A Different Blue Page 56

“Of course,” I said sourly.

“What?” Wilson stopped, startled.

“You can sing. You have a beautiful voice. I can't even pretend that you suck. Why can't you suck at something? It's so unfair.”

“You clearly haven't seen me try to carve something intricate and beautiful out of a tree stump,” Wilson said dryly, and started playing again. I resumed listening, but the music made my fingers itch to carve.

“If you would practice in the basement every night, I could listen to you while I carve. Then, I would make sculptures that looked like your music sounds. We could make millions together. You would be my muse, Wilson. Can men be muses?”

Wilson smiled, but his eyes again wore that unfocused look, as if his power to see was absorbed by his need to hear. I closed my eyes too, letting myself drift away in a sea of sound. I awoke hours later to silence. My apple green throw was tucked around me, and Wilson and his magic cello were gone.

Since moving to Pemberley, I'd gotten into the habit of walking to work. It saved me money on gas and provided a little exercise, though as I neared the end of my eighth month, the heat, even in mid October, was almost enough to make me drive. But I never drove on Mondays. That was the night Wilson walked down and ate at the cafe. When my shift ended, I always joined him, and we would walk home together.

Once, just in passing, I'd told him how I used to bring Manny and Gracie dinner on Monday nights so Mondays were always a little melancholy for me. After that, Wilson started showing up at the cafe on Monday nights. I tried not to read anything into his actions. He was nice to me, kind and considerate, and I told myself that was just who he was. I never questioned the time he spent with me, never commented on it, never drew attention to it. I worried that if I did he might stop.

My shift usually ended at seven, and Wilson walked in that Monday at seven on the dot. He still wore slacks and a light blue dress shirt, rolled at the elbows. It was his standard school attire. Bev winked at him and gave me the go ahead to clock out. I joined him for a sandwich and a glass of lemonade, sighing as I wiggled my toes and rolled my stiff shoulders.

Bev made sure she served Wilson his standard tomato-and-grilled-cheese-with-french-fries personally, though Bev always called them chips, as if to make Wilson feel right at home. He thanked her and said everything looked absolutely “scrummy.” She giggled just like Chrissy used to do in history class. It was all I could do not to laugh right out loud.

“I think Bev has a crush on you, Wilson. I know you're probably used to that by now. Don't you have a fan club at school? The 'I Heart Wilson' club, or something?”

“Ha, ha, Blue. I have never been all that popular with the girls.”

“Wilson. Don't be an idiot. You were all Manny could talk about the whole first month of school.”

“Manny is not a girl,” Wilson remarked mildly.

I snickered. “True. But I think I was the only one who wasn't following you around with my tongue hanging out. It was disgusting. Now even Bev has joined the club. I saw a bumper sticker on her car that said British Butts Drive Me Nuts.”

Wilson choked on a mouthful of food, laughing, and grabbed at his lemonade to wash it down. I loved making him laugh, even if it was hazardous to his health.

Wilson recovered and shook his head, denying my claim that he was popular with the ladies. “I was always the orchestra nerd – whatever you Americans call them..band geeks? I got along better with my teachers than my classmates. I was the skinny kid with glasses and big feet who knew all the answers in class and who volunteered to clean the whiteboards after class.”

“Kids actually do that?” I interrupted incredulously.

Wilson just rolled his eyes at me and continued. “I was not a chick magnet at all, especially with girls like you . . . so the fact that you weren't all that impressed with me last year, well, that much hasn't changed. And that was always fine with me. Girls were never high on my list of priorities. Don't misunderstand, I noticed girls like you, but I didn't especially like girls like you. And girls like you never noticed guys like me.”

“What? Mean skanks, you mean?” I said this mildly, pretending I was kidding. I wasn't. His words stung, but “girls like me” knew how to roll with the punches.

“No, Blue.” He shook his head in exasperation. “That's not what I meant. Beautiful girls, hard girls, girls who grew up way too fast and who would chew up chaps like me up and spit them back out.”

“Yeah. Like I said. Mean skanks.” I pushed my plate away and slurped my drink loudly, indicating it was all gone. I stood up, communicating the end of our conversation and the end to our “cozy meal.” Wilson just stared up at me, and I could tell I'd made him angry. Too bad. I smiled at him slowly, sarcastically, showing lots of teeth. What had been a lighthearted conversation had suddenly take on a different tone. He ran his hands through his hair and pushed his plate away as well. He tossed a couple bills on the table and stood. He walked toward the register, away from me, dismissing me. He paid for both of our meals and left the cafe. I waved at Beverly, who blew me a little kiss.

“See ya in the morning, Blue. Tell Wilson I said cheerio.”

Wilson was waiting for me outside, his hands shoved in his pockets and his face raised toward the sunset. One of my favorite things about the desert were the sunsets. The sky above the low-lying western hills cast pink and purple ripples up into the descending night sky. Maybe it was because there was nothing to obscure the view – Las Vegas sat down in the valley, and Boulder City sat higher, to the southeast, around the bend of the eastern hills – but the sunsets never failed to move me and remind me of times with Jimmy when I wasn't so hard, when I hadn't had to grow up so fast. Wilson didn't speak as I approached, and we began to walk in silence. My increasing size forced me to waddle, but Wilson adjusted his stride as we made our way toward home.

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