Traversing Seattle always confused Ami Flynn. The mechanics of how places were mapped out made no sense to her. Bustling city blocks, quiet slices of suburbia and dirty landfills and trailer parks, scattered around without any real logic. It always surprised her to find herself lapping along the outskirts of the city when only minutes ago there were trees all around her. Ami felt apprehensive going to a place she had never been before, even in her late teens.
When she was young it made no difference to her; the last thing she had on her mind was getting from place to place. Her parents always provided that for her.
Even so, the trip over to Maynard Hurst's house always felt surreal no matter how she got there.
Maynard lived only three or four miles from Ami's home. He lived on a residential cul-de-sac, with houses that were made for the atomic family but stumbled over their feet very recently. It was a perfect fit for Maynard. By contrast, Ami's neighborhood was very well-to-do, homes that looked polished obsessively by shoeshiners promised triple. Not even on opposite sides of the city and yet on opposite sides of the world.
Everything in between was strange, too, and the scenery to and from were never the same. Sometimes there would be an expanse of grasslands, sometimes not. Other times they'd to dip inside Bohemia, passing by coffee shops and bright-haired beatniks.
The oddest trip of all had to be when her parents did not drive her at all.
It was a cold November weekend, close to Thanksgiving. Ami was in middle school, proclaimed 'math wizard' by the teacher that always wore those really lame sweaters all year long. That was his cheeky way of saying that she had one of the highest grades in the entire class. She was very proud of this achievement, though never that eager to brag. Not that she really talked much.
Maynard Hurst was the complete opposite. He grasped English liked the back of his hand, and the poetry he showed her was way above middle school level work. They bonded over English, and up until then shared the same English classes. He sucked at math. Maynard was awful. He could barely remember the order of operations let alone any formulas. Ami sometimes saw him shrink in his seat when the teacher was looking for an answer to a question. It was actually kind of sad, though she never told him that.
So it came as no surprise when Maynard snuck up next to Ami during lunch and asked her, sheepishly, afraid of offending, if she could help him study for the test.
Of course, she said yes without thinking.
It wasn't her first time going over to Maynard's but it would be the first time she'd be going over to help someone study. It was also the first time she'd be over to his house when his parents wouldn't be home.
Oh. Also, his parents wouldn't be home.
Maynard told her when he first asked, abashedly telling her they wouldn't be able to get her a ride. Ami thought very little of it at the time. In hindsight, she probably should have worried. Especially a few years later when she started learning about herself and, well, all it goes without saying. But Maynard was a nice boy and he was a good friend. If he needed her help, Ami would certainly try to provide.
There was a problem though; Ami wouldn't be able to get a ride. Her father was busy, her mother was out of town, and she had no idea where her uncle was. Maynard's parents wouldn't be home, obviously, and it wasn't like she or any of her friends could drive yet.
Perhaps it had been impatience, the fear of how Maynard would react to her suddenly canceling or her sheer insistence in wanting to help him. Ami cannot recall the reason. Whatever it was, she figured that instead of waiting for a ride, it would be easier to walk to his house.
It was only 20-something degrees outside. And she had to walk several miles.
It made sense to her at the time.
She had enough sense to put on a light jacket, sweatpants that she had to roll up at the ankles and gloves that made her hands looked comically big. Just the bare minimum though. The cold wasn't about to turn her into an ice cube but it felt enough of an impression to make Ami realize her mistake, and she was kicking herself for half of the trip.
A trip that would have only taken a hour took Ami nearly twice that. She was going in circles for a good period, passing the exact same gas station and feeling scared each and every single time. That was until the gas station attendant came out and, looking a bit weirded out, pointed her in the right direction.
By the time she recognized the hard right that lead into Maynard's neighborhood, her arms were coiled tight around her front, desperately stealing heat from herself. Her teeth were gnashed, more in a scowl than a chatter. She rubbed her gloves against her arms, clutching the straps of her backpack in her fingers. It wouldn't be very long now.
The Hurst residence was one story, timber like all the others surrounding it. Even at such a young age Ami could imagine that they were all built at the same time; when the builders finished with one house, they would just pick up their tools and walk over to the next one. Maynard's house was different in that it was painted white rather than a sickeningly cheerful color. It made it easy to spot once she found his block.
