Arizona Skies
Author: Isabella Darcy

Chapter 12
Bad Day

The next day, Aubrey comes to school. I still drive with Frank in the morning, and as I step out of the truck and look over the parking lot, I see him, carelessly smoking a cigarette, standing with a group of boys near a red pickup. One of the guys says something, and his head turns, his eyes flicker to me- for a second we lock eyes. Then he looks away and so do I, feeling my face burning.

Frank puts his arm around me and ruffles my hair. "Whatcha blushing about, California?"

I adjust my bag and murmur into my shoulder, "Nothing."

We walk like that to our group by the main entrance, and I see Leanne, the quiet girl with almond shaped eyes bite her lip. She turns away, not even saying hi. Frank lets me go and drifts over to Jimmy. Emma appears, her curls peeping out of a bun.

I bend my head to her, whispering. "What's up with Leanne?" I ask.

Emma shakes her head and smiles sadly. "She asked Frank to the upcoming dance, and he said no."

"What, why?" I ask, though I have a bad feeling that I know the answer. "Leanne's really nice."

Emma gives me a withering look. "Oh, come on Rora, really. Do you think Frank's gonna pay attention to anyone when you're around?"

I splutter, at a loss for words. What can I say to that? She nods trimuphantly. "Exactly."

"Well," I finally find my voice, "are you going?"

She blushes pink, and dimples. "Not yet. Keep your fingers crossed."

Frank appears, putting an arm around each of us easily. I remember Leanne guiltily.

"Keep your fingers crossed for what?" He teases.

Emma blushes. "Nothin'. Don't you eavesdrop, Frank Thompson."

He makes a mock reproachful face and the bell rings. The boys head in one direction, and Emma and I to English. I feel another twinge of guilt as I recognize Leanne's sheet of black hair swish by in front of us without even a hello.

 

 

All through art I fidget; I can't stop thinking that I'll have to face Aubrey next period. Emma finally stops in the middle of her animated soliloquy on what she should wear if Jimmy asks her to the dance and turns to me.

"What are you waiting for?" she asks, exasperated, catching my hand from gluing a photo on backwards. "You're driving me crazy."

"Sorry Em." I say. "I just- nevermind."

"No, not nevermind. Tell me what's up. You can trust me."

I smile into her sweet face. "I know. It's just...I feel really bad about it."

She raises an eyebrow inquisitively. "About..?" she prompts.

I blush and look down at our collage, grabbing the glue and putting it on the photo the right way. "Don't laugh, please."

"I'm not going to, Rora."

I speak slowly, keeping my eyes fixed on the collage. "It's just...I think- no, I know- I have a crush on Aubrey Hunter."

Silence. I wait for a response, but it's evidently not coming. Finally I jerk my head up. Emma's ogling, her clear eyes wide, looking surprised and a little hurt.

"Well?" I ask.

"Um," she says, "Wow."

"Wow as in good wow or wow as in bad wow?"

She rubs her head, looking slightly dazed. "Um, I'm not sure. Aubrey Hunter?" She asks, incredulous.

I nod, hissing for her to be quiet.

"Aubrey Hunter?" she whispers. "But he's..." she drifts off.

"Yeah." I say.

"But Rora," she says, slightly impatient. "What about Frank?"

Oh great. I had a feeling this would happen. I frown, trying to act innocent. "What do you mean?"

She looks back at the collage, gluing as she talks. "Well, he really likes you. And I mean- Aubrey's like- unattainable. Why waste what you already have chasing a dream?"

I shrug, but the shot hits home. "Em, I didn't choose to like him. I just do."

"Yeah, well." She shrugs. "I wish you'd try to..."

"To what?" I ask testily, gathering up my stuff as the bell rings. "To what, Emma?" I can't help the heat that creeps into my voice. "What can I do about it?"

She ignores me, and I stomp away. The day is not going well.

 

 

It's with a quivering heart that I enter the dance studio and shrug off my jacket, jamming my stuff into a cubbyhole near the door. I glance towards the row I know he'll be sitting in. Yup, he is. Great.

I walk over to my spot and sit down, acutely conscious of his prescence only a couple feet away from me. The habitual blush creeps up my cheeks. Mrs. Kudrow takes roll and leads in a five minute warm up, and then tells us to get with our partners. Okay.

I reluctantly go over to Aubrey, my heart pounding so loud I'm surprised nobody hears it. When I reach him he turns his stony face from me silently. Oh. I guess we're not talking then.

Throughout the whole period we dance- we touch, twirl, spin- and he never says a word, and neither do I. I guess I must have really wounded his pride. We finish the basic dance steps and as everyone grabs their stuff Mrs. Kudrow announces that in a couple days we'll have the dance test. I'm already nervous.

 

 

As he drives me home, Frank seems more preoccupied than usual- nervous. We reach Lindsey's and he stops the car, but makes no effort to say goodbye.

I remember what Emma said, about Frank turning down Leanne for the dance at Wilson. I really hope he's not going to do what I think he's going to.

Frank turns to me with a broad smile. "So, California, I was wondering if uh...you'd like to um- you know-" he nervously laughs, ruffling his brown curls, "come with me to the Wilson dance next friday?"

I bite my lip, and he waits, visibly nervous, but still smiling, reasonably confident, as I guess I've given him reason to be. I am such an idiot.

"Um, sure," I say weakly, "if I'm free then. You know, something might come up."

Already his face is lit up like a thousand watts and he's laughing. "Great, California, great."

I smile lamely as he continues to talk, flashing me sunny smiles. It seems like everything around me is the worse off for my absurd fascination with Aubrey Hunter- my friendships with Leanne, Emma, and Frank. Yet I can't imagine giving him up all the same.

 

 

At home, after I do my chem and gov homework and give up entirely on calc, I do a load of laundry, write letters to everyone in L.A., clean my room, practice the jazz dance, and reorganize my bookbag. And it's only dinner time. I search around for things to distract me from the thoughts that swarm my mind. I wish my mom was here. She'd let me talk and talk and talk and at the end would just understand. But the only person to talk to here is Lindsey, and she wouldn't understand the first thing.

"Aubrey Hunter came to school today." I say as she dishes me out some chicken escabeche and rice.

She smiles. "Good. I was worried about him, poor boy."

We chew in silence, me preoccupied by my thoughts. Now Leanne doesn't like me, Emma's mad at me, Frank oblivious, and Aubrey giving me the silent treatment- though I have to admit to myself that the last is what bothers me the most.

"Is everything alright?" Lindsey asks, punctuating my gloom. "You seem a little distant."

I nod, pushing around my carrots. "School was a little rough today, that's all."

She appears to accept this statement blindly, but as I leave the room I swear I feel her eyes on my back.

That night I dream of Aubrey, seeing him and wanting him, but Krissy is pulling him back, and Frank is pulling me back, and Emma is standing in between us yelling with her arms outstretched while Leanne kisses Jimmy and narrows her snake eyes at me. I wake with a start to feel my sheets sticking to my sweaty skin, the cold air from the open windows freezing. The moonlight is strong and bright, pouring onto my floor in a glorious silver pool. I get up in my underwear and crawl into the moonlight, staring out into the quiet desert night. I imagine I smell a waft of a cigarette and see a glimmer among the cacti, but beyond the moonlight fades and all is cloaked in darkness. A lone owl hoots through the velvet night.

 

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