The Bad Project

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Chapter 39. Willys and Crystal Talk/ Crystal

Willys took the wheel and pulled out into traffic. “Crystal,” he said, “What do you plan to do after you graduate?”

Crystal took a deep breath and said, “I want to be a doctor in Ethiopia, and also take photographs.”

Willys said, “Wow, you must be a brain. When I was working on my music degree, I had to take a math course and I like to died. You have to take math AND physics AND who knows what else, girl. I’m impressed.”

He grinned at Crystal, and she suddenly felt hot. “Whoo-eee Willys, don’t you have some air in this car?”

“What’s the matter, feeling the heat? I don’t use it much, but I can turn it on for you.” The way he said that made her feel even hotter. What was this all about? She was supposed to be almost a student of his, certainly not supposed to be thinking any funny thoughts about Willys.Willys turned on the air conditioning and then asked, “You must be from around here, because I met your folks at the concert. Where’d you go to high school?”“In Pasadena, PHS. It was okay. I live with my grandma in Altadena. Where are you from?”

“I’m from Baltimore, right near Johns Hopkins Medical School. Maybe you’ll go to medical school at Johns Hopkins in my old neighborhood someday. Bronnie was my best friend’s little small brother back there; we knew each other forever. I grew up in the projects, but my mom always told me I’d get out and have a better life. I dreamed of California, and now I’m here.”

Crystal asked, “Did you always want to direct choirs?”

He frowned. “No, I wanted to be a jazz musician. I don’t make much, but they don’t make a thing. I sit in on the weekends with my friend Nate’s group when they play local gigs.”

Crystal said, “It was always music that you wanted to go into, though?”

“Yeah, that’s right. Never changed my mind. D’you think you might change?”

“No, I’m set on my dream. I don’t want to do something else after years of planning and preparing.”

“Crystal, you got a boyfriend?”

She turned to look at him, but he was driving in traffic so he couldn’t meet her eyes. “Not really. I like a lot of men, but I don’t have someone special.”Willys said, “Me neither. But I’m looking around.” He made a show of looking out the left window, the front, and then at Crystal. She felt a spark of attraction, and she laughed. They had arrived at Hutch’s Barbeque in Pasadena, and Willys parked in the last open slot in the parking lot. Then he turned to Crystal.

“Crystal, this is sudden I know, but I’ve just accepted a job at UCLA so I won’t be leading your gospel choir much longer.”

“What? Willys, what’re we going to do without you!”

He said, “Never mind that. They already started looking for a new director, they won’t leave y’all without one. I just wanted to tell you this.” He paused, licked his lips, then said, “I love you, really. I’m not asking you to do anything about it, but I wanted you to know.”

Crystal felt shocked, but at the same time, she’d had feelings about him on this drive. She couldn’t think what to say.

Willys said, “I know it’s kind of a surprise to you. I didn’t want to do anything about it while I was still your director. But now, I’d like you to know. Don’t let it make you uncomfortable, though. Let’s go and try this barbeque.” He opened his door and started to get out.

“Wait, Willys. I have a problem that I can’t tell you about. It makes it hard for me with men, I mean...” Crystal’s face was dark red, she felt sweat along her upper lip, and her eyes started to water.

Willys got back in, closed his door, and looked at Crystal. “I’m sorry. I don’t want to push you. I just love you, that’s all. If you ever feel ready to try having a relationship with me, Crystal, I’m ready for you. But if you never do, I’m not going to bother you about it.”

Crystal felt a tear run down her cheek, and brushed it away fast before it got out of hand. “Willys, it’s not that I’m not interested. But I can’t talk about it now.”

“Okay, Crystal. You have a beautiful soul, what you did for Cherie when she cracked and I am proud to know you whatever we are, friends or maybe something else.”

“Willys, you’re a kind man. I wish I could tell you. But I can’t, so let’s eat.” Crystal opened her door and got out. He got out too and took her hand. The walked into Hutch’s holding hands, and Crystal thought it was almost like going out to eat with an old friend. But not quite, because that question about the future hung over their relationship. Was this part of the time healing process her Grandma had talked about? She could not believe how he had managed to make her feel comfortable with him in spite of all of her barriers and guilty feelings. She didn’t know, but she was glad it worked.

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