Forty One: familiar

Alley

Things to do today
-stop by Kennedy’s & get supplies (canvas, paint, brushes)
-get car washed @ Sunoco
-call Dr. Ryan and ask about scholarship


I sighed, studying my list. I always thought 'to do' lists were rather stupid, but I was desperately searching for ways to pass the time. So for the past ten minutes, I had been thinking of stuff to add to the list. I had seen an ad in the student newspaper about scholarships for art students, and I was considering applying for it. I was hoping Dr. Ryan could fill me in on the details. My car looked like shit, as it hadn’t been washed in months, and the road mud and salt from this winter was caked on so hard that I wondered if it would be possible to remove.

The art supplies were for a sudden revelation, a brainstorm, that occurred to me only days before. Taylor’s birthday was in March, which really wasn’t that far away. And after a lot of debating, I had finally decided on the perfect gift. Taylor was always bitching because I never painted or drew anything for him… so I would do just that for his birthday. A painting. Of him.

I couldn’t wait to get started. I only had two months, so I knew the work would have to start immediately. The only problem was keeping it a secret that long, since Taylor was notoriously nosy when it came to those things. But I was hoping for a little help from Louise in that department, especially since she and Taylor were all buddy-buddy now.

The professor’s voice cut through my thoughts. “As I hope you all have realized by now, your first test is this Friday. Today will be a review day.”

I scowled, and promptly added another item to my 'to do' list.

-throw flaming bag of dog shit onto the Tanenbaums’ porch

I leaned back in the seat and smiled smugly at the last item listed. Thinking of ways to deface my professor’s property gave me a great deal of satisfaction. 

“OK, class, please get out your books and flip to page 179. I expect you to know all the information that’s listed in the table here….”

“Ugh,” I grunted, my eyes widening at the sheer mass of information located on page 179. Sweet mother of God. Was it even possible to memorize this much junk? Part of me sincerely doubted it.

“I’m going to give you these handouts that contain information that I didn’t get to in my lecture. This will be on the test.” Several sheets of paper came fluttering down the aisle. I grabbed one and resisted the urge to ball it up and throw it back in her face.

It’s times like this when I wonder if a college education is even worth all the trouble. All the homework, the stress, evil professors, 8:00 AM classes… I mean, take Taylor for instance. He and his family are doing just fine without him having to go to college. Why couldn’t I just do that?

Of course, then I remember that whole 'lack of talent' and 'perfect looks' thing. Some people have all the luck.

Needless to say, I wasn’t in the best mood. There’s something about early morning air that just made me cranky, and I usually avoided it at all costs. And if it wasn’t for Dr. Nola Tanenbaum, I would be in bed avoiding it right now...

“… and you should all already know the information about the elements from the periodic table. Are there any questions?” Dr. Tanenbaum asked. I scowled. We’d been in class a grand total of six times, and already a test was on the way. No one responded with any questions, so she dismissed us early-- an extremely rare occurrence.

I trudged out the door, wrapping my scarf around my nose and ears, and pulling my jacket tighter. The wind was bitterly cold, and I grew more and more irritated as wayward strands of hair snuck out of their ponytail and blew into my face as I shuffled down the sidewalk.

“Damn wind,” I muttered. “Wish I was in Florida right now.”

“Yeah, it’s pretty cold up here. It took me awhile to get used to it.”

I turned, surprised, to the source of the voice. Wow. It was the cute guy that sat next to me every day in chemistry, the one who looked achingly familiar but I just couldn’t place his face. I found my voice and replied.

“Oh, really?" I asked lightly. "Where are you from?”

“Louisiana.”

“Ohhhh, New Orleans?” I asked.  I immediately felt stupid -- it wasn't like New Orleans was the only city in Louisiana...

He laughed. “No. Lafayette, actually. Not nearly as well known.” His smile met his eyes, and suddenly my stupidity didn’t matter.

“Oh, Okay... How do you like it up here?”

“I really like it so far. I’ve only been here since August, but it’s going well.”

He walked with me on the way to my next class. I cast quick glances around, wondering if anyone noticed that I was walking side-by-side with a Greek god. I wracked my mind for casual conversation, hoping that I didn’t sound nearly as idiotic as I felt.

“You don’t remember me, do you?” he asked suddenly. We were standing right outside of the Funkhouser Building, where my next class was. My eyes widened at the question.

“Well, I… you look very familiar," I said. "I’ve been thinking that all along.”

