Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Praise Him all creatures here below…
Amanda bowed her head, but kept her eyes on the crucifix on the altar. All good Catholic crucifixes had some icon of Jesus in some twisted agony — wrists and ankles bleeding, side gashed, scalp punctured. His jaw hung slack as his face lolled to one side, wondering why his Father had forsaken him.
Amanda fought back tears again.
Beneath Christ, Fr. Patrick Shea — the second holiest figure in the church — blessed the eucharist. He looked so intense and reserved, like some holy wizard as he held the priest’s wafer aloft. Warily, Amanda watched him break it in two, say an Aleluia, then kiss the altar. He was methodical in his movements. Well-practiced and prepared. Amanda understood it, even as her fingers trembled on the pew.
Her father let her mother out to receive communion first, then her. Her mother marched right up to the altar rail — filled with purpose and determination to ingest the body and blood of Christ. Amanda lingered back, cautious and reluctant. Norman Keefe’s hand on her shoulder sparked her forward only when she held up the line.
Amanda kneeled between two old women at the rail and extended her hand. When it was her turn to receive the wafer, the priest stopped, looked her over, then smiled.
“The body of Christ,” he warned, “the bread of Heaven.”
“Amen,” she whispered, chewing.
The wafer tasted like a stale potato chip.
Amanda only touched the wine to her lips when the chalice came around. Even watered down with holy water, it tasted foul and wrong.
“The blood of Christ,” the chalice bearer said, “the cup of salvation.”
After mass, Amanda silently followed her mother and father out of the nave to get behind the long line of St. Luke’s parishioners who wanted to greet the priest. Her parents insisted upon it. Having little choice (other than to run ahead and wait in the car, tormented by her own body), Amanda joined them. They inched along for several long minutes, behind old men who wanted to talk about the weather, the president, or Thanksgiving vacation up North. When their turn came, Amanda looked at her shoes.
“I enjoyed your sermon, Fr. Pat,” Norman Keefe told him. “It spoke to me quite a bit.”
“I’m glad it did, Mr. Keefe.” The priest’s baritone sent fresh shivers down Amanda’s spine. “What part spoke to you the most?”
Her father paused, searching. “About casting the lots. I could almost see it happening.”
“Good morning, Father,” Janice Keefe interrupted, saving her husband. “Do you have plans for Thanksgiving?”
“I do,” he told her. “I’m going to visit my family in Cincinnati, actually. I haven’t seen them in quite some time.” His voice shifted, and Amanda could feel his eyes on her. “Speaking of which — Amanda, I don’t think I’ve seen you in quite some time, either.”
She raised her head and stared right into his dark brown eyes. He wasn’t smiling.
“Hello, Fr. Pat,” she said, extending her hand to shake his. “I’ve been working.”
Her mother gave her a nasty look, but the priest did not notice. “I understand. I work on Sundays, too.” He laughed. Then her father laughed. Hard. “It’s all right. You know, you are always welcome in the church. No matter what.”
Then he smiled, and Amanda felt her knees buckle.
“Thank you,” she said. “That’s nice.”
“C’mon, honey,” Janice said, pulling her daughter’s arm. “Let’s not waste Fr. Pat’s time.”
“It really makes you think,” Norman Keefe declared, his hands tight on the steering wheel, “about that casting lots thing. That’s not what it meant. It was talking about people ripping things off the backs of hard-working folks. Like Jesus. The Jews just came in, ripped his robe off and then divided it up amongst the dregs of society.”
“I thought Fr. Pat said it was the Romans who casted lots for Christ’s clothes,” Janice offered, staring blankly out the window.
“And nothin’s changed,” he went on, ignoring her input. “There are hardworking people in this world who go to work, come home, go to bed, and wake up to repeat it the next day. And there are other people in this world who want to tear them down because of that. That’s society. Moochers rippin’ clothes off hard-workin’ peoples’ backs because they don’t wanna work for it themselves. Nothin’s changed!”
Amanda felt her fingers twitching inside her mitten and clenched her fist. “I don’t think that’s what he meant,” she said, leaning forward until the seatbelt stopped her.
“Eh?” her father asked. He eyed her from the rearview mirror.
“Well, didn’t Jesus preach about giving your extra cloak to someone in need? That doesn’t sound like someone who would have a problem with someone casting lots over his clothes.”
“No, no,” he retorted. “You’re not listening. It’s not about clothes, Panda. It’s about thieves. Stealing and taking what isn’t theirs.”
