December 23, 2008

She'd been staring at him for some time now. She figured maybe fifteen minutes. It had been accident. All that happened was that she looked up from her paper to spot a rancher's hat through the rows of books ahead of her and her curiosity peaked. She followed the hat as it bounced from one side of the aisle to the other, gradually getting closer until it seemed to have found what it needed. The hat became a boy coming from behind the bookcase who then sat down ten yards away.

The boy began to read, the boots on his feet lying on the table in front of him crossed at the ankle. The outfit he wore was patented cowboy attire: hat, plaid shirt tucked into his jeans, belt buckle, black or brown vest, and the boots. She'd wondered if she'd unintentionally phased into another decade where cowboys were common to be waltzing around.

But she knew she was in the same time, same day, same year as when she'd left the house that morning. This boy was just different.

She contemplated going over to him and asking why he was wearing what he wore. Her own outfit resembled something more from this era: slim fitting t-shirt, hoodie, worn out jeans, and mangled sneakers. She thought of the paper in front of her, begging to be written now before her procrastination kicked in and she was scrambling to finish the night before it was due.

The theory kept her sitting for another few minutes until her curiosity won her over. After picking up her things and shoving them into the purple folder she'd labeled RESEARCH in honor for the assignment, she went over to the couch.

Sitting down on the table, almost touching the boy's boots, she watched the boy turn the page before asking. '"Why are you wearing cowboy clothes?"

He looked up at her through glazed eyes. Blinking them a few times, he was in the present world again. "Should I not be?"

"Oh no," she said quickly. "I was just wondering. You don't see a boy dressed like that everyday."

Glancing at the page number before closing the book, the boy looked at her again. "Well, I'm a drama major. And since I wanted to see if I could move comfortably in the costume I'm supposed to be wearing, I'm doing an experiment."

"That sounds fun. Are you wearing it just today or...?" She shifted on the table.

"I'm not sure. It's pretty simple to move in so I might just wear it until I go back after break. But there's the issue of hygine so I might not," he explained, gesturing to his shirt. She agreed; wearing the shirt numerous times could make it filthy.

"Are you allowed to wash it? Because that could solve the problem."

The boy thought about it. "Probably not, but who does what they're supposed to do anymore?" She smiled as he shrugged at his question.

"You could always buy a few more plaid shirts and interchange them throughout your break," she suggested.

Glancing to the side wonderingly, he stuck a finger in the air at her. "That could work. You are one smart cookie. I'm Benjamin." Benjamin offered a hand to her while he pulled his feet from the table. "But call me James, please."

Taking it briefly, she introduced herself. "April. Where does the James come from?"

"A story for another day, I'm afraid. Where does April come from?" He still hadn't let go of her hand.

"My parents' imagination. Nothing special there."

"I don't believe that," James said with half a smile stretched on his mouth. A moment passed and he let go of her hand, nodding to the folder in her lap. "What's that?"

April explained that she had a paper to write and his outfit had distracted her from being a good student by finishing it early. "Thanks. I'll be wishing I hadn't seen you today," she said sarcastically.

"Well, don't let me mislead you from your studies. You sit here and write while I continue to read this ever so fascinating book," James ordered and placed his boots back on to the table. April acquiesced and sat down next to him, rereading what she'd written.

Minutes passed as April tried to transition from one paragraph to the next. James slowly dragged his eyes to April beside him, seeing that she hadn't written anything new at all. He himself had read the same sentence at least a dozen times.

"Do you wanna go somewhere?"

April faced him and wondered, "Where to?"

James only smiled and helped her up from the couch. "Does it matter?"

"Do you always answer questions with other questions?" she replied as James looked for the spot he'd gotten his book from. After a couple seconds, she thought he wouldn't answer until he bent his head down to her, eyes devilish.

"Do you?"