"Thanks again," I say as I open Henry's car door. The gravel of the driveway crunches familiarly under my feet as I step out of the chevy. He smiles and reaches across the passenger seat, taking my hand. He shakes it slowly.
"It was a pleasure to meet you." His smile is devious, and I hope he isn't mocking me for the emotional breakdown I had in the bathroom. He lets go and leans back, pulling the door shut with him. I take a step back as Henry backs down the driveway. Only then do I notice the white ball of paper in my hand. I grin, then stick it in my pants pocket. I'll have time to read it later.
The screen door is propped open and the wooden door is unlocked, so I walk straight into the kitchen. Aunt Sandra is laying on the couch in the sitting room, an afghan draped over her, and the anger that had been swelling in me fades away. She looks so helpless there. So I walk upstairs to my room to start on homework.
I'm still in my room, two hours later, when she knocks on my door.
"Come in," I say. She walks in and sits on the edge of my bed, smoothing her skirt as she does so.
"So? How was your first day at school?" Good, I think to myself, until a rabid teacher spilled my one and only secret to the rest of the junior class. Instead, I ask,
"Do you know a Mr. Monroe?" Her eyebrows hike up, then slowly move back down, into her thinking position. She looks almost angry when she is trying to remember something, but I know it is just her way of concentrating. Then her eyes suddenly spark with recognition.
"I don't know. Sure." She smiles, and laughs a little.
"Oh, Griffin. Let me guess, he is one of your teachers?" I nod. "History?" I nod again. "And he asked about me, did he?"
"Yeah, he did. So you do know him?" She sighs and tilts her head gracefully.
"Oh, yes. In fact, we dated a bit in college. We went to community college together, we were both majoring in U.S. History. That was before I switched to psychology, of course." My aunt has a look in her eyes that tells me she is far away, 20 years in the past, reliving her glory days. I am still not mad at her. Rather, my anger is directed towards "Griffin".
"So what makes him hate me so much?" I ask, spiteful. But I immediately regret saying this after she snaps out of her daze, and her eyes refocus on me. She has that mad look about her, but she really is mad this time.
"What do you mean? What did he say?"
I gulp. "He mentioned mom. And her rehab in front of the class." She gasps, her eyes widening, and stands up to storm out of the room. Remembering her condition, I follow after her. "Calm down, Aunt Sandra! Really, it's not that big of a deal." We reach the bottom of the stairs and whips around to face me.
"That man- that man!" She says, in a rage. "That man is a big...jerk! Yes, he is a jerk!" I almost laugh at her choice of language, but conceal it. "I broke up with him because he was WACKO! And now he has the gall to attack my niece because of what happened 20 years ago! Oh, that man! I am going to call him right now and give him a piece of my mind! And tell him to stay out of my business!" And with a whip of her hair, she races to the kitchen and picks up the phone, and digs around in the top drawer of the cabinet for a phone book. I decide to go upstairs before I burst into laughter. That wouldn't help anything.
My room is orange in the evening sun. Orange rays against purple paint gives it a warm feeling, and I flop down on my bed and listen to the irate shrieks coming from downstairs. I know my aunt it really giving it to Mr. Monroe.
As I roll over, something crinkles in my pocket. I reach in, and feel the note. I had totally forgotten about it. I prop myself up on a pillow, and open it, careful not to rip the fragile fibers. I notice my own messy writing first. It says "Coincidence", and I remember talking about how Henry and I had most of our classes together. Then, below it something new is written. It is in all caps, like Henry's other phrases. It says, "Coincidence? Or Fate?"