It’s been four days since we found out Stevie got accepted. Since that moment, time began to creep by in a tortuously slow drawl. Every minute felt more like an hour. I was going crazy waiting while Stevie started planning, started relaxing. The school bus ride home on Fridays was the worst of the week. Everyone was tired and nasty. Being a senior without a car was most depressing on Fridays, although not at all uncommon for people living in this part of the city. It is pretty easily to go just about anywhere I need. Leaving this neck of the woods without a car is nearly impossible, but, I knew enough friends with cars that it never affected my weekends too bad. I pulled my purple permeant marker from my hoodie pocket, opened the cap and scribbled down three evergreen trees inspired by stick figures.
Stevie swatted my arm, “You have got to stop scribbling on everything, that’s vandalism—a foolish thing to get arrested for,” she gave me the exact stern look her mom has been known to give out from time to time. Stevie the future law school student—and me, a future struggling novelist trying to figure out her childhood or maybe, even next street artist if I couldn’t convince people to pay for the stories I make up.
“It’s harmless scribbling,” I said rolling my eyes.
“Criminal acts are never harmless,” she smiled, ”our stop is coming finally! The bus took forever today,” Stevie sat up straight in the seat.
“Seriously. I can smell the fish sticks they had in the cafeteria,” I scrunched up my nose.
“Ew, I know. So gross.” Stevie looked out the window. I took the marker back to the purple trees. As the bus slowed toward our stop, I quickly drew a thought bubble coming from behind the trees, “I can’t see past.”
“Sam, stop!” Stevie took my marker,” You get this back when we get to your place.”
“You’re no fun,” I grumbled.
“Now, we both know that’s not true,” Stevie giggled. The bus jerked to a stop, and the door hissed open. Everyone stood up a fast as they could. Freedom was seconds away. The weekend was finally here. Stevie was right. For all her law-abiding, nose in a book, writes too many list ways, the girl was a whole lot of fun. It was organized at the heart, fun, but it was fun none-the-less.
The second my feet hit the sidewalk the smell of donuts passed by being carried by the wind.
“I need a donut and coffee!” I pulled on Stevie’s arm,” Let’s take the long way back to my apartment.”
“Stevie’s expression warmed. She handed me back my purple marker, “You’re gonna get in, you know that, right?”
“I don’t know.” I bent down to tie my shoe. The downside of being obsessed with funky shoelaces was that I never remembered to check the length of them. I was continuously stepping on the laces, untying them as walked. “I just know I need a Bavarian creme donut and a caramel latte.” I stood up.
“Okay, let’s go,” Stevie nodded, fully accepting our Crazy O’s Doughnut future. The last bunch got off the bus. Fred, the driver—my bus driver of four years—looked like he was going to explode in frustration. His face reddened with each of the student’s slow step. I couldn’t figure who hadn’t gotten off.
“Are you going to be a regular?” Fred growled at someone tall on the bus.
“What’s Benny Cooper doing riding our bus?” Stevie curiously whispered in my ear.
Benny stepped off the bus. He had shaggy, dirty blond hair that always looked like he just got out of bed, or it was flattened by a beanie. He was tall and unfairly gorgeous. Neither of us knew him very well, but we seemed to wind up at the same party spots most of the time. Stevie and I couldn’t help but keep at least part of an eye on him. He played guitar and was followed around by the reputation of a ruthless, heartbreaker.
“I’m not sure,” I shrugged.
“Maybe he’s had enough of watching us from a distance,” Stevie said this with her words wrapped in a laugh.
“I think you have that flipped around,” I laughed.
“Whatever, let’s get donuts, I’m cold.”
“No, you are not. You just are anxious to start getting ready.”
“Perhaps. We do work super hard. We’ve earned the right to party. Especially now that we got in.”
“Stevie, I haven’t gotten in yet.”
“I think so too,” I crossed my arms, “Honestly it’s the scholarship I’m anxious about.”
“Well, you could always do student loans.”
I groaned at this, “I don’t want to. I’ll be making pennies for awhile.”
“What are you talking about? You are going to be a famous writer in no time. Your stories are too good.”
I shrugged, “I have a lot to learn.”
“You could take a compliment once in awhile; ya know,” Stevie said.
“Don’t thank me, just take me to your fancy book parties.”
“Deal,” I smiled. We turned the corner onto the Ave. The blinking lime green donut sign was three stories up. My stomach growled in anticipation.
