Chapter 2 of my rewrite. Feedback would be excellent
The next morning, Austin was tired, irritable, and out of sorts. Not a particular surprise, as he he’d been up until 2 writing the essay. But, he dragged himself through his morning routine, rather valiantly, he thought.
After scrubbing the morning workout off, and deciding that he didn’t really need to shave, Austin brushed his teeth, threw some clothes on, and went to the kitchen to pillage the coffee pot. Mitch, his step dad, was already working on what was probably his 3rd cup, and reading the morning paper.
“Good morning.” Mitch said
“Mornin’” Austin drawled his reply. For whatever reason, Austin’s drawl was always slightly heavier when he first woke up. He figured it was something to do with the fact that his mouth simply didn’t function, until it was lubricated with caffeine.
Mitch, being from Pennsylvania, originally, lacked this. But he had his own slight accent, despite living in Texas for the majority of his adult life. “Late night?” he asked
“Yeah.” Austin replied. “I had a paper due this morning, that I needed to get finished up.” Then he immediately winced, inwardly. A lecture on procrastination was hardly the way he wanted to start his morning
“Well…” Mitch replied, “At least you got it done.” He took a sip of his coffee, watching as Austin poured his own. “Next time, try not to wait until the last minute.”
Austin took a couple of seconds to bite back the retort, before responding with “Not so much waiting until the last second as running out of time. I actually had all the research done last week.” Then, realizing how defensive that sounded - one of the worst tactics to take with Mitch - he added “It really wasn’t that big of a deal, anyway.”
Mitch refrained from asking why he hadn’t gotten it done a lot earlier, if that had been the case, and chose to drop the subject. He had no more desire to start his day with an argument than Austin did. Instead, he asked “You have a game tonight, right?”
Austin shook his head. “No. Next saturday.” Austin informed him. “That’s when the season starts.” Austin didn’t begrudge Mitch’s lack of knowledge about his game schedules. Mitch simply didn’t do sports. And, in all honesty, until Austin had joined the team, he hadn’t known the schedule any more than Mitch.
“Any plans for this weekend?”
“I dunno.” Austin replied, sitting down with his cup. “Kenny is harassing me to go to a party. I should humor him, but I’ll see what my mood is like. I’d really like to just relax”
“Ah.” Mitch said, sagely “The ever popular teen ritual.”
Austin snorted a laugh “Yeah. Me Tarzan. You Jane.”
Mitch smiled. “Well, if you decided to bow out, would you like to do something with Sam and I?”
‘With you.’ Austin thought, ‘yes. Her, not a chance in hell’. But, all he said was “Maybe.” Then he stood up, and ended the conversation with “I gotta get going.”
Mitch nodded, and watched Austin walk out.
Austin knew how important family stuff was to Mitch. And he thought that he should probably make nice with Sam long enough to indulge him. Besides, it would be a viable excuse to get out of the party, and he could possibly shorten the torture to an hour or so, then disappear into his room. The plan had merit, he decided, as he gathered his stuff, and made his way over to Kenny’s to pick him up.
“Morning, frreak.” Kenny greeted him, slipping into the car.
“Good morning, brain dead.” Austin replied. “And you say that like it’s a bad thing.”
Kenny laughed. “Well.. if the shoe fits…”
Austin grinned at him. “Beats the hell outta being normal.” He informed his friend. Then, making sure Kenny was buckled up, punched it out of the lot, fishtailing slightly, before he straightened out.
Kenny, for his part, knew it was coming. So, he simply clenched his stomach muscles, and attempted not to give Austin the reaction he was looking for. He came pretty close to succeeding, if one ignored the clenched jaw.
“So.” Austin asked, conversationally, as he dropped to first, dumped the clutch, and burned around a left turn doing about 25mph “You get that english done?”
Kenny slowly swivelled his head over towards Austin, and stared at him flatly. “Does it really matter?” Kenny asked, cordially, “Since we’ll both be dead before we get to school, much less english.”
Austin laughed. Then, gripping the shifter, (Something Kenny had learned was always a bad sign), measured the upcoming corner. It was a right hand turn, with a decent curve on the curb. Austin wondered how close he could get, without touching. He checked his speed and rpm’s, and angled towards the left side of the lane.
“You’re an asshole.” Kenny managed to get out, before Austin started his arc into the corner.
