What is Love?
Alex Fleming loved his English class. Or more like it, he loved his English teacher. Not in the way he loved his family or friends, but in the way he thought she was the best teacher he ever had. Mrs. Prachett was in her mid to late 40's, and her claim to fame was the fact that she was of gypsy decent. Not that you couldn't tell that just by looking at her.
Her long brown hair, which was just beginning to gray, flowed to her waist. She usually let it flow free and had it pushed away from her face with colorful paisley print scarfs. Mrs. Prachett wore long flowey skirts and peasant tops. Her arms always seemed to be covered in bangle bracelets that clinked together when she walked, and on her fingers he wore a different ring for each day of the week.
One of the things Alex like best about Mrs. Prachett were her palm readings she gave her students at the end of each unit. Each unit five students got to have their palm read, and finally, after seven months of school, It was finally Alex's turn.
"Ah, Mr. Fleming." Mrs. Prachett purred as she took his hand in hers. "Let's see what we have here. Well, this is no surprise. You'll have a career in teaching. I'm guessing either history or English. You will marry. Your wife will be mysterious, and that's what will draw you toward her. She will be a brunette with dark colored eyes and tattoos on the nape of her neck or on her wrist. Her sarcasm and wit will be a well-evened match for yours." Mrs. Prachett paused for a moment and sent Alex a smile. "She will be an artist; be it with words, paint, or song I do not know. You'll live in a large city with an artistic quality, such as Seattle or NYC. You'll have one child, that I can see quite clearly, whether you have more than that, well I think that is up to you." The bell rang and Alex left the class feeling wonderful. He felt wonderful because all the things that Mrs. Prachett described fit his current girlfriend, and love of his life, Lori Newman. Well, except for the tattoo thing. And the artist thing – but that could change . . . couldn't it? He remained deep in thought until he reached his locker where, Lori always waited for him before she went to her next hour.
God she was beautiful. Lori was tall and willowy. She had brown hair that stopped at her shoulders and her eyes where an odd hazel color. But today, Alex noticed, her eyes didn't shine and smile at him the way they usually did. In fact they looked worried and restless.
Alex approached her.
"Hey." He greeted leaning in to kiss her, but she turned her head so he ended up kissing her cheek. Alex frowned, something was wrong. "Lori . . . what's wrong?" Lori looked up at him with her eyes glassed over, as if she were about to burst into tears.
"I can't do it any more Alex." She whispered hoarsely.
"This. Us." She drew in a shaky breath. "I think we should break up."
"What?! Why?! Is it because of your parents?" Alex knew that Lori's parents didn't approve of her dating, even though she was 16.
"No." She paused. "Well, it's not just them. It's the fact I feel that being with you is making me someone I don't want to be." Alex was astonished.
"What the hell?!" He yelled "It took you the eight months of us being together for you to discover this?! You were fine last night when we were making out in my car!" Lori looked around nervously.
"Shhh. Would you please keep it down?"
"Why are you afraid your "good Christian girl" persona will be shattered?" Lori was taken aback, the tears threatening to spill over now. Alex realized his mistake. "Lori, I'm sorry." He attempted to move forward to hug her, but she side stepped out of his way. Lori shook her head.
"It's too late Alex. Good bye." She left quickly hugging her books to her chest. Alex watched her until she disappeared behind a corner. He then switched his gaze to his untouched books that lie in his locker. Suddenly going to Algebra didn't sound like his cup of tea.
"Screw this shit." After grabbing his coat and his keys from his locker he slammed the door shut and headed for the parking lot.
Once he hit the outside air, he began to dig in his coat pocket. When he started dating Lori she made him quit somking, but unbeknown to her he had always kept a few Camels and his lucky lighter in his coat pocket. Alex soon found what he was looking for, lit it, brought it to his lips, and inhaled the sweet addicting nicotine.
"You know that's not just bad for you, right?" A voice asked from somewhere behind him. Alex turned and squinted. There was a girl sitting on the wide cement railing that sat next to the stairs. She had black hair with bright magenta colored streaks mixed in. Her outfit consisted of a black hoodie, a black skirt, and magenta and black stripped tights. A sketch book sat opened in her lap, and a beat up messenger bag covered with patches sat on the step closest to her. Alex must have walked right by her and not even noticed. The girl continued to talk.
