Tourmaline: Nedforum (part five)
“Hands off, what’s wrong with you? Is that for your girl?”
“Pretty stone, hmm? I don’t know of a name for it.” He gave her the cutest face he could manage. He raised a smile, and silence. “Emerald.”
“Never! Or a poor one. Too dark. But if you’re old-fashioned enough to get engaged, you’d better know how much she can sell it for. She’ll ask.”
“You don’t think I pinched it?”
The guard pointedly unpocketed her phone, and scanned him. “Don’t set yourself back, love. I don’t know your game, but you’ll be sent on, you know.”
“I apologize. It’s new, all this. A bit of excitement for me.”
For no reason, leaving his stop, he lodged a foot on a bike-rack, mounted, and balanced along its length. He pretended, jumping down, to trip and stumble. They watched, the few making for their homes along the street…they stared a little and looked away. No cruel laughs. He barked a laugh of his own, to prod at their embarrassment.
And when he let himself indoors, all dissatisfaction, Anton fell to a brooding slump at his mother’s table.
“Anton, what junk have you brought in that sack? Smell that? I’m roasting a chicken. Chicken and noodles. Last time you liked it.”
“What if I ate everything?”
She rose from the pot, the spatula in her hand curling steam. “Anton, you have to be careful.” She was warning him, like the guard had. He could not scan himself, but supposed his ratings were spiked sky-high.
“Phone your service,” his mother said.
Well, a ring was worn on the finger. It was gifted as a pledge. After a week’s going unmolested, a virtual anarchist in full flaunt of his subversion, Anton began to feel light-humored. Unfettered. Above all controls.
“Why don’t you ask me if I’ll go with you? You always ask.”
He saw her cardigan was misbuttoned, and counted too much stage business in the hands-on-hips pose she struck.
No, she didn’t love him, and if insisting she had raised him to be what he was (untrue, because he was not Anton), why was she exasperated when he showed it?
“Anton, I have the Wednesday ticket…”
Her eyes went here and there, mannerism again. Having known, she snatched it from the silver tray on the doorside table. “Admit one.”
“But I’ll walk with you and buy a ticket at the gate.”
“It’s housewares and décor. You have to put your name on. Only ten shoppers for each booth. They sell out.”
“They’ll let me in, I promise.”
“Oh, your government job.”
Mrs. Leonhardt nodded. His job, he doubted, had anything to do with it.
“Get dressed,” she said. “Don’t take too long.”
“Put your specs on. I am dressed.”
(2020, Stephanie Foster)