At Readerlicious.com, the writers post short stories during holidays. My story, Thankful, is a set in the world I began with another story I posted called Rescue Me (click the title to read it). In Rescue Me, you meet Trent during his summer stint at an animal shelter. In Thankful, I've brought you to Thanksgiving week, and you have the story from Andi's point of view. I'm posting Part One of the story today and will post Part Two later this week at Readerlicious. I'll give you the Part Two link when I post it. Hope you enjoy.
“Your homework essay for today is Five Things I Am Thankful for in My Life.” Mrs. Peony strolls to the whiteboard and writes the assignment title in perfect block letters. She whips around and gives us a constipated smile. “I know you have so much to be thankful for. You children have no idea of hardship. I don’t want to hear any of this nonsense about being thankful for your new iPhone or trivial things. I want serious reflection. Can someone give me an example of what you might discuss?”
I raise my hand as I always do. Mrs. Peony ignores me and waits for someone else to volunteer. The rest of the class shuffles feet, papers, and eyes. Shuffling eyes? Yes. Don’t make eye contact and you won’t be called on to answer—strategy of the high school masses.
She sighs and shakes her head like I’m doing something wrong. “Andrea?”
I’ve told the woman half a dozen times that I go by Andi. I lower my hand. “I’m thankful for the support of my parents.”
“Fine answer.” Mrs. Peony paces the front. “Mike?”
“Condoms. Without the invention of latex, my life—”
“And that is an inappropriate answer,” Mrs. Peony says. She scans the room. “Trent. Can you give me a better answer?”
A courtroom silence falls onto the room. Everyone turns to the back row where Trent sits. Trent Baylord, new to our school and as mysterious as Area 51, has never said a word in class. He doesn’t say much outside of class. The only reason I know he’s capable of speech is the little time I spent working with him during the summer at the animal shelter. I tried to make friends with him, even invited him to the lake despite all the rumors of his headed-to-prison past. He never showed up.
He scrubs both hands down his thighs—a nervous habit I noticed over the summer—and never takes his eyes off Mrs. Peony. He ignores the rest of us.
“The time I spent this summer at the animal shelter,” he says.
“And what about that time? Can you elaborate?” Mrs. Peony’s question is met with silence. We’re all still looking at Trent and I wish for his sake that the bell would ring or she’d move on to someone else or maybe we’d experience an earthquake.
Trent’s gaze swings over to me and locks me in a visual embrace so tight I can’t look away. “It taught me a lot about myself. And, well, about other people.”
Then the last bell does ring, and the laser beam look is broken.
Mrs. Peony’s lips part in a you-deserve-a-sticker smile that evokes a collective gasp since we didn’t know she had other facial expressions. “Class dismissed.”
A horde of students rush the door but my best friend Erika hesitates, looking from me to Trent and back.
What the crap? He doesn’t say a word to me for months and then he says that?
Later, I pass Trent near my locker, and he won’t look me in the eye. He was never shy when he’d been working his community service at the shelter. Now, he acts like I’m a stranger.
“Hey.” I follow him from the lockers. “Trent, wait up.”
He pauses long enough to glance back.
“How have you been?”
He nods. “Alright.” And like a racehorse through the gate, he’s off down the endless hallway. His strides are long and swift.
I’m running to keep up. “You in a hurry?”
“Do you have a job to get to or something?”
“No.” He rounds the corner and disappears from view.
I search the parking lot as I walk to my car. Late model vehicles crowd the lot. Tim, a Donald Trump wannabe, waves at me from the BMW he got for his birthday. Erika rolls down the window of her SUV and motions to me.
“Hey girl.” She gives me a thousand watt smile. “What was that about in English?”
“Did you see Trent Baylord go by?” I scan the parking lot that’s emptied faster than cockroaches leave a lit room.
“And now you’re looking for the boy. Did you guys—”
“No. We didn’t. Whatever you are about to ask, the answer is no. I just wanted to talk to him.” In the far corner of the lot, a figure that looks like Trent disappears into a truck. “Dang. I missed him.”
“That’s too bad,” she turns away with a knowing smile. She pulls away, and I watch her tail lights recede into the distance. I wish I hadn’t let her know I was looking for Trent. The rumors that she’ll create will rival an episode of Gossip Girl. Trent’s distant attitude and mysterious background have elevated his status from hot new boy to sizzling hunk-o-the-month guy.
On Tuesday, I look for Trent in the halls every chance I get. I’ve never looked before and have no idea of his schedule. After he finished his community service at the shelter, he disappeared.
