Word Pile

by NumberJenn

Jiminy lagged at the back of the small auditorium for a moment to get an extra glimpse of the stage, and of the girl with the golden hair and the silver tongue. She had just finished practicing her set and was picking up her notebook off the boards from a pile of other student's books. She couldn't see him, which gave him a comforting sort of license to look upon her without feeling self-conscious. He didn't even have to feel shady about it, as there were still a few more people left, milling their way out through the door to the auditorium, casting a temporary, cold glow onto the backs of the chairs every time they opened it into the hallway. And besides, she could hardly see anything with the stage lights aimed at her.

             "Jim - let's get going."

            He turned away from the stage and headed up the last few rows of aisle seats to where his best friend was waiting for him.

            "Okay Dave, keep your shirt on."

            "Get your head out of the clouds and into my car!" Dave called.

            Jiminy caught up with him and they padded down the hallway together. "What are you, propositioning me?"

            "You wish."

            A wall of cold air hit them as they left the back exit out into the university parking lot where Dave's blue Yaris sat parked between two hybrids. Jiminy blew out a frigid, foggy breath and pulled his touque further down over his earlobes. They got into the car and he furiously rubbed his hands together as Dave started the engine.

            "Relax, the heat'll kick in in a minute."

            "Even if it does, you still need to put on gloves in here." Jiminy replied.

            "Oh, you poor baby." Dave said, his sarcasm far outweighing any sympathy.

            Jiminy ignored him as he pulled his backpack up onto his lap. He unzipped the largest compartment, reaching inside to feel around for his gloves. He found them easily enough, but as the car went into motion he noticed that something felt off about his notebook. He pulled it out too and tried to place exactly what was different about it; it was the same size and colour as it normally was, but it was much flatter - as if purchased more recently - and without its usual sticky note tabs dog-earing out of every side. He flipped through a few of the pages. For a second he didn't even realize what was wrong, until a wave of panicked recognition hit him. He knew the handwriting in this book. And it wasn't his.

            "Umm, seatbelts everyone." Dave nagged in an eerily spot-on impression of Ms. Frizzle from The Magic School Bus. Cartoon voices were one of his strengths, and usually Jiminy had a healthy admiration for that. But not right now.

            The stage, the vocal warmups, the movement exercises where Henderson made everyone plop all of their books down in one big pile - that damn Stanislavski lecturer - it was his fault. Sure, she had just so happened to buy a notebook the same shade of pale green as his, but it wasn't as if it were her fault. There's no way she could have known. He now wondered, mildly terrified, if she was now holding onto his notes - his entire routine put down on paper - somewhere at the university at this very moment.

            When he didn't say anything or put on his seatbelt Dave tossed a concerned glance in his direction. "What?"

            "This is Francesca's notebook."

            "Wait, what?" He stopped at a red light and turned toward Jiminy. "Let me see."

            Jiminy held it up. "These are her jokes from last week's set assignment. I think our stuff got swapped by mistake."

            "Heh, so d'you think she has yours?"

            "I 'donno, probably," Jiminy replied.            

Did she? She must've picked up his. He didn't recall any other minty-green ruled notebooks onstage. Did she open up his as well? Everything he wrote for standup class was in there, and not just the good jokes - the ones worth keeping. Everything.

Dave chuckled as he skimmed the page in front of him. "This is her rough stuff? She's good."

"Hey!" Jiminy snapped it shut before he could read any more.

"What - ?"

Before Dave could say anything else he was cut off by a sharp honk from the car behind them. The light had already turned green.

"Shit!" He jerked the car forward and accelerated back into the flow of traffic.

"Well, call 'er up. This might be a good chance for you to finally ask her out."

"Who says I 'wanna...I mean..."

"Ugh."

"Is it obvious?"

"Only to me. Don't worry," said Dave. "But I'm glad you're now willing to admit that you probably like the smell of her hair."

"Woah, Dave!"

Dave laughed. "I can see it now. Mmm, Francesca you smell good. By the way, I have your book."

Francesca Did smell good. Jiminy would never admit that of course, especially not to her, but he knew it first hand from their ensemble project last term when they had all gotten a standing ovation from their audience and she had ran up to him for a spontaneous hug. He had given her a friendly squeeze just under her shoulder blades, and had bent down, terrified that she might notice, and caught a whiff. It wasn't an overly sweet smell like he had been expecting - like the girls back in high school when they used to fumigate themselves in body spray after gym. It was more like the smell of freshly done laundry - very fresh - mixed with something only slightly sweet. Left over shampoo from before the dress rehearsal? He hadn't quite been able to place the scent. It was as if some marketing genius somewhere had told her corporate team that they were going to make a perfume out of dryer sheets.

He snapped out of the memory and rolled his eyes at Dave. "You can't just tell someone they smell good. It's creepy."

Dave shrugged. "I tell Steve he smells good all the time."

"Yeah well, you and Steve are -"

"The greatest couple this world has ever seen?"

"-in a relationship. So it's different."

Dave shrugged. "Either way you're 'gonna have to get ahold of her. Unless you want to just keep her book and never get yours back."

He was right.

"I don't have her number though..." Jiminy mumbled.

"Wow, her number? You sound like my mom. You have her on Facebook, right?"

"Yeah."

"So turn on your data and message her. Joking aside, you might want to do it before you leave it too long and things get weird."

"That makes sense."

Jiminy pulled out his phone and switched on his mobile data. Immediately the Messenger App came alive with a Wave notification. It was from Francesca.

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