6th period, Auto Class
Dear God, I. Am. Mortified.
What’s another word that describes being more than embarrassed? Why am I not learning anything in English class?!! I mean, 'masculinely' is a word, isn't it?!
How she survived the rest of lunch and fifth period, Jane did not know, nor did she care. All she knew was that it was finally the start of her last period, Auto class, and her head was buried in her great, big history book.
It was often noisy before class started, as Mr. Zims, Auto teacher, loved small talk with students, which usually lasted around fifteen minutes.
Today, the noise helped her focus more on her prayer. Or whining.
The rest of lunch was… horrible beyond belief! Not only had Jeremy been laughing at her, she saw as his friends turned to where he was pointing, looked in her direction, and then started laughing as well.
Jane groaned and forced her head further into her book. If only she could erase the memory. Transfer it from her head and dump it all in the history book.
“Cora, how could you?” Jane mumbled, agonized. “I’m going to take your diary and copy out the pages and post them in all the bathrooms. And then I’m going to make sure tapioca pudding is never… ever…”
Her head shot up. She was on an evil, evil reality show… that was the only explanation for the unspeakable series of events that had transpired in the last couple of hours. First lunch and now she was mumbling so loud that someone was able to hear her!
She looked into a pair of amused gray eyes.
“Oh, Isaac, it’s you.” Jane slumped with relief. Realizing it was one of her closest friends, she placed her head back in the book and continued to rant.
Isaac heard something about stale corn dogs and chipping a tooth as he pulled a stool over and sat next to her. In his hand, an unidentifiable car part he was fidgeting with. “What’s up? What’re you going to do with a diary and tapioca pudding?”
Jane turned to look at Isaac, her head remaining where it rested. “Cora has… Cora is… Oh, goodness, what can I say about Cora today?”
Smiling, Isaac turned his attention to Jane while still tinkering with the part. “Cora is a great friend.”
Jane sat up, dread and distress causing her to choke an imaginary neck. “She has embarrassed me… at lunch, she -- no, no. I admit, I have embarrassed myself beyond… beyond anything I could have ever…!” Not finding the right words, she dropped her hands. “If anyone wanted to get revenge on me today, Isaac, I did it for them. Oh, and I did it well.”
“Really? Do tell!” Isaac responded, with unusual interest. He stopped cleaning the auto part and rested his chin on his hands, the picture of an attentive listener.
“See, it went like this,” Jane started, turning to him, as if she were talking about a simple math problem. “NO! I’m not reliving the nightmare that was my lunch. Where were you anyway? Had you been there, this would’ve all ended differently.”
Isaac grinned. “I was here helping Don change the brake pads.”
“Curse you and your helpfulness. The only reason I took this class was because you said you’d help me. Now look at you, leaving me, in my greatest moment of need, to help others.”
“I’m here! What do you need help on? Oil change? Transmission fluid? What?”
Jane grabbed his shoulders and shook him. “My reputation, Isaac! I’m the laughingstock of the school!”
Releasing him, she started counting her fingers. “I won’t ever be able to go to lunch at The Commons because I’ll be laughed at up and down the halls. That will cause me to be a hermit and eat my lunch in the office with Mrs. Peabody. MRS. PEABODY! The mean lady who thinks any message handed to her in written form is a lie which she cross references from previous notes that she has saved for years and years in a filing cabinet! And when you do say hello, she snorts, thinking you’re trying to get one over on her. I don’t want to spend the rest of my senior year with a mean lady who snorts!”
“Not only will I be socially blacklisted, my grades will drop because I’ll be ditching school to avoid the tragedy that has become my life…”
Isaac chuckled at her ranting. He loved when she planned out how life would unfold for her. So melodramatic. So wrong.
“I won’t get invited to anything over Spring Break because my parents will have me on lockdown until my grades go up.” Her voice climbed with renewed fervor. “But who cares about Spring Break! I won’t be able to go to my very own Prom because not only would I be forbidden to go, but no one, absolutely no one, would dare ask me, since I’d have probably resorted to communicating by snorting anyways after picking up the habit from Mrs. Peabody. And by the time I graduate, I won’t be able to find a job in this state or the entire western region of the North American continent because I’d have gotten the reputation of having suffered a serious mental issue. And since having lost my ability to communicate like a normal person, thanks in large part to Mrs. Peabody, I will be shipped off to farthest, most desolate regions of Alaska, where I will be so isolated, no one will care if I talk or don’t.” Jane finished on a sorrowful note and plunked her head back into the book.
