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The Dusty Room (Part 3)
When the bell rang to signal the end of the day, Heather gathered her books and folders, and started walking to her locker. She was actually in a good mood -- and smiling! She couldn’t remember the last time she smiled in the past three days. The feeling of happiness was great, and it made her feel warm and fuzzy -- a total cliché.
When Heather was just about to reach her locker, some huge football player who wasn’t paying attention rammed into her, and all of her books went scattering across the floor. Luckily, and unfortunately because she didn’t want to look like a klutz, Josh saw and scurried to pick up her books before the rowdy group of kids annihilated them under stomping and running feet. By the time he was finished, Heather had managed to pick herself up from the ground and smooth out her perfectly curled black hair, making sure the black bow she had placed to secure her bangs this morning was still intact.
Josh gave her a quick once over to make sure she was okay, and then handed her books back to her.
“Are you okay?” he asked, even though he could definitely see she was.
“Yeah, just a little fall. No biggie.”
Heather opened her locker while Josh leaned against his. “We should exchange phone numbers, so I can call you and get your address,” he looked over at her and smiled. Even though Heather just met Josh this morning, that smile of his made her heart melt. It was crooked and sweet, sincere, and mesmerizing. It was everything she wanted to see to make her feel better.
“Yeah, of course. Uhm, here,” she quickly scribbled her cell phone number on a post-it note she found in her locker and handed it to him.
“Thanks, so do you want my number? I mean, you can call me anytime if you want to chat. I’d be happy to talk.”
“Yeah, yeah. It’d be great to talk to someone who actually does understand. Yeah, please, and thanks.”
Tiny goose bumps tickled up her skin as he took her hand and wrote his name and number on her palm. “Sorry, I didn’t have any paper,” he said.
“It’s okay. I’ll, uhm, I’ll write it down on something else when I get home. I gotta go. I’m supposed to cook dinner for my mom. She’ll stop in for about five minutes to eat about five spoonfuls of food and then she’ll leave until tomorrow night.” Something about him just made Heather open up, and say things she would never have said to anyone else.
“Well, if you want me to come over, I can. I’m not busy. I know being in a house by yourself can get…lonely.”
Heather knew they were going too deep too fast, but she couldn’t stop. “Yeah, that’d be great. You can even stay for dinner. You know, taste my mad cooking skills.” He laughed and Heather was glad because she knew it was a lame joke. “Okay, so you wanna come now? I can just drive.”
“Sure, yeah. I’ll just call my mom and leave a message on the answering machine telling her where I am. But I can just do that in your car. So let’s go. You all set?”
“Yep,” she answered while leading him out of the school, into the west parking lot and towards her brand new yellow Mustang GT with a black racing stripe down the middle.
Josh let out a whistle, and then explained, “Nice ride. Really sweet. Must’ve cost a fortune.”
“Well, I’m gonna warn you, my house is even more impressive. If you can call it that. I hate it.”
“Why? It seems like a great lifestyle.”
Heather didn’t get mad like she would’ve with anyone else, but she knew as soon as she explained, Josh would understand. “I’m not really flashy. And I’m gonna lose all of this as soon as my mom spends all of my father’s savings. She doesn’t have a job, isn’t planning to get a job, and constantly shops. So it won’t take long to spend it all.” While she was talking, they both climbed into the expensive sports car, and Heather drove out of the parking lot.
“Oh, I’m sorry. One second, I gotta call my mom.”
“Okay,” Heather replied, and while Josh left a message on his family’s answering machine, Heather thought and thought and thought. About Josh, about her father, about her mother, and about her huge house. None of it was fair. Nothing at all. The only thing Heather found comfort in was that she felt she had Josh…who could help her get through this, and so, so much more.