Lark(3)

By: Erica Cope


We only live about fifteen minutes away from the theater, but sometimes when I have a little extra time to kill before my shift starts, I take the back roads. It’s especially invigorating on nice, crisp fall mornings when the air smells like burning leaves and dew. But this morning it just smells hot. I can't wait for the cooler weather. These above average temperatures are ruining my favorite season. Regardless of the heat, the peaceful country scenery is a nice change of pace. I don't understand how anyone could deny the beauty of Kansas. The flint hills, the tall grass, the wildflowers. I think it's pretty wonderful. But of course, that may be because I’ve never been anywhere else so I have nothing to compare it to.

Unfortunately, I can only continue on for so long before I have to get back on the highway that takes me to work. Just as I pull onto the main road, I recognize the tall figure ahead of me with chin length, greasy black hair.

Brian is walking to work again.

Ew.

It's not middle-of-summer-in-the-Midwest hot or anything. We see well over 100 degrees just about every day in the summer, and while it is definitely not that bad right now, it’s already way too hot to be considered pleasant this morning. I cringe at the thought of having to work with Brian smelling of B.O. all day. Even on his good days, when his car actually starts and he can drive to work in air conditioned comfort, he smells funky. It's an unusual, earthy stench, almost like stale dirt. On the days he has to walk though...well, let's just say I’m thankful I don't have to work in the concession stand with him. Freshly-popped-buttery-popcorn and body odor do not mix well.

He’s a couple of years older than me and he just started working at the movie theater a couple of weeks ago, so he doesn't have many friends yet. I should probably be nice to him. With a sigh, I pull over next to him and roll down the window.

“Need a ride?” I ask as I reach over to unlock the door.

“Thanks.” He gets in and buckles the seat belt. His white shirt is stained yellow and his pants are worn thin. An amethyst pendant dangles over his vest, but when he notices me staring at it, he quickly shoves it underneath his shirt. I suppose if I were a boy wearing a purple necklace, I would probably hide it too. Well, actually, I probably just wouldn't wear it. It must have some sort of sentimental value to him or something because he never seems to take it off.

“No problem,” I respond as I start driving again.

Awkward silence.

I hate those.

“Do you know who opens with us today?” I ask him even though I already know who does, but I can't think of anything else to say, and I feel like I should at least make an attempt at conversation.

Silence.

I wait.

More silence.

Okay, that is just plain weird. Who just sits there in a car and refuses to talk to someone who just saved them from walking a mile to work in nearly 90 degree heat?

I glance over to find him staring at me. Not in the way a boy stares at an exceptionally beautiful girl or a particularly delicious-looking steak. No. This is different and a little rude. He’s staring at me like you would stare at an abstract piece of art as you try to figure out what’s so special about it.

“Um..hello? Brian?” I try waving my hand in front of him to break him of his trance.

“Oh, sorry,” he recovers. “What did you say?”

“Um...nothing,” I stammer. “It's not important.

We pull into the parking lot, and he immediately gets out.

“Thanks for the lift,” he says as he stands there awkwardly, once again, staring at me a little too long to be considered polite. Then he closes the car door and walks towards the building.

I’m more than a little creeped out. A pit forms in my stomach but I have no idea why I feel so uneasy. He didn't even really do anything. There is just something about him that makes me feel weird and uncomfortable.

Okay, seriously. Stop being stupid. He’s just some 20-year-old guy. A perfectly normal guy. Although a little smelly...and kind of creepy... but definitely just a regular ole guy. He was probably just daydreaming or something. He was most certainly not staring at you even though it definitely felt like he was.

I attempt to calm myself down from my overactive imagination for a few more minutes before I figure I better get my butt into the building so I'm not late. Not that the manager, Dave, would even notice. He will undoubtedly be in his office playing Solitaire on his computer, while the rest of the staff gets everything ready for the day. I gather up my things, take a deep breath, and get out of the car, only to run right smack into the hard chest of Greyson St. Clair. He reaches out to steady me at once, but drops his hand back down to his side as soon as he is certain my feet are planted firmly on the ground once more.

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