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Man of Mystery
Dan Barr was a man of mystery.
Some might disagree and say he's spontaneous or just being a teenager, but it was true. He was secrets and hidden agendas in the flesh. When on his way to school, he chose a different route to drive, no matter if it was the longest way to school. He never wore the same shirt twice. He still ate the same outrageous amount of food, but it was always something different. People started noticing and no one understood the sudden change in Dan.
And when asked about it, he simply shrugged, "Change is healthy for the soul."
Now they were really confused. He was a never fond of fortune cookies.
Dan always had something about him. He was the type of person that always joked around and loved to make people smile. He occasionally babysat for his friend's little brother. He would talk to someone during SAT prep classes and it wouldn't sound as if he were berating them on their low tolerance for prime numbers and anything trig related. Dan was a likeable guy. Maybe even loveable.
He looked like any other senior with his brown hair and too-tight jeans. Dan even played basketball. His Uncle was so proud when he made the Varsity team on the first week of tryouts. He even risked his bad back to search in the attack for his ancient yearbooks. But he didn't play for long, because Dan didn't do that. So it was golf next, then bowling. Today it was lacrosse. He wore a green shirt.
Dan began changing at the end of freshmen year. He was known for his uncanny addiction to Mike and Ikes. All throughout middle school you could never catch him without popping the chewy candy in his mouth. There was a strict policy on no gum but certain teachers allowed cough drops and small candy so as you do not get caught. Dan's U.S History teacher wasn't that type of person apparently. Initially. She didn't allow gum, sneezing, clicky pens, pens, cell phones, sunglasses, crying, and candy. Dan was adamant on resurrecting the right to eat Mike and Ikes. He just couldn't last ten minutes without eating them. He managed to turn a debate on Mongolia's funding on oil management against North Korea into a full on Mike and Ike rally. The old hag couldn't help but give a second though when a little dimple peeked out as he chewed.
A week before school ended, Dan took out an opened yellow bag, not a green box. He bit the head of a red fish and munched happily.
His closest friend, Will, was the first to catch on to his friend's odd behavior. Dan responded with a resolute, "They've grown on me."
Dan was specifically known for his unbelievable knowledge of the J.F.K conspiracy. He had a sort of insatiable thirst to get his hands on more information involving the assassination of President Kennedy. Before he got a car, Dan would take every paycheck he got from working at Publix to catch three buses up to the state university so he could listen in on the private lectures of the conspiracy. In the beginning of the summer before junior year, he would go every weekend. No matter if he had to work late on Saturday or Sunday. He would always find a way around it.
Suddenly, Dan started putting every paycheck into the bank. His mother was shocked, to say the least. She always thought him to be responsible but when his bank statement came to a considerable amount of money, she began to worry.
Dan had one prized possession. His grandfather, a Vietnam veteran, had given him a handmade bracelet from the former Saigon. He had given in to him as a gift for his First Communion and a few months after, he passed away from a stroke. Dan never took it off as a way to commemorate him. Dan loved his grandfather and he loved that bracelet. He never took it off when he was in the locker room or the water park. During games of whatever sport he was playing, he still never took it off. He just had to wear a long sleeved t-shirt to cover it. Through grade school, kids teased him mercilessly, saying that next he'd wear a pink tutu with lipstick on.
It was probably the biggest surprise that recurred when he stopped wearing it. There was even a tan line on his wrist. His mother suspected drugs.
She confronted him that night when he got home from work, or wherever he actually was. She demanded to know where the bracelet was. Dan simply told her, "I got something better in exchange."
She was livid.
He was already eighteen at the time so she really couldn't do anything. After a time dwindling drug examine, she felt exhausted. She gave up on his strange behavior and telling herself that he was just growing up. Whatever the hell that meant.
It was graduation day.
Dan's friends had lived with his weirdness for years now and ended up dealing with it better than his mother. They no longer questioned his antics and chalked it up to trying to be different and get some ass. Dan shrugged.
His mother and little sister had their camcorders and tissues at the ready. He gave a dashing grin to the camera as he shook hands with the superintendent and accepted his diploma. As he walked off the stage, she saw him reach into his gown and get a handful of Swedish Fish. The dimple was evident.
Parents were supposed to wait for their son or daughter when they descended from the escalator. There was a crowd of people surrounding the platform and the graduating class of 2011 could barely make out who was who.
As the first couple of students moved down, flashes erupted and it was the end for the 749 student. Grandparents were disgusted when they saw ladies going commando down the escalator. Mothers and fathers cried like there was no tomorrow.
Dan's mother held up her trembling hand to signal him where she was. He didn't seem to notice. When his feet touched the floor he brushed past the mass of people to the sliding glass doors.
His name was on her lips when she saw a girl hug him from behind. His shoulders sagged and he gripped her hand to pull her in front of him. His mother couldn't see the girl clearly but she saw the smile on his face. She never knew he had two dimples.
She saw the girl reach into her pocket for a handful of yellow and orange candy. Her other hand twirled Dan's and link them together with the smoothness of calm familiarity. A white band clung to her wrist as their arms rested against each other.
The ride home was quiet. Annie was sleeping soundlessly in the backseat and Dan was searching through his mother's CD collection. Her lips turned up at his aggravated sigh. He must have found her Bon Jovi collection.
The car eased to a stop at the red light. She held her breath and asked quietly, "Is she the reason you've been acting so strange all these years?"
Dan stopped flipping through the music and she didn't dare look at him. She heard him crumple a bag from his pocket and eat a handful. He continued through the CD case a few seconds later.
"Love does mysterious things."