This is the sixth part of what will hopefully be a nine-part entry in the River of Mnemosyne challenge that’s going on over at The Tenth Daughter of Memory.
Walking through the now empty halls on my way to the faculty parking lot, I glance at the broken window and the dried blood trail on the carpet.
All things considered, someone’s actually done a pretty good job of clean-up.
I push my way through the door and realize that leaving early means that the sun is still high on the horizon, that the day is still warm and bright in that end of summer way, and that I’m going to have some down time, something almost non-existent during my week.
I pop the lock and hit the remote start as I walk, hear the engine purr to life.
Opening the door, I drop into the driver’s seat, shove open the sun roof, reach over and slide in a CD and surf tracks until I found something I can live with.
I look down at my crimson splattered self and mentally run down the options for my unexpected windfall.
I can't go anywhere public without attracting at great deal of attention. I’m not ready to go home just yet, but I can get some coffee and have some select company if I want to.
Reaching over, I rummage in my bag and snag my cell. I dial my best friend Jordan's number while navigating the van out of the parking lot.
By the time I reach the gate, she's picked up and a very bored voice answers. “Good afternoon, St. Ursula's Academy. This is Mrs. Miles. Can I help you?”
“Probably not, but thanks for asking.” I hear Jordan’s soft snort and smile. “How’s life in your special little corner of the universe?”
“Life sucks.” Her voice floats in my ear. “Mine in particular, but yours can too if you want. I'm in an extra special mood today, and I can share.”
“That's what I've always loved about you, J. No matter polluted your aura, you're never too depressed to reach out and touch someone.”
My head does a quick flip back and forth before I spin the wheel left and pull out of the gate. “Gives me the warm fuzzies just thinkin' about it. I mean, it's just so nice to have company in my special little corner of hell.”
“Yeah, well, that's just me, ya know. My attitude sucks and so does yours, but that's just because we both live in the same zip code.”
I hear the bell explode in the background and the sound of passing students in the hall.
Jordan waits for it to finish. “Seriously. Some days, like today, I'm just soooo out there over the edge that I have warm fuzzy thoughts of just dropping dead. Can't stand the factory anymore. Just wanna walk.”
“Wanna play hooky?” I tap the brakes coming up on the empty intersection and do a quick double take left and right, before rolling through the stop.
I know the cops won’t be here for another hour until the high school lets out and they have a better shot at stopping students. “I just got sprung early and I could use a cup of coffee and a little time to decompress.”
“God, that sounds good. I think it could work. Boss is outta the building today at some lame ass conference or something equally unimportant, so if I just slide on outta here no one in the office is gonna notice.”
She snorts in my ear again. “And fuck them if they do. Contrary to popular opinion, I’m not their whore. And it's not like I got lunch or a break today.”
I hang a quick right at the corner, more careful now that traffic is starting to pick up. “How long will you need to get out?”
“Give me ten minutes to clean the place up and I'll meet you at the side door by my office.”
“Ten minutes. Ok. I'll see you there.” I flip my cell onto the passenger’s seat and drive.
“Well, don't you just look like shit.” Jordan’s conversational tone floats in the interior as she settles herself in the passenger seat and gives me a casual once over.
She’s nothing if not observant. A nurse who works with kids and a mother herself, the sight of blood, especially dried and not in danger of spilling all over, doesn't faze her.
Even when it’s all over her best friend who’s picking her up for a quick cup of coffee.
“Yeah, well at least it's dried and it’s not smearing all over the place.” I hit the gas as she clicks her seat belt closed. “And yeah, I know I need to change, but I didn't feel like going home just yet. I need some coffee and some down time.”
“I'll bet.” Jordan settles deeper in her seat and begins digging in her bag. “What the hell happened?”
I give her the short and sweet version of my day, and thank God that Jordan knows how to listen.
She comes up with her cigarettes and lighter, rolls her eyes and nods at the right times in my narrative, and saves her verbal assessment of the situation until I finish talking.
“God, they're fucked up.” She lights up, takes a deep drag, blows out as she slides her eyes in my direction. “So how's the boy?”