"It's bad for me, the trees, the ozone, and those fuzzy little creatures that live in the forest that everyone seems to be crazy about. So I think we all would be eternally grateful if you put the cancer stick out." Alex knew her. Well, not really, but he had met her. They had mutual friends. He had a class with her last term, what was it? World lit? Yeah, that sounded right. Only the last time he saw her, her hair was purple or blue or some other funky color like that. Her name was . . . was . . . Brenda. That's right, Brenda Cole. She had never said that much in class. She had seemed very quiet, very reserved. Obviously something had changed.
"Last time I checked," Alex stated taking another drag. "This was a free country. I have every right to smoke."
"Then I have every right to put that out on your tongue." Brenda quipped. Alex sent her a bittersweet smile.
"Charming." Another drag. "What are you drawing?" He asked gesturing to her sketchbook.
"Well, I was drawing two crows fighting over a piece of food, but then you came flying out her like a bat out of hell, and off they flew." Alex gave a soft chuckle.
"Two crows eh?"
"It was very poignant." Alex nodded.
"Poignant. Very much so, I'm sure. Can I see it?" Brenda bit her lip as she thought about it. After a moment, she spoke.
"Tell you what, you put out that cigarette and I'll let you see my sketches." Alex agreed, temporally forgetting his problems.
"Deal." He flicked his cigarette on the ground and took a seat next to Brenda on the step. She then handed him her sketch book, which Alex took and opened. The first page was just some quick sketches of people's hands. Alex could tell they were hastily done, and not her best work, but even so they were way better than anything he, himself could do. As he continued deeper into the book, he found many familiar faces, their entire World Lit class in fact, including one of himself sleeping. Alex gestured to his picture with his eyebrows raised. Brenda shrugged.
"What can I say? You made an excellent model, you barely even moved." Alex sent her a grin.
"Maybe I could model for you again sometime – only this time I could be awake for it." Brenda shrugged again.
"Whatever works for you." When Alex finished looking at her sketches, he closed the book and handed it back to her.
"I don't think I've seen anything like that before."
"Is that a good thing or a bad thing?"
"Oh! – A good thing, a very good thing. You have talent." Brenda laughed.
"Thanks. So what's your talent?" She asked casually. Alex stuck his hands in his pockets.
"I don't have one." Brenda snorted.
"Oh come on! You don't expect me to believe that do you? Everybody has a talent!" Alex paused.
"I guess I know an abnormal amount of useless information."
"Well there you go, that's a talent . . . I guess."
"You don't sound too convinced."
"It's not that . . . " She let her voice trail off "Maybe, you just haven't found your niche yet." Alex took a deep breath.
"Yeah, maybe." As Brenda brushed her hair away from her face, something caught Alex's eye.
"What's that on your wrist?"
"Oh this? It's a tattoo. I got it a couple months ago." Alex took her slender wrist in his hand, so he could get a closer look at it. "It's arabic."
"What does it mean?"
"Oh. Are you a Muslim?" Alex didn't know anybody who wasn't a Christian, and the idea of an alternate religion intrigued him. Brenda shook her head.
"No, I don't really have a religion. I don't even really believe Jesus was a savior. Sure, I believe he existed, and I'm sure he was a really nice guy, but I think he got pushed into something he didn't really want to do." She turned to Alex. "I'm sorry if this offends you." Alex shook his head.
"Don't worry. It doesn't. I was raised Irish Catholic, but never liked it. There's something about organized religion that bothers me. I feel that you should worship whatever god you chose, in you own way, and in your own time. And if the end comes and you didn't get through those pearly gates, well that was your choice, wasn't it?" Brenda gazed at him for a minute.
"I've never agreed more with anybody about religion. It's like our school has no middle ground; you're ether a holy-roller or an atheist. I hate it." Alex smiled.
"Me too. Quick! What's your stance on politics?" He spoke jokingly. Brenda opened her mouth to say something, but was cut off by the sound of the bell. Brenda got up and collected her bag.
"I'd love too Alex, but that's the bell signaling the end of lunch and unlike you, I'm actually going to class. But maybe some other time." Alex also stood up and began to proceed to his car, but suddenly he stopped. Mrs. Prachett's palm reading came flashing back to him. The tattoo, the art, the hair . . . Alex whipped around.
"Brenda!" he called out. Brenda paused, the school door open slightly. She turned.
"I've never seen you with your natural hair color. Just out of curiosity, what is it?"
"Brown. Dark brown, and I hate it." With that she disappeared into the school. Satisfied, Alex continued to his car. As he dug around in his pocket for his keys, he came upon another cigarette. Smiling, he snapped it in half, and threw it on the ground. He didn't need it anymore.