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His pinky finger lifted. Fifteen. It hovered for a second and then laid down again. I stared at it in twisted anticipation, the long milliseconds dragging by.
It lifted again. Sixteen.
The ticking of the clock flooded my ears as I stared at his pinky finger, waiting for it to move the seventeenth time. I counted the seconds. Two Mississippi, three Mississippi, four...ten... I looked up to see him staring at me strangely. I stared back.
“What?” I said. He just looked at me. “I’m sorry, okay? She said she would be here twenty minutes ago.” He glanced at the clock.
“Where did you say she had to be?”
“She had to pick up my little sister from dance class.”
I wasn’t exactly surprised that my mom hadn’t come to pick me up yet. She never had a habit of being on time, and it didn’t help that my little sister, Annie, had a dance class the same night as my ceramics class.
I glanced around the ceramics studio and noticed just how empty it really was. The potters’ wheels sat along two of the walls, clean, silent, and unplugged, the people gone and on their ways back home to dinner, and then sleep. I was alone with my impatient ceramics instructor, Damian.
I never wanted to take ceramics classes, but my parents were sick of me lying prone in various areas of the house eating entire boxes of generic brand cheese crackers while reading a book or watching reruns of “Bones” and “Danny Phantom.” It wasn’t entirely my fault that one of my best friends, Megan, couldn’t go out on school nights anymore since eighth grade when she and I snuck out to see a late-night movie. My other friend, Daniel, insisted that too much time with any person destroyed his chi or his balance or... whatever it was that he kept going on about. I’d threatened to ditch them as friends for the longest time, but they never really took me seriously.
I rose from the cramped position I had been sitting in for over half an hour and swung my bag over my shoulder.
“I’ll wait outside.” I glanced out the window at the ominous storm clouds gathering in front of the blazing sunset.
I slid my phone out of my back pocket and flipped it open, searching my address book for the entry that said Mother and pressing the green call button. The ring in my ear sounded hollow and far away. I bent over to wipe some clay dust from my jeans.
The answering machine picked up, my mom’s exasperated voice spilling out of the phone at roughly the speed of light, followed by the long, expected beep.
“Mom, I’m walking now. Find me before it starts raining.” I snapped the phone shut and slid it back into my pocket, hitching my bag further up on my shoulder and stepping out the door. I could feel small mist-like sprinkles graze my face, and I addressed the sky pleadingly.
“Please,” I said, “please wait until my mom picks me up.”
I walked for maybe ten minutes in rain that became steadily harder until my mom’s tiny green car swerved over to the side of the road, straight through a puddle, and beeped at me. The back door swung open and Annie’s head poked out, calling loudly as if I wasn’t already headed towards them.
“Evan! Hey Evaann!” I threw my bag into the back seat and Annie just barely dodged it. “No need to be rude.” She sniffed and slammed the door shut. I opened the passenger door and climbed in, shifting my long, wet mat of hair to the other shoulder. Some whiny boy band was insistently whining about something or another and I switched the station to something that I could cope with easier.
“Evan….” My mother scolded me distractedly, concentrating on merging into the lane even though there was absolutely no one coming. “Your sister was listening to that.”
“Well, I have hope that one day she will mature.”
“She’s nine years old, Evan, give her a break.”
“Yeah, Evan, give me a break,” Annie said, poking her head between our seats and resting her chin on my shoulder. “Where’s my bowl?”
“What bowl?” I unzipped my sweater, bumping Annie’s chin off my shoulder in the process. My hair flopped onto my back and dripped frigidly, re-soaking my already wet T-shirt. I flipped my hair over and used my sweater to wring it dry, not that the sopping sweater did much good. My mom cranked up the heater.
“You promised you’d make me a bowl!”
“Well, these things take more than one day to finish, Annie,” I said, even though I had absolutely no recollection of any such promise. Luckily, neither would she by tomorrow. Annie fell back into her seat, pouting, but I ignored her.
I watched the storm blowing outside the car windows, my eyes following the windshield wipers as they swished back and forth, my ears filled with the squeaking and the loud smacking of raindrops. The headlights sliced through the dim evening. As the car slowed for red lights and stop signs, each rain drop became less of a wet blur and I could see them as they fell in front of the car, illuminated for less than a second before they continued their descents into ungainly belly flops on the cooling black asphalt.
My finished pieces clinked together from their snug spot in the back seat. Driving down that dark, wet road, I pictured one piece in particular, a light pink bowl that I had carved a single word into: rain. I knew that my dad would think I made it just to be contradictory, but he was convinced that all teenagers tried their hardest to be contradictory in everything. I knew my mom would raise an eyebrow at it, and then dismiss it by saying, “Okay, honey, whatever you like.” I knew Annie would have no interest in it unless I gave it to her. But I also knew that there was a certain spot in my room that had always been reserved for this bowl, even before it was made, and now it would be perfect.