Austin didn’t smile. He was perfectly in the zone, and completely cold. This was when he was at his best. The one thing he knew he was very good at was driving. And the closer to the edge of control he got, the more the world slowed down, and his focus sharpened. Right at that moment, he was on the edge of what his car was capable of, with all four tires barely holding traction, and he was laser focused. His hand made minute adjustments to the wheel, while he gripped the shifter, ready to throw it back into second to relieve the torque, if need be. Austin wasn’t even conscious of his actions. It was a strange mix of instinct and analysis of what he was doing, what was going on around him, and what his car was doing under him. He loved it. And yet, he felt nothing but cold focus, at the same time.
Austin had actually taken Kenny out to the local road course, when he was test driving his car, after doing some work on it. That had been the first time Kenny had ever seen that look on Austin’s face. His eyes were on fire, while the rest of his face had been completely serene. Kenny knew nothing about racing. That was Austin’s deal. But, as far as he could tell, Austin had hit every corner perfectly.
Austin apparently got it out of his system, and they made it to school with no further displays of testosterone. Something for which Kenny was grateful. He trusted Austin. But, sometimes…
Austin pulled into the lot and slipped into his spot “That was fun.” he said. His adrenaline was still high, and he was still a little jittery inside from it. But, he was completely jacked up.
“For you, maybe.” Kenny grumbled, good naturedly. “If I want to go on a suicidal ride, I’ll hit Astroworld.”
Austin rolled his eyes. “You are such a pussy.” He informed his friend
“No.” Kenny disagreed “I just lack a death wish.”
Austin laughed, as they got out of the car. “I’d never kill you. You’re too much fun to torture.”
“Oh. Well, I’m glad you have some reason to keep me around.”
“Well.” Austin added. “That, and you’re a helluva friend.”
“Stop.” Kenny said. “I’m getting diabetes.”
Chuckling, Austin lead the way into school.
Austin was in an exceptional mood, for the majority of the day. He even looking forward to practice, that afternoon. Something that rarely happened. Lunch with Kenny was at Wraps Burritos. It was a place that served humongous burritos of several styles, from mexican to mediterranean. It helped that all of his favorite classes were before lunch, as well. Biology, Electronics, and Geometry.
After doing his after lunch swap of books, Austin headed to history. Just as he got there, he realized that he had forgotten to grab his english homework for that afternoon. But, he didn’t have time to grab it, and not be late for class. ‘Oh well.’ he thought, as he walked through the door ‘I can grab it before my next period.’ Who would’ve thought that having one’s classes spread across the entire bloody school would actually come in handy.
As he slid into his desk, he saw Jessica come streaming in, just as the bell rang. She shot him a harried smile, as she hustled over to her seat. Austin returned the smile, slightly amused, as he watched her brush her hair back behind her ear, as she took her seat. Shaking the image out of his head, and ignoring her raised eyebrows, Austin turned back towards the front of class to focus on the teacher.
“All right, ladies and gentlemen.” The teacher, Mr. Anders said. “Lets get the moment of pain out of the way, early. Essays, please. Pass them up.” As the scattered groans, he chuckled “C’mon. People. It wasn’t that bad. Was it?”
A few of the groaners muttered under their breaths, as Austin pulled his report out of his pack, and passed it up. Mr. Anders goodnaturedly ignored the imprecations.
After everyone who actually had the essay prepared had passed them forward, and Anders had collected them, he proceeded with the day’s lesson. “Now. Did anyone read their texts last night regarding what actually caused the civil war?”
A few people raised their hands.
“Laurie.” Anders called on one of the students that did so. “What did you think?”
Laurie, and unabashed nerd and teacher’s pet, spoke “I thought it was pretty clear that one of the driving factors was slavery.”
Anders nodded. “So it says.” And do you agree….
Austin slid through the crowd, making his way to his locker. He was annoyed with himself for forgetting his homework, but he tried not let it screw up his good mood. There was no real point in it. what was done, was done. And he did have time to grab it, without running behind. He was completely oblivious to the fact that Jessica was tailing him.
He popped the combo on his locker, and flipped the door open. As long as he was there, he might as well ditch history. He was just pulling his text out of his bag when Jessica popped her head around the corner of his locker door.
“Hi.” she said, brightly.
