had had at breakfast. First off, it was unusual for her mother to have breakfast ready in time for her to take a mouthful before leaving for school, let along have it waiting for her when she came down for it. In fact, her mother actually called her down for breakfast. Such things were as rare as the Earth getting slammed by a fifty foot meteor, yet this morning, breakfast was on the plate, on the table, and even getting cold. Second, it was a hot breakfast. More precisely, it was hot and good. No cold cereal. No oatmeal or cream of wheat. It was bacon and eggs and pancakes and syrup. A mug of hot cocoa. A tall, cold glass of orange juice.

But more importantly, her mother seemed concerned about something. She wanted to drive her to school, instead of having her catch the bus as usual. Whatís more, she wanted to pick her up after school. She said that she didnít like her waiting for the bus with all the strange people who seemed to be combing through the neighborhood these days. Never mind that she never, ever waited alone, typically surrounded by a dozen or so other kids, most of whom did not go to the same school, but most of whom she knew and most of whom continued past the stop where Miranda exited going and got on coming home.

Miranda pulled the rubber book strap across the books on her desk and linked the two ends with the metal catches.

She remembered her motherís words like she remembered the latest whoís who in the school yard gossip. "I donít want you waiting by yourself with all these crazy people running around hurting people."

It was an absolute farcical statement that her mother had made, for she never waited alone to begin with. She had never waited alone, as long as she had been going to the school. Granted, when the school used to have its own bus service, the bus used to pick her up right in front of her house. She didnít have to go anywhere, except right out the door to the bus, and right off the bus and into the house when she got home. But as part of a cost saving measure (insurance premiums and bus maintenance threatened to drive the tuition up almost 50%), the school cancelled the bus service during the summer. It wasnít much of a problem, since public transit went right past the school, and the school even sprung for the public transit tokens for the students at no additional tuition cost. A lot of the parents were not happy about it, including Mirandaís mother, but the school was the best in the area by far, and was given top honors for schools across the nation. And for ten thousand dollars a year (as Astora mentioned so, so often) it was still a deal, all things considered with or without door to door bus service.

"Letís go slowpoke!"

Miranda looked up and saw Astora hovering over her. "Oh hey. Just a sec."

Miranda shoved the bound books into her back pack and, standing, slung in onto her back. She grabbed her sweater from the back of the chair and draped it across her arm, following Astora from the class room and into the hallway. Most of the other students had already vanished, and those who hadnít vanished completely were in the process of disappearing very rapidly.

"My momís picking me up today," Miranda announced. Her voice resounded loudly in the suddenly quiet hallway. Only the remnants of the voices of the students leaving the build sounded besides the sounds of Mirandaís and Astoraís shoes on the hard terrazzo floor.

Astora always got a ride home, even when there had been door to door bus service. She did not live in the city. She was a suburbanite, but, like most suburbanites, she did find the city fascinating and the liveliness of it attractive.

"Iíd rather ride the bus if I could," Astora lamented. "I gotta listen to the chauffer gab all the way home. Sheís really nice and all, but I donít know how many more times I can stand listening to her talk about her kids. They sound terribly boring."

ChaufferÖ even though her family was well to do, the chauffer was nothing but a glorified taxi driver, and the limo was a economy hybrid energy fueled car barely big enough to seat four people. Four small people. But, yep, it was a limoÖ the license plate even said so.

Astora liked to walk real close to Miranda, shoulders and arms rubbing as they walked, literally bouncing off each other, and she spoke really loudly most of the time. She wasnít ahrd of hearing, since she could hear anyone talking about anyone from almost any distance, so Miranda figured that she just liked for people to hear what she was talking about.

"Anyway, why is she picking you up?"

Miranda rolled her eyes at the thought of trying to explain her mother. Her mother wasÖquite simply, her mother. Eccentric enough to make Plutoís orbit round the sun perfectly circular. She had a predilection with health issues, a prediclection she got from hre own mother.