“But didn’t Jesus–”
“Oh, I need to head to the grocery store this afternoon,” her mother interrupted, bringing an end to the discussion. “I need to get something for dinner.”
Amanda sat back and slid her hands under her legs.
“Baked potatoes,” her father suggested. “And pork chops.”
Colin had crawled out of his bedroom, dragging half of his blankets with him, until he collapsed in a foul-smelling heap on the living room couch. He raised his head as Amanda and her parents walked in, and threw a quilt over his head when Janice opened the curtains.
“You could have gone to church with us,” Norman muttered, kicking his shoes off. “You would have enjoyed the sermon.”
“God’ll forgive me,” Colin replied from within his blanket-cave, and Amanda slapped the arm of the couch. “Ow! Hey!”
“No excuses next time,” their mother said, taking her scarf off and hanging it on a coat-hook. “I don’t care how late you are out studying — you’re going to church with us if you live in this house.”
When they were alone, Amanda plopped down on the couch right on his legs. Colin yelped and sat up. With a groan he swung his arm to hit her; she dodged. “Knock it off,” he snapped. “My head hurts.”
“Studying, you say?” She smacked him with a pillow. “What were you studying, Col? Two? Three bottles of beer?”
“Ugh,” he hissed, rubbing his forehead. “You know so little about alcohol that it’s almost cute. And no, it wasn’t beer. It was tequila. And Jager.”
“Wouldn’t you like to know?” He rolled his eyes and immediately regretted it. “It’s like licorice only deadlier.”
“Gross.” She stood. “Well, hope you learned your lesson.”
“Um, I’m going back later this afternoon.”
Amanda’s jaw dropped. “Colin!” she balked, in a half-whisper, half-squeal. “It’s Sunday!”
“I know, I know,” he straightened. “I’m sorry, but…I met someone.”
She frowned. “You always meet someone. And it’s someone different every weekend.”
“Not this time.”
“I’ll believe that when I see it.” She crossed her arms. “Col, we had a deal. You get Saturdays.”
“Please? I swear to God, this is the only time.” He batted his eyelashes at her.
She huffed and shook her head. “Is that supposed to reassure me? You don’t even believe in God.”
He didn’t respond, so she left him sitting on the couch — in his pajamas, surrounded by blankets.
Playing music sometimes threw off her concentration, but it also drowned out the sound of her parents talking, her brother shouting, and — occasionally, the sounds of the neighbors mowing the lawn or shoveling snow. Anyone passing by her door could hear the sounds of sugary-sweet pop music; anyone pressing their ear to the door could hear her destressing.
The thought of being alone with her parents all day, again, made her more anxious. She thought about moving her two o’clock session forward, but it wouldn’t be enough to get her through the afternoon. She considered this, emerging from her bedroom to wash her hands in the bathroom. Her mother called out to her.
“Amanda? Honey? Did you want to come to the store with me?” she appeared in the hall, wearing jeans, boots, and a heavy cardigan. “We can go to the drugstore afterward and look at nailpolish.”
Amanda thought for a minute and leaned against the doorway. “Which grocery store?”
“The one on Market Street.” Janice Keefe smiled. “It’ll be just us girls. No boys allowed!”
She shrugged. “Sure. I need to pick up a few things, too.”
“What happened to your hand?” her mother asked, pointing to the healing cut on the back of Amanda’s left hand. She raised an eyebrow at her daughter, and Amanda studied the wound.
“I banged it on a file cabinet at work the other day,” she explained. “I’m clumsy, Ma. You know that.”
Her mother frowned.
“I swear. It’s just a –”
“I know, I trust you.” She smiled. “Well, get your coat on and we can go!”
The car ride was pleasant for a short while. Amanda watched the telephone posts and dilapidated buildings fly by as her mother drove, talking enthusiastically about Thanksgiving plans. Amanda responded quietly, passively, not really wanting to engage. Her fingers stayed still, her feet lay flat, and her head didn’t swim. It felt pleasant to just sit, stare, and listen to her mother babble.
For ten minutes.
“Your aunt Katie called this morning,” Janice said. “She and uncle Walter won’t be coming to Grandma’s for Thanksgiving.”
“Oh. That’s too bad.” Amanda turned to look at an abandoned warehouse.
“But Jason and Paula are.”
Amanda balked. “What?”
“They were invited, too.”