Isaac Martinez really laughed then.
“I’m ruined,” Jane groaned aloud, her face now cradled in her hands.
Only Jane could get him to laugh like that. Jane, with her shiny, nutmeg brown hair that hung just past her shoulders. Her light brown eyes normally sparkled with mischief and humor as her brain worked to create all sorts of misguided comments, but were now downcast.
And she had such a lovely nose…
He stopped laughing and coughed into his fist.
He wasn’t ready to let her know yet. Not yet.
“You’re not ruined,” he consoled. “You’re reading way too many romance books, Jane Awesome sound familiar?”
“Jane Austen.” She groaned the correction. “I’m ruined, Isaac. Ruined!” She shook her head side to side. “Oh, Isaac, Isaac, Isaac...”
Isaac stiffened. He had dreams of her calling his name in repetition but to have her actually be saying it, aloud… there was an intense flash of emotion he wasn’t ready for.
It hadn’t always been this difficult, not in sixth grade when they met, and not in eighth grade when he thought she was the coolest gal pal. It just changed one day in his freshmen year.
She was different, she became irresistible to him.
It came to a point when all he needed to make his day better was to see her, not a difficult task as they were already close friends.
He had finally convinced her to take Auto class with him this year, but he was beginning to realize that was a mistake. Being near her, touching her hand as they passed tools, brushing past each other in cramped spaces… it was all awesome and incredibly torturous at the same time.
He worked at getting her not to notice the change in him, hoped she didn’t see it. He wasn’t ready to let her know just yet. What if she laughed at him, thinking it was a joke? Worse, what if she rejected him? His family was nothing compared to hers, and if she found out just exactly how different they were, could she even want him?
“What do you think Mr. Darcy would do to help me?” Jane asked.
“Do you think that maybe, just maybe, you’re being overly dramatic over this entire thing?” Isaac suggested, ignoring the question. Knowing Jane, she was probably agonizing over something ridiculous, like tripping over her flip flops in front of a few people. Maybe she wore the same shirt as someone else, the other girl looked better in it, and only Cora had the guts to point it out.
“Oh, but I’m not,” Jane replied, agonized. “It was in front of Jeremy and all of his friends. Okay, not all of them, but most of them. But most importantly, it was in front of Jeremy!” The unwelcome image of tapioca pudding sprang in her mind. She groaned and clasped her hands over her eyes, forcing her head back in the history book, as deep as she could bury it. “Transfer memory, transfer memory, transfer...”
Jeremy. Isaac humphed. He despised that name.
Ever since she noticed him at the end of last year and began gushing about him. He had to hear about him all summer long when he hung out with her and Cora.
“All right, y'all,” announced Mr. Zims, a middle-aged man with a mess of crazy black hair, streaked with gray. Included in his signature look were a full beard and mustache, a protruding tummy, and overalls. Everyone knew he had more than a dozen pairs of overalls, it just wouldn't be hygienic to have one pair to wear all year long. The only variation was his shirt. It was a different kind of polo everyday with a tie loosely hung around his neck. Today it was neon green polo and a yellow-and-pink-plaid tie.
“I gotta follow the dress code somehow,” he'd stated once in class, with a noticeable Southern accent, pointing to his tie.
Jane liked him immensely. When he found out a girl signed up for the class, he looked up at the students and bellowed. “See this, she won’t need any of you, for anything. I’d like to see any of you askin’ her how to…” He leaned a little towards her, dropped a decibel, and whispered, “What do you like to do?”
She was sure she blushed a beet red. “Bake?”
“Are you askin’ or tellin’?”
He looked up again. “I’d like to see any of you askin’ her how to bake.” His mustache and beard shifted upwards.
Auto was held in a large, warehouse type building at the edge of school, where the noise, or Mr. Zims' booming voice, wouldn’t bother the academic classes. Upon entering the building and to the left, one saw a giant workbench where Mr. Zims was often found seated, keeping a careful eye on his domain. In front of his giant table/desk/work area/conference room were four rows of smaller workbenches, able to accommodate two students per bench. Behind that area, where Jane was currently moping, in the back of the warehouse, was space for eight cars.
Today, Mr. Zims' strong bellow silenced the tools. “Y’all know we’re workin’ on brakes this week if you're not there yet, you should be working on last week's assignment.” He rocked back and forth in his worn chair, oil stained hands resting on his belly. “Get to it and ask me any of yer questions when y'all see me.”
