14. Crossing (edited)
Posted: 04 December 2016
Word Count: 910
Summary: YA Psychological thriller/mystery
It’s Wednesday and I have a couple of dollars in my pocket rather than the usual lunchbox. I buy a big slice of pizza at the canteen. My mouth is watering as the smell of pepperoni fills my nostrils and I can’t wait to eat as I look for a table with somebody I know. Sydney’s on her own in a corner booth, a milk-shake in front of her, earplugs in, eyes closed, swaying to something only she can hear and I head for her. She’s in a couple of my classes and we’ve smiled at each other, but that’s it so far. I slide into the bench opposite and start scoffing pizza as I wait. It tastes even better than it smells.
She must be listening to some good music because it takes her a while to sense me. Then, she opens her eyes, stares, questioning and pulls out her earplugs.
I go to speak, but a glob of pepperoni shoots from my mouth. Shit, great first impression.
She looks down at the glob on the table, then up at me.
‘No thanks, I’m not hungry?’ she says.
And I crack up.
She tucks a dreadlock back under her bandana. ‘It’s Jack, isn’t it?’
‘You came end of last year like me.’
‘Sucks, doesn’t it?’
We share a look.
‘Where did you come from?’ I say and take another bite of pizza.
‘Gold Coast. But we were only there for a year, before that we were in Melbourne.’
‘Why so much travelling?’ I’m careful not to spit anything on the table this time.
‘Mum,’ and her mouth turns down a little. ‘She has a career and we follow it.’
‘What’s she do?’
‘She’s a Doctor, rising fast in the medical world.’
‘Cool,’ I say.
‘You reckon?’ I catch the hostility in her eyes before she starts fiddling with the straw in her shake.
I change the subject. ‘What about your dad?’
She looks up and her golden-brown eyes, almost exact colour as her skin, are soft.
‘He lectures philosophy. I love talking with my Dad.’
I lump philosophers and psychologists together. Both giving the big answers that nobody can check-up on. I hope her dad’s answers are better than the stupid psych’s that I had to see. ‘Is he at the university at Maxville?’
‘Yeah, not many hours, but that doesn’t matter as long as Mum’s career is chugging along.’ This time she bends the straw so it splits down the side. ‘What about you? Where did you come from?’
‘Dad, mum, brothers, sisters? she says as she ditches the straw and takes a sip from the shake.
‘Dads at the…’ and I hesitate. She’s got two impressive parents and I’ve got a meatworker and a mum whose only job seems to be my protector. ‘He’s um… at the Meatworks and mum’s a stay-at-home mum.
‘What about brothers, sisters?’
I take my time with my last mouthful, then say, ‘No, no-one. I like your name, haven’t met anybody with that name, ever.’
‘Mum’s fault. Her great-great grandfather had it and she thought it would be good to lump her first-born with it.’
‘Do you have any brothers or sisters?’ I say.
‘Nah, I’m an only, just like you.’
I try to catch the flinch, but don’t quite make it and I can see it’s registered with Sydney. There’s an awkward silence, then she says, ‘What do you like to listen to?’
Yes. My favourite topic in the world and we start talking like we’ve been friends for years. She’s different to anybody, any girl I’ve ever met. We’re going to have lunch tomorrow.
First week of school has been so much better than I thought it would be. Some of it’s about making the soccer team, but most of it’s about Sydney. Grade 10 is going to be different. Middle-of-the-road isn’t for me anymore. I want to graduate from a good Uni. I want a piece of paper that will give me more choices than a meatworks job and a run-down rental.
When mum picks me up at the school gate, she must sense something’s different, because the worry in her eyes fades and she smiles.
‘How was it Jack?’
‘What did you do with your lunch money?’
‘Pizza at the canteen.’ I wait a couple of seconds, then add, ‘With Sydney.’
‘Is he one of the mates who were supposed to visit on the holidays?’
‘He’s a she.’
I don’t say anymore and neither does she, but she leans back in her seat and her shoulders relax as she drives. I look at her veined hands curled around the steering wheel and remember how many times they’ve brushed my hair, brushed my tears and something shifts inside me. I lean across and pat her shoulder. I haven’t touched Mum in so long. Not voluntarily. Not since she let us go to the park, alone.
She swerves, gains control and looks at me. Her face is a mix of shock and hope.
Dinner’s nice, but the smell is back with a vengeance.
Mum talks about calling Breedon and Dad tells her to try and get him out here this weekend.
Jack met a new friend at school today,’ says Mum.
‘Oh?’ says Dad and rests his fork on his plate.
‘Her name’s Sydney,’ she says.
Dad grins at me. ‘Good name.’
I grin back. ‘Yeah.’
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