“Now stop it,” her mother chided, her eyes forward and jaw clenched. “He’s family and your grandmother loves him very much. Just like she loves you. And Colin. And your father and I don’t want there to be any trouble between the two of you. It’ll upset your grandmother. And she’s too old to worry about things like that.”
Amanda gaped. “I won’t go,” she threatened, her voice impotent.
“You promised Grandma you would! You will break her heart if you don’t.” Janice swallowed, then smiled. “Besides. Sarah is going to be there and you know how much she looks up to you. She’s getting so big…”
Her mother went off on another tangent about her second cousin. Amanda looked at her lap. The outsides of her thighs were burning, but dragging her fingernails across them couldn’t quell it.
Janice Keefe wouldn’t stop talking.
In the parking lot she talked about Paula’s pregnancy and how awful her morning sickness had been. When they entered the grocery store, she was talking about stretch marks and C-section scars. In the fresh produce, she changed the subject to Christmas and her idea to decorate with dark purple instead of traditional green and red. As she placed two heads of lettuce in a single plastic bag, Amanda turned on her heel.
“Apples,” she muttered, interrupting. “I’m going to get a bag.”
“Ok. Get two. I’ll bake some for Thanksgiving.”
On the third step away from her mother, the dizziness hit her quick and hard. Amanda felt her head feel like it was about to collapse in on itself by the fifth step. She reached for the nearest rack — one of peaches and plums — to steady herself. With her eyes shut, she clenched her stomach and rubbed her forehead. Breathing slowly helped, but didn’t cure it.
She recognized that voice. Amanda raised her head and opened her eyes — harsh fluorescent light burned them — to see Dr. Lorraine Williams standing beside the honeydew melons.
“Hi, Lorraine!” Amanda chirruped, hoping the false positivity would still her mind and ease her stomach. “I…didn’t know you shopped here!”
Dr. Williams laughed. “When I don’t want to brave Walmart on the weekends,” she joked. “Are you alright? I noticed that you stumbled–”
“Fine, fine! Sorry, I — these lights…” She grinned. “Just giving me a slight headache.”
“Ah. Well.” Dr. Williams continued to smile. “Are you leaving town for Thanksgiving?”
“Er…yeah. I’m taking Wednesday off to go see my grandmother.” She added, “I mean, if that’s ok…”
“Of course! The campus will be a ghost town anyway.”
“I haven’t cancelled my classes yet, so if I can’t take that day off then–”
“I don’t think anyone — Alan — will have a problem with it.” Dr. Williams’ nodded and looked over Amanda’s shoulder. “This must be your mother!”
Amanda did not have to turn. She felt her mother sidling up beside her, shopping cart held tightly. The dizziness sprung to her head again.
“I am!” Amanda gripped the edge of the plum bin trying to get away from her. “Janice Keefe. So nice to meet you! You must be the secretary that I keep hearing about!”
Dr. Williams opened her mouth to correct her, but Amanda got there first. “Ma, Dr. Williams is a history professor,” she explained. “And Mya is the receptionist. Not a secretary.”
“Oh.” Janice slowly blushed. “Oh my. I’m sorry.”
“It’s all right.” Dr. Williams only briefly raised an eyebrow at her. “That wouldn’t be the first time we’ve been confused.”
The three of them stood there.
But things got worse. “Did the three of you enjoy your girl’s night out, then?” Janice asked.
Amanda flushed. “Ma–”
“I thought you didn’t go with them, Amanda,” Dr. Williams asked.
“Ma, the girls were Mya, Kiley, and Melanie.” The world was slipping around her, and Amanda could only tumble along with it. “And yes — we went out. I changed my mind after all, and…”
The three of them stood there.
Dr. Williams cleared her throat. “I should get going. I’ve got ice cream in my cart.” She nodded at Amanda. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Nice meeting you, ma’am,” Janice Keefe said. Politely.
Amanda could only look at the floor.
Dr. Williams placed a honeydew melon in her squeaky-wheeled cart and strode off to the cashier lines.
“She seemed nice,” was all her mother said.
With the grocery store occupying Amanda’s mind, the rest of the day dragged slowly. She suffered through her mother’s prattle at the drugstore, then more of it when she came home. Colin was still gone, leaving Amanda alone with both her parents. Her father asked her to hem a pair of his work pants, and, craving the monotony of it, she obliged. With her fingers shaking, the hem came out crooked and jagged. Destressing could not stop the churning in her stomach. A quick lick across the back of her leg with her number three blade, however, brought some relief.
