[Pt. II] Ch. 52: “Joel is going to have field day teasing me about her again”
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Tues, Sep 29th after school
Fencing club room

After the school festival, I was glad to have things back to their regular pace.  On Tuesday, I had fencing club after school for PE, and I realized as we practiced that I was supposed to ask Gwen about the play.  In the hope of getting a few minutes of her time after, I stuck around after practice to help clean up.  Unfortunately, the group conversation for the more serious members was on an upcoming tournament involving a couple of the other high schools on this side of the river, and I was not able to ask her.

As cleanup finished, Kai asked, “Does anyone want to get some food?”  

I was about to say I was in when Gwen said, “That sounds nice, but I’ve got to do some student council work after this.”

Cory and Mina decided to join Kai, and all three looked at me.  It sounded like Gwen was busy, so I answered, “Sure, why not.”

We went to Riva’s again – this time I was hungry enough to order a meal rather than ice cream. 

“Are you not going to eat at home?” asked Kai.

“Nah,” I said. “I’ve been too busy to get groceries, and I already brought a sandwich from home for lunch.”

“Oh, yeah, you and Joel are living on your own,” he said.

We ended up discussing the neighborhoods we all lived in.  Kai’s family lived in a high-rise apartment just across the river from the main station. Cory mostly stayed at her mother’s townhouse in Old Feldaren, but when her father was in town stayed with him.  His apartment was north of the station, near the university – that was also the area where Gwen lived.  Mina lived near the school; there weren’t any school-owned dorms, but there were privately-run rooming houses which served the same purpose and catered to out of town students, including in her case foreign ones.

The food arrived and the conversation died down while Mina and Kai had their ice cream and Cory and I our entrees.  The dish I ordered was pretty good, spaghetti with a sauce nicely heavy on the ground beef.  When we were done eating, I said good evening to them as I’d biked in - I was the only one heading back to campus.

I was unlocking my bike when I noticed someone coming up – it was Gwen.

“Hi Mark!  What funny timing.  How was Riva’s?” she asked.

“Good,” I said.  “My first time getting a real dinner there.  How was student council?”

She shrugged.  “Busy.  There’s a lot of followup from the festival, as well as club budgets.”

“Interesting,” I said.  “Do you have a minute before you go? I wanted to ask about the play your club is doing.”

Her eyes lit up.  “I’d love to tell you about it, but I have to get going.  How about after practice on Thursday?”

“Sure,” I said.  “If you’re riding home now, mind if I join you?”

“No problem,” she replied.  I hadn’t been observant enough to spot her bike, but it was parked a few down from mine.  After unlocking it, she seemed to concentrate briefly and what had looked like a headlight lit up – much brighter than the battery powered bike light I had.  I had just enough sensitivity to magic at this point to tell that a trickle of magical energy was flowing into it.

We made fast progress until, not that long before my own turnoff, Gwen stopped.  “This is my stop today,” she said.  I waved and continued on, as she turned off the trail onto one of the side streets.

When I got home and was bringing my bike inside, I saw the cat lurking outside in the bushes.  Its plate on the back porch was, as usual, licked clean.   When I brought out some more food for it, it wandered up much less cautiously than it had in the past, and on reaching the plate of cat food looked up at me and meowed.  It looked down at the cat food again, up at me, and meowed again. 

“You want ham, don’t you?”

The cat gave a loud, happy meow, and when I came back with a couple of slices of ham It didn’t back away when I set them down on its plate.   Instead, it bumped my hand gently with its head, meowed loudly one more time, and started eating. 

“You’ve gotten friendlier,” I said.  It just kept eating.

Thursday, October 1st during mid-morning homeroom
Homeroom 2-C

On my way into school, I stopped by the folders we used as mailboxes, as I did most days.  Inside, as I’d been expecting, was a printout.  More specifically, it was my latest outline for the first term paper for Advanced Honors History – although it was getting long, as I’d got in the habit of inlining blocks from the sources I was using.  As expected, there was plenty of commentary from Ms. Calliot, even on the first page.  I didn’t have time to look at it again until we were waiting for homeroom to start.

I was taking it out of my bag to read through her notes, when a small envelope fell out of the pages onto the floor.  Jack, whose seat was in front of Joel’s, spotted it as I was picking it up and asked, “What’s that?”

“I don’t know,” I said.  The envelope was a plain white one, and smaller than a greeting card.  It had my first and last name on it, in clear cursive handwriting.

“Looks like a love letter!” said Jack, which got Joel and Kai’s attention.

“I really doubt it,” I replied.  None of the girls I knew here could possibly think of me as more than an acquaintance.  “It would have to be a total stranger.  Girls don’t just do that.”

“It’s been known to happen,” said Kai, “at least for very popular guys.”

“There’s no risk of my being confused with one of those,” I said.  I don’t suppose they’re going to let me open this in private, I thought, so I opened the letter.   It was glued only at a small in the center and opened easily.

Inside was a folded piece of off-white notepaper, rather than a card.  I opened it, and read:

We haven’t spoken outside of class, but I have a request to make of you.  If you are open to hearing me out, I would greatly appreciate the chance to discuss this in some privacy after classes today. Please stop by the Adv. Hon. History classroom after last period so we can talk.  

If you are not free today, please let me know another more convenient time.  I understand if you may prefer not to get involved, and if so, please forgive this intrusion.

- Tess Hahn.

My first thought was that it sounded unnecessarily formal.  It certainly wasn’t any sort of love note, and while I was initially a little uncertain that I recognized the name, the fact that she wanted to meet in that classroom confirmed that it was the first-year representative.  What would Tess want?  We’re in a class together, but the closest we’ve come to speaking was her answering a question I posed initially to Ms. Calliot.  Also, Joel is going to have field day teasing me about her again!

“This looks weird,” I said.  She did say she wanted to meet privately, but frankly, I wanted my friends’ thoughts on it, so I handed the note to Joel and asked, “What do you think?”

Joel read it, as did Kai and Jack over his shoulder.  After he read it, Joel asked “Is that –“ and Joel ended the sentence with a hefting gesture in front of his chest. 

“That’s crude of you,” said Kai.  I just rolled my eyes in response.

“Sorry,” said Joel, and then to me, “Maybe she’s going to ask you to stop ogling her?”

“I don’t… well, I try not to,” I said.

“So, are you going to go?” asked Jack.

“It sounds awkward,” I replied.  “But I am curious, so… uh, I guess I will.”

“Good luck!” said Joel, slapping me on the back.