“Hi.” He replied, wondering what she was doing. Exchanging pleasantries in history was one thing. But, conversations at his locker were new. And he couldn’t imagine why she would want to have one with him. “What’s up?” he asked.
Jessica took a breath. ‘Time to dive in’ she thought. She wasn’t sure why she was suddenly so uncertain about this. She’d talked to plenty of guys, back home. But, she wasn’t the type to cowl to nerves. So, instead, she looked him in the eye - noting that they were a very pretty blue - and dove in. “Are you going to the homecoming dance?”
Austin shrugged. “I wasn’t particularly planning on it.”
“Oh.” Jessica said
Austin wasn’t sure where this was going, but his instinct told him he should say something. “Were you?” he asked.
Jessica made a noncommital noise. “I dunno”
Austin watched her for a second, working his way through the conversation. Why would she want to know if he was going to a stupid dance. They had never had a real conversation, much less discussed dancing. Could she want him to ask her? The idea was patently ridiculous. But, it was the only thing he could think of. Biding his time for a moment, he asked “Why did you want to know if I was going?”
Jessica shrugged. “If you were going…”
‘Fuck it.’ Austin thought. ‘What’s she gonna do? Laugh at me? Not like I was going, anyway, if she does.’ Taking his own deep breath, Austin asked. “Jessica, do you want me to take you to the dance?”
“Not if you don’t want to go.” She replied, then immediately kicked herself. This was precisely what she wanted.
Austin laughed. “I wasn’t gonna go because I don’t care about dances, and I didn’t have anyone to go with. I would love to take you, though.”
“Really?” Jessica asked, skeptically. “Why?”
Austin shrugged, slightly. “Because, I like you.”
Jessica raised her eyebrows at him “You don’t know me. How can you like me?”
Austin didn’t really have an answer for that. So, all he said was “I dunno. I just do” He wasn’t about to admit that he had been trying to watch her, covertly, since classes had started.
“You dunno, huh?” She smiled. “That’s a non answer, if I ever heard one.”
Austin laughed. “I’m an instinctive person” he told her
“Ah.” Jessica said. “your instincts may prove faulty.” she told him
“Somehow, I doubt that.” Austin replied, grinning.
Just then, the warning bell for the next period rang.
Austin glanced up at the bell. If they didn’t want to make plans in saturday detention, they would need to get to class. “Hey. Give me your number...um, if you want, and we can make plans tonight?”
Jessica’s smile broadened to a grin. It almost seemed like Austin was hesitant. “Sure.” she said, and wrote it quickly on a piece of notebook paper he produced. After she handed it to him, she said “Talk to ya’ later.” and took off for her next class.
Austin stared at the number for a couple of seconds, trying to process the fact that a girl that he considered to be completely beyond him had just agreed to go to the dance with him. Then, shaking his head, he cursed softly, and took off to his next class at a dead run
The rest of the day passed without any noticeable change for Austin. He had an English class with Kenny a couple of periods later and just had to tell him the news.
“Kenny, you won’t believe this shit.” Austin said by way of hello as he sat down next to him in class.
“What’s up bro.” Kenny said looking over at Austin.
“You know that new girl, Jessica?”
“I’ve seen her around but I don’t really know her, why?” Kenny replied
“She caught me, after history,” Austin said “and she hinted that she wanted me to ask her to homecoming dance.”
“OK… Did you?”
“Yup, and believe it or not she actually said yes. I think the apocalypse is coming” Austin noted with a grin.
“Well, well. Cupcake gets a date.” Kenny teased. “I’m so proud of you.” He knew how skittish Austin was about talking to women. Even though he thought that Austin knew more about women than just about anyone else in their age group. Lord knew that Austin was the one that Kenny always went to if he needed advice on women, and his advice generally proved to be accurate. But, that didn’t mean he wasn’t gonna take the opportunity for some ribbing.
“Aww. Thanks.” Austin laughed. He knew Kenny was giving him crap. And he knew the subtext. That was just how they worked.
At that point the bell rang and class began. Neither of them paid any attention to Melanie, the girl on the other side of Austin in class. What they didn’t know was that Melanie had secretly liked Austin since the beginning of the year, and she was just spiteful and bitchy enough to try to throw a wrench in the plans for Austin’s date. She was also a friend of Jessica, and was royally pissed that Jessica had gotten Austin to ask her out when she knew that Melanie had had her eye on him.
