Tapping. Tapping. Tapping.
My eyes dart from side to side to see if anyone minded me tapping my pen against the small circular table. Nothing.
I bring my focus back to writing.
Tap. Tap. Tap.
Growing impatient, I turn the page of my notebook, skipping yet another subject and moving onto the next one, even though I knew I’d have to come back to iteventually.
Massaging my temples always soothed me, but today nothing could help my throbbing headache subside. Perhaps it was the pile of schoolwork in front of me? No, maybe it was because I wasn’t doing work, rather outlining ideas for how to keep my sanity for the next ten months.
Usually the quietly playing music and background sounds that played at Barnes & Noble would help me focus, but not today. I wanted to get as much work done before this afternoon so I could go to the fall festival at the national park nearby. I hadn’t even been back in town for a week but I had tons of assignments already. Who makes their students write a three-page essay at the beginning of the school year?
One more time I attempt to go back to important things besides my own doodles and writings. I had to make up for being a shitty student in middle school and ninth grade. And elementary school. And probably pre-school.
I finally gave up about twenty minutes later when I realized I wasn’t going to get anywhere now—or ever as a matter of fact.
I sling my bag over my shoulder and start for the exit when I am stopped by the forming crowd near the front double doors. This B&N was part of a building and was upstairs, and even the area outside of the store itself was filled up with patrons.
Before I can begin pushing my way through, someone grabs me from behind and pulls me back so I was sort of tossed around until I got to the back once again.
“Keep it moving, kid!” A man that I assumed to be an employee claps his hands to get my attention.
Great first week back so far.
With no mode of transportation other than my feet, I decided to make my way back home. It was almost 6pm, our designated dinner time. Only today we were thankfully getting outside food.
The town’s most popular diner wasn’t very busy on Sunday nights. Hell, I’m surprised they’re even open then. The occasional hungry customer or family dining out would stroll in and spend no longer than maybe an hour and a half, just enjoying each other’s company and the seclusion provided by the highway pit stop area.
The plan was to meet my brother Sam and my father back at home to get there together. I was glad Dad wasn’t as lenient as he used to be; that only caused trouble.
I sat and waited at the steps in front of the diner, hoping no hostesses would shoo me off to make room for nothing in particular. About ten to fifteen minutes passed before the familiar red shitbox pulled into the parking lot, relief of not having to wait any longer washing over me.
Sam came out of the car first, probably to open the door for his girlfriend, McKenna, who he invited last minute. I didn’t have a problem with her, nor did she with me, but I was sort of looking forward to it being just us. I probably have to get used to this if he plans on having a future with her, and by the looks of it, he always has.
“Good eveningm’suer,” I high five Sam. “You look fancy on this fine evening.”
“He’s preparing for our engagement dinner,” McKenna teased, pecking him lovingly on the cheek.
“She wishes I’d get dressed up for that.” Sam poked back with a smirk.
Dad exits his vehicle and nods his head at me as if to say “’Sup”. I nod back and we exchange smiles.
“Speaking of which,” I start for the doors to the diner. “When is that special dinner you’ve been talking about but never planned?”
“It’s coming...” Sam insists. “As soon as Mardale’s is available.”
“Aw, I can’t wait for that dinner in 2002.” I clap my hands excitedly.
McKenna’s mouth drops open at my joke, Sam reassuring her with a pat on the hand.
“She’s joking, baby.” Sam shoots me a look of annoyance.
I stick my tongue out at him and open the doors for them and Dad.
The diner is full, to our surprise and dismay. It must’ve been a party or something because this place was never this busy.
“Livingstons!” The diner owner, Michelle, called out excitedly from behind the hostess stand. She grabbed four menus and made her way towards us. “I’m so glad to have you back.”
“Nice to be back.” Sam spoke for all of us. Michelle was probably trying to get on Sam’s good side to get him to come back to work since he found a new, better job. Or maybe trying to persuade McKenna to take his place. She looked just how you’d expect a waitress to look; brunette with her hair always in a ponytail, white-teethed smile, natural customer service voice with people she doesn’t really know.
“Well, let’s not have you standing around any longer, huh?” Michelle led us to the very back section of the establishment, far from any scurrying children and drunk adults.
I scoot into the boot next to Dad with a menu in hand even though I’m going to order the usual. McKenna looked at the dessert menu first of all, just like I did.
“Think she’s over you yet?” McKenna joked as she eyed a passing strawberry sundae.
Sam shook his head in disappointment. “You’d think three months would’ve been enough.”
“Maybe she just needs someone to take your place.”
McKenna and I look at each other almost at the same time.
I cock my head back. “Like I’d work.”
“That’s child labor.” I take a salt shaker from its place and toss it between my hands. I noticed my dad had said nothing at all since we all met up. He just stared blankly at the specials.
“So Dad, we’re getting a movie tonight, right?” I encourage a new topic of conversation.
He shook his head and blinked a few times as if he were in a trance. “Oh, yeah. Of course. You guys still haven’t picked yet, though.”
“How about Coneheads?”
Sam and McKenna simultaneously turned their heads slowly to stare me down. Dad gives me the same look.
“What? That’s his favorite movie isn’t it?”
“Well, yes, but—” Dad is cut off by Sam.
“Don’t you usually pick horror whenever it’s your turn?”
“Yeah, but how about we change it up a bit?” I sit up taller. “This month can be ‘Unpredictable Month’! We each pick a movie we’d never pick in a million years and see if we like it.”
“I actually like that idea,” McKenna interjects. “Maybe I can get you into Chick Flicks finally.”
Sam makes a gagging noise. “Tonight’s a night of sharing wildest dreams, I see.”
We spent another hour in the restaurant and chatted away, staying an extra ten minutes for the new dessert item of the month. As soon as we got in the car, Sam and I kept reminding Dad to go to the video store.
Another hour of roaming the town and we were back at home, me slipping into my PJs before anything else. McKenna would stay the night which meant she probably brought her special bubble baths in her overnight bag I liked to steal from her.
Once the movie we rented finished I invested my free-time in organizing my room and school bag, scenarios of what could go wrong and what could go right playing through in my head.
I could become part of some friend group that went shopping on weekends and had sleepovers and turn into the woman my mom so badly wants me to be. Or I could do what I always did and seclude until someone felt guilty enough to approach me. The latter strategy always worked; only this time I wasn’t so sure about it.