“Well, I hope you’re happy now.”
Jack looked up from his locker. Patty stared down at him, hands on her hips. Both hands. Herbert was nowhere to be seen.
“He took him,” she said. “He said that pending an investigation, the child is put into temporary custody of the state.” Her eyelashes fluttered behind her glasses, and Jack realized that she was trying to hold back tears. She sniffled. “That was a dirty trick, Jack!”
“If both parents or guardians file claims, that’s what happens.”
“It didn’t work that way with Kyle!”
“Kyle didn’t bother to counter-file,” Jack said. “I helped Beth with that research.”
“She’s not your lab partner. Why were you helping her?”
“She’s my friend, and she asked for help.”
“I’m your friend, too! I’ve known you forever, Jack. I thought we could finally—” The eyelashes were fluttering again. “I’ve known you since kindergarten… and here she is, only here for six months….”
Gold-flecked green eyes flashed through his mind; a smile that lit the shadows of the forest, even on a sunny day; laughter, bright and merry as the stream that cut through the edge of the meadow; hot chocolate, steaming in a mug shaped like somebody’s head; the story that ran all afternoon, as they stared up at the clouds in the late summer sky; a hand, small, slender fingers twined through his own; waking to the lightest touch of the smell of strawberries; taking a backpack, overstuffed with books, after a long, hot afternoon hike; hair, shining with its own inner golden light, touched from below by the a single candle’s radiance; the touch of soft lips on his cheek by the windowsill…..
He blinked. Patty was gone. He looked up. Beth was standing over him, her forehead creased with worry, even though a smile quirked her lips.
“I wish I had your sister’s camera, so I could have taken a picture of that goofy look on your face. Now come on, I thought we were going to finally get to have lunch together.”
* * * * *
“Do you think we’ll flunk this science unit?”
“Well, I know I’m not getting an ‘A’ on it,” Beth said, leaning back along the concrete ledge, kicking her feet.
“I can’t believe she did that,” Jack sighed. “What did you ever do to her?”
“Slap her? Threaten her?”
“She brought that on herself.”
“She doesn’t see it that way, Jack. She just thinks I’m crazy.”
“She’s the crazy one. She thinks just because she’s known me since kindergarten, that…”
“That what?” Beth asked, leaning forward.
“I don’t know… she didn’t say. But… it’s like she thinks we were going to just keep going through high school and… get married or something. That was always how she talked during lunch. ‘We’ll do this’ and ‘we’ll do that.’”
Beth giggled, as Jack pitched his voice towards Patty’s range. “So you don’t think that’s what’s going to happen?” she asked.
“What? Me marry her? That’s—”
“It’s not impossible, Jack.”
“But… I don’t even really know her.”
Beth shrugged. “You’ve still got all of high school.”
“But I thought—”
“I mean… you know…” When Beth didn’t say anything, Jack glanced over at her. “You know. Us.”
She’d pulled her feet up, and was resting her cheek on her knees, staring at Jack in such a way as he wondered if she wasn’t looking through him.
“Forget it. Never mind. Forget I even mentioned it,” he said. It was cold, against the shadowed concrete, but Jack felt uncomfortably hot just then. “You’re staring,” he said.
She smiled. “Just thinking.”
“That there are things I Dream of, and then there are things that I dream of.”
Jack wasn’t at all sure he wanted her to explain that.