Chapter: Forging Friendships

Entry: Apr 20, 2007

Adriana dropped her pencil and leaned forward slightly, her story now forgotten. "So why?" she asked. A legitimate question.

Kyle's chance to take the initiative ruined, he mentally resisted grinding his teeth in frustration. "Well, about that..." He stopped himself before unleashing the torrent of drivel that really prompted his visit. Definitely a good idea; a grand idea even. She didn't hear him the first time; why repeat the same mistake?

"I'm new here," he began with something obvious. She nodded for him to continue. "And, I like to walk. A lot. Heck, it's all I really do. So, I was wondering if you could show me around a little, ya know, after school?" Good. Not quite a lie, and enough truth, considering his very real attraction for her.

She gasped, "A little forward, don't you think?"

Kyle blinked, confused. "No, I mean it. My folks and I just moved here, and Dr. Z grabbed me after English and said I should make some friends, ya know? An he said we both did a good job in class, so I figured I could talk to you while we wandered around town."

Skepticism is inadequate to describe the look that streamed from Adriana's face. "Really?" she asked, tone flat and mildly mocking. "Because the Dr. Z I know only gives extra assignments. Sometimes he's even pretty sneaky, making it look fun. Perfect trick to play on the new kid trying to make friends."

She was almost right, which jarred Kyle's foundations. He intended to rush directly to Old Town after school, indeed undertaking the English teacher's bidding. Was it just a trick then? Send him scampering to the lost ruins to learn something? Related to English? Absurd. Maybe if Dr. Z was a History teacher, but otherwise? Adriana was inferring something else, he decided.

"Kyle, I'm talking about why you're here," she said, rolling her eyes. "So far, you're friends with a bunch of boys who make crude jokes all day." She flicked her wrist toward Kyle's table. "I think the dirty old man wants you to meet girls."

"But why you?" he asked. Whether arrogance, or a misguided attempt to bring semblance to Kyle's improvisation, her assumption greatly simplified matters.

"Because you're not the first," she said.

Kyle leaned forward and cocked his head to the side, squinting one eye and contorting the opposite eyebrow. "Huh?" he asked, plainly shocked.

Her head bobbed, eyes wide and excited. "Yes! All the time! Every new kid, he sends directly to me, like I'm the welcoming committee!" she exclaimed, firing off each word like a Gatling Gun.

Kyle, still wearing his patented mask of confusion asked, "Why?"

"I'm not sure," she said. "I... I think it might be because my family has lived here for generations. We know this town better than anybody. Father even has quite a few nicknacks from the town founders cluttering up our walls. There's even a wagon wheel hanging in the stairwell!" she laughed.

Kyle was stunned. His mouth hung open, a wide train-tunnel beckoning for the 12:42 express. He thought he knew otherwise, but Adriana's story was as much coincidence, as Kyle had rabbit ears. To suggest the wiley English teacher wanted them together as a couple was laughable, but her possible knowledge of Old Town was surreal. No. No way the old guy's that sneaky. Dr. Z barely even reacted when Kyle asked about the non sequitur following his dizzy-spell. What was that about, anyway? Kyle swept the possibility away as sheer nonsense. It was his idea to befriend Adriana; everyone else strongly opposed his attempt, in fear of supernatural reprisal.

"Wow!" he gushed, adding a nervous, forced laugh.

"Yeah! They..." Adriana stopped, suddenly blank, her eyes glassy and distant. "I... They... You know, I think... they all just get bored and move away." She said the last as a question, as if asking herself if the sky is blue, answered by a ridiculous lie: it's tartan dear, don't worry yourself. She shrugged, "it happens a lot here. New families move in, pine for the 'good life' and move away. Most folk born here stay though." There, that made sense. Easy peasy, lemon squeasy. "Don't worry, I'm used to it," she giggled prettily.

Somewhere in the furthest recesses of Kyle's mind, he recognized the preposterous statement—that every single new family eventually moved away—as a pointed challenge to his intelligence. He decided to ignore that creeping sensation, though. He'd have plenty of time to consider it later; for now, lunch was almost over, and he still needed to wheedle a time for his guided tour.

"Ha! Well, I guess you won't mind showing me around a little, then. I mean, since that's your job an' all.

She laughed and said, "Ok, Kyle. I know all the best places to sit and contemplate life, or stare and feel the beauty of the moon, or relax in the flowing tundra, or the deepest snow for Snow Angels. If you like to walk, you'll want to see all of them!"

Kyle wasn't so sure about the 'beauty of the moon' or any flowing tundras, but the rest sounded perfect. "And what about&ndash"

"Craig's Hill. That's the best one, and I'll save it for last," she said with a wink. "The town glimmers like a polished jewel in the night, and you can see the whole thing from the cliff," she added, looking wistfully at the ceiling. Kyle liked the idea: there weren't exactly a plethora of cliffs in Detroit.

The worst was over, and Kyle technically had a date with the most beautiful girl in school. Life, he decided, was pretty good. He remembered then, that he'd interrupted her homework. "What 'bout that?" he asked, pointing to the forgotten notebook.

"Oh!" she said with a jump. "I'm almost done actually! I had the best idea right after class and had to write it down! It's about my pet bunny, Rue!"

Kyle suppressed a shudder; what kind of name was Rue for a rabbit? It sounded macabre. He shouldered on, "So, what time?"

"I need to go home and do chores, but can you meet me back here at 7 o'clock?"

Yes! "Of course," he said, without thinking, exhilarated at the prospect. Should he find a flower? Some kind of payment? "Should I bring anything?" he wondered out loud.

"Oh right! Something to eat. Craig's hill is a long climb. I like peanut-butter, and strawberries," she offered.

"Ma will make you wish you never said that," he said with a laugh, "because it's all you'll want to eat after trying one of her sandwiches." It was true, actually. More than a few of his friends in other cities threatened to kidnap his mother, desperate to acquire an endless stream of her cooking. She's wasted on you, Scruff, they'd say.

He stood up from her table: mission accomplished. Now all that remained was an overdue gloating session over Sam and Jason. Idiots. "I'll see ya then," he said.

"Bye Kyle!" she beamed, waving him on his way.

Kyle sauntered back to his table, throwing an inflated swagger into each meaningful step. This must be how Frank feels every day. I could get used ta this. Sam and Jason watched his approach balefully, as if he returned bearing a devastating aura that threatened to annihilate their very souls. Their eyes swam with fear, but mentally they pitied Kyle, a fool totally unprepared for the catastrophe looming over his victorious horizon.

When he finally arrived, he straightened his back, jerked his hands to his hips, and puffed out his chest, the very picture of heroism. "I, have a date," he bragged. "And no, it's not with anybody's mother." That certainly settled it, struck it dead. He won. He reached out with his hand at about shoulder height, palm up, and waved it around for effect. "What, no rain? No lightning? C'mon! Where's my lightning!?" He laughed.

He was the only one laughing. Everyone else shifted uncomfortably, avoiding his eyes, suddenly finding the table very intriguing. In this, his mirth was a bloated cadaver, repulsive and obscene. Nettling an ominous force wasn't funny; Kyle just didn't understand the danger. But everyone feared he would, and that was no comedy.

No, nobody laughed. He'd catch on eventually, supposing he lived that long.

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