Her mother made breaded pork chops and baked potatoes as promised, along with sauteed peas and carrots. Amanda limited herself to only spoonful of vegetables, a single porkchop, and half a potato. She ate sparingly even then, preferring only to scoop the yellowed insides of her potato out of its skin as her parents further discussed Thanksgiving.
Colin came staggering in when they had finished eating. He reeked of booze and dollar-store musk, a fact Norman Keefe didn’t hesitate to rub in when he caught a whiff. “Where you been, kid?” he demanded. “You smell like you’ve been rolling around in a whorehouse.”
Janice gave her husband a pointed look, but Colin only shrugged. “Does a whore-bar count?”
Amanda rubbed her spoon in the remnants of her potato, saying nothing.
“Maybe one day we can meet these young people you’re hanging out with,” their mother said, rising to prepare him a plate. “Maybe they’d like to come here, instead of you going to them.”
Norman snored. “I don’t want whatever hooligans he hangs out with coming over here,” he retorted.
“Don’t worry. They wouldn’t. But thanks for the invite, Ma. I’ll tell them that.” He took the plate and began shoveling food into his mouth. “They’ll be honored with your hospitality.”
“Today I got to meet one of Amanda’s friends,” Janice supplied, settling back down. “In the grocery store. Someone you work with, right sweetie?”
“Well isn’t that nice!” Norman guffawed, then smiled. “Small world!”
“I wish we could meet more of your friends,” Janice went on. “I know that your dad and I are old fogeys, but we’d love to still be a part of your life.”
“Co-workers.” Her correction sounded hollow.
“Why haven’t we got to meet more of your friends, Panda?” her father went on, grinning. “Do we embarrass you or something?”
Colin rolled his eyes. “Yeah, probably.”
Norman narrowed his eyes. “You say something?”
“I said, ‘yeah, probably’.”
Rather than get mad, Norman turned back to her. “Is that true? Do we embarrass you?”
Amanda stared at her half-eaten meal. The peas and carrots had gone cold; the potato was starting to harden.
“She’s twenty-three years old,” Colin went on. “And you treat her like she’s twelve.”
“That is not true!” Janice said, astonished. “Why on earth–?”
“Because she’s twenty-three, lives at home, and you both remind her about that daily.” He said, “Give her a fucking break.”
The table fell silent for a moment.
“For that,” their father said, “you both get to do the dishes.”
Norman and Janice Keefe left the room shortly thereafter, leaving them with a sink full of pots, pans, and half-eaten plates. Amanda continued to sit, slumped in her chair, staring at her meal while Colin finished his. He licked the pork chop bones clean, sat them down, then pushed the plate aside.
“Was today really that bad?”
She said nothing.
“I’m sorry,” he told her. “I shouldn’t have left you here alone with them. I promised you that we’d both suffer through them at least one day a week. And I broke my promise. For that, I will do the bulk of the dishes. You can just dry them.”
Amanda rubbed her forehead.
“I’m sorry, ‘Mander,” he repeated. “I really am. I just really need to get out of here sometimes.”
When she put her hand down, she could look at him.
“If I’m still living here by the time I’m twenty-five,” she instructed, “shoot me in the head.”
Colin sighed. “What happened?”
“Jason is coming to Grandma Keefe’s for Thanksgiving.”
“What?” Colin grimaced. “How can…?”
“They don’t want us to start trouble. It’ll scare Grandma.”
“Fuck Grandma. You –”
“Shh! Colin!” Amanda admonished, lowering her voice, but he went on.
“You shouldn’t be expected to go if he’s over. That’s bullshit!” He was angry. Perhaps angrier than she was, but Amanda had forgotten what real anger felt like long ago. “What are you going to do?”
She dropped her spoon on her plate. It landed with a clatter. She sat back.
“Nothing. Just like I do every year.”
The quad had settled into a gentle pace the next morning. Most students had gone home for the week; those remaining either slept late or came grudgingly to class. A cold wind ripped through her remedial ESL class, sending her armload of graded essays across the room. She sighed as her apathetic students snickered. She knelt down to collect what she could.
“An early Christmas gift to you all,” Amanda announced, picking up a essay graded with a big red ‘C’ atop it. “Wednesday’s class is cancelled. Study up for next week’s final.”
No one stayed behind to help her get the remaining essays. With the classroom empty, Amanda left the room.