Mr. Zims created a nice incentive for those not sure of what elective to pick. If students could not volunteer their own cars for the class, cars from a nearby senior living community or the senior center were brought in for work. Seniors who brought their cars in were able to get certain small services for free, like oil changes, fluid checks, cleaning, vacuuming, and other minor services in exchange for community service hours.
They did not have a car from the senior community to be worked on so Jane and Isaac had been working on one of his dad’s restoration projects since the beginning of the year: a 1968 Chevy Chevelle SS.
Jane fought the urge to excuse herself to go to the bathroom. She wanted to cry but something about the smell of the garage inspired her to focus. Oil and grease kept her from throwing total female hysterics.
Guys didn’t cry.
They certainly didn’t cry over mortifying situations like the one at lunch. Seeing what went on in this class, she knew first-hand that guys always laughed it off.
She was going to have to do that. She was going to have to laugh off the shame.
Jane looked thoughtfully at Isaac. How would he handle a situation like this? He probably never had an embarrassing moment in his life. He was too focused to have anything like this affect him. Let alone get into a situation like this in the first place.
He had such a nice tan, she thought glumly.
Children of mixed parentage seemed to always have the best of both. In Isaac’s case, he took his American mother’s caramel-colored hair and his Peruvian father’s golden tan.
Well, it wasn’t all caramel-colored hair, it was darker near the roots and the tips were the color of light sand. Unlike Jeremy’s hair that curled at his neck, Isaac’s was straight, messy, and fell around his ears in thick layers. And he always looked effortlessly groomed, like today with his olive green shirt and khaki cargo shorts. He could easily throw on a buttoned shirt and go to a nice dinner. His hair was getting into his eyes again.
Jane bit her bottom lip as she fought the wave of jealousy over his soft locks.
She was beginning to think that was all she was capable of feeling: jealousy… and embarrassment! Another image popped up, of Cora's face. Eyes wide, mouth open in horror.
Ugh! She allowed herself to get distracted from her misery over lunch. She shook her head and buried her face in her hands.
The normal sounds of the garage started. Metal clanking, cars starting.
Isaac saw her from the corner of his eyes. She was battling something. Jane was so easy to read, looking agonized one moment, determined in the next.
She lifted her head and nodded as her mouth thinned in resolution.
His eyebrow shot up.
“Care to share?” he asked, getting up to exchange one of the tools
“I’m not going to cry over it,” Jane announced, eyes bright and clear. “It’s my senior year, I’m not going to let this ruin my year.”
“Cheers to that.”
“I mean, I should decide what bothers me in my senior year, right?”
“Right. Here’s your wrench. Cheers.” Their wrenches clanked as they met in happy agreement.
“Right! So I’m having trouble with brake pads.” They approached his car. “I get that I’m supposed to screw this part off, but what’s this?” She pointed to the object in question.
Isaac began his explanation as they both rolled under the lifted car. The sounds of the garage now in the background, they continued their lesson and didn’t hear Mr. Zims coming around, calling to them.
“Jane. Isaac.” Mr. Zims demanded.
Jane scooted from under the car first. Isaac followed.
“Y’all doin’ good?” he asked, hands folded atop his belly.
“Yes, Mr. Zims,” Jane smiled. “Isaac has kept his promise and has helped me a lot, here in Auto class.” Looking pointedly at Isaac and then back at Mr. Zims, she added: “And, he even came by to see how to bake lemon-poppy seed muffins.”
He humphed. “Didn’t care to share those, huh, Isaac? Y’know, I’m not below giving an A for a muffin.”
Isaac grinned. “No, Mr. Zims. I figured I’d be getting an A because I’m a good student, not a baker.”
The corner of Mr. Zims’ mouth curled up but they couldn't see it through his beard. He was notorious for keeping a straight face through the best joke or comment with that beard. “Just so you know, you guys are getting by in my class. Pretty decent grades, but mine’s a tough class.”
“Oh, Mr. Zims,” Jane replied. “You’d like to think your class is challenging. But we know all you need to get a good grade is to go to class, listen well, follow instructions, and show up on time. I know I’m getting an A. I'm kind of glad not many other girls want to get into Auto, easy A.”
Mr. Zims humphed again. “Just cause you’re a senior, ya think ya got it all sorted out?” Isaac rolled back under the car. “You need anythin’, Isaac?”
“Just an A plus and a letter of recommendation,” Isaac replied from under the car, continuing to work, Jane rolled in after.
“Well maybe next time, you'll think twice 'bout withholding those muffins from me.”