“You ready for your driving lesson Joe?”
“I said are you ready for your driving lesson?”
Joe lifted his head and looked at his mum.
“If he doesn’t want it I’ll take the lesson,” Kirk chimed in.
“No its Joe’s turn,” Georgia said shooting Kirk down. “You took his last one remember. Its time Joe did some practice. He’s way behind already!”
“Ok Ok I’m coming,” Joe said dragging himself from the table. He had just got to a crucial part of his story and was irritated by the interruption. But his mum was right. He was the oldest in his year to not have his licence yet. “Let’s get this over with,” he said scooping up the car keys and following his mother outside.
Mirror, signal, maneuverer.
He pulled out onto the quiet street he lived on and let the car cruise up and along the hills. Piece of cake, he thought.
“Don’t forget to check your mirror before you indicate each time.”
“I know mum,” Joe snapped. He didn’t know why he was so irritable today. He knew his mum was just trying to help but he just hated being told what to do!
“I’m glad that we get to have some time alone,” Georgia said taking a long breath. “I wanted to talk to you about your future.”
Oh god here we go, Joe thought rolling his eyes.
“Your father and I have been talking and now Kirk has been accepted to the University of Sunset Valley to play football and Karis is planning on doing some travelling after school, we were wondering what your plans were? You graduate soon and we are getting a bit concerned that you haven’t applied to any collages yet.”
“That’s because I am not going to college,” Joe barked.
Suddenly the car jerked and he stalled the engine! “Arrhh,” he vented revving up the accelerator and getting it started again.
Georgia sighed giving Joe time to calm down and take off again. “I feared you might say that,” she finally said when they were on their way again. “So what’s the plan then?”
“Why does there have to be a plan?”
“Well I guess you don’t necessarily have to have one but it’s always good to know what direction you are planning on taking.”
“I want to write mum. You know this.” They were just pulling off the bridge and were heading into the city. Thank god I didn’t stall here, Joe thought to himself wondering if he would ever get the hang of this driving malarkey!
“Yeah but becoming a writer is very tough Joe. It’s always a good idea to have something to fall back on if things don’t work out. Hey turn around here,” Georgia suddenly said looking over her shoulder. “I don’t want to go any further into the city, you’re not ready for that yet.”
Joe did as he was told doing a quick three point turn and pulling up to a set of traffic lights. “Why do you always have to doubt me mum? It’s what I’ve always wanted and I’m good at it.”
“I do not doubt you Joe; I’m just concerned is all. It’s not good to put all your eggs in one basket.” Georgia glared at her son. “Joe are you listening to me? This is serious?”
But Georgia’s voice was just a drone to Joe. Walking ahead of him across the pedestrian crossing was Celeste. She walked like a timid mouse, head bent, arms hanging at her side. Joe couldn’t take his eyes off her.
“Take over he said,” jumping from the car.
“Wha, what do you mean take over. Joe where you going.” The lights were turning green and Georgia had no choice but to jump into the driver’s seat and drive off.
Joe did not look back. He marched forward, nothing else in his mind than catching up with Celeste.
“Hey,” he called out when he got closer.
Nothing. She didn’t turn around or acknowledge his call.
“Hey Celeste,” he said again louder launching into a run.
This time she halted and spun around, looking dead at him with her worried eyes.
He jogged over to her and caught his breath. “Jeeze I never thought you would stop,” he joked. She made no movement to converse with him. Her head was back down looking at the floor.
“Sorry I didn’t frighten you did I,” Joe asked feeling guilty. She looked like she might cry.
“No, no,” she uttered. “What do you want?”
Joe couldn’t’ help but feel a little wounded by her demeanour. “I just wanted to check you were ok after the other day. You ran off so quickly and well…..”
Well what? He did not really know what he wanted from her. “I guess I just wanted to check you were ok,” he repeated feeling foolish.
“I’m fine,” she said. “Thank you,” she uttered as an afterthought.
He was losing her. Did he ever have her? “So what you up to,” he probed trying to make her stay. “Wanna come to the Diner with me for a milkshake or something?”
“No I have to get home,” she replied spinning around and marching off.
“Hang on I’ll walk you,” Joe said trying to catch up with her.
“NO,” she cried stopping dead and holding her hand out in defence. “Please don’t. I’ll be fine.”
Joe stood stunned.
“Please don’t follow me,” she called back before sprinting off.
“Hey Joe, wanna tell me what the hell you think you are doing jumping out the car like that at traffic lights?” It was Georgia. She had pulled up at the curb and was calling to him.
Joe watched Celeste disappear into the distance and then trudged back to the car.
