Chapter 116

In the course of any given year, there are certain periods which elicit expectation in their arrival among different demographics. In most of America the season of football is met with widespread anticipation. In Seattle there is a constant hope for a period called “two days in a row when it doesn’t fucking rain.” The deeper south looks forward year-round to its three days of winter or “Christmas” when they are able to wear long-sleeved shirts and pants without bursting into sweaty messes. Some seasons, however, are enjoyed less by a geographical demographic and more by a gender-based one.

“God I love mini-skirt season,” Alex said as he, Hershel, and Vince trekked their way across campus to the cafeteria. His comment was sparked by the bevy of co-eds currently crossing their paths, many of whom were employing the aforementioned fashion device.

“Pretty sure they call that ‘spring’ nowadays,” Vince said.

“‘They’ can call it what they want,” Alex replied. “I know what I look forward to, and it is not the increase in heat.”

Despite debate about its proper term, spring had undoubtedly sprung. Gone at last were the occasional snow flurries, the chilling wind, and desolate landscape. In their place was a bounty of foliage and endless warming sunshine.

“Call it whatever,” Hershel chimed in. “I’m just glad I don’t have to wear a jacket anymore. I’ve been ready for this ever since the beginning of Christmas break.”

“That far back?” Alex asked.

“Uhh, Chicago is really cold,” Hershel said lamely. In truth it had been their trip up the mountain that had soured him on winter weather, but he could hardly explain that to Alex without going into why the Melbrook students had an extra mid-term. That was a conversation Hershel hoped to put off until an appropriate time. Like, say, on his death bed.

“So I’ve heard,” Alex said, not sounding too convinced. “But who cares, it’s over now. And just in time for spring break!” Alex actually yelled the last two words, leaping up and punching the air. On a coolness scale of one to ten, it looked ridiculous. None the less, there were other calls of “Spring Break!” and some generic “Wooos!” that met Alex’s enthusiastic outcry.

“Plus we get the best spring break out of anyone,” Alex said. “Next week at this time we’ll be floating down the river, surrounded by friends and girls in swimsuits and with no fear about getting busted if someone sees us using our talents. It will be heaven.”

“I’m not sure how some people would feel about heaven including young women in skimpy clothing, but I see where you’re going,” Vince said. “And it will be fun to get away from it all for a while.”

“Glad you finally got on board,” Alex said. “How about you, Hershel? Excited?”

“What, are you joking? That trip is going to be all Roy,” Hershel said. “He’s been excited about it since January, and it is definitely more his scene than mine.”

“Aw, that sucks,” Alex said. “You don’t even want to hang out for a while?”

“Nope,” Hershel said. “Roy’s been pretty accommodating about letting me have some weekend time to spend with Mary. I owe him this.”

“I guess I can see your point,” Alex admitted. “Still won’t be as fun without you. I’m sure Mary will feel the same.”

“I doubt it,” Hershel replied. “She isn’t going.”

“Seriously?”

“Have you met her? Yeah, the wild drunken river trip isn’t her idea of a good time,” Hershel said.

“Wait, people are staying?” Vince asked.

“Don’t even think about it,” Alex snapped. “If Hershel’s not going to be there then you have no way out. Besides, we both know how much Sasha is looking forward to it.”

“I almost forgot that,” Vince said. He shrugged his shoulders. “Oh well, I already signed up anyway, and I’m sure it will be plenty of fun.”

“That’s better,” Alex said. “So Hershel is out, Mary is out, any other friends skipping the class trip?”

“Not that I know of,” Hershel said. “Nick and Alice are both gung-ho.”

“Same for Will, Jill, Thomas, and his friends,” Vince added.

“Good good,” Alex said. “Then we can still have an awesome time.”

“That is the goal,” Hershel agreed. “Any word on who they got to chaperone us yet?”

“Not sure who it will be, but someone told me they always get the top-ranked people from sophomore year to fill the role. It’s a reward to them since they get to spend their time on a free trip, and it lets us know from go that these are chaperones we can’t mess with,” Alex said.

“Some of the top-ranked sophomores, huh? I wonder if it will be anyone we’ve met,” Vince said.

“I doubt it,” Alex replied. “I mean, the only ones we really talked to were the beer-pong douches, and I’m not thinking either of them qualifies as a heavy hitter.”

“People can surprise you,” Vince said. “Besides, you’re forgetting someone. The hostess.”

“Oh yeah,” Alex said. “Man, she did have some badass mojo about her. Sort of cute, too, in a scary way. I don’t remember her name, though.”

“I do,” Vince said. “It was-”

*          *          *

“Angela,” Shane DeSoto mumbled as he neared the blonde girl in the hallway. He gave her a brief nod and hoped she would continue walking. He was not so lucky.

“Shane,” she replied. “Have you heard the news?” She pulled herself to stop, and he was expected to do the same. He complied. They were in their HCP uniforms, walking along the corridors below campus. He’d just wanted to squeeze in some quick training. Of course he’d run into her, though. It was that kind of a day.

“I have not,” he said stiffly.

“It looks like they selected Ben and me to supervise the freshman river trip this year,” she said.

“I expected as much,” Shane said. “You are the number one in your class, after all. That’s why I don’t plan on going.”

“Don’t be silly, your name was on the sign-up sheet,” Angela said.

“I must inform you that you are mistaken. I certainly did not sign up for this trip.”

“And yet your name is on the sheet all the same. I suspect you’ll have to buck up and have some fun anyway,” Angela said.

Shane stared at her. Of course she had put his name on the sheet. She undoubtedly had some other plan should he try to cancel his place as well. Likely several others for different contingencies.

“Why is it mandatory I attend?”

“Because it’s one of the best parts of being a freshman. One of the few good ones, actually. Plus it is tons of fun, and I think you could use that,” Angela explained.

“There is training to do,” Shane countered.

“With whom? Nearly everyone worth fighting will be on the river. Even your sparring buddy Chad signed up,” Angela said.

“Did he sign up, or is his name on the sheet?”

“Does it matter?”

“Yes. You might find him less receptive to your machinations than I am,” Shane pointed out.

“Nope, he agreed to go willingly,” Angela said. “I just had to motivate him.”

“Threats?”

“Promised I would give him a match if he went.”

“Ah,” Shane said. “That would do it. I suppose you have me over a barrel then.”

“I always do,” Angela replied. “Try to just go with it and enjoy yourself.”

“I’ll do my best.”

“Uh huh. I’ll believe it when I see it,” Angela said.

“That is probably the best strategy.”

Angela patted him on the shoulder. “That much I already know.”

“Was there anything else?” Shane asked.

“Just that.”

“So I can go now?”

Angela waved him off. “Go, train, be boring. But come next weekend you better be prepared for some relaxation, little brother.”

“I’m bigger than you,” Shane replied instinctively.

“But not better,” she countered with a wicked grin. “Remember, fun is not the enemy.” With that she sauntered off toward her own class.

Shane continued drudging forward, a foul mood descending over him. If he was losing spring break that meant he needed to work extra hard this week. It was all well and good to preach the benefits of having fun and enjoying oneself, but those speeches could only be made by the one standing at the top of hill.

Shane looked dearly forward to tossing down a few himself.

Eventually.