Got some absolutely crazy words and setting suggestions today. Hope to make stories from all of them, but here's the first!
Gosh, this place was depressing.
Claire balled up the leftover plastic wrap and tossed it in the trashcan. Most of the snacks the Beta Club brought had been torn from their trays and now littered a dozen paper plates left on chairs. Mostly uneaten. She sighed and blew a stray bang out of her face. The turnout had been ok - 13 students, mostly juniors looking for a college app booster. By all accounts it was a success. Retirement homes were just depressing.
Claire picked up the leftover plates and scanned the rec room. A raggedy Christmas tree stood in the corner next to a piano that looked like it had been dragged out of a church basement. A single ‘Happy Holidays’ banner stretched out across the room. Not exactly ornate.
A cup of eggnog lay tipped on end, its sticky contents spilling out on the floor. Claire bent down as someone dropped to the ground in front of her. Dean Grayson. Who knew why he was here, and if he was really in Beta Club at all. He mopped up the liquid with brown paper towels - scavanged from the bathroom no doubt. He tossed them in the trash then wiped his hand down his jeans. A half dozen stains already marred them. Claire scrunched up her nose. His faded black t shirt didn’t look any better.
“It smells,” he said.
Claire blinked. “The eggnog?”
She bent around him and threw the leftover snacks in the trash. “It smells like old people and cleaner.”
“It smells like wheelchair grease and denture cream.”
Claire scoffed and scanned the room once more. She picked up a stray printed sheet of Christmas carols someone had dropped and put it in her box.
Dean picked it up before she could and moved to the door. “I heard a volunteer say they’re starting Bingo in five minutes. We should get out of here.” That would seem prudent. He used his back to push open the door then nodded to the sparsely filled parking lot. “Which one is yours?”
“None.” Claire took the box from him before he could react. “I live just up the street. I walked here.” She tipped her head then turned.
“Wait” Dean grabbed her elbow and turned her around. “I’m parked right here. I can drive you home.”
Yeah, like she was gonna ride home with the perpetual class loser in his janky 1989 geo metro. Was he flirting? She’d been in Dean’s class since first grade but never really talked to him. He kept to himself. Had a bad home life, people said. Dad in prison. Mom worked three jobs and went through as many boyfriends every week.
Dean plucked the box from her hands, snatching her from her mental list of his poor qualities.
“I’m sure you’re anxious to get home for Christmas break.” He ambled toward his car and opened the door, sliding her box into the back seat. “You doing something festive tonight?”
Festive? She edged toward his passenger side door. “I’m sure I’ll drink powdered Swiss Miss and watch cheesy Christmas movies with my 11 year old sister. Sounds boring, right?
Claire stopped and stared. A wistful smile smile lay across Dean’s face. She was an idiot. She’d barely spoken ten words to him their entire school careers, and here he was probably just a lonely kid looking for a friend. For a night to sit with someone drinking cheap hot chocolate and watching stupid movies. Claire took a step forward. “You want to come over? My mom always makes a lot for dinner. And we have the Sam’s Club barrel of Swiss Miss.”
He stared at her, his open mouth and creased forehead making him look perplexed or shy, she couldn’t tell which. A long moment stretched by as he glanced away then back to her face again. Geez, this wasn’t the Geneva Convention.Claire tucked her hair behind her ears. “Well?”