So, for those who've been reading weekly, this is the conclusion of chapter 2 of Bettina. Not sure if I'll be posting next week. I need to think about what direction this is going in and do some revisions, but we'll see. I included a little bit from last week since it left off in kind of a strange place. Enjoy, tuesday peeps.
With the money still in my hand, I grab the drawer and slide it back into place. I don’t walk to the kitchen to show Mel what we’ve found. Rather, I turn in the opposite direction and walk back to my booth, collect my books and newspaper, and throw a quarter on the table. I head towards the door with the fifty-dollar bill wadded in my fist.
“Erik, aren’t you forgetting something?” Jessica asks.
“Nope.” I stuff the bill into my pocket. “See you around, Jess.”
“Erik, you can’t just...but that’s stealing!”
She’s horrified. Innocence shattered, crush gone.
“It’s not stealing,” I argue as we continue out the door. “Like they say, finders keepers, losers weepers.”
“But you found it in the drawer!”
“No, I found it under the drawer.”
“In Mel’s diner!”
“So what? It would have stayed lost forever if it hadn’t been for me. Mel already considered it gone, a loss, never to be seen again. Besides, he owes me.”
This was true. With only waitresses on staff and Mel having a bad back, he needed someone to unload the trucks and wash out the grease trap and fix the jukebox once in a while. I’d done a ton of shit for him over the past year, but all the thanks I’d ever gotten was a ten percent discount on my meals. At 25 cents a cup, I’d have to drink that sludge he called coffee for a good decade before he paid me back. And in truth, this is why I didn’t feel guilty about the little heist I’d been planning. This fifty-dollar bill had my name on it, and using it to get Jessica off my balls - icing on the cake.
I walk out the door just as the parking lot erupts in a cacophony of screeching tires and bellowing teenagers. Studebakers, and T-birds, Clippers and Desotos, one after the other, enter the café’s south entrance - all with the same song blaring from the radio. It’s telling that everyone is tuned into KJ102; it’s the only station our small town gets.
I head for the green Cadillac convertible that’s parked across the way. Some guys say hi to me as I pass, others nod. A group of girls look my way. I get to the car and throw my books in the back seat. Just as I reach for the door, Jessica pulls open the other one and climbs inside.
“Don’t do this, Jess,” I say.
“I’m not leaving until we talk about this.”
I glance around the parking lot, at two dozen of our classmates and friends who are just as shocked as I am.
Let me reiterate. Jessica’s father is a minister, very well respected in our town and very much in control of who, when, why and how Jessica interacts with a boy. Any boy. This girl isn’t allowed to have a boy carry her books home for her much less give her a ride in his car. The idea that someone like me should drive her home is preposterous. Insane. It’s...it’s...
It’s asking for trouble.
“Jessica, get out of the car.”
“It’s my car, I said get out.”
“Actually, it’s your father’s car.”
Well, yeah, it is, but that’s beside the point.
“Jess, for the last time, leave me alone.”
“Not until we talk. Of course you could always try to force me out. You’re much bigger and stronger than I am, but I hope you wouldn’t resort to such...violence.”
My eye twitches. I’m angry. I’m seething. I am P.O.’d and that’s when my best friend Tommy jumps into the backseat.
“Hey man, what’cha doing with the caddy? Johnathan lost his marbles or something?”
I get into the driver’s seat and slam the door shut. “I have to take it to Carl’s for an oil change.”
“I thought Johnathan hated Carl.”
“He does, but Carl will do it for free so he let me drive it in today.”
“Cool. I need a little R and R.” He drums the seat cushion, as if to say ‘let’s go!’
I know exactly what Tommy means by R and R. Carl is…was, my Uncle Joe’s best friend. They served together during The War, but unlike Joe, Carl doesn’t have a stack of medals to his name. He’s been in some trouble, served time once and when Tommy and I go to visit him, our recreation activities usually consist of looking though girly mags and getting drunk. It’s no wonder Johnathan hates him. But then, I hate Johnathan.
“You can’t go, Tommy,” I say.
“What the fuck?”
I snap my head in his direction. Did he not see the beautiful reverend’s daughter sitting next to me?
“Watch the tongue, Jack.”
He backs off, like I’ve slapped him across the face. Tommy is a good guy. He’s been my best friend since I was six years old, but I swear sometimes the guy’s got grass growing in his ears. He reminds me of Babyface Nelson. A trustworthy bloke, but so thick in the head you could have sliced him with a meat cleaver. He was dangerous. That was Nelson. That is Tommy.
“Jess and I have something we need to discuss,” I say. “I’ll catch you later.”
Tommy looks from me to Jessica and back to me. He knows something is up. He smirks in the way that only Tommy can.
“Later,” I snarl.
“Alright, alright,” he says. He climbs out of the car as if he’s constipated. Maybe he is. My own stomach is coiling up like a snake, and as I drive out of the parking lot, hot, unavailable, hands-off, ‘daddy’s gonna boot your ass back to hell where you came from’ girl sitting next to me, I know…I’m going to regret this.