“This going to be a new start for us, Taryn. You are gonna love it here!”
Taryn had heard heard her mother say those words so many times that she no longer listened. She simply turned her face toward the car window and tuned out.
Randi, as her mom preferred to be called, pulled into the parking space in front of their new apartment complex. Rolling Farm Estates, they were called. Taryn didn’t see any farms anywhere around here and didn’t understand why they would be rolling.
Randi got out of the car and stomped her cigarette on the ground. She was only about five feet tall, but she had a Dolly Parton sized chest. Taryn was taller and thinner but had inherited her mother’s wavy red hair and green eyes.
Randi was always telling people what a pretty girl her daughter had become. As though prettiness was some kind of achievement like good grades or athletic prowess. Taryn wasn‘t sure what she wanted to be, but pretty wasn’t necessarily the be all and end all.
“Come on, Taryn. Let’s take a look around before the movers get here.”
Taryn didn‘t know why they had even needed a moving van. All of their stuff could have probably fit in the trunk and the back seat of the car.
She had to admit this was the nicest place they had ever lived. There were tennis courts, a workout room and even a pool. Each apartment had it’s own small patio.
Taryn followed Randi to their second floor unit, shivering in the January chill. It was New Years Eve and Randi would surely be going out.
Taryn would be left alone again in a new place with no cable hookup, no wi-fi, and no food. At least Randi could have left twenty bucks so Taryn could order a damn pizza.
It was that New Years Eve when she first saw the boy. She stepped outside and saw him standing on his own second floor balcony on the other side of the courtyard.
He looked like he was about her age. Fifteen. He was skinny with blondish hair that was sort of unkempt. Still, he was kind of cute in a nerdy way.
She waved at the boy, hoping he would reciprocate. He never did.
When Taryn started school a week later, she discovered the boy was in her Geometry class. She smiled and nodded at him the first day but again he showed no interest.
Randi settled into her job bar tending at the Ramada Inn off of the interstate. Taryn settled into school as best she could. There was no reason for her to try hard to make friends when she knew they wouldn’t be staying. They never stayed anyplace.
Taryn learned the boy’s name was Tim and she continued to try to flirt with him in class to no avail. She was sorely disappointed. If her mother had taught her nothing else it was how to grab a boy’s attention.
Other boys targeted her as the New Girl and asked her out, but she turned them all down. She had no interest in dating, but there was something kind of sad and intriguing about Tim. