Richard + Bobby,
Chapter 10: CREEK FALLS, NEW YORK (Part 1 and 2)
It is Monday, freezing, maybe the coldest December morning in the history of Creek Falls. I am waiting for the Number 13 school bus. If it doesn’t arrive in the next minute I’m certain I’ll freeze to death, rendered an ice statue at the bus stop, along with the half dozen others waiting with me. My problem, I think, is I am a girl, and if I were not a girl I would be dressed sensibility. My mother advocates practical clothing: a bulky sweater, slacks, thick socks, and heavy shoes. But my mother doesn’t appreciate the least bit what it takes to be popular these days. The world has revolved a few times since she attended Creek Falls High. It now requires wearing a reefer and an angora sweater and a cigarette skirt and nylons, and cute flats that reveal the cleavage of my toes. And it mandates sacrifice, the kind that punishes me to the marrow of my bones on the coldest day ever.
I know everybody at the bus stop, though I don’t count any as close friends. My close friends are Angie Tessaro and Rosemary Campelli, and they live on the other side of town. They ride the Number 24 bus to school. I’ve taken the Number 24 when I’ve slept over with them at Angie’s. I prefer their bus to mine, because I, well, envy them. Angie and Rosemary live in larger houses than mine. Their parents are among the most successful in Creek Falls. Angie’s father is a loan officer at the Creek Falls Bank and Trust. Rosemary’s father owns the fuel company, Campelli Oil, Inc. My father owns his own business, too, but we aren’t nearly as prosperous as the Tessaros and the Campellis. My father’s business is a news service. He sells magazines and newspapers. These arrive on the early morning bus from New York City. I think I would be happier if I were a Tessaro or a Campelli.
Everybody and everything at the bus stop is always the same. Nothing has changed in the year and a half I’ve been taking Number 13. Next year, I’ll be a junior and still nothing will have changed. Reflecting on this always depresses me.
However, arriving at the bus stop this morning, I notice, miracle of miracles, the world has revolved again, for standing bareheaded, revealing lustrous raven hair, is a new person, a new boy. He’s tall, six foot, and slim. I stare at him with awe and admiration, but I find myself a bit troubled about to his apparently deficient intelligence. For on the coldest day of December in recorded Creek Falls weather history, he stands among us with glistening palmate and artfully combed hair. And it’s permanently locked in place, as it is frozen, and probably has been since he stepped from his house. Yet, he appears not the least bothered by his situation. And when he notices me staring at him, he smiles and pats his hair.
He says, “I love the winter, you know. You never have to worry about it moving around.”
I understand completely. My head is bare in agreement and empathy, though it is perfectly dry. I point to it anyway and his smile broadens to where the arc of it is almost ridiculous and maybe a little devilish, too. He introduces himself as Richard DeSantis and I blurt my name, Alyce Migliano—and I’m embarrassed at how it flies from my mouth on a wave of excitement. But I recover and think it’s nice he’s Italian and probably Catholic. I am years ahead of myself, calculating how this will save much angst in the future, given my parents’ traditional view of things. It’s not long, perhaps a minute, before I’ve dressed him, like a cutout doll, in a black tux. A very handsome picture, I think.
Number 13 arrives, big, blue, and cranky. I’ve ridden it and busses like it a thousand days since I began school; and, yet, this morning Number 13 strikes me as … wrong is the only way I can put it; Number 13 doesn’t seem to fit in my world today. Maybe it has to do with Richard; that he beguiles me; that he might find me interesting; that he has knocked my regular, familiar, dull world off it axis.
We file onto Number 13 and Richard gestures me ahead of him. He is such a gentleman, another check in his favor. I settle in my usual seat, five back from the front on the right side, the safe side according to my mother in the event a careless lunatic rams the bus on the street side; my mother is a worrier who sees accidents and horrors lurking everywhere, especially on the roads. Richard passes by me and I turn, casually, as if I’m about to speak to the person sitting across the aisle. I watch him drop onto the seat in the very back, the bench certain boys favor. He’s a new but he commences talking to the others as if all have known each other since first grade.
After homeroom and math, I arrive at study hall. Angie and Rosemary are in my study hall. I’ve been debating whether to tell them about Richard. I’d like to relate how Richard and I connected, and if they agree that what transpired between us might be the start of a something. I value their opinions as both have more experience with boys than I have. Well, I rate Angie’s higher than Rosemary’s for she’s renounced boys and is contemplating becoming a nun after graduation. Angie goes steady with a football player, a junior. Angie talks constantly about him. She worries a member of the cheerleading squad might be coming between them. I decide it is too early to mention Richard and will wait until, I hope, something more develops.
I see Richard again in sixth period. It’s English, Mr. Berkowirc’s class. He introduces Richard, and I learn Richard has transferred from New York City; the news excites me. New York City is a two-hour drive south of Creek Falls, but, actually, it is in another dimension. Richard is, in addition to the numerous wonderful qualities I’m imbuing him with—I can barely think the word—exotic.
Mr. Berkowirc, who seats us alphabetically, assigns Richard a desk in the back of the room near the window, home to the low letters of the alphabet. I’m practically across the classroom and toward the front. If I wish to gaze on Richard DeSantis, which I do, I will have to crane my neck and aim right and back. Mr. Berkowirc, strict about English and class discipline, won’t tolerate it. And how mortified I would be if Richard discovered I was admiring him, with only hatless heads and Number 13 in common. What a sad circumstance, in the same class but just as well in different schools.
I’m not able to talk to Richard again until school ends. I linger at the door of Number 13. Usually I board immediately. But having walked the length of the bus and peered up and into the windows, I know Richard is not on board. I’m waiting for him, praying he will remember me and invite me to sit with him.
He shows up a minute or two before departure. He sees me and says hello. “Hello girl from the morning,” is how he addresses me. I remind him, “Alyce.” I climb on board and, as I do, I sense he isn’t behind me. I stop, turn back, and see him talking to the notorious Bobby McFarlane. Bobby is marginally a student, not quite a hood, not anything really, just a grimy, disheveled mess of a boy.
The driver impatiently commands me to get on board, accusing me of inconveniencing everybody and making him late.
“Richard,” I yell, “the bus is leaving.”
“I’ve got a ride,” he calls back, waving.
Uncharacteristically, I sit on the backbench seat, which I have sanctified in my mind as Richard’s Spot. I would never accept a ride home in a car, not even with a friend, a girlfriend. Of course, neither Angie nor Rosemary own cars, though I’m certain their parents could afford cars for them. And here is Richard on his first day driving off in Bobby’s car. I wonder about Richard, but then settle on the notion his action is evidence that New York City instills a brand of daring and adventure completely absent and inconceivable in Creek Falls. I cannot reconcile that my town and New York are in the same state.