Mirandaa dreaded to think that it was genetic and she would wind up that eccentric too when she got old.

She worried about cell phone radiation causing brain cancer. She worried about the the water she drank (she had to had specific types of imported bottled water when she drank water, but when she didnít drink water, she drank juice.) She didnít take medication of any kind, not even aspirin, and didnít give any to Miranda. "Medication treats the symptoms, not the condition" she would say. But Miranda would say "I have a headache now, mom. If it kills me at least I wonít have a headache anymore."

And now she didnít want Miranda waiting alone at the bus stop.

Miranda sucked her teeth, fairly bristling at the thought of trying to explain her mother to anyone. "Ugh, never mind. She just wants to pick me up."

They descended the steps together, their feet impacting the steps at the same time as if they were marching. It intensified the sound to the point that it sounded as if one very large person in hard bottom shoes was moving through the building. But when they spoke, their high girlish voices spoiled the unintentional deceit.

"What do you think about Steve Johnson?" Astora asked suddenly, her voice uncharacteristically low as she didnít want to have anyone hear her mention a particular boyís name under those circumstances, especially him.

There was no one around to hear, except Miranda, for the building was, for all intents and purposes, already emptied. No doubt an odd teacher or two still remained, and no doubt the custodial staff was around somewhere in the bowels of the place, awaiting the right moment to spring into action and cleanse the building from top to bottom.

Miranda wondered if they would do anything special, now that a once sick mouse had been found dead during school hours. Would they have to fumigate the place? Mother would be none-too-happy if they had to, and then expose the kids to potentially toxic remnant of the fumigation process.

No doubt she would write a letter complaining. Her mother complained a lot about a lot of things. She complained about the weather. She complained about the price of food. She complained about the price of gasoline for her car. She complained about the cost of utilities. She complained about her hair dresser. There was nothing that her mother wouldnít complain about, or write letters about. She hated when her mother complained. But every conversation with her mother would start with, end up with, or traverse some complaint that she had about something. This or that. That or the other thing. The other thing or something else. Endless. Endless. Endless.

"well?"

Miranda snapped back to Astora. "Wha?"

Astora sneered. "Youíre turning into a real space case all of a sudden. I said, Ďwhat do you think about Steve Johnson?í"

"Heís a dork."

"Yeah, but heís cute, donít you think."

She thought only long enough to spit out: "Ha."

"well, I do. Heís funny."

"Looking."

Astora nudged her. "no, he isnít."

"Heís got that thing on the back of his hair."
"Itís a duck tail, and itís cute."

"Itís lame and itís lame."

"Oh, whatever. Anyway, I was thinking about, you knowÖ"

"No, I donít know. Tell me."

At long last they reached the front doors. A non-teaching assistant was prowling the area near the door, obviously making sure that all the students who left the building remained outside the building. He nodded to the girls as the pushed on the panic bar and opened the door to leave. He might have muttered something to them as they left, but for their conversation, they did not hear what he said.

It was cooler and windier than it had been at recess. And cloudier too. Miranda stopped long enough to relieve herself of her book bag, slip on the sweater she had been carrying, and remount the book bag.

"I was thinking about asking him for his phone number."

"really?"

Mirandaís surprise was genuine. Never in a million years would she have thought that someone like Astora would be interested in someone like Steve Johnson. They were so different in so many ways that she couldnít begin to list them all. And in a way she hated the idea that her friend might one day be the boyfriend of someone that she did not particularly care for. It certainly would threaten to put a strain on their friendship, provided that either she or Steve didnít change enough to be tolerated by the other.

Miranda listened to Astora go on and on about everything that Steve did that she liked, or found amusing, or enjoyed as they made their way down the long concrete rampart that lead to the old bus loading area and what was now the car loading area. There was but a single car waiting for them, and it wasnít Mirandaís motherís car.

 

 

The Reason Why We Love    Copyright © 2006 by Walter R. Milton