Melanie had final period with Jessica and decided right then that a little disinformation might just do the trick. With that in mind she began to plan her attack.
Next period was the final one of the day, and the period Melanie had with Jessica.
“Jessi” Melanie called out as she caught up with her on the way to Science.
‘Jessi’ was what Jessica’s mother called her and she hated that little nick name. She always considered it to be a little too close to ‘jezzebelle’ for her tastes, and reminded her, uncomfortably, about her rather sordid past. Melanie knew this, if not the reason why, but insisted on calling her by the annoying abbreviation anyway. Normally Jessica would correct her on it but she was still floating a little from her victory with Austin, and let it slide.
“What’s up Mel?” Jessica asked as she waited for her to catch up.
”Did you really get Austin to ask you to home coming?” Melanie asked with false curiosity. She knew that she had, Austin wasn’t the type to brag, and besides she had already confirmed it with a mutual friend on the way over that Jessica had talked to.
“Yeah I did.” Jessica grinned. “He’s going to call later today to make plans.”
“Well before you get too happy you should know what he was telling his friends about you in English”
“What was that?” Jessica said softly, her good mood evaporating.
“Well, I hate to be the one to tell you this, but you should know” Melanie said apologetically
“What? What did he say?” Jessica said with a certain amount of exasperation. She really didn’t have time for their usual 20 questions - gossip style, and she wasn’t looking forward to hearing whatever it was anyway.
“Well he kind of told his friend that he felt sorry for you, and that he really didn’t want to go out with you. He also said that he pretty much considered you a stuck up bitch.”
“He didn’t!” Jessica said in disbelief. She didn’t know Austin all that well…. Well she really didn’t know him at all, but she couldn’t believe he would think of her that way.
“I’m afraid so sweetie.” Melanie said. “You might want to talk to him about it tonight before you make any plans.”
Science went by in a blur for Jessica. She wasn’t sure why Austin would think that about her, but she didn’t have any reason to doubt Melanie’s word. She decided that she would have a few words for Austin when he called that night.
As the bell rang to release class Jessica wandered the halls toward the exit lost in thought. Letting the crowd guide her towards the doors. Right before she got there she saw Austin at his locker and decided to deal with this here and now.
“Austin!” She called out to be heard over the general chatter of the mass of people as she approached him
“Jessica!” Austin said as he turned around. “I was going to call you tonight. What’s up?”
“What were you going to call me?” she asked neutrally. “A stuck up bitch, perhaps?”
“Excuse me?” Austin asked baffled. “Why would I call you that?”
“Well I heard from a friend of mine that that is what you think of me.”
“Well I’m not sure who this friend is, but they are obviously wrong. The only person I have talked to you about is Kenny, my best friend, and the words ‘stuck up’ and ‘bitch’ never entered the conversation.”
“Do you know a girl named Melanie?” Jessica asked, a note of suspicion entering her voice.
“Umm…. I have a girl named Melanie in English - the same class I have with Kenny. She sits on the other side of me.”
“Well she is the one that passed this little tid bit onto me”
“Uh huh,” Austin said slowly. He wasn’t sure why Melanie would say something like this but he was determined not to let her ruin his chance with Jessica. “Look. I’m not sure what Melanie told you, but please believe that I don’t consider you a stuck up bitch… or any other kind for that matter. All I did was tell Kenny that you implied that you would like me to ask you out to homecoming and that I thought that the apocalypse had to be coming since you actually said yes when I asked. He congratulated me and that was the end of it. Nothing more nothing less”
“OK,” Jessica said. “So why would Melanie tell me something different?”
“I don’t know. I guess you should ask her. All I know is that I would love to take you to the dance. My day, up to this point has been outstanding since you agreed to go with me. And I’m not going to ask you out, then call you names behind your back. That isn’t how I work.”
Austin hesitated for a minute, then admitting to himself that it was too good to be true anyway, said “I didn’t call you a bitch, but I can understand if you don’t believe me. Melanie is your friend and you are naturally going to take her word over mine. I would still love to take you but I’m not going to try to play he said she said with her. I’m going to lose. So how about I give you my phone number, and after you talk to Melanie if you decide that you still want to let me take you out, you can call me” With that, Austin wrote his number on a piece of paper and handed it to her. Then he turned and walked away.