“Well, my name is Alex Huff. I know your name is Alley, you hate chemistry at 8 o’clock in the morning, but you love Led Zeppelin, and especially your Zoso shirt, and apparently you love to shop.” His eyes twinkled mischievously.

I opened my mouth and then closed it, perturbed. How did he know that?

“Wait,” I said. “How…?”

He shrugged, his handsome features scrunched together, with a smile still playing on his face. Hmmm... My Zoso shirt? Oh, my God, wait a minute... “Alex! From the mall!” I squealed, not caring if everyone around me stared. “Now I remember!”

“Yeah,” he said, laughing. “Remember, you had all those bags…”

“Yeah, because Taylor and I were out shopping, and then--” I halted, realizing I’d said too much.

He looked slightly confused. “Actually, you were by yourself when I saw you…”

“Yeah, yeah,” I said hurriedly. “I just got confused. That must have been another day.”

“Must have.” He leaned back against the columns of the building. “You don’t know how many times I’ve wished that I’d asked you your last name. I wanted to look up your number but I only knew your first name!”

I stood in shock, silently warning my body not to collapse. “Really?” I squeaked. “Why?”

“Well, you know… I was new in town… didn’t know anybody… needed a tour guide…”

“Oh,” I said, feeling deflated. He just needed me to be a chauffeur... Figures.

“But,” he continued. “You know, I still haven’t been around town nearly as much as I would have liked...”

Is that a hint? Please, God, let it be a hint… “Oh, really?” I managed to say casually.

“Yeah…” He trailed off, and then looked away for a moment. Then he turned back to me abruptly. “Would you like to go out this weekend?”

“I…" I stuttered, shocked. "Would I like to… oh…” Focus, Alley!! “Yeah! Sure, I’d like to go out somewhere.”

He smiled, revealing those perfectly straight white teeth. “Oh, great.” He pulled out a pencil and a piece of paper. “Here’s my number. Could I have yours?”

“Yeah... yeah, here...” My hand shook as I scribbled the number down.

“Hey, I’ll call you tonight, and we can decide when and where,” he said, looking regretfully at his watch. “But I have to head on to class or I’ll be late.”

“Okay... me too,” I said shyly. I had decided to stick with the low-syllable responses for now.

“See you later, Alley,” he said warmly, squeezing my arm before he walked off.

I allowed myself an uncharacteristic squeal of delight when he was out of earshot. Wow! Several students gave me odd looks, but I didn’t care. I had to resist the urge to scream, 'I have a date with a hot guy this weekend!' to the collective crowd around me. I had to tell someone. Glancing at my watch, I saw that it was time to go inside. I stood still for a moment, debating, before I made the uncharacteristic decision to skip class and head on home. I could afford to miss it, I reasoned. Besides, this news was too good to keep to myself much longer... something like this did not happen to me every day...

Re-wrapping the scarf around my face, I walked quickly towards the parking lot, breaking into a sprint several times. I couldn’t wait to get home and tell Louise and Taylor. I raced home, heedless of the speed limit and traffic. A light giddiness had settled over me, which felt nice, but probably caused me to be a serious road hazard.

I reached home in record time, stumbling out of the car and racing to the door. I burst through the door, grinning wildly. Taylor and Louise were in the living room, on the couch. Both wore similarly confused expressions when I flew into the room.

“Hey guys!” I chirped. “How’s it going?”

Silence for a moment. Then, Louise answered. “What are you doing home so early?” She turned her gaze back to Taylor for a moment. “Well, it’s a good thing, anyway. Taylor needs to talk to you.”

“Really? Oh, okay. But listen, the best thing just happened to me!” I was talking a mile a minute, and gesturing wildly. “You’ll never believe it!”

“What?” they both asked in unison.

“Remember that guy I was telling you that was in my chemistry class? The one who looked so familiar? Well, I figured out who he was today!”

“Who?”

“I met him at the mall! He was the one that helped me with all those bags that one time, Taylor! Remember? When we went shopping the first time? His name was Alex!” Even I was surprised at the excitement in my voice.

Taylor’s eyes grew wide. “Ooohh…” he stuttered.

“Yes! I know! And guess what? He asked me out!” I shrieked and clapped my hands. "Can you believe it?"

Complete silence. And two faces filled with shock. Jesus Christ, what was with those two today? I shrugged when no one said anything. Where was all the excited support I had expected?

“Well,” I said finally. “What did you want to talk about, Taylor?”