Lyndell looked down at his phone. 12:48. “Fuck my life!” he said aloud to no one there. 12 minutes wasn’t enough time. He’d forgotten he had to have the audio tapes dropped off at the studio. He stuffed them quickly into his bag. A photograph fell to the counter. The date on the back suggested it was probably a picture of him from Dragon*Con in September. There wasn’t time to worry about how it had gotten there. He grabbed it and raced out the door.
He was never going to make it. He pinched the photo between his lips as he unlocked his bicycle as fast as he could. He threw the lock around his neck, hopped on and started to ride. The photo immediately began flapping in the wind. He stopped to put it safely away, just in time to avoid riding right out in front of a car.
The white Mercedes station wagon pulled up and parked just up to his right. He hadn’t seen it coming at all. For a moment, the strangeness of the vehicle itself was more important than how narrowly it had missed him. He’d never seen anything like it. He looked at the silhouettes of the two people in the car. Neither of them looked his way. That was a lucky break, he thought. They hadn’t seen him either.
Lyndell had been hit once before. He broke his leg that time and it totaled his bike. He couldn’t afford another bike right now. He looked up at the sky and shook his head. Lyndell was an atheist, but times like these made him wish there was someone to thank. Just needing someone to thank wasn’t enough to change his mind though. He tucked the photo away and rode off with a little more caution.
Half a mile across campus he raced as fast as he could safely go. Up Hill Street two blocks and then once out onto University Avenue, he had to ride on the sidewalk. There was just too much traffic. He didn’t want to slow down, but he had no choice. A girl walking up ahead of him was making unpredictable movements from left to right. Lyndell slowed down to her pace waiting for a wide enough space to pass.
She was wearing white sweatpants with a white Hoodie and white tennis shoes. Lyndell could hear her singing. ♫♪ I learned to live, half-alive, and now you want me one more time… ♫♪ Suddenly Lyndell didn’t care about his 1:00 deadline anymore. He knew some of the words and he rode along listening, mouthing them silently along with her.
The girl in white heard his bicycle and turned to look at him. She didn’t stop singing in embarrassment. She didn’t move to let him pass. Her voice grew stronger and she stepped toward him almost menacingly, singing louder and clearer than before. ♫♪ And who do you think you are? Ridin round leaving scars…♫♪ She shrugged her shoulders and threw her arms out almost touching him.
Lyndell smiled. He knew the words didn’t go like that. She was performing for him! She danced and gestured as she walked now. Her voice was beautiful. But it was her face that had Lyndell entranced. It was completely painted white so even looking right at her, he couldn’t really tell what she looked like at all. Her teeth and her tongue were the only parts of her he could see clearly, and they sang.
The mysterious girl in white was like a blank canvas waiting for Lyndell to paint her, singing a siren song to call the artist inside him. In his mind she was pretty underneath all the face paint. In his mind, she was sexy underneath the baggy white sweats. With nothing but music and white to fall in love with, he fell instantly in love with her anyway. His appointment was forgotten. He rode along listening while she sang…
♫♪ Collecting your jar of hearts
And tearing love apart
You’re gonna catch a cold
From the ice inside your soul ♫♪
Her movements were as hypnotic as her ghostly appearance. It didn’t stop the words from sounding comical. This specter of a girl with no appearance at all, singing about the ice inside his soul. But there was something special in the way she sang the words. She was as colorful in spirit as her skin was blanched. The dancing, the bold personality… he could easily get wrapped up in her charm… His thoughts came abruptly to a stop with the realization that he was late already.
A clear space opened in the sidewalk. Lyndell gave the girl a nod and sped up the street to the entrance of the small studio. He leaned his bike up against the wall and pulled off his pack. The tapes had settled. He pulled a couple of items out and quickly set them on the window ledge until he reached the tapes. He set his pack down against the wall, and turned to look back again at the singing apparition dancing up the sidewalk toward him.
Remembering the picture, he pulled it out and hastily set it with the other things on the window ledge. Then he hopped up the brick steps and pushed open the heavy wooden door. The tinkling of bells mixed with the sound of the creaking hinges. He darted one more glance back at the girl and then stepped inside.
“You’re late!” Karl hollered down the hall at him. “I said by 1:00, didn’t I? Christ Lyndell, I got a business to run. I’m a busy man.”
“Sorry, Mr. Hagen,” Lyndell apologized. “I was helping out in the Chem lab at lunch and I just forgot.”
It was a lie, except for the forgetting part. He had spent most of his lunch hour playing on his Android. Karl met him halfway and Lyndell handed him the tapes.
“I don’t have time to listen to them now,” Karl said. “1:00 means 1:00. I’ll have to go over them later.” He turned Lyndell around and ushered him back toward the door. “Maybe I can get to them this afternoon. I’ll see what I can do. Give me a call when you’re out of school.”
Karl pushed him back out the door and closed it behind him, the bells clattering up against the wood as it slammed. He listened to the sound of the lock turning as he watched the girl in white race up to the ledge to pick up the picture he had set down. He smiled to himself. She liked him too. Before he could step slowly down the brick steps, she spoke.
“Oh my God, what a perfectly precious little person! Who is it?”
Her voice was as soft and pretty as it was when she sang. Lyndell was confused. It didn’t sound like any description of him he’d heard before. He held out his hand as he stepped down and she handed him the picture. He looked at it puzzled. It was a picture of a baby he didn’t recognize. He turned it over. It said “Jeanette” and the date in black felt pen. The handwriting wasn’t his.
“Babies are beautiful,” he agreed, watching in amusement as she began to rifle his backpack. He reached to take it from her, but she found the package of pictures from the convention he thought the other picture had fallen from. She pulled it out before she let him take the pack. “I just saw a picture of a friend’s newborn,” he added. “They’re so perfect. …and then they grow up, right?”
The girl started leafing through them. He had gone to the convention in costume on the first day, and he wasn’t sure what kind of reaction to expect. “Ew!” she said, stopping to look at one picture. “No hugs for you!” Then she quickly shuffled it back in with the others so he wouldn’t know which one she had commented on.
“I have class at 1:30,” he said putting his things back into the pack. “I have to go.”
Her arm shot out to hand him his pictures. He could see her scowling under the hood. He took the pictures and tucked them safely in his pack again and then slung the pack around his shoulders. Maybe it was only because of what she said, but he really did want to hug her. He wondered what her reaction would be if he tried.
“I didn’t get your name or anything,” Lyndell said, climbing back on his bike. “How am I going to find you again?”
Her scowl deepened. ♫♪ Who do you think you are?♫♪ she began singing again, repeating the finale of the song. Then she turned and danced away up the sidewalk.
Lyndell pedaled sullenly back to campus. The girl with the ashen face might as well be a ghost. Her memory was going to haunt him, the sound of her beautiful voice, her seductive dancing, her crazy all-white getup…
Back in class, he pulled the pictures out of his backpack. He thumbed through them as he waited for lecture to begin, until one picture stopped him. He’d forgotten all about it. That was probably the one. He had stopped to pose next to a girl dressed as a giant ant-creature from outer space and she’d faked a kiss for his picture. Ha ha, he thought. No hugs for you. He pulled the picture out to look at it more closely. Underneath it was a small slip of paper that said, Annie 555-2663.
© 2011 Anne Schilde
Christina Perri’s lyrics do NOT belong to me! But do please enjoy her song though! I do very much!