“Yum, this is amazing,” I said swallowing my first bite of Bavarian creme donut.
“You couldn’t wait three more seconds. Your door is right there,” Stevie said pointing at the door to my apartment with the hand that wasn’t holding a carefully folded donut bag.
“I told you I needed a donut,” I said. I was starting to feel like I was ready to lean into the weekend. My freak out had whirled down. Everything seemed a little less dire. Then again, that can change readily.
“I told you that you don’t have to worry.”
“I’m gonna worry until I have hard evidence not to.”
Stevie nodded at this. “Yeah, I would do the same thing.”
I carefully place my latte down in the middle of the hallway and slid the keys out from my back pocket, my back hung off my left shoulder threatening my donut.
“Do you want me to hold something?” Stevie asked smiling my and my disorganization.
“No, I think I got it,” I said. Just as I leaned over to unlock my door. The apartment door behind us swung open. I turned around just in time to see a large dog knocking over my coffee. “Aww man!” I groaned.
“Sorry, he’s been cooped up all day.” Benny is standing in the doorway of the apartment across from mine.
“Are you my new neighbor?” I asked. It seemed too surreal to being standing in front of him.
Stevie bent down, “Hello there,” she said in a sweet voice. The dog wagged his butt back and forth.
“Looks that way,” Benny flashed a dimple-framed smile. “I owe you a cup of coffee.”
“Yeah, you do.” I looked down at my sad, knocked over Hilltop Coffee cup. “A caramel latte.”
Stevie stood back up and wiped her hands down the front of her jeans.
“Fancy. I’ll hit you up at a later time. This guy’s got to go.” Benny looked down at his black and tan dog. Who was now licking my overpriced caramel latte off the rug. “Holden, leave it.”
“Your dog’s name is Holden?” I say as I tilted my head to the side. This entire encounter felt like something out of Tuesday’s night dream.
“Yep, as in Holden Caulfield, who’s a….”
I cut in, “The Catcher in the Rye.”
“Yep,” he nodded. Benny then looked down at his dog, “Leave it, let’s go,” he said as he patted his thigh and started to walk down the hallway. Holden’s big head snapped to attention, and he started walking with his owner.
Benny looked at me, “I guess, I’ll see you around.”
“C-ya,” Benny said. I stood there as he slowly disappeared down the hallway with is dog and Stevie’s fingers dug into my arm.
The second we got inside the apartment, Stevie squealed, “You are lucky.”
“What? Because Benny Cooper is now my neighbor?”
“Yes, that is something many girls would be envious of. I think I even am a little bit.”
“I don’t need that headache,” I said letting my backpack drop to the ground.
“I think you might,” Stevie said picking up my back and hanging on the hooks over a small wooden bench. Then, she hung hers right next to mine. “What are you an animal?”
“Benny Cooper lives across the hall. Now, I know for a fact and have a freshmen notebook of yours to prove it that there was a point in time where you would of gone crazy over this development.” Her words instantly reminded me of when we first saw Benny. It was the third week of school, and he showed up with a black eye and a guitar. Benny always seemed to be around a crowd of people but kept to himself.
I couldn’t help but smile a little. “No, you are right.”
“Well, then that proves that a tiny part of you is excited about the present day,” a broad, toothy smile spread across Stevie’s freckled face.
“I’m not going to give it to you.”
“Oh come on, Samantha, I’m so ready for you to have a new boyfriend,” she whined.
“You are terrible.”
“Maybe, but I look fantastic in your long green sweater,” Stevie said. The far-off look in her head let me know her mind was somewhere else already.
“Knock yourself out,” I said. “I’m bummed that my five dollar coffee is soaking into the hallway rug.”
“What?” My dad asked, walking into the room.
“Nothing, dad.” I gave him a look. His graying black hair was a messy nest on his head, and the bags under his eyes were deeper than I’ve seen the in a while. “How’s it going, dad?”
“It’s crappy,” he signed, “I think I’m anti-Friday.”
“Oh, that’s controversial Mr. Waters,” Stevie joked.
“I know, but I swear everyone in the world is over-tired on Fridays,” he pointed his finger at the large window that main room. I saw a visitor sticker still stuck to his shirt.
“I think you may be onto something dad.” I walked into the kitchen and swung open the refrigerator door. I grabbed the chocolate milk.
“Get a glass, this time, Samantha,” my dad said.
“I will,” I opened the cabinet where we keep the mugs. My dad, as he did with many things, he collected novelty mugs. I grabbed a dark brown mug, which read, I am Sasquatch, off of the bottom shelf.
