Jacqueline Barrett gazed at him, tilting her head with her eyes half shut. “Your favorite color is dark green. You were born in May and you love lima beans but hate raw tomatoes.”
Brian’s eyes grew rounder with each pronouncement. “My mom told you all that, right?”
“Nope,” Jordan assured him. “I heard the entire conversation. Lima beans never came up.”
“Are you psychic, Mrs. Barrett?”
Jacqueline giggled, touching his cheek with the palm of her left hand. “Not exactly, dear, but I know things about people that I can’t explain.”
“You’re right, down to the last detail. Not even my mom knows my favorite color is green. Well, she knows, but doesn’t understand that not all greens are created equal.”
“You prefer the subtle ones,” Jacqueline concluded. “No Packers green or emerald for you.”
“You’re good.” Brian pointed at her, winking.
The teenagers ate as they continued to work. An hour or so later, Jordan was caught up in math and had a good start on chemistry. They planned to work on that the following night after dinner.
“I’ll be by to pick you up about six fifty,” Heath said as Brian was leaving. “Would you like a ride tonight? I don’t mind.”
“I’ll be fine,” Brian assured him. “It’s a small town. I’m safe as a baby in a stroller.”
“If you’re sure.”
“No need to trouble yourself. But thanks.”
A block from Jordan’s, he wished he’d taken the rode. The sky opened and it started raining.
Brian thought about turning back, but it was just as far to Jordan’s as it was to get home. His feet moved automatically and he splashed and squished through the rising water. He was about to step into the shelter of a bus stop and wait for it to fsubside, when a car pulled up next to him.
“Hop in, Moby Dick,” Jordan’s father called to him through the passenger window. “I’d have been along sooner, but Jackie had to give me provisions. I have towels and blankets.”
Brian gratefully accepted. The seat was heated and felt wonderful to his chilly body. Fluffy towels absorbed the runoff and a cozy blanket waited until he was settled. Heath laid it over his lap.
“Wasn’t a cloud in the sky when you left. This is plain weird.”
“This is Mississippi,” Brian said, his teeth chattering. “Rain’s like this all the time.”
“You seem like a nice boy, Brian. So I don’t want to bust your chops.”
“Thank you,” Brian replied warily.
“But Jackie and I worry about Jordan.”
“We’re just friends, sir.”
“Right. Yeah, I know. But she’s had—problems. We came here hoping it would do her good to have a change of scene. So, if she spins any tales about fog critters or ghost dogs, just—well….”
“Yeah.” Heath nodded, trying to smile. “Good. We understand one another.”
“No problem.” Brian forced a smile. He had no intention of ignoring it, but he sensed that Mr. Barrett wouldn’t like knowing that Brian had, had some equally strange experiences.
Mr. Barrett backed into Brian’s driveway, getting as close to the side steps and he could. Brian thanked him for the ride and ducked under the roof quickly. He waved to Mr. Barrett and watched him drive away. Inside, the house was warm and inviting. Brian smelled cookies, so he headed to the kitchen.
“Welcome home! I just took the first pan out. Check them?”
“Perfect. Your nose never lies with cookies, Mom.”
“There’s hot water for cocoa. I set out your mug.”
He kissed her cheek. “Thanks. Let me change first. I’m dripping on the floor.” He trotted down the steps to the dryer where he shed his wet clothing and changed. Upstairs, he fixed hot chocolate and ate sugar cookies. His mother sipped tea.
“Have a good time?”
“Yeah, up until it started raining. Jordan’s parents are nice.”
“I enjoyed talking to Jackie. She’s got some unique ideas.”
“They’re both a little out there, but mostly they’re cool.”
Mrs. Casey clasped her mug, sipping thoughtfully. Brian sensed there was something more she wanted to say, so he waited quietly for her to continue.
“They moved here because they were worried that Jordan was too stressed by her environment. She had some strange things happen. Things they couldn’t explain. It prompted them to move here where things wouldn’t be quite so hectic.”
© 2016 Dellani Oakes