And The Fox Declared to the Hound…

Friday night, June 21st

Friday night, June 21st

This afternoon, I eventually did fall asleep and Banks eventually did get up and leave. I probably would have missed dinner if it weren’t for Charlie coming to find me and wake me up. The other Ducks have long since finished eating. So, here I am, sitting alone at a table in the cafeteria—and Banks is heading straight for me with his tray. Damn but that boy is persistent. You’d think that if a guy goes out of his way to avoid his friends, they’d show a little courtesy and let him. But not Banks. Apparently, I’ve piqued his curiosity. Oh, lucky me.

He stops across the table from me and quietly asks, “Do you mind if I join you?”

I shrug, trying to discourage him without actually chasing him away. He doesn’t take the hint. Or maybe he does and is choosing to ignore it. What the hell is it about me that’s fascinating him so much today, anyway? It isn’t as if I’ve done anything really out of the ordinary—I just opted not to play hockey. Plenty of people do that all the time. Why the hell should he care?

It occurs to me that he hasn’t said a word to me in the ten minutes that he’s been sitting at my table, quietly eating his dinner. OK… So why does a guy come and sit with someone that they clearly have questions for and then not ask them? It occurs to me that I have a few too many questions of my own. I resolve not to be the one to talk first. I’m just gonna sit here and eat my burger and fries, drink my Coke, and then leave.

“So, why weren’t you at dinner?”

Oh shoot, was that my voice? Damn it, it was… Didn’t I just say that I wasn’t going to ask him anything? Wasn’t going to encourage him to hang around? Wasn’t going to encourage him to stick his nose any further into my business than it already is? So what the hell was with that? Just opened my mouth and blurted out conversation. Great Guy, just great. Now he’ll think you actually want him to stick around… I bury a groan of irritation in my hamburger.

When I look up to catch his expression, I nearly choke. That bastard’s smiling! It’s just a quirky little smirk, like a cat that just cornered a mouse. Somehow, that analogy does nothing to make me feel more at ease…

The smile slowly fades as he takes in my own expression. Man, it must be a prize. My emotions have been all in a jumble this week and what little facial control I had has long since been shot to hell. I must be as easy to read as a book. Whatever interesting passage he finds to read in it, he decides to answer my question, “I had some homework to finish. It took a little longer than I thought it would.”

Homework. It’s summertime, or nearly so. Does he actually expect me to buy a lie that transparent? My eyebrow slowly climbs up into my hairline, “Uh… Banks, finals ended yesterday. Why were you doing homework?”

Again that little smile. What is with this guy? His expression turns sheepish, “I thought that I’d get a jump on our summer assignments. My family is going on vacation for a month and I don’t want to get stuck doing homework when I should be enjoying myself. Since I’m not going home until Sunday, this seemed like a perfect opportunity.”

Well that’s more words than I’ve ever gotten out of him at one time… Usually the only person he really talks to is Charlie, and sometimes Coach Bombay. Not the other Ducks. Not me. So why am I suddenly so blessed? This curiosity thing is gonna kill me… “Where are you going?”

I think I’m getting used to that smile or something. I don’t feel quite as strong a desire to wipe it off his face… “We’re going to visit family. In England. My family over there holds a pretty big reunion every five years.”

Somehow that figures. Not only is Banks rich, but he’s British, too. I wolf down the rest of my food and stand up. I’m not really sure how I got drawn into this surreal conversation in the first place, but I’m getting a little tired of keeping it up, “Well, I hope you have fun, Banks. I guess I’ll see you next year.”

Before he gets a chance to say anything else, I grab my tray and take off. I don’t really want to hear anything else that he might have to say. I may be staying in the dorms this summer, but most of the Ducks are leaving tomorrow, or in two days, like Banks. If I can avoid them until then, I’ll be fine. Maybe a couple of months away from all of them will give me a bit of a perspective on all of this. A thought pops unbidden into my head—that Connie and Dwayne will doubtless be an acknowledged couple by then. That thought freezes me in my tracks. I think it’s finally hit home that there’s nothing I can do about it. I just don’t have the will to fight for her anymore. And I don’t think I could, even if I tried.

I shift my course to take me to the ice rink. Maybe a few hours of skating will make me feel better… That is if I can avoid thinking about who it was that taught me to skate…

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