She saw Nadir lurking outside the department office, his shoulders slumped and his hands shoved in his pants’ pockets. Amanda hesitated, wishing she had somewhere other than the bathroom to hide. But it wasn’t time for de-stressing just yet. She swallowed and stepped toward him.
“Oh–” he grumbled as she reached around him for the door. “I needa talk to Dr. Williams.”
Amanda licked her lips, staring ahead. Too much time had passed to pretend she hadn’t heard him. He might have called her the C-word again. “I don’t think she’s in her office yet,” she muttered. “But I can go check if you want.”
Nadir glowered. “I can’t come in?”
“Students aren’t allowed in–” She didn’t bother finishing that sentence. Nadir was pointing over her shoulder to prove her wrong. “Oh, shoot.”
Kiley stood at her desk, flailing and shouting at some portly international student with a backpack at his feet. Amanda sighed inwardly and shook her head.
“She’s not supposed to do that,” she said.
Leaving Nadir outside the office, Amanda slipped inside the office and ran over to Mya’s desk. Mya, who was taking two aspirin as she walked in, gave Amanda a face. “Ten minutes!” she hissed. “Ten minutes he’s been in here, and ten minutes she’s been screaming at him.”
Amanda couldn’t tell what Kiley was screaming about — something to do with extra credit or makeup work, but her student could not get a word in edgewise. She went on and on until Amanda felt compelled to walk up.
“Kiley,” she said, attempting to talk over her. “What’s going on?”
Her eyes flashing, Kiley turned her ire to Amanda. “I’ve told him a hundred times now — I don’t care if another instructor said he can retake the final. I’m telling him he can’t!”
The student, his eyes wide and sad, looked at both women before looking at the floor again.
“I don’t think he understands –”
“Of course he doesn’t!” Kiley said. “He hasn’t read the syllabus!”
Dr. Williams emerged from her office then, her expression stern and her shoulders back. In her dove-gray suit, she looked a thousand feet taller than either of them. “Enough of this!” she snapped, her voice like a crack of thunder. “Mr. Huang, Ms. Owens wasn’t supposed to let you in the office during lecture hours — do you have an appointment?”
The student shook his head. “I didn’t know I needed one.”
“It was in the syllabus!” Kiley roared.
“Kiley!” Lorraine Williams glared at her. “Mr. Huang, if you speak with Ms. Lopez at reception, she can pencil you in for tomorrow morning. Ms. Owens, I assume you’ll have calmed down by then?”
Kiley reddened and crossed her arms. “You can lead a horse to water,” she muttered.
Amanda jerked her thumb over her shoulder. “There’s another one waiting for you. Outside.” Her voice was meek in her head. She almost apologized for it.
Dr. Williams looked over, through the glass panes. With a sigh, she asked, “Rameshareddy again?”
“Send him in.”
Amanda placed her essays on the desk and went back to the front of the office. She opened the doors. “You can see her now,” she told him.
Nadir gave her a very slight nod. “Thanks,” he replied, and walked past her.
Stunned, Amanda returned to her desk. She replayed the event in her head, ignoring Kiley cursing about students that did not listen or read their assignments. She was so busy wondering why Nadir had suddenly about-faced that she forgot her email inbox had jumped from zero to twenty-two unread messages. All from the same person.
at least meet me so i can apologize, the last one read. just lunch. or coffee. nothing else. i’ll leave you alone then.
Shaking, her fingers replied with only six words:
I made a mistake. I’m sorry.
Then, she created a filter to block his emails. She didn’t bother reading the rest of them, as they all contained variants of the same thing: i’m sorry. let me explain. give me another chance. i want to get to know you. The worst one was you seem really sweet. She remembered his vile improvisation and felt sick.
Dr. Williams’ door opened up not long after and Nadir came out. Amanda stopped typing and watched him leave without acknowledging her. She closed her email client anyway.
She looked up. “Ma’am?”
For a moment, a silence hung in the air. Amanda braced herself for confrontation.
“Could you take some drop forms to records after lunch?”
Amanda sighed. Stupid request aside, it wasn’t what she was expecting. “Of course.”
Dr. Williams went back into her office and shut the door.
Kiley raised her eyebrow. “You do her scut work now, too?”
Her mother had packed her a simple lunch: a small baggie of baby carrots, a microwaveable container of beef stew, and a straw for some juice from the vending machine, Amanda assumed. She tossed the straw, but warmed the stew in the office kitchen. Having no plastic spoons left, she opted for a plastic knife and took a seat in the welcome area. The clock just above the mural read 1:24.
