Off the Path Part Four:
The silence creeped into the woods. From her seat Tiffany could see a few feet into the trees, but as the shadow of the mountain quickly spread down to the valley the shadows deepened and her eyes began to strain.
"I'll just rest for a moment, they can't take much longer."
Her eyes drifted shut then shot open as she heard leaves rustling to her right.
The jukebox played an annoying country song that Tiffany had heard a million times already. She rested her elbows on the counter and dropped her head onto her fists.
" I wonder if I play it backwards if the guy will get his wife, truck, and dog back" she muttered.
All in all working at a pizza place had its perks. Free soda, as long as she didn't drink too much, a free slice a night, and tips when people were feeling generous. On the tolerable scale this was pretty high. But weighing heavily on the other side of that scale was having to listen to the music that any joker with a dollar bill wanted. And boy did they love them some country in Cottington.
The bell above the door jingled and she stopped glaring at the guy in the cowboy boots getting up with another dollar to greet the new customer.
"Hey Tif how's it going?" Amanda bounced up to the counter and dropped onto one of the red vinyl stools.
Here was the best part of working in The Pie Palace. Amanda's parents owned the place. So she got to hang out with Amanda while she worked and no one gave her crap about it.
The weeks had passed pretty quickly. The Homecoming dance was next week and it felt like only yesterday that she had watched Rita drive full speed of into the sunset. And yet it seemed that she had been here forever.
Now when she walked around town she noticed that not all the whisperers were looking at her. Apparently Sarah was a bit of an oddity in the small town. She'd even heard an old woman mutter "witch" as they passed the other day. But there may have been a b on that instead.
What a bunch of yokels. Just because a woman lived alone and liked to garden didn't mean she went around cackling and looking for kids to shove in an oven. But on the whole they didn't get hassled too much. Millie and the triple P's still gave her crap, but Amanda said it would blow over once Sean finally asked Millie to the dance.
Tiffany would rather take the little tricks they tried to pull on her than see Millie snuggled up to Sean.
Sean Amos was the school's celebrity. He had written a poem that had been published in an actual book of poetry. He had even gone on a book signing tour and everything. Tiffany had read it and his poem was awesome. He was so deep and meaningful. Every girl for at least two counties was swooning at his feet. Of course Amanda said that it didn't hurt that he was six foot two with gorgeous blue eyes and shaggy black hair. And Tiffany would have to agree, it didn't hurt at all. Except when she thought about him going to the dance with, gag, Millie Hawks.
No, she would much rather picture him riding up to Sarah's house on his shiny black motorcycle- oh it was so hot! Then he would knock on the door and smile that crooked smile as he-
"Tif have you been listening?"
"Huh? Oh yeah, sorry Amanda I drifted off for a minute, what's up?"
" Only the hottest scoop of the year! I can't believe you would rather day dream than hear the latest Sean Amos bulletin." Her friend gave her a sly grin and nonchalantly leaned against the counter. "Of course if you may just not be into him as much as I thought you were." She looked down and examined her unpainted nails.
"What, did he finally get around to asking Millie?" Tiffany tried not to sound too interested. It didn't matter. She was a drifter. What would one dance matter when she drifted on to the next place Rita dumped her.
"No in fact she practically threw herself at him in the supermarket and he told her to-"
The little bell tinkled again as the door opened and in walked the subject of their discussion, bringing Amanda's tale to a halt.
Tiffany smoothed the Pie Palace t-shirt she had to wear down and rubbed her slightly damp hands on her jeans. How could anyone possibly look so cool in just a t-shirt and jeans with a ratty leather jacket over it. She gulped back the drool that had started pooling at the back of her mouth and kept chanting in her head- be cool. Be. Cool.
" Hey girls, mind if I pull up a stool?"
"Yeah sure Sean, sit on down " Amanda answered while Tiffany silently nodded.
Smooth. Absolutely smooth. She was such a loser.
"Can I get you anything. " she finally croaked out. Where the hell was a handy rock when you needed to hide?
"Sure, I'll take a slice of pepperoni and a coke."
