by Chris Eng, illustration by Karlene Harvey
“The hoodie looks good on you,” Spit said, smiling up at Jenn from his usual spot in front of Pete’s.
“It looks ridiculous on me,” Jenn said, sloughing her backpack off and tossing it on the ground. She flopped down and pulled up a piece of wall next to him. “But I like it.” She beamed, and he leaned over and kissed her.
“So, I take it your parents didn’t kill you after all.”
“No. No, they totally did. I’m grounded for, like, a month. I’m skipping school right now to see you.”
He raised an eyebrow.
“I have to,” she said. “If I come home late, my mother will FREAK. OUT. So the only thing to do is cut class so I can still be home by 3:30.”
“Ah, this is your cunning plan.”
“Yeah. I mean, unless you want me to not visit you and read Jane Eyre instead. I’m pretty sure I’ve got it covered ‘cause I read it in Grade 5, but it’s up to you.”
“Wow. Defensive much?”
“Yeah, a little… I’m getting attacked by everyone I know these days.”
“Not everyone.” Spit put his arm around her shoulders and gently pulled her to him. “I’m glad to see you.”
“At least someone is.” After a second she registered what was happening and looked over at him. “Aren’t you worried someone will see us?”
“I dunno, any of your friends?”
“And what if they did?”
Jenn fought to get the right words out. “They’d know there was… something… er… going on… between us?”
“Something going on?” A flicker of amusement played around the corners of his mouth. “Like how you came to the party by yourself on Friday night and then found me and then we went up to my room and didn’t come out again? That kind of something?”
“Believe me, my friends know. It’s all they talked about on Saturday. And Sunday. And this morning. Actually, as soon as they figure out you’re here, they’ll be all over us.”
“Doesn’t that bother you?”
“Why would it? Look, my friends grief me because they’re my friends—they don’t mean anything by it. They respect my decisions unless I give them a reason not to.”
“Oh Jesus,” came a girl’s voice. “Rent a fucking room, you two!” Becky walked up and ruffled Jenn’s hair playfully.
“I’ve got a room,” Spit said. “It’s across the hall from yours.”
“I know,” she exclaimed. “I had to listen to the sounds of your loveplay all night on Friday!”
“Only because you had your ear up to the door!”
Becky dismissed Spit with with her hand and turned her attention to Jenn. “How you doin’, girl?”
“I’m all right.”
“Just all right?”
“Her parents got her in lockdown,” Spit responded. Jenn nodded in agreement.
“You seemed to have figured out a way around that,” Becky said.
“Only because I’m skipping class. And I can’t do it that often or the school will call my parents, and then I’ll be in a world of shit.”
“So we’ll just have to think of other ways to get you back to Lark Street. I’ll work on it. Aw, crap,” she said, checking her watch, “I’ve gotta get to work. Do you have a number I can call you at?”
“No,” said Jenn.
Becky patiently waited for an explanation.
“You can’t call me on my cell because my mother checks the numbers of all the people who call or text me.”
Spit looked confused. “You have a cell?”
Becky put a finger to her lips. “Shh. Women are talking.”
“And you can’t call me at my house for the same reason.”
Becky rifled through her pocket for a pen and started writing on the back of a receipt. “Here’s my cell number.”
Jenn took the paper. “I shouldn’t call you. She checks outgoing calls, too.”
“From your landline?”
“Especially from the landline. All she has to do is press ‘last number’ to find out who I called.”
“That might work to our advantage.” A devious look coalesced on Becky’s face, but she quickly stowed it and said, “Anyway, you know how pay phones work, right?”
“Use one. Okay, gotta run. Don’t lose hope. We’ll have you sprung before the start of the rainy season. See ya!” She ran off down the street, narrowly avoiding plowing into an old woman with a walker.
“Where does she work?” Jenn asked Spit.
“The Gallery. She’s a waitress. Or a server. Maybe a barista. I can never keep that straight.”
“Ah. Is it a good job?”
“No, it’s kind of a shit pit. Doesn’t stop us from hanging out there, though. Seems like I spend half my waking hours in there sometimes.”
She suddenly realized how little she knew about Spit. “Do you have a job?”
“You mean other than taking up space in front of Pete’s?”
“Nope. I’m currently on the dole.”
“Oh. How come?”
“Because I didn’t get enough hours at my last job to qualify for Unemployment, and I had to get on Welfare or I’d starve. But I’m using the opportunity to weigh my options. I’m going to apply for training to get me into a field unrelated to the preparation of food or the washing of dishes.”
“Beats me. That’s the hard part.”
“You know, I don’t even know how old you are.”
Jenn’s jaw practically dropped to the pavement. “Really?!”
“No, not really, you spaz. I’m 19. Is that okay with you?”
“Yeah,” Jenn said, turning red.
“I also have two brothers and a sister, I collect ’70s kung-fu comics, I’ve been arrested twice—once for loitering and once for vandalism—and I can count to ten in twenty different languages. So, now that we’ve got that out of the way, how much time do you have?”
“Maybe half an hour before I have to catch the bus.”
“We could go grab a coffee, if you want.”
“Yeah,” she said, indifferent. “I guess we could.”
“Or there’s a parkade a block from here. We could make out in it until the security guards find us.”
“You make it sound so romantic.”
Spit stood and bowed slightly, extending a hand to help her up. Jenn picked up her knapsack and put it on.
“How long d’you think we’ll have before security shows up?”
“Fifteen, twenty minutes. It depends how sneaky we are.”
She reached out and took his hand in hers, giving it a hard squeeze. “We should work on being pretty sneaky then.”
Jenn scanned the hallway conspiratorially and covered the mouthpiece of the phone with her hand (as if anyone in her school hallway knew or cared who she was talking to), before she realized what she was doing and tried to act more nonchalant.
“So, is that cool?” Becky asked on the other end.
“I guess so.”
“You’ll call at 7:00 tonight.”
“Yeah, I’ll call. Do you think it will work?”
“Is your mom as crazy as you said?”
“She’s fucking batshit.”
“Then it just might fly. Talk to you tonight.”
Jenn hung up the phone and walked away, unable to stop herself from stealing a parting glance over her shoulder to see if anyone was watching. They weren’t.