I had one of those wild short story-writing hairs today.
This is a Det and Stan story, set when Stan is 17. I've been writing about these characters for 15 years, and one of the continuing conflicts between Det and Stan is... Well, there are plenty of stories about beautiful, dangerous, magnetic immortals and the girls who love them. But what if said immortal (in this case, "immortal" = someone who lives a WHILE, but not forever) had a kid, who was not quite as beautiful and dangerous and magnetic as their parent?
Such has always been poor Stan's woe.
(YES, TWO BLOG POSTS IN ONE DAY AND ON A SUNDAY TOO. I know it's not practical...but I gotta post while I'm in a postin' mood.)
The first time she looked at him, he wasn’t sure it meant anything. She’d wandered into the coffeehouse and ordered a drink, then planted herself against the back wall not far from where he was sitting, glancing at the blues act on-stage between texting.
Stan smiled back at her. He liked to think he was good at flirting, but he’d never had that confirmed. And he didn’t have much experience. Homeschooling wasn’t known for its dating pool.
She glanced at him again. Still with a little gleam in her eye.
“Hey,” he said. “If you want to sit down, you can have this chair.” He pulled out the one next to him. They were in short supply.
“Oh! Yeah. Sure.” She sat down, still absorbed in her phone, red curls spilling over her face. Was that natural? Maybe. She had that pale red-head skin, but she was the cute kind of red-head. Not overly freckled. Not actually freckled at all. All fairy tale princess-like, Rose Red in blue jeans—oh, song title—except for the braces, but they were kind of hot too.
She looked up. “Do you like this kind of music?”
“Uh… Well, this band is just okay. In theory, maybe. I like all kinds of music.”
She nodded at his shirt. “I like your shirt.”
It was a Beatles shirt. The cover of Let It Be. Maybe not a great revelation in things-in-common, but he’d take it. “You like the Beatles?”
“Who doesn’t love the Beatles?” She tucked her phone in the pocket of her jeans and put her chin in her hand. Her hoodie was a little too big so the sleeves covered most of her hands. The blues band was thanking the audience and packing up their guitars.
“Next up is Gray Reilly,” Stan said, making a possibly ill-advised attempt to show off his insider knowledge of the Cherry Coffeehouse’s “Folk You 2011” lineup. “He’s one of the best banjo players around, so you can take that as a good thing or a bad thing, depending on your banjo stance.”
“I have a pretty neutral banjo stance.”
“One time this guy stole Gray Reilly’s car, and then he brought it back and said, ‘Here you go, man.’ Gray said, ‘Why’d you bring it back?’ He said, ‘I can’t get the new banjo smell out.’”
She laughed. “You must be a musician. Quick on the draw with the banjo jokes.”
“I play guitar.”
She leaned a hair closer. Girls liked musicians. They didn’t like folk musicians quite as much as rocker boys, but he guessed it was still better to be a musical geek than most other flavors of geekery. “How long have you been playing for?”
“Oh wow. Do you go to college here?”
He thought she was a college student already. Nice. He prayed his dad wouldn’t walk in too soon. Det had wandered off to the bookstore around the corner half an hour ago and it was hard to say when he’d be back. Still, he wasn’t sure if he should lie about college. If she ended up being really interested, lying was a bad idea, so he reluctantly admitted, “No. Not yet.”
“Oh. It’s okay. I graduate next year. From high school, I mean. Do you go to Lincoln?”
“Homeschooled.” He made a face. “But not in a weird way. Well, maybe kind of a weird way, in the sense that everything is weird. In its own way.” Yuck. No. Not the rambling.
She still seemed to like him. “I’m Reese, by the way. Like the Pieces and the Witherspoon.”
“That’s not a name you hear too often anymore.”
“Yeah, well. It was my dad’s cousin who died when he was young, I don’t know.” He rolled his eyes.
“Oh. Family names. That’s why my middle name is Gretchen.”
“Gretchen is a cool name, though.”
“But, Reese Gretchen? Doesn’t roll off the tongue.” She had shifted now to truly face him. They were really getting somewhere. Closing in on exchanging email addresses or something.
He was already imagining it. His first real girlfriend. The thing with his neighbor didn’t really count, because for one thing, she was a neighbor, and they were both hormonal, but they only kissed once. More of a test run than a girlfriend, really. He had cried when she dumped him for some kid at school—not in front of her, of course—but the next day he realized he was kind of relieved.
But Reese Gretchen, here, she could be the real deal. He could write her a song like, Reese Gretchen, your name is awesome and weird/ like a 19th century beard… He’d work on the rest later, but that could be a start.
And this was a pretty good story, talking to her with a backdrop of Gray Reilly on banjo in a busy coffeehouse, in the spring, when all good love stories began…
Reese looked up somewhere behind his head, and a shadow fell across Stan.
He took in the coffeehouse in a glance. No more empty chairs. “Well, boy, you seem busy,” he said.
“Yeeeah. I mean, kind of. This is Reese. I’m boring her with banjo jokes.”
Reese giggled, eyes shyly pointed toward Det. “Nah.”
“Ah. Well…” Det tucked a newly purchased book under his arm and checked his pocketwatch. “I suppose I’ll get a coffee and lurk a bit. Someone will leave soon.”
“Yeah.” Stan tried to look like, As far as possible, please.
Det went to the counter.
Reese leaned in very close now, but her eyes remained stuck on Det. “Who is that?”
“That’s just my dad. I know. We don’t look alike. He’s weird.”
Stan had never really found his father attractive. Of course, it would be really strange to find his father attractive, so that was definitely for the best. But women did. No denying they did. Yet, every time, when they saw Det, he couldn’t help engaging in a losing battle to convince them otherwise. “Yeah. I know. You’re probably wondering why someone as tall, dark and hip as me has a dad that is so small, pasty and old-fashioned.”
“I love his fedora,” she whispered. “But no way is he your dad! He’s too young. Isn’t he?” Her eyes were still riveted to his back. Det’s age always confused people. His air of maturity didn’t match his appearance. He hadn’t really aged a day since…1962 or something.
“Yeah, well. We think maybe he’s actually from fairyland.”
It was the closest he’d ever come to telling her the truth. Especially when he knew she’d never look at him the way she looked at his father.