Jessica stared at the number for a second. She couldn’t imagine why Melanie lied to her, but she was sure that she had. She would deal with that one later, for now she needed to make sure that Austin didn’t change his mind and decide she wasn’t worth the trouble.
“Austin, wait.” Jessica called out to him.
Austin turned around and steeled himself to be told exactly how many kinds of worthless he was.
“Look I don’t know what is going on with Melanie, but I do believe you. If you still want to call me tonight after this I would really like it.”
Austin smiled. This was not what he expected, but he was certainly not going to let it get away.
“I’ll call you about seven?”
“I’ll be there.” Jessica grinned, and turned to walk away.
Later that evening after Austin had finished his homework, an essay for English and some Geometry, he sat back and thought about the days events. Austin had never really been on a date before. Hell he had never even thought seriously about going on a date. He simply didn’t relish the thought of making an ass out of himself in front of who ever the poor soul was that actually took enough pity on him to agree to it. Then today happened. He considered it to be astonishing, bordering on the absurd that not only did he land a date, (admittedly one that he never would have had if left to his own meager devices) but he got it with what he considered to be a girl that he shouldn’t have a chance in hell with. Analytically speaking Jessica was more cute than she was supermodel gorgeous, but that cuteness in it’s own way was provocative. Jessica had dark auburn hair, a little longer than her shoulders, and a cute face with a pixie nose and large green eyes. She looked vaguely Hispanic in complexion but if she was it was of mixed heritage, Austin thought. She also had a well proportioned body. More of an athletic or curvaceous build than the traditional Cindy Crawford, run to the bathroom to expel anything more than a ritz cracker, build. But Austin thought the most attractive quality she had was hands down her intelligence. Not that she was an over achiever. IN fact, Austin had rarely heard her speak in class. But, when she did, her points were well thought out, and informed. She didn’t just go with what she saw on a page. She actually thought about it, and seemed to come to her own conclusions. Something Austin valued. Austin supposed that that might intimidate some people, but he personally found it very nice.
Jessica for her part didn’t really have any homework. She did have some studying that she needed to do but neither her heart or her mind were really in it, and after 20 minutes of reading the same page over and over again without really processing anything she gave up. The thought occurred to her that she should probably let her parents know that a strange boy would be calling so they didn’t hang up on him by rote. With that in mind she went downstairs to let them know what was going on.
“Hey Dad” Jessica called
“Yeah sweetie” her father responded from the living room where he and her mom were sitting down talking about something.
“Just wanted to let you know that a boy is gonna be calling about seven. His name is Austin. Please don’t embarrass me.”
“OK” her dad said. “Do we get a hint as to who this boy is or do we play guess who’s coming to dinner?”
“He asked me out to homecoming. I gave him our number so he could call and we can make plans. Just give me the phone when he calls. You will have plenty of chance to give him the interrogation routine when he comes to get me.”
“I see. Well I didn’t think it would take long for a boy to ask you out. I suppose it was inevitable, but I’m still wary of it.” Her dad said
“Actually it was my idea for him to ask me out. He’s really a nice person, and I would really rather you not chase him off.”
“OK do I want to know how it was your idea to go out but he wound up doing the asking?” Her dad asked curiously
“It’s a female thing dad. We’re all just manipulating you silly boys into doing what we want. If you want to know more than that your gonna have to talk to mom.” With that Jessica smiled conspiratorially to her mother and jogged back up the stairs to her room, leaving her dad looking at her mom in a slightly accusatory manner.
Finally 630 rolled around and Austin decided just to call and get the suspense over with. He wasn’t sure what they would talk about, or if he would just freeze and babble incoherently, but the waiting was driving him nuts. He decided to just stick with the safe things, where, when and what not and see what happened from there. Worst case scenario she would look at the phone mutter something along the lines of ‘what was I thinking’ and hang up on him. Best case scenario… well he wasn’t sure what the best case scenario was, but it was time to go for the gold.
With that in mind he picked up the phone and dialed Jessica’s number quickly. As it rang he silently rehearsed what he was going to say, feeling more and more like a blithering idiot with each varied repetition.