She had only begun stabbing uselessly at chunks of potato when Raj came up to her, smiling, with a wrapped submarine sandwich under his arm. “Need a fork?” he asked. “Spoon? Spork?”
Amanda blushed as always. “No thanks,” she told him. “I’m fine.”
“Do you mind if I join you?” he asked. “Or would you like to be alone?”
She thought about this for a moment. It had already been an odd day. Why not more? “Sure,” she said, gesturing. “Have a seat.”
Raj placed his turkey and cheese sub on the table and pulled the chair out. “Your classes cancelled on Wednesday, too?” She nodded and he went on. “I gave my advanced students the afternoon off. Everyone else will just have to suffer through Wednesday morning.”
Curious, Amanda raised her head. “Do you celebrate Thanksgiving?”
He chuckled. “I’m Canadian. Of course I do — just a month early.”
“Oh.” Embarrassed, Amanda’s heart skipped. “Sorry. That was a stupid question. I didn’t mean–”
“It’s all right,” he said, coolly brushing her off. “I have no qualms about eating meals that big twice in two months. Are you doing anything special for American Thanksgiving?”
“My grandma’s,” she said. “St. Joe’s.”
“On Lake Michigan?” He laughed. “Sounds lovely!”
She forced a grin. “Yeah.”
At that moment, Nadir came walking up as well. He had a backpack slung over one shoulder and a chemistry textbook under one arm. “Hey,” he said, addressing the table more than he addressed her. “I just want to say…sorry. For Friday.”
Her ears felt hot. “Oh. Um. Thanks, Nadir. I accept your apology.”
Nadir nodded a few times, casting odd looks from the table to her, to Raj, then back to the table again. “Well,” he said. “Have a good Thanksgiving.”
“Thank you. You too.”
When he left, Raj sat back in his chair. “Whoa. What was that?”
“I’m still not sure.”
“Did you report him to Student Affairs?”
“No.” She shrugged again. “I didn’t say or do anything, really.”
“Hey, why does he hate you so much?” Raj licked ranch dressing off his upper lip. “Did you fail him?”
She nodded. “Spring semester last year. Caught him plagiarising.”
“Oh God. Did he deny it?”
“Sure did.” She munched a baby carrot. “Maynard got it out of him though. Not me.”
“Damn.” He shook his head.
“He tried pulling the whole rich kid routine. Talked about how his parents donated to the Alumni Association or something.”
“You’d think he’d just go to the U of M if he wanted to pull that garbage.”
Without thinking, Amanda fired back, “He couldn’t get into the U of M.”
Raj laughed. “Good for them, I suppose.” He took a big bite and chewed. With his mouth full, he said, “A friend and I had this great idea for a new publicity campaign for BCSU. It’s goes something like–” He spread his hands, building an invisible marquee. “Welcome to Battle Creek State University: You’re Almost to Western.”
Amanda snorted. “Interesting way to put it,” she chuckled. “But we’re not a bad college. We’re just not–”
“We’re not Western Michigan. Or Michigan State. Or the University of Michigan.” He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. “How about, We’re Cheaper Because We Can’t Afford Not To Be?”
She shrugged. “Kind of sounds defeatist to me.”
“Mm. Yeah. That’s the point.”
“Didn’t you go to Western?”
“I did. And this is the only place that would pay for my grad school.” He thought for a second. “There’s a tagline: BCSU: When You Can’t Afford Grad School.”
“Still not good enough.” She chewed on a carrot. “What about, BCSU: Halfway Between the Big Ten and Midwestern Conferences.”
“Wow. Not bad. You a college football fan?”
“No. English major.”
Amanda stayed late to help Mya clean up the office. She told Mya that she was killing time before she had to pick up Colin, but in truth she just didn’t want to go home. Colin had plans late that afternoon and her mother was making spaghetti. She did not feel like being subjected to her father’s political rants nor her mother’s feeble attempts to change the subject. Being late for dinner meant she could eat alone. Finally.
The parking lot was nearly empty save for a few overnight students’ cars when Amanda left work for the day. She walked carefully to avoid slipping on the sidewalk in her miserably weather-inappropriate shoes, but made it to her car nonetheless. The darkness around her was quiet and calm, with only the sounds of a Buick idling near the parking lot exit.
She started her own car, and the Buick pulled away. Amanda glanced at it as it eased onto the road and made a right turn at a stop sign without stopping.
“Stupid kids,” she muttered.