The Window Never Rang

It was 10:06. Mister Conrad was never up this late. The blue flicker of the TV flame was extinguished, but the glow of Mr. Conrad’s prized lamp was still filling the living room window. It was one of the only things he kept when Jane’s mom died. He always fell asleep next to it. But he never forgot to turn it off.

The light in Jane’s room was still on. She was probably reading one of those spy novels she loved, waiting to hear a handful of pebbles sprinkle her window pane. Steve had ringing her window down to a science.

Mr. Conrad was never up past ten. If it got any later, he would need to circle the block again. The neighbor lady had twice peeked out her blinds, and those were just the times Steve caught her. It wasn’t like anyone else in the neighborhood had a 1993 Camaro Z/28 in Quasar Blue. If she caught him, she’d tell Mr. Conrad, for sure. He’d cut him off, and there would be nothing he could do. Everyone knew Mr. Conrad was crazy.

If he ever did find out, they’d have no choice but to elope. Jane was always talking about wanting to get married and starting a family. Just last week before 4th period she said what a great husband Steve would be. Steve? Nah. He wasn’t really the husband type. But for a girl like Jane, anything was worth considering. They didn’t make them like her anymore—whoever it is that made them. Jane was fire and brimstone in pearls, red hair and blue eyes. She was walking perfection. She was the reason Steve went to 4th period. There was no way a girl like Jane was going to be with some deadbeat drop out. No way.

“Come on. Turn the lamp off. Please turn the lamp off. Turn the lamp off.”

Steve looked in the back seat. The roses had tilted. Tonight was the night he was going to ask her to prom. It was assumed, of course. But a girl like Jane needed to be asked. Nine white roses, for nine months together. And white, because she was as pure as the Minnesota snow. He reached back to adjust them. She was going to love them. Maybe she would show him how much she loved them tonight, and he wouldn’t have to wait until prom. Not likely. Jane wasn’t that type of girl.

Steve sat back upright in the driver’s seat when he was startled by a knocking at the passenger window. He tried to see through the glass, but couldn’t. Maybe it was Jane. But, maybe it was Mr. Conrad. He rolled down the window.

It was the Neighbor Lady.

“Can I help you,” asked Steve?

“Excuse me,” the Neighbor Lady said. “Don’t you mean can I help you?”

“Um, no ma’am.”

The Neighbor Lady sized him up, and then looked at him directly in the eyes.

“Don’t I know you,” she asked?

“Mmm, don’t think so.”

“I do. I know you.”

“Mmm, I don’t—“

“Yeah, you’re Bonnie and John’s kid. What’s your name? Sean?”

“Steve.”

“That’s right. Steve.”

She looked around inside his car.

“What are the flowers for?”

“Nothing.”

“Nothing,” she asked? “What are you doing out here?”

“Nothing,” he said.

“Isn’t it past your curfew?”

“No, ma’am. I don’t have a curfew.”

She glared at him with the eyes of a woman who never thought herself wrong. Just ask her. Steve looked back—confident but not cocky. He wasn’t going to let some nosey old lady in a nightgown get in the way of his plans.

“Look, Lady. I don’t know what your problem is—“

“My problem is you,” she snapped.”

“I’m not doing anything wrong,” Steve said defensively.

“Sure you are. You’re out here creeping on the Conrad girl at 10:30 at night.”

“Jane’s my girlfriend!”

“Oh really? Does Mister Conrad know that?”

“That’s none of your busin—“

“No, but I bet he’d like it if it were his.”

“What is your problem!?”

“My problem is disrespectful little punks like you! And if you don’t leave, I’m going to call the police!”

“Go. Call the cops. What are they going to do?”

“Oh, you’ll see!”

And with that the Neighbor Lady turned around and marched back toward her house. Crazy Lady. He watched her walk away, and as soon as she was in the house he turned his head and looked across the street at Jane’s house.

The living room window was dark. So was Jane’s. Shit. Stupid Lady. He turned the keys in the ignition, and put the car in drive.

 

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