“Hello” a man’s voice answered on the other end, presumably Jessica’s father
“Yes, sir” Austin said. “I’m looking for Jessica. Is she available, please?”
There was a brief silence on the other end then Jessica’s father said “Hold on.” and Austin heard him call her name.
A moment later Jessica came on the line and said brightly “ Hey Austin, you’re early”
“Yeah, well I already bit my finger nails down to the quick and I’m not flexible enough to reach my toes so I decided that I’d had enough nervous anticipation for one day.” Austin joked.
Jessica laughed and said “I just chewed on my pencil. If I don’t make it as anything else I think I might be a pretty decent beaver in my next life”
Austin smiled to himself thinking ‘Good, we can joke comfortably. This might not be as much of a disaster as I thought’
“OK,” Austin said, “I have a confession. I’m not even sure when homecoming is this year. So before we make any plans on the time I pick you up, would you mind telling me the date I’m suppose to pick you up?”
Jessica had to laugh and said “Wait, you are on the varsity football team and you don’t even know when homecoming is? How is that possible?”
“Well I never really had any intention of going until today. School dances have never really been my forte. My general plan was to go to the game, come home and read a book”
“Oh, well…. Do you not want to go then?” Jessica asked tentatively.
“Yes I do. Like I said, my intentions changed today… for the better I might add.” Austin said
“Oh ok good. Well since you don’t know, the date is two weeks from tomorrow.” Jessica said, relieved.
“Hmmm… two weeks, well I think I can shift my busy book/ music schedule around to accommodate that.” Austin said lightly, hoping to alleviate some of the sudden tension.
“Good” Jessica said, “Do you want to come and get me here, so my dad can turn you over the coals for a little while or should we meet at the dance?”
Thanking God that he had gotten his license that summer so he wouldn’t have to expose her to his family on a first date, Austin said “I could pick you up. I seriously doubt your father is going to want to miss the chance at a good old fashioned ‘what are your intentions with my daughter’ speech.”
“You’re probably right about that one” Jessica said, smiling to herself thinking affectionately about how overbearing her dad could be sometimes. “But don’t let it bother you too much he’s just being a good dad.”
“Don’t worry, one of the few things I’m good at is communicating with adults.” Austin said. “ How about I pick you up about seven?”
“That seems like a popular time with you… any reason why?” Jessica joked.
“Life is a crap shoot and sevens are always lucky?” Austin replied flippantly.
“Works for me” Jessica laughed. “You said you have a busy music schedule. I take it you listen to a lot?”
“Uh huh… I’d rather read or listen to music than watch tv any day.”
“Really” Jessica said getting excited. THIS was something she could talk about. “What is your favorite kind”
It was four hours later when Austin looked at his clock and realized how long he and Jessica had been talking. ‘Oh hell’ he thought. Austin had to go to work the next morning and he had to be up by 7 if he wanted to get a good workout in.
“Hey Jessica,” Austin said, “I hate to cut this short, but if I’m falling asleep at work, that nice corsage I want to buy for you may wind up being a wild flower off the highway.”
It was at this point that Jessica looked at her alarm clock and gasped. She had had no idea they were on the phone that long. They had started talking about music, which they had uncannily similar tastes in, and the conversation had just gone from there. They had covered everything from politics to philosophy and culture. Jessica was somewhat surprised and very happy to find that Austin was not only smart, but very observant as well. Jessica would have been perfectly content to continue their conversation into the morning hours but she understood that Austin did have other things he needed to do. So did she, but they just didn’t seem all that important at the moment.
“Well I definitely want a big corsage” Jessica replied in her best snobbish imitation “So… I’ll talk to you tomorrow?”
“You can count on it. Although it probably won’t be until evening some time since I don’t get off until 8 tomorrow.” Austin said. “Good night Jessica”
“Good night” Jessica said and hung up the phone wondering what he did that he would have to be up that early and work that late.
Austin for his part didn’t actually go to bed. He tried but his mind was in hyper active mode and sleep didn’t come until well after midnight. His final thought was, oddly enough, an idle musing about what kind of corsage he wanted to get Jessica.
Jessica was in a somewhat similar situation, but she didn’t even bother to try to go to sleep. She was smart enough to realize that it would probably be a lost cause, so with that in mind she put on some of her music and lost herself in thought until sleep took her of it’s own volition.