“You,” Patty said, struggling to perch beside Jack on the wide concrete ledge, “have been avoiding me.”
“And how could I possibly do that, since you’ve been following me around all day?” Jack asked.
“Jack,” the red head said. She actually pouted. “We’re in most of the same classes together. That’s hardly ‘following.’”
“And you always go to the library at morning break?”
Patty blushed. “Lots of people go to the library.”
“Well, not very many people come here for lunch,” Jack said. His teeth clacked as he bit through his peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
“It’s a free campus, we can eat just about anywhere.”
“Well, why aren’t you eating with your sister, like you usually do?”
“Catty thought maybe you might be lonely.”
“Well, you can go tell her I’m not,” Jack said.
“What with your golden-haired friend in in-school suspension and all,” Patty continued, as if she hadn’t heard him. “She’s very considerate, don’t you think?”
“Beth is very considerate, yes,” Jack said, around another mouthful of his sandwich.
“No, I mean Catty!” Patty said, not quite managing to smother the edge of impatience before it crept into her voice.
“Then why isn’t she here?” Jack asked.
“We agreed that I would be a better choice. Since you and I are in mostly the same classes. And you know Catty. She’s so… quiet. She’d hardly be good company.”
Jack concentrated on chewing. He got up to twenty-three before Patty looked over at him.
“And speaking of bad company,” she said. “Listen to me, talking on and on….” She turned, facing Jack.
“What?” he asked, after he’d swallowed. It was rather difficult, with her sitting so close. He sipped at his juice box.
She blinked, eyelashes fluttering. Behind her gold-rimmed glasses, her eyes looked even bigger.
“What sorts of things do you talk about? Here. Away from everybody.”
Jack pointed to his sandwich. “It’s not polite to talk with your mouth full. So, right now, I’m eating. You can talk about whatever you want.”
Color rose to Patty’s cheeks, and her frown disappeared nearly as soon as it had appeared.
“I don’t mean you-you,” she said, poking Jack’s arm for emphasis. “I meant you and that — her.”
The pause was brief, but Jack caught it. He wondered whether Patty would have said “girl” or “witch.”
“We just talk about whatever,” he said.
“Like what?” She leaned slightly closer. She blinked again, then sat back a bit, pushing her glasses up on her nose. “Give me an example.”
“Well…” Jack glanced about. He looked up, at the strip of sky between the gym and school buildings’ roofs. “Sometimes we talk about what the clouds look like.”
“Those are altocumulus.”
Jack sighed. “Never mind.”