Nerd Romance —High School Jobs
This is yet another chapter in a series I “finished” last year, but my characters kept talking to me. Then Roz Warren convinced me into fill out the series into a book, so now I’m working on that. Most of what I’ve been doing lately has been filling in gaps or adding to existing material, but this chapter felt like it could stand without the reader having just finished the one before.
Short summary of the story to date:
The series covers two academic over-achievers with limited social skills (aka “nerds”) in the last semester of their junior year in high school in the 1970s. They call each other by their initials, so she is “E” and he is “K.” They are engaging in a “practice” relationship, working from an agreed upon list of goals, trying to learn to be more like regular people before they head off to college. Both kids agreed that this is a mutually beneficial partnership, and not in any way a romantic association. Both kids make money doing the kind of jobs they can get as a kid in the 70s.
E was sitting with Henri, watching her move dolls and furniture around the three-foot-tall dollhouse while the young girl chattered about imaginary domestic situations, when Mrs. Klemens came in. The woman’s hair was… “coiffed” was the word E decided on. Overdone? More expensive than what I’m getting paid for the entire night of watching her little angel? At least Henri is easily distracted by shiny objects. Easy money. “You two about ready to head out, Mrs. K? You look really nice!”
“Thank you, dear, yes we are. Number for the Hilton is on the pad next to the kitchen phone, in case of problems, and the police and fire numbers are on the phone itself, in case anything really goes wrong. But you know if the house catches on fire to just grab Henrietta and get out, right? And go to a neighbor’s?”
Really? Here I was going to grab a bucket and fight it all myself. Henri would assist, she’s a helpful child. “No worries, Mrs. K. And I’ll have her in bed by eight, like last time. And no TV.”
“Well, it’s okay if you want to watch something, dear. The TV in the den is a new twenty-three inch color, and you’re welcome to use it, just don’t fiddle with any of the adjustment knobs, Mr. Klemens spent a lot of time getting everything just right.” She looked at her husband as he entered, holding her coat so she could put it on. “Right dear?”
Her husband rolled his eyes dramatically. “Don’t even get me started! And you told her no boys, right?”
Mrs. Klemens laughed as she shrugged on her coat. “Oh yes, dear, and no boys!” She smiled at E to show she wasn’t actually worried about the possibility.
Thanks, Mrs. K, I shall treat that as a vote of confidence in my professional babysitting ethos, and not a joke at the absurdity that somebody like me might actually have a boyfriend. E waved at the Klemens as they headed out, then checked the time. Okay, just before six now, back around eleven, so five hours at a buck an hour gets me a five dollar bill. Wow. Stinks to be a girl, I guess. On the other hand, I could spend most of that time sitting around and watching TV. I mean, I won’t, but I could.
She and Henri continued to play dollhouse, Henri doing most of the work and imagination. E noticed a predictable but bothersome pattern.
“Henri, the mommy in your house. All she does is bake cookies and make dinner and take care of her daughter. Does she ever do any work outside the house, like the daddy does?”
Henri pondered for many seconds, finally deciding, “Yes! She goes to her bored meetings.” Seeing a lack of comprehension on E’s part, the child explained, “That’s where she goes with a bunch of other people and they have coffee and cookies — sometimes she brings some of the good cookies back home — and everybody talks about a bunch of things. They call them ‘bored meetings’ because they last until everybody gets bored. Or they run out of cookies, sometimes. Those are the worst meetings, because then there’s no cookies to bring home.” Henri paused to see if E had caught up. “Understand?”
“Gotcha!” said E. “Good cookies make good meetings.”
Henri’s face got wide-eyed, then conspiratorial. She leaned closer to E and whispered. “There might be some bored meeting cookies in the bread box in the kitchen. I’m not allowed to go in there. But maybe, but maybe, but maybe you could maybe check to see if there are any cookies left? I won’t tell anybody!”
Hmmmm, do I use this as a teaching moment to introduce little Henrietta to the concept that parents can count cookies? Naw, they’d figure out who the muscle was in this crime spree, and maybe they’d get somebody cheaper to sit next time. “I don’t think that’s a good idea, honey. It’s not nice to take cookies without checking with parents first. I could get in trouble.”
The child reflected on this. “Okay. I like you. You’re not never mean to me. Some of the sitters mommy gets are so mean! But you are always nice!” She lunged forward without warning and threw her arms around E’s neck in a hug, knocking the older girl backwards so that they both ended in a heap.