“Don’t ever do that to me again do you hear,” Georgia was yelling now.
“Yeah yeah yeah,” he bit back letting his mother drive him home in silence. He never really cared about getting his licence anyway.
Day after day Joe thought about Celeste. He could not shake the feeling that there was more to her then she was letting on. What was she trying to hide? He watched her drift around the school, invisible to everyone else but him. He recorded her movements done on paper, fascinated by her ability to move around like she was being plagued by something horrible. She never looked behind her and kept her head down at all times. She was fascinating to him.
Then one day he decided to take a chance and followed her home after school. Thankfully for him Celeste did not drive either so there was no chasing her down in a bus. She walked the entire way, oblivious to him behind her. In fact she seemed oblivious to the world around her. He followed her through the city and over to the docks and in to the City’s Trailer Park. Was this what she did not want me to see? Joe wondered. That she’s poor?
He continued following her, ducking behind trailers, trash cans and piles of scrap metal until she finally stopped at a dark and dingy trailer up on a hill. It was now and only now that she looked around.
Joe ducked behind a pile of rubbish and prayed that she hadn’t seen him. He gave it a couple of minutes and when he poked his head up she had gone, obviously disappeared into the trailer she had stopped outside of.
Joe slumped back down and pondered what to do next.
“I knew you were following me!”
Standing over him was Celeste; arms crossed against her chest, glaring down at him like he was a naughty school boy caught stealing cookies!
“I err….” Joe pulled himself from the ground. He did not know what to say. He was busted!
“What,” she demanded. “You err… what?” She was glaring at him now. Pure venom pouring from her eye sockets. Joe recoiled, he was not sure whether she was about to punch him.
“Cece,” a child’s voice called out and then another.
Two children, no older than five years old suddenly appeared jumping onto Celeste and eloping her in their little arms. “You’re home you’re home,” they chimed, one clutching hold of her leg and the other jumping up and down like a little pink rabbit
“Hey you guys,” Celeste said softening and forgetting all about Joe. She kissed each of their dirty faces and smoothed down their hair. “Look at you guys. You’re filthy.”
Joe stared on in disbelief. “Are these your children,” he stuttered. He did not know why he said that, of course they weren’t hers. But they did look just like her!
“None of your business,” Celeste snapped grabbing hold of the children’s arms and dragging them back to the trailer. “You need to go now!”
“Hold on,” he called going after them.
“Don’t you get it,” Celeste snapped at him again. “You can’t be here. Please just go!”
They all spun around. A boy, not much older than Joe was standing at the top of the hill by the trailer glaring at them.
“Celeste who is this,” he called.
“No one,” she snapped dragged the kids up the stairs and closer to the trailer. She reached the boy and hurried inside. “Come on,” she pleaded and the group disappeared through the trailer door, the boy taking one last accusing glance back at Joe.
As Joe skulked through the front door of his house later that evening it was already dark outside. It had taken him ages to walk back from the Trailer Park and he was now cursing the fact that he had not taken the driving lessons more seriously. His feet hurt; he was weary and more confused than ever. What a mess!
“Where have you been,” Karis said as he slumped down on the sofa opposite her and Ryan.
“What do you know about Celeste,” Joe asked turning to his sister?
“Celeste Burray,” Karis asked? “Not much really. She’s in my maths class but I’ve never spoken to her. She is a weird sort really. Never says a word.”
“I heard rumours that her dad ran off with the babysitter and her mother killed herself,” Ryan piped in.
“Shhh you,” Karis said hitting him with a pillow. “Don’t say a horrible thing like that.”
“Just what I heard,” Ryan said leaning back.
“Why do you wanna know,” Karis asked. “Do you have a crush on her?”
“No,” Joe snapped a little too hastily. “I just feel sorry for her. She seems so sad.”
“I know what you mean. I should really make more of an effort to talk to her.”
“I tried that,” Joe replied. “She just shot me down.”
“Why don’t you invite her to prom,” Ryan piped in.
“Prom,” Joe spluttered. “Why would I do a thing like that?”
“Well I heard girls liked to go to the prom. You know they like getting dressed up and all that. Might cheer up the old sparrow.”
“Yeah do it Joe. You can double date with me and Ryan?”
“Oh I don’t know,” Joe said pulling himself up from the sofa. “If she won’t even talk to me, why would she want to go to prom with me?”
“You don’t know if you don’t try bro,” Karis called after him as he left the room.
Hmmm prom, he said to himself as he descended the stairs to his room. He had never even thought about going to the prom in the first place but maybe it would be just what Celeste needed. He just hoped the boy at the trailer park was not her boyfriend!