The Little Surprise

It sounded like the beginning of a story where you know it was going to end badly.

I called off of work to spy on my ex’s current boyfriend at her bequest.  The Catch: he’s a high school teacher.  The 22: I had to wait in the parking lot.

The sorry truth was that I’m not young enough to be attending there, and I’m not old enough to be working there.  And I’m definitely not a parent.

When the campus security guard asked me what I was doing, I wish I would have said:

“Why sir, I’m waiting for my girlfriend.  She’s a senior.”

Or:

“I’m picking my sister up.  We’re taking the family dog to the vet and it doesn’t look too good.”

Even this would have been good:

“I’m stalking one of the teachers.”

But instead, I said nothing.  Then I started mumbling and bumbling my words.  He asked me again for clarification, and then for my ID.  As I gave up and reached for my wallet, guess who appeared.

Marvin, are you harassing my buddy?

Mr. Antonlini, you know this guy?

Yeah, he’s meeting me for lunch.

Ryan Antolini.  You have good timing.  I’ll give you that.

He rushed over to the driver’s side window I had rolled down for Marvin.  I realized I hadn’t even looked at the security guard the entire time, mostly out of fear.  He didn’t look a day over twelve years old.  I could have took him.

Marvin, you remember Aiden Caulfield, don’t you?  He graduated three years ago, a year before you.

From what school, Mr. A?

This one, you knucklehead.  Ryan fake punched Marvin in the arm, just like how he fakes everything, I’m sure.  Marvin stared at me, trying to place my name with my face.  Ready to get out of here? Ryan asked of me, and I nodded.

How had he seen me?  I was in the back end of the lot.  I didn’t think he knew what car I drove.

He climbed in the passenger side and said, Let’s go.  I’ve got a little surprise waiting for you.

I didn’t inquire about anything that was happening.  My only question: “Where to?”

Pencey Cafe, on Pennsylvania Ave.

So I drove, and neither of us said a word.  I was in a stunned state, and that reminded me of The Stunner that Hank had talked about.  When I mentioned today’s plan to Kilgore, H.L., and Santiago, they all shrugged it off and let me carry it out.  Kilgore at least drew me a map to the bingo hall and said to forget the trailing, but Hank would have set me completely straight.  I wouldn’t have been in that car at that point if he hadn’t stopped going to Marlin’s Inn.

I’d imagine he would have said something like this:

Chasing pussy’s one thing, but following a dick is another.

At Pencey Cafe, we both exited the car with the same speed and momentum.  Whereas my expression was solemn, his was all smiles.

Inside, I found my little surprise: Ashleigh waiting at a table for three.  She waved at me and my stomach devoured my heart.

I knew this sounded like a story that was going to end badly.

The Good Question

I called off sick today. 

I’ve held my job as long as I’ve dated Ashleigh, and I’ve never missed a day.  Not when I’ve been sick.  Not when the weather’s been poor.  Not when I’m hungover… which happens more and more often since she’s left me.

I started working originally to support our dating habits.  She was bound to have other suitors, and many of my fellow classmates came from money, like T.J., whom thanks to the guys is now known as Steve.  I guess somewhere deep inside, either insecurity or responsibility or both pushed me to try and get hired at age fifteen.  I remember I had to get approval from my parents and the school.  Maybe even the state.

And I’ve never called off.

Not to extend vacations.  Not to go to parties.  Not on a whim to be a teen.  Not even when Ashleigh begged me.

But I did it because of her.  What the hell is wrong with me?  I’m sitting in my car in the teachers’ parking lot at my old high school waiting for “Mr. Antolini” to leave for lunch.  That was my plan because Ryan used to leave when he was my teacher – he’s bound to do it still.

When the lunch bell rang, I studied the crowd spilling out of the building.  There were more young folks than old, since students were able to leave these days.  It wasn’t that long ago I couldn’t even run to my car if I forgot a book in the trunk.

Upon finally spotting Ryan Antolini cautiously exiting through the teacher’s lounge door, I started my car.  That’s just before reality hit me, in the form of the campus security guard.

He was large, and in charge, and knocking on my window, motioning for me to roll it down.  I obliged with a meek grin.

He boomed rather than said:

You mind telling me why you’re hanging out in a high school parking lot?