Last period finally arrives, and I sit in my seat waiting for him to enter English. That’s when I notice that everyone is watching me watch for him. Great. Erika, her imagination, and her overactive mouth have been at work. I concentrate on my homework and never see him walk to his seat in the back.
On Wednesday, we hand in our essays in English class. We’ve pushed our seats together in small groups of four for our video projects. I’m annoyed with all my classmates who have the maturity of fifth graders.
“Trent Baylord is deep. He isn’t like other guys. I have Advanced Physiology with him, and we are partners in lab. We have this…” Tiffany shakes her head and bites her lip because this is stretching her brain power. “Connection. Like on a deeper level. He has issues, but I understand them. His parents are divorced and so are mine. He gets judged on his looks and so do I. We go together like peas and carrots.”
“Peas and carrots. You did not just quote Forrest Gump, did you?” The girl to my right, Juney, gives me the stink-eye for my comment.
Tiffany bares her teeth in a pretend smile. “I know you guys had a thing over the summer—”
“There was no thing. We both volunteered at the shelter.” I glance back to see if anyone from another group is listening. In a lowered voice, I say, “Sorry. I wasn’t making fun of you. I didn’t know you guys were dating.”
“Not dating, exactly. But we have chemistry, and I can tell he’s going to ask me out.” Tiffany’s pretend smile widens into a flirty one toward the back of the room.
I grind my teeth until the end of class. This whole thing with Trent is driving me crazy. He’s ignored me for months, and I was nothing but nice to him over the summer. Friends don’t ignore friends.
After class, I sprint after Trent. “Hey. I want to talk to you. Did I do something to you?”
He stops in the middle of the hall and people step around both of us. “No. Why would you ask that?”
“I don’t get you. We were friends during the summer. We talked about how fun this year could be. About college next year. You haven’t said a word to me since school started.” I’m struck by the intense way he looks at me. “And then I felt like you were trying to say something to me the other day with your answer in class. And I…” The hall is empty and the parking lot will be soon. A custodian wheels away the trash can beside us.
“You weren’t exactly talking to me either,” he mutters without looking my way. “Walk with me.” Trent rubs his free hand on his thigh.
“Okay, maybe you don’t owe me an explanation about the lake.” And why did I bring up the fact that he didn’t show up that day. It wasn’t a date or anything. I’m overwhelmed with awkwardness all of sudden. My heart is thunking in my chest.
“Thanks for taking Harvey. I was going crazy worrying about that dog.”
I study his gorgeous profile—dark lashes shading hazel eyes, strong nose with a little bump like it’s been broken. I realize he’s waiting for my response. “Oh, yeah. I knew you couldn’t take him. Or you would have.” Harvey the shelter dog is common ground for us.
“My stepmother wouldn’t let me take him.”
“No. Really. It meant a lot. It makes me happy to think about Harvey with you.”
Why is my stomach doing a somersault at his words? I steady my breath and look straight ahead to the parking lot ahead of us. “Harvey is great. You can come see him anytime.”
He stops walking and turns his head to look at me. “You mean that?”
“Come visit him over Thanksgiving holiday. I’ll be around. Unless you’re going out of town…”
He doesn’t answer and stares at me like he’s shocked at the invitation.
“But you’re probably busy or going out of town or something—”
“No. I’m not going to Thanksgiving at the Kellogs with the rest of them.”
“My stepmother’s parents. I’m not going with them.”
“Are you having dinner with your mom?”
“You’re going to be alone?”
The silence stretches, and we’ve stopped walking. We’re at my car, frozen by the inability to move forward in the conversation.
I take a deep breath of courage. “You should come to my house tomorrow for Thanksgiving.”
Trent stares at my car. “Nah. I’m fine at home.”
“Come on. Harvey misses you.” I’m not too proud to use the rescued pit bull dog he loves as emotional leverage. “You’d make his day.”
He stays silent and still stares at my car like he’s afraid to look at me. Should I press him to make a decision now or will it spook the boy, as skittish as a new colt?
“Here.” I pull a piece of paper out of my bag and write my address on it. “Lunch is a noon. Harvey will be expecting you.
(Part Two will be at Readerlicious.com later this week. I'll be sure to give you the link when it's on the site. Thanks for reading.)
This month, I'm giving away a $10 Amazon gift certificate. To enter the November giveaway, please enter in the widget. I change up the ways to enter throughout the month, so you'll be able throughout November. There is a link in the bottom of the widget for Terms and Conditions to this giveaway. Good luck! ~ Brinda