“So, what’s this about over-priced coffee soaking someone else’s property?” My dad asked Stevie and not me.
“Ah, your new neighbor’s dog accidentally knocked it over,” Stevie answered winking at me. I pour the chocolate milk into the mug happily.
“Seriously? They moved in this morning, and I’m not happy, not at all. I don’t know about them,” my dad grumbled. His crazy eyebrows always looked, even more, insane when he was getting worked about something.
“Not one specific thing. Clues have been tossed left and right, though, make no mistake. The three of them and their dog are trouble.”
“What makes you say they’re a problem Mr. W?”
“They are all look drug dealers and their dog has a giant head. Something just doesn’t sit right,” he folded his arms infant of his chest. “I’m gonna order pizza tonight.”
“Bacon and onions please,” I said.
“And mushrooms!” Stevie added.
“I’ll get two pizzas. Are either of those boys coming over?” My dad’s eyes darkened when he said the word boys.
“No, but we are headed out later. Pike’s having a party,” I said as I dipped my donut into the chocolate milk. “Yum,” I whispered out loud to it.
“Your daughter’s eating habits are abysmal,” Stevie told my dad.
He laughed, “Don’t’ I know it.” He walked over to a stack of papers on the long table by the bathroom door. “Speaking of stress, some mail come for you.” As my dad spoke, his words caused my stomach grow feet and hands, both with suction cups and began to climb my throat.
I swallow my chocolate milk soaked donut quickly, “From who dad?”
He picked up a large white envelope off the top and walked back over to Stevie and me. She squealed and clapped her hands together. “I told you!”
My dad handed me the envelope and my stomach dropped to my feet. It was from my third choice. “It’s not from the University of New York,” I mumbled and handed it over to Stevie.
“Nope. It’s from the University of Virginia though. Their writing program is awesome.”
“And it’s far from New York and not part of the plan.” I slumped down in one of the kitchen chairs.
An instant fog of a feeling sorry for myself swirled around in the room. I wanted so bad for New York to tell me yes, my hard work paid off. I wanted it a certain way. I never expected to have to wait this long to find out about New York. I was starting to wonder if I would ever hear anything at all. Stevie carefully opened the envelope using a butter knife. My father groaned when Stevie pulled it out of the drawer. I looked out the window. The sky was starting to get darker.
Rain fell at a steady clip, which caused all the lights from the cars and buildings to blur among the droplets of water. When Stevie read the very first acceptance letter, the first time my hard work had been acknowledged in such a successful way, and it wasn’t good enough, in fact, I was devastated. Then, when she read that I didn’t get the full financial support I started to crumble in places. Stevie and my dad didn’t know how to handle my reaction. My dad got into cataloging his action figures that are based off tv sitcoms, and Stevie and I went into my room to get ready for the party. I was ready to cut loose, to distract myself from going crazy. I was scared that I wasn’t going to get this the way I imagined it. I wasn’t ready to accept that as a possibility.
My head felt like it was slowly floating closer to my glowing the dark ceiling as the evening grew later. I went through the motion. I did my hair, put on a fresh and purposeful outfit. I helped Stevie. She kept checking in with me, and I wasn’t quite sure to say. I was surprised and put off by my own reaction, so I didn’t know to start in explaining what was going on with me.
“I’m gonna pop in the bathroom, and then we’ll head to Pikes?” Stevie asked she watched me carefully.
“Sounds like a plan,” I said keeping my voice flat.
“Okay…” Stevie left my room. I stared down at the acceptance letter from Virginia University that was now laid on top of my notebooks. I pulled my phone out of my pocket and tapped on Jared’s name. I typed, What are you up to?
I put my phone and next the letter and stared at it. I waited to feel something positive. My phone buzzed.
Jared: Just watching some tv. You?
Me: I got accepted to the University of Virginia.
Jared: You didn’t want to go there. You picked it because you had to put a minimum of three.
Me: I know. Stevie and I are going to a party at Pikes. Can you come tonight?
Jared: I dunno. You know that’s not my scene.
After I had written the please, I stared at it for a moment. Then a wave of vulnerability rushed past me and then I was finding myself mad at Jared for making me say please for not ever jumping at the chance to spend time with me. I impulsively typed back, Never mind there’s gonna be a lot of people there, and tossed my phone next to the letter and walked out of my room to catch Stevie in the hallway. I couldn’t be in my room any longer.