It was strange that old people were dying with no warning, but she still didn’t see what the ‘mystery’ was. Nora headed out the back door, the one leading to the chapel. There was a back alleyway behind the loading dock which was a faster route to her bus stop then going through the main reception doors and all the way around Oleander Gardens.
As she exited the back door, she found Jim and Randy, which at first seemed normal, but then a bit strange when she realised she was leaving later than usual and they were still there.
Jim stood by his motorcycle, helmet in hand, and Randy stood next to him. Jim waved at Nora and handed Randy a spare helmet. Nora approached them.
“Hey, little lady,” Jim called out. “I’d offer you a ride, too, but this ain’t Vietnam.”
“That’s all right,” Nora said. She was used to old people not making any sense, so even though Jim was not a resident, she just let it slip past. She thought about what the scene when she arrived home was going to look like. Maybe Cute Guy was going to be sitting outside on his stoop, or flicking his skateboard back and forth on the sidewalk. That would make things so much easier. Otherwise… the whole stalking scenario came pouring back into her imagination. “I’m not in any hurry anyways.”
Randy chortled. “What, are the Vietnamese more generous with driving each other home?”
Jim looked at him as if he were a retard. “The Vietnamese don’t get arrested for having three people on a motorbike, one without a helmet.”
Nora actually laughed at this.
“We did notice you’re not in a hurry, though,” Jim said, checking the time on his phone. “Aren’t you usually long gone by now?”
“Oh, I was just chatting with some of your fellow old people.”
Randy laughed. “Oh, snap!”
Nora shook her head at him. Her former classmates using out-dated short-lived fad slang was bad enough, but he was at least thirty!
“Hilarious, you two,” Jim said. “So you’re starting to realize that seniors are people too. I knew this place would rub off on you!”
“Aren’t you looking forward to a nice home-cooked meal, though? Or have you been filling up on Loretta’s cooking?”
Nora laughed at Randy now. “Yeah, good luck finding anything cooked in my house.”
“All right, well, see you tomorrow, sweetheart.” Jim put on his helmet and Randy followed suit.
Jim got on the bike and started it up. Randy swung his leg over and got on the back. They both gave her a quick wave as Jim peeled out, spraying up gravel and dust.
Nora walked to the bus stop as slowly as she could, mulling over different scenarios. When she finally got home, of course the suburban cookie-cutter street was deserted. Cute Guy was definitely not in front of his house waiting for her. Well, fair enough. He might have been out there for a while, but she was definitely getting home later than usual.
She went in and dropped off her stuff and then looked in the mirror. Still the same plain, unremarkable face, a few pimples on the mid-cheek areas and one large one on the forehead, same slightly too small brown eyes and slightly too shaggy eyebrows. She peered closely at her nose. It appeared to have a hair growing out of one nostril. Her mustache might have even been more noticeable than usual. The little old ladies at Oleander Gardens paid more attention to their appearance than she did! How could she possibly cross the street and talk to Cute Guy looking like this?
Nora ate a peanut butter sandwich, gazing across at his house. It was quiet and still. No sign of a skateboard, hoodie, or vans anywhere.
She went back to her room and flopped on her bed. She would have to do something about her appearance. When it came to her looks, she had always just relied on the stereotype that guys like the ethnic look, which she definitely had with her dark eyes, olive skin, and shiny black hair. But those bushy black eyebrows had to be controlled or they would take over her entire face! If she took on the appearance of a werewolf, Cute Guy would never come near her again, not even to get into an easy volunteer job for school’s stupid graduation requirement.
Nora searched “how to have nice eyebrows” on YouTube and came up with a record number of results. Were the female of her species really that vain? It appeared there were more videos on eyebrow care than there had been on the Trump campaign.
Part way through the fifth video, the doorbell rang. Nora’s heart froze and then squeezed its way into her esophagus, blocking her breathing. Who would be ringing the doorbell if not Cute Guy? She didn’t have any friends, and her mother’s friends knew they could never find her at home. Now she would have to talk to him with those crazy bushy eyebrows all over her forehead. Nora inhaled deeply and let it out slowly. She took one more look in the mirror. At least some mascara or eyeliner… she dug around in her desk drawer until she found a long-forgotten green and pink tube that she was fairly certain was mascara. With shaking hands she applied the black gunk to her eyelashes until she had poked herself in both eyes and was confident that she looked slightly less like a werewolf. The doorbell rang again.
She shoved everything back in her desk drawer and stepped back from the mirror. Maybe if she didn’t wear old tattered sweat pants and an enormous t-shirt she would look more like a girl… but this was crazy. She didn’t even own anything girly, and this was the first time in her life she had even cared about her appearance. He was just a cute guy, for God’s sake. What did she think was going to happen? He was going to fall in love with her for helping him get his foot in the door listening to boring stories for free at the local retirement home and they would get married and have 1.7 kids, a house in suburbia, and an environmentally friendly SUV? Never in a million years, thank you very much. Nora yanked her t-shirt down so the incredibly thought-provoking statement on it, “Malibu Beach, 1978,” was fully visible and went down to open the door.