Oomph! The enthusiasm of little kids! Glad I didn’t hit my head on anything!
E had Henri pick out some favorite books, then read them to her. Then there followed the change into pajamas, brushing teeth, final attempt at potty, and finally into bed. One bedtime story led to another led to a third, and then yet another potty break, so it was closer to eight-forty when E turned off Henri’s bedside lamp and left her door cracked several inches so that the hall light came into the room.
E settled in the living room and pulled out her math books. Homework took less than half an hour. She checked on Henri — sprawled out sideways in bed, head back, snoring softly — before picking up her American history book. Get ahead on assignments? Watch TV? I could call K. Nobody said I can’t call any boys. She snorted internally. Yeah, right, first K would get flustered because I called him. OH NO! A CALL FROM A GIRL! What will his father say? Then he wouldn’t understand why I was calling him when he saw me at lunch today and will see me for lunch tomorrow. Then he’d get upset because I was using the Klemens’ phone, and his parents know the Klemens from The Country Club or whatever rich snob’s thing they belong to together. And finally, he wouldn’t know what to talk about. E glanced at her watch. Plus it’s getting late.
She looked around the living room for inspiration. It was even bigger than K’s. The furniture looked expensive, obviously. The built-in bookshelves had books, but they were leather-bound sets. There was a “normal” book sitting on the coffee table; E picked it up.
Okay, Love Story, I’ve heard of this one, supposed to be on the best seller list last year for some ridiculous time or something. It’s thin, I can probably read most of it before they get back. She opened the book.
Two hours later, the Klemens found her with the book and a box of tissues that E had borrowed from the guest powder room, quietly sniffing.
As K entered the shop he called to the woman behind the counter, “Hey, Mrs. Williams, what have you got for me? Ooh, sorry, didn’t see you on the phone!” K looked an apology in her direction. The store assistant and junior co-owner of The Book Stall, the town’s biggest, best (and only) book store, pointed him at the bags of books for delivery, while still talking on the phone to a customer. The car keys, as usual, were on top of one of the bags.
K inspected each bag to make sure he could read the addresses, if not the names. Mrs. Fowler had nice printing, but Mrs. Williams would dash things off quickly some times, and K had learned from hard experience to make sure that he knew which books were going to “120 RANGE RD” and which ones were going to “12 ORANGE RD” (the first address, it turned out, did not actually exist). Satisfied, he transferred the bags to the front seat of Mrs. Williams’ Monte Carlo, started the car, and headed out.
The customers were all regulars, except for one, who lived on the same street as Mrs. Ferris and was probably a referral. New customers, especially older ones, were usually delighted to find that the Book Stall would deliver directly to their door. “I can start one of those series and just keep on going!” gushed one of the ladies after a previous delivery. “And Mrs. Williams is wonderful at making suggestions for new books, I hardly ever have to return even one!”
I wonder how many of these people are familiar with the whole LIBRARY concept, thought K. I know they have a bunch of money, but borrowing books has to be a whole lot cheaper than buying them. It’s not like the Book Stall offers discounts or specials or anything.
The deliveries were all unexceptional, and K was back to return the car within the hour. He waved at Mrs. Williams — either still on the phone, or on another call — and started the walk home. As he walked, he noted his time in his notebook where he kept track of hours. Although he’d only worked thirty-five minutes, he noted it as an hour; Mrs. Fowler was insistent that any day he worked was to be paid as a full hour, and K’s argument was met with, “My shop, my rules!” So that was three hours so far for the week, so $15 earned. Beat mowing lawns, in terms of return on time spent, but with six neighbor’s lawns this summer he’d be pulling in at least as much as he made at the Book Stall every week, and more during the summer months when the grass really started to grow.
Would E want to ride along on one of these delivery trips? Probably not, they’re pretty boring. And maybe Mrs. Fowler would object to me bringing my girlfriend along? I’m not sure the whole “practice relationship” concept would make sense to her — I’m not sure Dad is okay with it, based on the way he teases me, and Mom just smiles and nods. Yeah, better not to bring it up. And no reason E needs to know about this job, really. Just complicates things.
Next, Title IX makes for interesting PE classes — co-ed for the first time:
Nerd Romance — Gym Class and Chest Sizes
“Boys, remember to be gentle with the ladies.”
There’s also the full series:
Nerd Romance — The Collection
So you can start at the beginning, go to the end, and stop. Eventually.
Thanks for reading!