Crap. I couldn’t remember how to get to my uncle’s place. I had three yelling boys, a plate of chocolate chip bars piled high, and a bunch of juices boxes. We were running late.
Once I’ve driven to a place, I never forget how to get there. Unless I overthink the whole thing or panic. Which is what I’m doing now. And if I call my parents or my brothers for directions, I would never live it down. I wasn’t willing to risk that yet. I just needed to remember a time when I went there countless times to babysit.
That wasn’t helping.
At a whim, I turned on the street that my old high school was on and a song came on the radio that played constantly on the radio my senior year.
And then I no longer had yelling boys in the back. Instead I had Tech Boy, My Favorite Freshman, and Her Best Friend. All of them talking all about the sets we were building in drama. Tech Boy lived in a neighborhood near me, and he was a valuable asset to my shop. Tall, big, sweet, smart, and a junior. My Favorite Freshman and Her Best Friend were in beginning drama and came to help advance drama on Saturdays to gain points. They, along with four boys who called me Boss, were the only freshman to come on Saturdays. I became rather fond of them.
Me: Touch the knob, and I will break your fingers, Baker.
Baker, whose car had been confiscated Again by her parents for no reason, snapped back her hand. I had a reputation that I clearly didn’t deserve but used to my advantage even with my best friend. As stated in the driver’s handbook, the person, who has shotgun, controls the radio, but the driver had ultimate power. And I liked the song.
I turned left at the first major road. I was taking My Favorite Freshman and Her Best Friend home first because they lived in the exact opposite direction that I lived in, near my uncle’s place.
MFF: Hey, Fae, thanks again for taking us home. You didn’t have to.
They were waiting for me in the drama office after school.
HBF: Thanks. Those boys on the bus- They’re jerks.
HBF was turning into quite the stunner, and for some reason that gave some boys the right to say things they shouldn’t. Right now, MFF and HBF were being silent on who these punks were, but I would find out and deal with it.
MFF: Yeah, if Speedo didn’t say-Ouch.
HBF had elbowed her.
Baker: What did Speedo say?
Me: It’s cool. Just tell us.
HBF: (tears in her voice) He asked if the drapes matched the carpet.
It was a good thing there was a red light. I would have hit the breaks in shock anyways.
Tech Boy: F-in’ @sshole.
HBF: It was nothing. I’m too sensitive. Fae, don’t talk to him.
Me: (I licked my teeth.) Sweetheart, you’re not too sensitive. Speedo is a jerk. I’ll be giving you a ride home from now on (that would help with the bus boys) and you can help me with props (and that would keep Speedo away, but I would be having a talk with that boy and remind him that I didn’t give two cents about his manhood because I would take it. Asking a redhead- God, this year he was being such a jerk.)
MFF: HEY! LOOK! It’s West!
HBF: He must live around here.
Was that something sweet and mushy in her voice? Baker looked over at me. So there was.
Me: Let’s go pick him up and take him home.
Now the Bronco could do u-turns on a two lane road without a problem. She could turn on a dime. It was beautiful. But she couldn’t do it at the speed I attempted. Oops. We weren’t going to clear it. But luck was with me, instead of running into a bush or a cactus, I found two ruts that I followed because that was the best course of action at the time.
Tech Boy: Holy sh*t, FAE!
We bounced around the truck. I ignored the screams (the freshman girls), the cussing (my best friend, who I had never heard talk like that), and the laughter (Tech Boy) and concentrated on getting us out of the patch of desert safely. The rut ended up in an ally. I took a left. As we pulled to a stop before we hit the road, we stopped perfectly in front of West. I rolled down the passenger window.
Me: Going my way?
West: Jesus, Fae.
I smiled. He smiled.
Me: Wanna lift?
West: I just live around the corner.
Me: So I can take you around the corner.
It was a rather warm day for the season.
Baker jumped out and flipped the seat. The girls both jumped into the very back for the Bronco. Tech Boy moved over. West climbed in.
West: Take a left. Um, did you just joyride through the desert?
Me: Yes. Yes, we did.
Tech Boy: Perhaps you should have joined us. But there’s always room for one more.
We laughed at Tech Boy’s sinister voice.
West: Left at the light. Hey, Speedo was looking for you. He wants to talk to you.
Me: What a surprise. I want to talk to him to.
HBF and MFF: FAE!
West: He’s pretty pissed off over today.
West: Don’t play innocent. I know I was on stage, but I heard. And I saw him stomp into The Little Theater, whisper in M’s ear, and then get told back in a whisper. He slinked back into The Shop. So what did you say?
Me: Oh, well, he was upset I took over the tech and was giving out orders and reassigning people to different jobs. And then he got all pissy and said that wasn’t my job. And I said if he had a problem with it he could talk to M because I had a two-story set to build, countless props to find, no costumes, and the head of costumes got herself knocked up last fall and dropped out of school. And I knew M shouldn’t have taken her. F chose us specifically before she retired, and if I knew this junk was going to happen I would have demanded My Soul Sister or My Favorite Junior because I could use them now.
West: Demanded F? That would’ve been suicidal, Fae. Right on the next street. You got to remember Speedo outranks you. He’s Assistant Director. You’re Head of Sets. And NOT head of tech. Left.
Me: Yeah, well if we left it to The Head of Tech, nothing would get done. Don’t get me wrong. I absolutely love that kid. He’s sweet and a hard worker, but he’s a follower through and through, and you *know* the other drama boys were taking advantage of that and not pulling their weight. Someone had to step in. We have a show in four weeks. And NO Victorian costumes in all those closets!
West: Right. And third house. I know, Fae. I’m behind you. I’ll help when I’m not on stage. But you and Speedo have to work together. You two make a good team when you’re not one upping each other. Here we are.
I stopped the car. Baker jumped out and popped the seat. West climbed out of the Bronco.
West: Thanks for the ride. And Fae, be the sweet girl I know you are and try not rule over The Shop with an iron fist, eh?
I showed my teeth.
West: Crush the resistance and all that. I’ll see you tomorrow. Bye, guys.
The rest: BYE!
Baker hoped back in.
Baker: As long as I live, I shall never forget the looks on your faces as you stared off at each other. You guys would make such a cute couple.
I hit the breaks to jerk her. They complained in the back. Baker and I stared at each other, communicating silently.
Me: Ok, then. Right. So next house.
I turned back on the major roads. I passed the road I needed to get into my uncle’s neighborhood.
I turned right on the road to my uncle’s neighborhood. I drove down until I needed to make a right.
I was seventeen again, pulling up to my uncle’s house and getting out of the Bronco. I slung my babysitting bag over my shoulder and grabbed my happy meal box that I used for a purse. I started walking to the door.
From inside the house I heard squeals. “FAE’S HERE! FAE’S HERE!” The door swung open. A big boy with brown hair and brown eyes and a pretty girl with blonde hair and blue eyes came rushing out of the house. I dropped my stuff. The boy got to me first. I picked him up and swung him around. I put him back on the ground and steadied him before I reached for his sister. I picked her up and swung her around. I carried her into the house. “Hi, Fae!” my aunt called from the master bedroom.
I helped Tornado S and Tornado A out of the SUV. Standing near the road, my cousin, who is much taller and bigger than me now, quickly put out his cigarette and did a reverse nod. I raised an eyebrow, and he looked sheepishly at me.
“Hey, Fae! Whadda bring?”