Episode 3 – Two Peas in a Pod
Neal takes off for a different class, but Carl reappears. Turns out he’s in Honors Math also.
I introduce Azalea and they seem cool together, but I’m worried she’ll think I’m racist because all my friends are white, Caucasian, whatever. Honestly, I’ve never had an Afro friend and I’m worried I’ll say something tactless…not sure if I should refer to her as Black, Afro, Jamaican or what. Guess I need to find out. Then it hits me she’s just my friend and I don’t have to label her as anything. If I have any questions, I’ll just ask her, and not be freaked about sounding stupid. If you’re friends, you’re friends, right?
At lunchtime, Carl, Azalea, Neal and I grab a table in the cafeteria…Azalea’s right beside me.
“What are you doing after school?” She asks.
I’m a little thrown by her sudden interest. It’s nice, but she could be totally nuts. Why’s she so interested? I’d understand her being interested in blond Carl, or tall Neal, but me? A skinny Chipmunk?
Anyway, I give her a straight answer: “I’m not doing anything. Dad’s working, so I’ll probably end up doing homework by myself.”
She looks me over. “Don’t you do sports?”
I shrug. “Not really. Some pick-up soccer. Nothing serious.”
“So, come over to my place. There’s nobody there either.”
“Okay. You sure?”
She rolls her eyes. “I wouldn’t ask if I wasn’t sure.”
After lunch, we split up for classes. Azalea goes one way…Carl, Neal and I go the other.
Carl turns to me. “She really likes you, dude.”
I nod. “It’s weird, right?”
He looks at me questioningly. “Why?”
“I dunno. Look at me. Jeez!”
“What are you talking about? You’re a decent looking guy. Okay, you’ve got a few zits and chubby cheeks, but they’re smaller than last year.”
I’m skeptical. Carl’s my friend, so he’s not about to hurt my feelings. “Come on, ” I tell him, “you think I don’t know what I look like?” I turn to Neal. “What do you think?”
He grins. “You’re the ugliest motherfucker that ever walked the face of the Earth.”
“See, Carl. I told you.”
“Dude, consider the source. Neal’s a fucking Neanderthal.”
After school, Azalea and I walk to her house which is in North Carver, about a mile away. I feel like I’m in a foreign country because my house is like 10 miles south, but figure I can always hitch home…not that I’ve done it, but there’s always a first time.
I wonder why I’m actually going to Azalea’s. I guess because she’s nice and I don’t want to come off like a snob…but it’s more than that. My home can be so frigging lonely, especially when I first unlock the door and my footsteps echo in the hall. I wander around with absolutely no idea what to do with myself…and in Winter, it’s worse…dark at 5:00…end up hunched over a book with a single light, and the whole house chilly and spooky…same routine, day after day. I finish my homework and go to bed alone. Nothing to do, but play video games, surf the web and jerk off watching porn…eventually fall asleep, then Dad comes home, gives me a kiss most nights, but I miss it half the time, then in the morning, we talk for ten seconds and that’s it…even on weekends.
Shit. I guess I need friends worse than I thought. Carl and Neal are great, but they have families and busy 24/7.
Azalea and I shuffle along the roadside, hauling backpacks. It’s hot as shit and she lives out in the sticks….hardly any houses around, just fields and deep woods. She goes slower and slower, gets all sweaty, so I offer to carry her backpack, and she’s really appreciative. Glances at me like she can’t believe I’d do such a thing. I’m embarrassed. It’s no big deal…watch my feet kick rocks.
“You have brothers and sisters?” She asks.
I shake my head. “Nope, just me.” Shuffle along. See a coke can and whack it. It’s so dry, the dirt’s like powder. Feel like I’m making a fool of myself.
“I like you,” she says.
I laugh. “You do? Why?”
I stop and face her. “Are you serious?”
“Yeah. I don’t hang with ugly guys.”
I’m pleasantly surprised. Nobody ever says shit like that to me. Figure I’ll return the compliment. “Hanging out with you is awesome.”
“Yeah, definitely. You’re really nice. It’s like fate we met today.”
Azalea lets out a belly laugh. “Fate had nothing to do with it, honey! I had my eye on you the minute you walked in.”
I’m not sure what to say. Can’t figure out why I’d attract anybody’s attention. Pick up a stone and rub it between my fingers.
“That things filthy!” Azalea cries.
“No. it’s cool. You’ll see when it’s washed.”
“Keep it away from me.”
We come to her driveway in an overgrown field…head up it…just a couple of muddy ruts. Up ahead a small, weathered shack comes into view…looks like it hasn’t seen a coat of paint in years.
“Are your folks home?” I ask.
“No…they’re not around.”
“Where are they?”
“It’s a long story.”
I shrug. “Whatever.”
The door’s unlocked and we walk in. It’s kind of depressing. Everything’s old and worn, scraps of carpeting, furniture, curtains…feels abandoned.
“Sit,” she says. “You want a soda?”
“Sure.” I settle into a worn chair…fabric gone from the arms…creaks every time I move. The whole place is tiny…see it all from my chair…three rooms, the kitchen with a little curved-top fridge, living room and another tiny room…the bedroom? There’s nothing in the fridge except a big bottle of coke, cheese singles, bread, and a couple of beer six-packs.
She pours coke and pulls a chair opposite me. Catches her breath. “Damn! It’s good to sit! Want a beer instead?”
It seems like a weird question. Who offers a fourteen-year-old a beer? “You drink beer?” I ask.
“Later, yeah. Beer and grilled cheese keeps me alive.”
“Your folks don’t mind?”
“Like I said, they’re gone.”
I’m confused. “Where are they?”
“They’re both dating. Mom’s in Buffalo, and Dad left a while ago. God knows where the fuck he is.”
“So, you live totally alone.”
She shrugs. “Pretty much.”
Azalea needs friends as bad as I do…just hope she hasn’t chosen me out of desperation.
She turns to me.”So, are both your parents home?”
I realize our situations are pretty much the same. “Actually, no,” I confess. “Mom’s dead, and Dad works two jobs. I hardly see him.”
She sits opposite me. Smiles. “So, we’re two peas in the same pod. That’s cool.”
“Yeah, kind of.”
“Maybe we should team up.”
I tilt my head. Study her cheery face. There’s a mischievous twinkle in her eye. “Like how?” I ask.
“Well, we’re both lonely. You could come over whenever your dad’s working. We’ll keep each other company.”
I nod. It sounds really good.
To be continued… Read next episode!