I wish I could say that Ingrid and I were inseparable from that day on, but that wasn't the case. Our friendship built up slowly. After she took me to the nurse's office that day, we would nod to each other in the hallway, plus there was that one time she lent me a pen when mine ran out of ink during class. But for the most part, we went back to our separate lives.
Until the day Tropical Storm Irma came to town.
I remember the day because we were under a tropical storm watch and school let out early, right before lunch.
I was packing up my books when a shadow suddenly loomed over me.
The shadow cleared its throat and said, "Hey, Jack."
I looked up and saw Ingrid there, shuffling her feet. I stood there staring for maybe a minute because it was such an uncommon sight, seeing Ingrid look so uncomfortable.
"Um, can I help you?" I asked as I shouldered my bookbag.
She shuffled her feet and cleared her throat some more. This was definitely not typical Ingrid behavior.
"I was just wondering what you were up to, you know, now that school's letting us out early."
"Well, I'm not up to a whole lot. Just going to go home and maybe watch TV, see if we're in the dreaded 'cone.'"
"Oh, it's just something meteorologists invented to try and predict who's going to get hit by the storm or not. This morning, we weren't in the cone, but you never know. A lot can change in a few hours when it comes to tropical storms."
"You sure know a lot about tropical storms, Jack. Are you going to be a meteorologist when you grow up?" She'd stopped shuffling her feet and her eyes had a mischievous twinkle in them. I noticed for the first time her brown eyes had yellowish flecks in them. It made her look almost tigerish.
We stood there awkwardly for another minute while the other students exited the classroom. They were chattering excitedly, their spirits buoyed by the sudden release from school, and a few of them kept casting curious glances our way.
"Ingrid and Jack, do you have someone coming to pick you up? I need to close up the classroom now," our Social Studies teacher Brother Pieneck said, jangling a set of keys in his hand.
"Yeah, my brother's coming to get me," I replied.
Brother Pieneck turned expectantly towards Ingrid. "How about you, Ms. Gundt? I know your mom works late. How are you going to get home?"
Ingrid's face turned red and she started doing the feet shuffling thing again.
That was the moment someone else entered my body and opened my mouth, saying the words, "Oh, no, Brother Pieneck. She's coming home with me."