Sunday Serial: Poppy McJay #2
Jacob Tenner tossed his jacket over the newel post in the hallway and ducked in to the lounge to check if his parents were home. The television was blissfully silent and the light shadow of sunset swallowed the room in murky darkness. This was a good thing, as Jacob intended to flop down on the couch and reword every single thing he had said to Miss Poppy McJay.
He didn’t think, really, that his conduct had been so terrible except that he had fumbled and mumbled and generally looked like a complete moron. ‘A lumberjack’ he moaned ‘why?’ He knew the reason, of course. It was because the moment that he had looked up from his boot laces and caught the utterly distracted look on her face, something in his head clicked. It wasn’t a pause in his heartbeat or a stutter of his brain cells, just a sudden kind of chime that said PAY ATTENTION. And so he did. Only, once he paid attention he realised that Poppy was a reader, and he was grimy and covered in a fine layer of dirt. The mortification stung his cheeks and he threw a punch at the ceiling.
Girls like that – girls who carried a bag full of books and one in the hand, girls who wore headbands that kept their wild hair tamed enough to see their icy eyes – those girls weren’t interested in boys like him. She’d been so polite, and so friendly even though he had probably offended her a million times. Although she had agreed to a date, or a non-date as he hastened to think, he was sure she would show him around the town and then they’d barely speak.
Ruminating on this sad development, Jacob slowly realised that he had not set a date let alone a time for the meeting. With a puff of disgust, he rolled off the couch and landed on the carpet, tugging ineffectually at his hair. His frustration abated as he remembered that the McJay family lived only twelve blocks away and he could make that at a brisk walk. Rolling on to his back and noticing the rough streak of dirt down his right forearm he leapt to his feet, dashing to the bathroom.
Suitably fancied up (a not too casual but also not too formal look was needed) Jacob straightened an errant flick of his fringe and was back out of the door. His parents would return to an empty house, but that wasn’t much of a problem in his view, maybe someone would cook dinner. All introspection aside, the walk was brisk and the breeze cool and Jacob was at the stark blue door before he even realised it. Checking his jacket once more, he knocked.
The door opened on the tail end of an argument, he could tell as the young lady in question skittered up the stairs and away. He tried not to sigh as he smiled at Mrs McJay, who was similarly distracted. He had considered his options and knew the score: no going inside at any cost, don’t get caught in conversation and by all means, stay cool.
“Hello Jacob, would you like to come in?”
“No thank you, ma’am. I was wondering if I might speak with Poppy?”
“She just -” Mrs McJay cast an uncertain look up the stairs, nodded and then turned back to him. “Sorry, no. She’s a little busy at the moment. Could I take a message?”
There was something awkward about all that, but Jacob stayed to the brief. “Uh, yes please ma’am. If you wouldn’t mind asking Poppy if she’s free for Friday night? She’s uh said she’ll show me around?”
“Oh of course! Would there be a time for that?” Jacob noted the slight glint in Mrs McJay’s eye and tried not to roll his eyes in response.
“If 6pm would be okay, that would be grand. I’ll come ’round about then. Thanks, Mrs McJay.” He waited for her nod before turning to go, letting Mrs McJay give a parting giggle as she clicked the door shut.
He wasn’t sure if that was mortifying, humiliating or just stupid, scuffing his shoes against the path as he walked home. Oh well, he decided, he’d just have to wait until Friday to find out.