Raindrops smacked into the plastic shields of the bus stop with all the grace and fervor of a soon-to-be sacked WWE wrestler. Riley winced as though each sodden slap were a personal blow. What a day to have her hair styled. She never had her hair styled, and she'd actually gone and chosen today to go out and do it. Hadn't even thought to bring a hat. Her only hope was that the copy of Newsweek she held over her head would last long enough for her friend An to arrive.
It was five o'clock. She tapped her watch and glared at the seconds hand. Was it moving slower? Tick. Tick. "...Oh, crap." Death and taxes came to everything eventually, just like An always said. Philosophical pretenses aside, her watch had stopped. "Where is he?" The wind was picking up, reaching up her pants to cover her thighs with goosebumps. Vindictive weather.
She blew on her fingers to stop them getting any bluer. Her phone battery had probably died as well. It was a newer than now FOMA model that was supposed to hold a four-day charge, even with heavy usage. Unfortunately, Riley only remembered to charge it every five or six days.
In any case, she'd have to fish it out of her backpack even to check, and it was far too cold to do that. The sun was still up, but it was making a useless nuisance of itself, offering no significant warmth while shining through the clouds almost directly into Riley's eyes. She turned her back to it and blew on her fingers again. The tips were completely numb, and would probably start burning soon.
The zipper on her backpack opened with a scraping vvvp. There wasn't much in it, but it was only Sunday. She'd have to get her school things back in it when she got home. "If I get home. What's taking him so long?" Her phone was wedged between a rather interesting textbook and a frighteningly bad novel. She started to tug it out, but was stopped short. The copy of Newsweek slid off her head.
Unlike some of her friends, most notably Sarah, Riley did not collect phone straps. She had two. Currently, they were both stuck under the frighteningly bad novel. "That's what I get for borrowing books from An," she said with a wry half-smile. "Karma." After a few moments of tugging, she sighed and took the book out of the bag entirely, thus freeing her cell phone.
There was an unread text message. She flipped her phone open to read it, silently forming a scathing remonstrance in case it was An.
It wasn't. Money's in. Come to AFM Studio 12. -B
Riley blinked a few times, then shivered. The plastic walls of the bus stop were not much help now that the wind was getting stronger and curving upwards. She read the message again, then laughed weakly. "Susan never could make a joke," she said, not at all convincingly. She checked the number.
Susan Deguard had had the same cell phone number for three and a half years. The text hadn't originated from it. But Jaiman and Sarah had both changed their numbers recently. He had a poor sense of humor as well. Riley worried her lip for a moment, then turned farther in from the wind and rain. "All right, I'll play. An can't take much longer anyway." She tapped in what she hoped was an equally cryptic message, then sent it. "Big trouble - reroute SS luggage office."
Whoever was playing would not find her wanting for fun. Although she hoped it would take them a while to figure out that "SS" meant "Saipan Station". Only she and An called it that, as they lived closest to it.
A car thrummed by, not fast enough to splash too much. Riley yanked her backpack up out of the way, leaving only her shoes to get splattered. She stamped off the excess water, then picked up her phone, willing it to emit the alert sound for a text message.
"Message!" it warbled happily. The battery was low, enough to affect the pitch and cohesion. There were perhaps twenty minutes of life left in the battery, as long as she only used it for sending texts.
With a message that short, it was difficult to think of a reply. Riley huddled against a weathered Geico ad and tapped the phone on her chin. It depended on who was messing with her. Jaiman was long-winded and liked to listen to the sound of his own voice. Granted, he was smarter than most of their teachers, but the fact that he was fully aware of it inflated his pomposity levels to indecent measurements. He'd never be content with a one-word message about anything.
Logically, that left Sarah. She got wrapped up in the actual telling of jokes and forgot the beginnings and the punch-lines halfway through. Riley tapped in a quick Trouble. "Confuse the Sarah" had been a popular game since nursery school...hence the stupid name.
"Message!" The phone's verbal alerts were supposed to sound like a cute cartoon dog. Even when the battery was fully charged, they usually just sounded like a nasally-challenged stick of cartoon butter. With the battery this close to virtual death, Riley was being serenaded by Monsieur.
Another car drove by, going much faster. This time, she used her backpack as a shield against the small wave of water. It barely worked, but it did work. She muttered incoherently under her breath and patted her hair down, ensuring that it was still unharmed. "Never styling it again..."
She opened the new message and read it aloud. "Just run." That was a lame cop out, in her opinion. An wasn't there yet, and even though the rain was beginning to let up, it was still freezing cold. "No - reroute to SS."
The response was disturbingly immediate. "Message!" Why?
"Haha. For you."
What don't I know?
"Far too much."
Coming to you.
"No" The sound of a horn honking nearly made her drop the phone onto the pavement. An's small blue car had pulled up in front of her. "An!" She shoved her phone and the bad novel into her backpack and zipped it shut, then ran to the car.
It was always easy to tell when An had had a very long day. His hair would give out and try to escape, and everything from his clothes to his face managed to look mussed. A lollipop stick hung from his mouth like a fictional cigarette. Riley battled the seatbelt for a while, then finally clicked it in place. "You look great," she said, her fingers itching to continue the text message game.
"Thanks. You look completely awful."
He grinned, gripping the lollipop with his teeth. "I thought we were entering a backwards universe."
"Really, though, you look nice. Special occasion?"
She hesitated. "Not really. Why are you late?"
"Don't even ask, Chipmunk." He took a rather sharp turn.
Riley started to slump in the passenger seat, then remembered how much she'd spent on her hair and sat up straight. "Message!" Through the backpack and whatever had fallen on it, the phone now sounded like a congested telethon spokesperson.
"I see you found a way to keep busy."
She shrugged and retrieved the phone. Perhaps five minutes of life left, and with her luck, An had forgotten to put his car charger in the car. She opened the message.
Right behind you. -B