It was also the one with Holiday decorations that looked like severe hand-me-downs. Maynard's father was an antique nut or something. Ami had no place to judge though. Frankly the definition of a 'normal father' seemed foreign to her.
She nearly caught her shoe against a large candy cane sticking straight out of the ground. The cold was getting to her, making her limbs a little stiff. She wouldn't become a popsicle, no way, but the thought seemed more and more likely. Finally she reached the doorstep, peering at the mahogany door, through the windows. The lights didn't look to be on inside. Was he even home?
She decided right then that if Maynard had ditched her, and she ended up freezing to death, she'd come back as a ghost and haunt him silly.
A moment passed before Ami reached and gently pressed the doorbell brief hesitation, opened the glass door and knocked.
"Maynaaaard, c'mon." She stamped her feet against the welcome mat.
Maynard couldnt possibly have been in a better mood.
Hed been waiting for this day for ages, and so far everything had gone off without a hitch. His whole family had gone out - his parents having gone shopping for the day, whilst Gus and June were out socialising with their own friends - leaving Maynard to his own devices for the hour or two itd take for Ami to show up. Theyd been a little hesitant at first - Maynard had never been been alone with friends before, with one of his siblings or parents always hovering around to make sure everything was okay and to barge in at the most inopportune times. His family had always been rather gauche, something thatd passed onto Maynard in spades, and with Ami coming around he wanted as little awkwardness or potential for embarrassment as possible.
Hed scarcely been able to sleep the night before, excitement and anticipation keeping him awake far later than usual and waking him up much earlier than hed have liked. Itd given him plenty of time to make sure everything was organised and ready, though, which was always a plus. Ami was a special friend, and he wanted to make a special effort for her. His mum had been a great help; shed left a tray of cookies and a pitcher of fresh orange juice, and ironed out the creases in one of his dress shirts.
Maynard had done his part too; hed taken due care to gather up everything hed need - textbooks and stationary and the like - and had prepared a vase of hydrangeas from their garden, placing them in the centre of the dining table. He thought itd be best to work in the dining room rather than his bedroom or anywhere else; it was adjacent to the kitchen and living room, which gave them ample access to snacks, and to the family television if they wanted to watch a movie. Plus, his room was something of a mess at the moment - nothing horrific per say, but he wanted to make a good impression on Ami, and a messy room wouldnt exactly help in that regard.
The hydrangeas were starting to look a little wilted already.
Hed also made sure to dress properly too, avoiding his usual floaty shirts and jeans in favour of a plain dress shirt and trousers, as well as one of his constant waistcoats; a black-and-grey chequered number. For awhile hed considered using a some of his fathers cologne, but after giving the bottle a light sniff he decided against it. It was so strong and smelled awful, he couldnt understand why people would want to wear it.
After triple-checking that everythingd been properly prepared, Maynard resigned himself to waiting in the lounge, nervously rubbing his hands together as he waited for Ami to arrive. Everything seemed so much louder; the beating of his heart and the ticking of the clock on the mantelpiece. He stifled a yawn behind his hand and tugged gently at his collar. His lack of sleep was catching up with him already, it seemed.
He hoped it didnt impact too poorly on everything today.
He was just so tired.
Maynard didnt know for how long hed slept until he was awoken by a sharp rapping upon the front door and a familiar voice, as Ami called for his attention outside. He sat sharply upright, bleary eyed and vaguely disorientated. He couldnt really have fallen asleep, could he? That was only something that happened in movies or television shows, wasnt it?
He hurried quickly towards the entranceway, slipping slightly as his socks struggled to grip on the shaggy carpet, and fiddled with the lock. How long had she been waiting out there? This was really a bad start, wasnt it?
After a few more agonising seconds he was able to unhook the latch and ease upon the door, greeting Ami with a flustered face and a sheepish grin.
Hey, Ami! Its really awesome to see you. Dyou wanna come in? He shuffled backwards and beckoned her inside, Uh... I mean, of course you wanna come in. Heh. My mum left some cookies and some orange juice, if youd like some. How are you?