Prompt: infatuate; really 700 years old
The centuries-old desk/chair combo threatened to break, tip over, or both when Eddie flung himself into it. “I have the most pathetic life ever,” he muttered.
In the next desk over, Carson looked up from the elaborate ballpoint tattoo he had spent the day creating on his left arm. “Tell me something new.”
“Holly doesn’t know I exist,” Eddie said as quietly as he could. The classroom filled up with the rest of seventh period senior English. It felt like spies were everywhere.
“Dude, I said ‘new,’ not ‘predictable.'” Carson went back to drawing on himself, studiously filling in the eye sockets of a skull with black ink.
“I asked her out.” He shoved Carson and gave him a wild-eyed look. “What have I done?”
“Knowing you, blown your chances with her permanently.” Still, Carson looked both impressed and horrified–the perfect response to how Eddie felt. “What did you say? What did she say?”
Ms. Ramada strode purposefully into the room; time was limited. “She shot me down before I said, well, much of anything.” Eddie hesitated, unsure if he could confide the next bit in even his best friend. “She asked me if I wanted to take her out. But, like, she said it weird.”
Ms. Ramada started writing on the whiteboard. The chatter died down. Carson asked, “Weird how?”
“‘What, do you want to take me to the drive-thru? Or just the soda shop?'”
Carson shrugged, obviously not as moved by this as Eddie was. “So she does that retro talk thing. Maybe she’s a closet nerd. As far as rumors go, that’s not really on par with movie actress or CIA superspy.”
Ms. Ramada said, “Books away. Pop quiz. Cue whining.”
Eddie did not join in the usual groan of mostly feigned horror. There had never been a shortage of rumors about Holly. Other topics–who broke up with whom for why and whose parents let half the teenage population get trashed at a party over the weekend– might eclipse her temporarily, but nothing had long-term gossip value like Holly. The way she would disappear from school for days or weeks at a time, with no apparent notice from the teachers and definitely no damage to her grades, was reason enough to talk.
Eddie tried to focus on the Shakespeare quiz in front of him. Nothing could damage his grades, either, but you can’t damage what’s already ruined. Damn it, he’d even done the reading this time, and he still didn’t know any of the answers. He barely recognized names. He stared across the room at the door. On the other side of the hallway, Holly sat in AP Calculus, probably proving the teacher, the book, and Einstein wrong. Again. Some people looked at Holly and felt sick with jealousy. She definitely made Eddie’s stomach do acrobatics but for very different reasons. She was so far out of his league, they weren’t even using the same rulebook. But Eddie knew there would never be another girl like Holly, would never be another girl for him.
Eddie tried to come up with clever answers for the quiz. Ms. Ramada had a weird sense of humor and had been known to give free points to the most creatively wrong answers. His heart wasn’t in the quips, though, and he handed in his mostly blank paper without hope for redemption. Carson gave him a sympathetic look. Eddie tried to put Holly out of his mind and focus on Hamlet for another forty-five minutes. Sometime when Ms. Ramada started talking about Ophelia’s flowers, however, Eddie hit onto a brilliant, awful idea.
Eddie hustled out the door the moment the bell rang. Carson called to him, as did the girl Eddie almost wiped out when he swung his backpack over his shoulder, but Eddie was on a mission. It took some judicious lingering near the senior lockers. One of the girls from yearbook started eyeing him with that look that said idle hands were the club’s workshop. Finally, though, Holly left campus for wherever she spent her time and Eddie was on her trail.
Following her through town, past strip malls and parks, Eddie decided he would not tell Carson about this little adventure. He considered the distinct possibility that he was being a creep and that it was the height of not cool to stalk a girl, even if her long hair and half smile made Eddie wish he could remember how to write sonnets. Some part of his brain had decided this was definitely the best way to get to know Holly, though, and once he started walking, he couldn’t seem to stop.
He couldn’t stop even when Holly turned down a kind of alleyway between a drugstore and a sandwich shop, even though Eddie was sure that would lead to nothing more than the loading bay. Then he had a feverish moment of wondering if she really was a superspy and planned to kill him in this back alley to protect her cover. Before Eddie could commit to getting the hell out of there, though, Holly turned down another passage. Eddie would not have even realized it was there if he had not seen Holly disappear down it.
This time, at least, caution won out. Eddie hesitated at the start of the passage, afraid Holly would really notice him if he followed immediately. He seriously considered the option of just going home: he’d had his adventure; he’d acted like the lovesick idiot he was; and now he’d reached the point of no return. Then he heard voices, including Holly’s, and he knew he could not just walk away.
At the end of the passage, which smelled like wet newspaper, there was a little open space. It looked like the buildings had all claimed their territory and this spot got left out and forgotten. Stray papers and discarded soda bottles collected in corners. In the center, Holly stood at the edge of a glowing medallion traced onto the ground by golden light.
A head floated above the medallion like a hologram. It said, “We’ve been waiting here for a hundred years. It’s almost over.”
Holly tossed her head like she could break free of the very idea. “I know that, but this feels wrong.”
“Oh, please,” the head snapped. “Don’t start up with that garbage again. Just get it done.” And the medallion winked out like a phone being slammed down.
For a moment, Holly stood scrubbing at her eyes with her back still turned Eddie. The sight of a girl crying horrified Eddie. He was torn between the conflicting impulses to go comfort her and to forget it had ever happened. Then she turned around and saw him.
They were locked in a staring contest. Holly looked as terrified as Eddie felt. Then Eddie blurted out, “I won’t tell anyone, I swear.”