I was kind of taken aback when Mr. Whithers asked me about my father.
Why did he want to know? It was a random question. But one that I guessed I could answer.
"Um, well, he died when I was ten."
He nodded. "How?"
"At that time, he was a CEO at a major trucking agency. Had worked his entire adult life to get to the top. Occasionally he would drive for his employees when they were sick, or whatever."
"Well, that was nice of him." Whithers said.
"Yeah. He always liked to be there, working with the guys." I shifted to a more comfortable position on the bench we were sitting on. "Anyway, on one of these runs, the man he had took over for had to take off for a few days because his wife had just died. Well, my dad thought to make good time on the run, because it was my birthday and he didn't want to miss the party. He drove all night. Fell asleep at the wheel and crashed through the railing of a bridge and drove straight into the river below... " I sniffled and looked away. I didn't want this man to see me crying.
The thing that surprised me was that he was listening. Not like he was gathering evidence or searching for some hidden meaning. He was paying attention. Most adults I know would never do that.
"You can imagine," I said in a rather husky voice, "What kind of birthday that was for me."
He patted my shoulder. His touch didn't make me uncomfortable like Mr. Kerr's had.
"I'm sorry..." He said, and I knew that he meant it.
I wiped my nose on my sleeve and changed the subject. "So, did you wanna ask me anything else?
At school, I saw Brandon talking to Stacey. He seemed mad. Stacey said something about never wanting to talk to him again, and then stormed off. I swear that I saw a weight free itself from Brandon.
I walked over to him. "Finally break up with that, Bi -- eauty?"
He chuckled. "Yeah," he said, sighing. "Never felt better."
We stood awkwardly for a minute.
"Um," I started, looking down at my feet. "I never got a chance to thank you the other day."
He shrugged. "It was nothing. I couldn't let that bastard do that to you."
I was somewhat taken aback by his language and the anger in his voice. He noticed.
"Don't be. I completely agree with you. I knew there was something unsettling about him. Just wish that I'd found out in a different way that he was such a perv..." I took a rattling breath. It still scared me. The most horrifying thing to happen in my life.
I stood there for a moment, and feeling Brandon's eyes on me, I finally just stepped forward. I hugged him tightly, whispering: "Thank you..." He held me for a moment.
He has no idea what he did for me. I am in his debt -- big time.
I let go, and with a parting smile, we both went to our separate classes.
If only that wasn't the only thing troubling me about Brandon. I had heard a rumor about him and Dillon at the party that night. But Lord knows that's not the only thing that he will regret from that night... when he finds out about it, that is.