“Last I heard he was in surgery with some vascular guy who's supposed to be pretty good.”
I flick my eyes to the rearview mirror. “I guess they've got a pretty good chance at repairing all the damage since they got to it pretty quickly.”
I flick them back and hit the brake as red lights flare in front of me. “Hey, asshole, you wanna drive that piece of shit?”
I ease back onto the accelerator. “I checked with the office before I left and they said the hospital figured he would be another three hours or so in surgery.”
Jordan cracks her window, a silent apology for the second hand smoke, and watches it slip out on the breeze. “What about the girl?”
Right hand on the wheel, I rest my left elbow on the top of the door; feel the cool of the window against it.
“Oh, she's there too, waiting for him to get into Recovery.” I lean my head into my hand and rub the dull ache at my temple. “Probably can't wait to pledge her undying love for him now that he's been all romantic and everything.”
I lean my head against the cool of the glass, try to stop the slow build-up of pain marching through my head. “Her parents are there too, believe it or not. From what I hear they're good with that relationship and really don’t see any reason for it to end.”
“You're kidding, right?”
Jordan barks a laugh. “Well…that's just…twisted.”
“Didn’t you have another kid like that not too long ago?”
My fingers find the balled up knot at the join of my neck and shoulder and rub hard. “You mean the little punk ass who sold the wrong kid some bad shit and the kid took exception to being ripped off?
“No.” Jordan flicks her butt out the window. “You didn’t tell me about that one.”
“Punk ass tried to catch him out back to beat his ass, but the kid ran. Tried to cut through the commons to the parking lot and wasn’t paying attention to where he was.”
I shrug a tight shoulder. “Musta been scared shitless cuz he never saw the double door. Never even slowed down. Just went smack through the glass.”
“No. That’s not the one.” Jordan shakes back her hair, lights up another cigarette. “I’da remembered that. It was another one.”
I crack my own window for some air and try to remember.
My head’s pounding; it takes a minute to click in place. “You mean the kid who ran his head through the glass in the double doors by the main office?” I breathe deep. “Jesus. That was a mess.”
“Well, that wasn’t for love or drugs; that was for money.” I wave a dismissive hand. “His friends bet him he wouldn’t do it.”
Jordan slides her eyes to me. “It really is a good thing you guys have so few windows in your place.”
“No, it’s not. I miss windows.”
“If you had any more, god knows your kids would probably be jumping out of them.”
I feel my lips twitch to the left. “No, they do that from the second floor landing in the Media Center.”
“No shit. They’re idiots.” I tap my brakes; roll up on the red light. “You know we had to put sheet rock up on the walls in the hallways so that the kids couldn’t punch holes in them anymore.”
“Didn’t one of your kids go through a wall?”
“Yeah. Outside Bobby’s room. Girl fight.” My fingers drum a mindless rhythm on the steering wheel. “The little girl punched the big girl and the big girl’s ass went into the wall. Left an ass sized crater in it.”
Jordan snorts a harsh exhale. “So at least now they don’t punch the walls in the halls.”
“It only took them about a day of hurting their hands before they figured out that if they actually went into the classrooms they could punch walls and make holes that way.” The light turns and I hit the gas. “It’s perfect really. Go in. Cause some damage. Leave.”
I lean forward and squint into the early afternoon sun. “Who says we don’t teach problem solving skills in schools?”
My stomach rolls from the smoke and hunger; reminds me I missed lunch today. “Anyway how was your day?”
“Not nearly as interesting, romantic, or messy as yours, but it did have its special moments.”
Jordan pops the CD out and begins surfing channels. “Today was Lunch on the Lawn and it was nice to get outside for awhile and do the whole picnic, we like everybody here thing.”
“Yeah, I always did kinda like that about working at the factory.”
I spot what I’m looking for and flick on my turn signal. “They might not pay you anything for working there, but they do stuff like every once in awhile to make it seem like they're glad you're working there.”
I pull into the drive way and roll up to the drive through. “Hey, whaddya want?”