I tried to maintain what dignity I could as I got into his car. I wasn’t very successful – I looked like a half-drowned cat and my boots squeaked.
“This is completely unnecessary,” I said stiffly.
He didn’t answer. He fiddled with the controls, turning the heater up and the music down. As he pulled out of the parking lot, I was preparing to give him the silent treatment – my face in full pout mode – but then I recognized the music playing, and my curiosity got the better of my intentions.
“Clair de Lune?” I asked, surprised.
“You know Debussy?” He sounded surprised, too.
“Not well,” I admitted. “My mother plays a lot of classical music around the house – I only know my favorites.”
“It’s one of my favorites, too.” He stared out through the rain, lost in thought. I listened to the music, relaxing against the light gray leather seat.
It was impossible not to respond to the familiar, soothing melody. The rain blurred everything outside the window into gray and green smudges. I began to realize we were driving very fast; the car moved so steadily, so evenly, though, I didn’t feel the speed. Only the town flashing by gave it away.
“What is your mother like?” he asked me suddenly.
I glanced over to see him studying me with curious eyes.
“She looks a lot like me, but she’s prettier,” I said. He raised his eyebrows. “I have too much Charlie in me. She’s more outgoing than I am, and braver. She’s irresponsible and slightly eccentric, and she’s a very unpredictable cook. She’s my best friend.” I stopped. Talking about her was making me depressed.
“How old are you, Bella?” His voice sounded frustrated for some reason I couldn’t imagine. He’d stopped the car, and I realized we were at Charlie’s house already. The rain was so heavy that I could barely see the house at all. It was like the car was submerged under a river.
“I’m seventeen,” I responded, a little confused.
“You don’t seem seventeen.”
His tone was reproachful; it made me laugh.
“What?” he asked, curious again.
“My mom always says I was born thirty-five years old and that I get more middle-aged every year.” I laughed, and then sighed. “Well, someone has to be the adult.” I paused for a second. “You don’t seem much like a junior in high school yourself,” I noted.
He made a face and changed the subject.
“So why did your mother marry Phil?”
I was surprised he would remember the name; I’d mentioned it just once, almost two months ago. It took me a moment to answer.
“My mother… she’s very young for her age. I think Phil makes her feel even younger. At any rate, she’s crazy about him.” I shook my head. The attraction was a mystery to me.
“Do you approve?” he asked.
“Does it matter?” I countered. “I want her to be happy… and he is who she wants.”
“That’s very generous… I wonder,” he mused.
“Would she extend the same courtesy to you, do you think? No matter who your choice was?” He was suddenly intent, his eyes searching mine.
“I-I think so,” I stuttered. “But she’s the parent, after all. It’s a little bit different.”
“No one too scary then,” he teased.
I grinned in response. “What do you mean by scary? Multiple facial piercings and extensive tattoos?”
“That’s one definition, I suppose.”
“What’s your definition?”
But he ignored my question and asked me another.