“Yeah, you, me, and John. I like it. Let’s do that.” His mouth just went on and on, rattling out the words. “Is it true you lost it in class the other day and started raving about a book killing people?”
I turned away. “Yes.”
“Excellent.” He chuckled. “What do you think about basketball?”
“That’s a shame.” He picked up the end of my braid again, swinging it back and forth between us until I smacked at his hand. What a weirdo.
“John talked about me?” I asked, trying not to sound excited because that would be dumb.
Anders shrugged. “Yeah, he said something like ‘That girl was at the Drop Stop.’”
“That’s not a lot.”
“It’s more than he’s ever said about pretty much any other girl.” He clasped his hands together and put them on the desk. “Generally, I do the talking for both of us. It’s become a bit of a problem, actually.”
“No, you don’t. Problem is, John’s gotten a bit . . . how should I say this? Fucky. Yes, John’s been in a bit of a fucky mood since the whole robbery death thing.”
“Oh.” I froze.
“But still, you’re not seeing my real inner pain over this whole talking thing at all. You’re not seeing how it affects me. I mean, I’m on the basketball team. This shouldn’t even be an issue for me. But the thing is, Edie my friend, some of us have to actually talk girls into taking off their clothes,” he said, one brow raised. “Fucky mood or not, he doesn’t. JC just kind of looks at them and their panties and bras go up in flames. They spontaneously combust or something; I’m not sure what the exact scientific term for it is.”
I winced. “I’m not sure I needed to know that. And actually, it sounds painful.”
“Right?” He leaned in closer. “Between you and me, I think it’s his Fabio hair.”
“Fabio?” I asked.
“You don’t know Fabio? Edie, friend, Fabio’s an important and glorious part of American romance fiction history. My mom told me so.”
“I’ll look him up.”
“You do that.”
“What’s going on with John?” I pushed, concerned.
“Good question.” He chewed on the end of his pen, giving me a speculative look. “Going to the party this weekend?”
“What party? Sabrina’s?” I seemed to recall that was the name of the girl who’d left the invite under my windshield wiper.
I frowned. “I hadn’t been planning on it. I’m not really very social.”
“No.” Mouth hanging open in exaggerated surprise, Anders started slipping off his chair, catching himself only at the last second. “I cannot believe that. You seem so friendly and outgoing.”
Smartass. “I do dazzle most people, it’s true. Can we please talk about John?”
He just blinked. “Come to the party.”
“Is it not enough that I said to?”
And I contemplated that for all of a second. “No.”
“Actually, I can respect that.” He picked at his teeth with a fingernail. “What else are you going to do in this town on a Saturday night, hmm?”
Sit alone in my room, read a book, and eat a packet of Oreos. Pretty much exactly in that order. And it sounded like heaven. One of the true benefits of being an only child: no needing to share the snacks. But still, I was worried about John. And getting information out of this nut was difficult.
“Come to the party and bring your other friends,” he said. “Ones that are girls, okay?”
I frowned. It’s not like I usually got invited to a lot of things; maybe I should make an effort to be more social and fit in. I wondered if Hang and co would be up for it. On the other hand, a party. Ugh. Lots of people gathered in one place with social expectations, etcetera. “I don’t know. Will John be there?”
“Anders,” the teacher snapped. Guess she’d gotten tired of playing with her phone. “Be quiet.”
Lips mashed together in frustration, he frowned.
We didn’t talk again. At the end of the hour I strode out into the parking lot, a cool breeze blowing across my face. Everything shone gold in the afternoon light. I slipped on my black sunglasses, then began the twice-daily routine of searching for my car keys. One of these days I’d sort out the crap in my bag.
“Hey! Edie, wait.” Anders loped across the pavement toward me on his long legs. No wonder the boy played sports. “Can you give me a lift?”
“Pipe over by Old Cemetery Road.” He ran a hand over his shaved head. “JC didn’t wait for me, the bastard, and my cell’s dead. Can we go through In-and-Out Burger on the way?”
“That’s not even remotely on the way. And why do you want to go to the old cemetery?”
“I don’t, dummy,” he said. “I want to go to the pipe near the old cemetery.”
And that meant nothing to me.
“A skateboarding half-pipe. Oh, come on. John will be there . . .”
I gave him my very best nonchalant one-shoulder shrug. Even I could feel its inherent fakery.
“Fine.” I unlocked the driver’s-side door and slid inside, the air stale. When I let him in, Anders surveyed the wreckage of my vehicle’s interior with curiosity. I wished he wouldn’t. Empty water bottles rolled around on the floor, along with a scrunched-up Starbucks bag and a stick of deodorant. Hair ties in a variety of colors decorated the gear stick while a couple of items of clothing covered the backseat. Mental note: Clean car sometime.
He did the one-eyebrow-lift thing again. Show-off.
“I take it your car is spotless, wherever it is?”
“Actually, a sad thing happened to my car and my folks won’t get me another. That’s why JC gives me lifts.”
“A sad thing?”
“I don’t like to talk about it.” He scratched at his chin. “But I kind of drove it off road and down a hill, and I guess some sedans just aren’t meant for that.”
“I guess not.”