Theodore Wong hated Noel Finnard with a burning passion. It was only a temporary feeling, but he still felt resentment towards that ditz. The promised birthday message had been thoughtless, and stupid.
“Happy Birthday,” she’d written, “The Lyrids are at their peak tonight. Go watch them and get a second birthday wish.” Then she’d signed her name and attached a file of the usual dorky smiley face at the bottom. Theo thought it was a little unfair that she hadn’t paid him a snarky comment or told him which historical person he shared his birthday with like she did with her other friends. He only knew about John D. Rockefeller’s birthday because it was the same as Lillian’s.
Then again, Theo hadn’t given a thought to Noel’s birthday even once.
It didn’t matter. Once he was filled up on his mother’s special tiramisu, he sat outside and took Noel’s advice.
He didn’t wait long. The first shooting star streaked along less than five minutes in. Not ten minutes later, a second one came. Then a third a few seconds later. Noel knew what she was talking about. The Lyrids were a sight to behold.
Theo was about to head back in when a particularly bright meteor lit up. He counted that one in his head and opened the back door. Then one more look at the sky to see if he could catch one more.
The last one was closer.
He turned back to the door and blinked to clear his head before whipping his head around to make sure he’d been hallucinating.
No. It was closer still, bright and fiery even with the light pollution from inside. But even with that dangerous element, the meteor was beautiful. It flamed and sparked as time slowed around Theo.
Time returned to normal. Theo’s head was pounding. His glasses were on his face, but his vision was blurry, blackening. He rushed through the open door and crumpled, his last thoughts cursing Noel and her suggestion on the meteor shower.
Noel Finnard had a bad habit of laughing at every stupid thing she did. And since she was just then feeling like an idiot for sending Wong such a crappy birthday e-mail, she was giggling at herself while Carrie talked up a storm on the city bus.
“You make me so jealous,” Carrie teased, “You’ve got two dimples! I should post online that I know someone with two dimples. Angie will be so psyched.”
Noel kept laughing awkwardly at herself and adjusted her glasses. She’d had those frames for years and they slid off since they were too small.
“Angie’s your friend from that character design camp you went to over the summer, right?” Noel said after pushing all laugh-causing thoughts from her brain.
“Yup,” was Carrie’s swifty reply.
“Wish I could’ve gone,” Noel said wistfully, “it sounded like fun.”
“Rub it in.”
Carrie tapped the screen on her phone a few times before switching conversation topics. “So what was up with Theo today? He acted really suspicious during French.”
Shrugging, Noel said she didn’t know. “Maybe he was inspired by the meteor shower last night. I don’t know. He looked fine in zero-hour chem.”
“Since when does Theo watch meteor showers?”
“Since I told him about the Lyrids for his birthday.”
“Sure, and since when does Theo listen to you?”
“Maybe he listened and is thinking about thanking me for such a wonderful suggestion.”
Carrie tapped a bit more on her phone before putting it to sleep. She looked unimpressed. “Theo doesn’t thank people. You of all people would know that.”
Noel scratched her head and smiled sheepishly. “Wishful thinking,” she replied, drumming her fingers on the handle of the French Horn case between herself and Carrie. Too bad Yvette wasn’t there too. Her reasoning was usually how things turned out.
Carrie rolled her grey-blue eyes and shook her dirty blonde head to clear the bangs from her eyes. Her hair seemed shorter than it had last week.
“Did you get a haircut?” Noel asked.
“Four days ago.” Carrie peered out the window. “Did you not notice?”
“It took me a week to figure out that Lillian got contacts.”
“Wasn’t that a long time ago?”
“Yeah. But that’s not the point.”
The girls kept chatting, stopping once or twice to include Dieter in their conversations while they mixed up his rubix cube. That boy was going to give them a scare and fall over because of that little three by three by three cube.
They changed buses, but all three still rode the same one, and the conversation- and rubix cube mixing -kept on until Dieter got off, then Carrie four stops later.
Noel cheerily waved her off before staring out the window. She was contemplating everything. Her homework, how awesome rubix cube solvers were, and what her friends really thought of her. That was always a thought topic, a looming shadow in the back of her mind that doubted the friends who hadn’t yet betrayed her.
Her focus shifted on the almost-reflection of herself in the glass. Carrie always talked about Noel’s good looks. Did she really sit up that straight? Were dimples so rare? That scarf from her mother’s host mom, was it that nice? Did she really look like her mom? Why were appearances so important?
She pressed the button to alert the driver for her stop. There was an old lady standing that she hadn’t noticed earlier, so Noel stood earlier than she needed to and worked her way to the door, battering obstacles with her giant instrument. Carrie had always called it a battering ram, and Noel supposed it really was one.
The late-April air, though not freezing, was still chilly. “Stupid cold,” Noel muttered, walking along the road and watching for cars. Parents already lined up around the nearby elementary, ready to pick up children.
A group of middle school boys snickered at her as she lumbered across her yard and unlocked the front door.
Not five minutes later, her cat settled comfortably on her lap, Noel was checking her e-mail and typing up reports.
A reply to her e-mail to Theo popped up with a small ding. She clicked it.
Theo wasn’t happy. The reply was filled with curses Noel didn’t want to repeat.
Yeesh, she thought to herself, stroking her cat. He purred loudly. You don’t have to explode just because it’s not a hand-made card. "Besides,” she said, looking down at her cat. He yawned explicitly. “There’s no way Theo got hit on the head by a meteor, right, silly cat?”
She clicked reply and changed the subject. Then Noel reminded her foul-mouthed friend to watch his language and to at least thank her for remembering his birthday. It wasn’t like he ever sent her nice words for her special day.
The response speed was ghastly. Noel was fairly sure no one could physically type so fast. So instead of reprimanding him again, she asked, “Are you okay?”
He sent her a blank reply.