As she hustled to get his order Tiffany had a silent screaming match with herself. By the time she returned with his pizza and drink her morose side had won. It usually did. Winning was the only thing it liked to do.
"Here's your slice and your coke. So you shackled yourself to Millie yet?" Oh. My. God. The voice of the shy girl in her head kept pleading with her to say that she wasn't the one who just said that.
Sean started laughing so hard that he sprayed a little bit of the soda he had just sipped. That relaxed her a little bit. He wasn't the earthly embodiement of cool. He was just a boy.
" Is that what everyone is buzzing about. " he eyed Amanda who was staring at Tiffany as if she had grown another head. "No I don't intend to get my self 'shackled' to that particular piece of work. " he said on another chuckle.
"Aw come on. Oldest story in the book. Popular guy meets popular girl. They go a few rounds of hard to get then the float of into the sunset together on a little golden raft of popular bliss. Don't tell me you're going to be the one to break the chain. Society as we know it may come to a grinding halt." That got him laughing again. God he had a great laugh. If she could keep him laughing forever it would be worth it. As long as he was laughing it meant he was noticing her.
The bell tinkled again.
"Well hello Millie. I see you've got the entourage with you tonight." Sean's voice had cooled as Millie and the other girls in her group sauntered up to the counter.
"Waitress, get me and my friends a large veggie pizza. Well hello Sean, fancy seeing you here." The blond eyed Amanda and Tiffany. " I thought your taste was more sophisticated than this."
Tiffany stiffened at the obvious insult. She glared at Millie as she rang up the order.
Millie wrapped her arm through Sean's and began trying to tug him to his feet. " C'mon and sit with us, we'll be sure to entertain you."
Sean wouldn't get up. Millie tugged a little harder and her grip slipped, causing her to tumble back. Tiffany snorted a laugh that she tried to cover up. Don't confront, don't confront.
"What are you laughing at weirdo?"
"There's no need to be rude Millie. It was pretty funny watching you almost slide on your butt." Tiffany felt her heart beat race. He'd stood up for her again!
"What are you doing hanging with these dweebs anyway. Come sit with us and we can talk about when you're going to pick me up next Saturday." The blond grabbed one last time for his arm but missed as he stood and backed away from her.
"Contrary to popular belief it will not cause the downfall of civilization if I don't take you to the dance Millie." Did he just wink at her? Tiffany almost pinched herself because in no universe that she was aware of was Sean Amos turning down Millie Hawks and winking at her!
"But Sean honey, of course you're going to-"
"Let me make this as clear as possible Millie." He turned so that he faced Tiffany fully leaving his back to a shocked Millie. " Do you happen to have an escort to the dance Tiffany?" She shook her head as she stared at him. "Excellent. Would you care to go with me?" She nodded silently and started to wonder if she was halllucinating. " I'll be by to pick you up at six then. We'll grab something to eat. Something more sophisticated than pizza. " He winked at her again strode out the door never even looking at Millie.
Tiffany stood there and wondered if she had passed out and just not noticed. Amanda was talking a million words a minute and Millie was glaring daggers at her. Then all of a sudden Millie stopped glaring and started smiling. Snakes would have run screaming from that smile.
"Well didn't you turn out to be the clever one? " Amanda wound down as she warily watched the blond girl.
"I didn't do anything. He just likes me better." Yet again her mouth had run away with her. You never answer back. Never. She watched Millie's nostrils flare out with the anger the comment spiked. Then she smiled again.
"Of course you did. You're the niece of a witch. You probably got her to put a love spell on him. That's the only way he'd choose a little creep like you over me. I'm sure Sean will see the error of his ways when I tell him what you did."
Tiffany felt her own anger starting to heat.
"Sarah is not a witch. only an ignorant fool would say something like that."
"So she's not a witch? Well we have a test for evil in these parts. If you and your aunt aren't witches then you should have no problem passing it. Unless of course you have something to hide."
That's all for tonight. The next installment will have some definate creepy crawlers in it now that I've got the back story sorted out, so stay tuned!