Her mind was so filled with busy streets and hot dog vendors for the rest of the day that it drew her away from her English test on Beowulf and her Spanish verbal exam. By the time that she reached her car at the end of the day, she realized she had no idea how she got there. Her head was spinning.

Leana sighed and leaned against her car, closing her eyes as she pressed her cheek against the cold metal. Warm clouds wafted against the glass from between her lips. How she longed to see other worlds than this. How numb to this city had she become after almost eighteen years?

“Leana?”

She jumped and looked over her shoulder. Andrew Wilson, metalhead extraordinaire, stood there, backpack hanging over his arm and eyebrow quirked. She cocked a brow right back at him before formulating a response. “Hey. What’s up?”

“Not much.” He sauntered closer to her with a shrug, looking around the empty parking lot. God, how long had she been standing there? “You falling asleep on your car or something?”

She laughed nervously and shook her head, smoothing her hair out of her face. “No, just…spacing out. What are you still doing here?” He might have a reason that she didn’t know about, she guessed. They had, what, like two classes together?

He shrugged, shoving a hand into his baggy pants. “Car’s in the shop. I’m walking home.”

It was like twenty degrees outside, if that much. She wouldn’t wish a walk like that on the most bloodthirsty serial killer. Leana stared at him blankly before she unlocked the car door and opened it. With the grace of a TV game show host, she gestured toward the seat.

Andrew stared back with a smirk before he shrugged again and tossed his backpack into the floorboard. “Whatever. What kind of music you got in here?” Without invitation he grabbed the broad CD holder on the floor and begin flipping through it. Well. Leana supposed she couldn’t expect manners from everyone. By the time she was situated in the seat next to him, he was furrowing his brow and frowning very intently.

Here it comes.

“The hell is this stuff?” he asked, flipping through each of the pockets so quickly that she doubted he was even looking at the stuff. “You one of those hoity-toity people?”

Leana made a mental note to turn off the radio the instant that the car was on. “What do you mean?” she asked patiently as she pulled out of the parking spot.

“Operas, symphonies, sonatas…seriously, what the hell, Keane?”

“Maybe some of us like that stuff. Where do I go?”

“Turn left at the stop sign and go straight.” He sounded so utterly confused that Leana frowned, feeling herself tense up. What was wrong with what she liked? She cleared her throat, glancing toward him when she came to a stop before they went on. “What’d you think you’d find?”

Andrew snorted and shrugged, kicking back a little further in the seat. “Hell if I know. But not this.” He tugged out one of the CDs and held it up to the light, trying to read some of the faded type. Another little glance told her that he’d found one of her favorite CDs in the entire folder, one CD in a series of all of Beethoven’s symphonies. She found herself hoping he’d washed his hands recently so he didn’t make the smudging and the faded print any worse. “Maybe some pop, maybe some jazz…damn, maybe even some rock, but not this.”

“I’m sorry to disappoint you,” she replied in a clipped tone, determined to keep her eyes straight ahead at all times. She should be used to this sort of stuff by now, right? High school was high school. Judging happened everywhere. Which doesn’t explain why I’ve got this kid with long hair and baggy clothes in my car. …I’ll figure that out later.

He slid the CD back into the folder, another glance telling her that he was treating it incredibly carefully. Thank God. “You like what you like. Just not used to being surprised, that’s all. Take a left at the stoplight.”

She did so in chilly silence.

Remarkably, Andrew seemed to handle it well. He drummed his fingers against his faded jeans, occasionally giving a solid thud of his boots against the floorboard. There was something going on in his head, that was for sure, but Leana decided she didn’t care what it was. “Guess I’m not that surprised,” he finally said, reaching up to shove his hand through his hair and away from his face. “You’re in the choir, right?”

“Yep.”

“That’s all you guys sing in there, right?”

“Yes. It’s beautiful.”

Andrew shrugged again. “Makes sense, then. I mean, my old man’s played guitar since before I was even born. Means I’m gonna like rock or something, right?”

For a moment Leana forgot that she was mad at him and furrowed her brow, gnawing on her bottom lip a bit. “Depends on what he plays. You could like jazz or something too.”

“Guess so. Take a right at the stop sign. Last house on the left.”

She continued driving, turning over the thoughts in her head. It’d explain a lot, that was for sure. Even in middle school, that’s what she listened to. It just made sense. If that was what she was singing in her choir, what better way to get practice than by singing along?

“That what you wanna do after school?” Andrew asked, closing the CD folder and leaning forward to place it gently on the floor, far away from his feet. Good idea.

“What, like being a classical performer or something?”

He shrugged as they came to a stop in his house’s driveway, turning his head to look at her with an entirely neutral expression on his face. Funny how he could say half of what he’d already said in the car and still look like he wasn’t going to judge her by whatever she said back. “Yeah, why not? Go to college for it or whatever?”

“…huh.” Now that she entertained the idea, she realized she’d never really thought about life like that. Coming from a high school devoted to the arts, she knew that a number of her peers were going to college to pursue their art area of choice as a career, but that never seemed realistic to her. If you were going to major in something, shouldn’t it be in something useful? Why even go to college for it? “…I don’t know.”

“…you’re going to college, right?” He grinned at her, tilting his head to the side as he turned in his seat to face her. “You’re a quiet girl. That’s what you do.”

Leana narrowed her eyes and frowned at him for a moment, only receiving a chuckle in response, before she turned her car off and thudded her head back against the headrest. “Yeah, I guess I’m going to college. I’m just…undecided about what I wanna do.”

“You guess? Try to sound a little more unenthusiastic there, why don’t you?” he asked dryly.

How did you sound enthusiastic about something that you really didn’t give a crap about? At the same time, how did you decide it was okay to tell the truth when everyone else wanted to hear a lie from you? “Yeah, I’m going.”

Andrew shrugged as he reached over and opened his door. “If you love it so much, why don’t you do it?”

“It’s not that si…look, I’ve got stuff I’ve gotta do and all.”

“I get it.” He tossed his backpack onto his shoulder and gave her a little chin pop in farewell. “Thanks for the ride, Keane. See you later.”

Leana had never remembered such a long drive home.

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