12 people ahead. Or is it 11. Can’t quite tell if the one in the cap is a kid or adult. Well, it could be a kid with money. Or an adult who is just keeping his friend company in line. There really should be different rows or something.
Okay, I think it’s 12. That means 1, 2, 1, 2, 1, 2…shoot that means I’ll be a 1. Oh, I hope that’s a kid up there.
Last game of the season and it’s a few minutes before the start so I don’t have time to come back. Plus, what if someone saw me. “Hey Elly. Why are you at the booster booth again? Did you forget your money or something?” Uh, I can just hear all the stupid questions. Or even worse, I might not make it back before they close.
8 people left in line, including the cap. Please be a kid. Please be a kid.
Inside the arena the announcer is shouting out the opening line up. I can’t understand him from the line, but I can barely understand him from inside either. Players will be on the field either way. I’ll figure it out.
Maybe I should let someone cut ahead of me. Or just back-cuts with the person behind me. Is back-cuts still a thing? Or was that just in primary school? I miss primary school. Counting was easier then. Everything was easier then. Much easier than university. Here a girl can’t figure out how to count to 8.
Make that 5. Cap is up next, or maybe not. ARGH. I hope that scream was just inside my head and no one else could hear it. The security guards at the front gate haven’t moved my way so I’m probably okay. No one else is looking either. Perfect. I’ll just disappear into the vortex that is Till 1 and vanish until classes on Monday. Nothing to see here folks. Just a date-less wonder. At least I’ll get that paper done on time. Whoopee.
A voice snapped me out of my vanishing act. The line ahead of me has vanished instead of me, including the cap. And I’m being called over: “Next.”
Stepping left to Till 2, I barely touch the floor. Jarred stands behind the counter, at least a half-foot taller than me, with broad shoulders from years on the pitch. He would be out there tonight if not for a sprained wrist.
“I’m next.” I declare, and instantly regret. Duh. Obviously I’m next, that’s why I’m standing here.
“What would you like?”
A flood of answers brings me out of the clouds and back down to earth. Each option splashes onto me like a raindrop, with the next right behind it. None sticks long enough to form words in my mouth. “What would I like?” I question, dumb-founded from deep philosophy at the booster booth.
“Yeah, what would you like to buy?”
Of course! I hold my arm down to avoid slapping myself in the face. He needs to take my order. How obvious.
Oh shit. I didn’t even look at their board to see what I can afford. Shit.
I glance above Jarred’s head, trying to look like I just forgot and not like I had no clue. I ordered the first thing on the list that cost less than the 10 pounds in my pocket.
“A foam hand please.”
He calls to one of the others to grab my purchase from the back. Apparently they are all out in his area.
We’re standing awkwardly in silence. It’s probably 10 seconds but feels long enough to have died at least twice. I wish I’d died for sure. Anything to not be here in this horrible, terrible, awkward…
“You’re in my bio class, right?”
A simple question. I manage to actually come up with a fast answer this time: “Yep.”
“You’re in a lot of my science classes. Pre-med too?”
“Yep.” Two for two. Great job Elly-Girl.
“Have you started working on the review paper for Monday?”
“Yeah. I mean I have a rough outline. Feeling pretty stuck on the DNA ethics piece.” Multiple words. And they were in sentences. I have just earned all the ice cream I want this weekend. Go Me. Go Me. Go Me.
“That part was tough. I spent most of this afternoon in the library trying to sludge through it.”
“Cool.” Maybe not all the ice cream.
Its back to silence as another student worker brings up a foam hand the size of my left arm. Fantastic.
I hand over my money, get my change, and Jarred hands me a gigantic, and not at all subtle, bag.
With a head-nod of thanks, I start a slow, loser walk back to my seat. The bag weighs me down on one side. It must be filled with all of my crushed dreams, along with the foam hand. I look inside to see if I can actually spot my pathetic reflection and instead black cloth obstructs my view.
Stepping out of the pedestrian flow, I dig into the bag. There’s my new hand (the better to smack my face with). But there’s also a men’s rain jacket. How did that get in there? The crumpled receipt includes the jacket too. How the heck?
I head back to the booth. The last thing I need this weekend is to be in jail for theft. Pathetic in my dorm room is one thing. Pathetic in prison is something totally different. Dr. Jailbird isn’t getting hired anywhere.
I cut into line from the side, avoiding the scowling glares of those who have been waiting. “There’s been a mistake. I didn’t buy this jacket.” I hold out contraband at arm’s length, to show how little it means to me and how disconnected we are.
But Jarred doesn’t reach back. Instead he cocks his head to one side. “I know. I did.”
Once again words completely fail me. But apparently my face offers the “WHAT???” my voice doesn’t.
“I hoped you’d use it to save a seat for me. We can watch the game, and then maybe swap paper ideas over coffee. My treat.”
“Ok.” I pull the coat back into me, now valuing it more than anything else in the whole wide world.
“I’ll find you inside.”
Waltzing back toward my seat, I walk past the cap headed in the other direction. Turns out it was a kid after all. Without a word, I toss him my bag with the foam hand inside. I owed him.
This story is a response to the Flash Fiction Challenge by Fractured Faith Blog.