Mary's alarm clock broke through the silence just before midnight. She groggily rolled out of bed and grabbed her clothes off the back of her desk chair. Pulling on her pants and shirt, she picked up a hair tie and pulled her hair into a sloppy pony tail. She yanked on her boots, laced them up, and grabbed a sweatshirt before swinging her back pack on her back and picking up her duffel bag as she headed out of her room. She stopped by the bathroom and checked herself out in the mirror, hearing her mother also getting up.
"Get out, it's my turn." Mary's brother Keith said as he pushed his way into the bathroom. He's so delightful in the morning.. Mary thought to herself.
Mary headed downstairs and waited in the living room for her mom and brother. She checked her bag one more time to make sure she had her clarinet and music and concert band clothes. She made sure her camera and wallet were in the smaller pocket. She also had her walkman with her and a few tapes for the long bus ride to San Diego. Despite the fact that Keith was born there, Mary had never been to San Diego. She was looking forward to all the stops along the way on the band trip. They were scheduled to have dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe, visit Balboa Park, and see the Wild Animal Park as well as SeaWorld. Mary heard her mother coming down the stairs.
"Come on Keith! We need to get going.." she called up to Mary's brother.
"I'm coming!" Keith barked back at her. Mary's mother rolled her eyes.
"You ready to go, hon?" she asked Mary, getting her purse and pulling out her keys.
"Yep." Mary said, smiling at her mother.
"Let's load up then.. Keith already has his baritone in the car and he's bringing his bags down with him." Mary followed her mother into the garage and tossed her bags into the back of the car. They hopped in and Mary's mother started up the engine while they waited for Keith to join them.
As they pulled into the school parking lot, Mary could see two large tour buses waiting to be boarded and the parents and chaperons tossing luggage and instruments into the cargo bays under the buses. Keith and Mary said good bye to their mother and reminded her of what time to pick them up on Saturday as they got out of the car and pulled their luggage out of the trunk. Mary headed for the band room, dropping off her luggage with the adults who were loading the buses.
She walked into the band room and took a seat among her friends, not seeing Billy yet. The clock read 11:56. Good, I'm early. She smiled to herself. Mr. Owens had made a point to tell everyone to be there by 11:59pm to avoid confusion over the 12am or 12pm debate going on. Apparently, the high school band geeks could not remember the difference between noon and midnight. And, as was his motto.. 'Early is on time, on time is late.'
Mary saw Billy walk into the band room a couple minutes later, but rather than sitting beside her, he went and sat with his own friends. Mary wasn't surprised at all though, it seemed that unless they were alone together, Billy was determined to act as if he didn't know her. She'd even taken to calling him her 'so-called boyfriend'. He didn't seem to care.
Mary watched Billy from across the room. When he met her gaze, she looked away and was glad to see Mr. Owens standing in front of the room, waiting for everyone's attention. A hush slowly fell over the room as the students noticed Mr. Owens waiting for them. Mary noticed him pause and look at her as the band members began to spot him one by one. He smiled at her for a moment before addressing the class.
Mary watched and listened as the band director gave instructions on who was riding on which bus, what the bus rules were, and what to do at rest stops. As he finished the students began to stir once more and he stopped short, waiting for them to quiet and wait for his dismissal. Once he had silence again, he dismissed them to board the buses. Mary got up and grabbed her back pack with all her traveling essentials, heading for the band room door. Billy caught up to her and met her eyes, smiling.
"Hey." he greeted her.
"Hey," she said rather nonchalantly. "Did you want to sit with me on the bus?"
"Yeah," he said, still grinning at her. "Of course."
"Alright." Mary answered as she reached the line to board their bus. Whatever.. she thought to herself.
Mary and Billy walked down the aisle between the seats. Mary spotted Mr. Owens a few rows back on the left and met his eyes. "You two behave yourselves." he said, smiling sarcastically. He knew all too well what went on right under his nose among his students.
"Of course," Mary said, smiling back. "I always behave myself."
Billy and Mary took a seat about half way back on the left, Mary taking the window seat and Billy the aisle. Mary curled up in her seat, stuffed her sweatshirt under hear head, and yawned as she lay her head down. Billy sat down beside her and put his bag at his feet. They sat in silence as they waited for the bus to begin the over 9 hour drive south to San Diego.
Once they'd gotten on the freeway and were on their way, Billy pulled Mary closer. She gladly curled up in his lap, facing him, with his arms around her. She pulled her sweatshirt over her as a blanket, nearly completely covering her small body.
The bus rolled along the freeway quietly. Most of the passengers were sleeping. Billy and Mary took advantage of the silence and privacy, kissing in the dark while Billy's hands made the rounds on Mary's body. Mary was a little surprised at Billy's behavior on the bus filled with their class mates. Public affection was not his thing, whether people noticed or not. Still, she hung on to these moments, looking at them as confirmation that he was at least attracted to her. Sometimes it seemed like without this physical side of their relationship, they might not have any relationship at all. Mary could tell she was falling in love with this boy. She loved everything about him and did everything she could to try and win his affection. Yet, aside from his physical expressions, he acted as though she was merely an acquaintance, at best.
The next day was spent at Balboa Park. The band members enjoyed dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe. As the bus pulled up in front of the restaurant, Mary was again feeling down about her relationship with Billy. He had been cold and distant most of the day. Walking with his friends much of the time and barely saying a word to her. She did her usual taunting and teasing, searching for reassurance from him.. hoping he would say just once that she was mistaken when she'd claim that he was only going out with her because he'd been talked into it.. hoping he would be bothered by being called her 'so-called boyfriend'.
"Do you want to sit with me at dinner?" Mary asked flatly.
"I guess.." Billy answered. "Do you want me to?"
"Yes." Mary said. "Are you embarrassed to be going out with me or something?"
"No.. Why would you say that?"
"I don't know.. you just seem so cold and distant.."
"Oh.. well.. whatever. I don't mean to be." Billy said without looking at her. It was not the response Mary had hoped for.
Mary stepped off the bus behind Keith and his girlfriend, they asked if she'd like to sit with them. "Yeah, sure.. mind if my so-called boyfriend sits with us too?" They laughed and said they assumed he would. Mary saw Billy standing a few feet away.. having heard what she said, he looked at her coldly. Nice going, Mary.. Way to win him over.. She began feeling like there was no hope for them.
After dinner they headed to the hotel to get some rest before hitting up some more tourist attractions the following day. Billy rode with his arm around Mary. Holding her close, he kissed her forehead as she rested her head on his shoulder. She let the comfort of his embrace chase away her insecurities.
He walked her to her room at the hotel and seemed to be acting a little extra nice to Mary. She was happy and wondered if maybe he had finally caught on to the fact that she needed a little more affection from him. She went to bed feeling good, feeling hopeful again about their success as a couple.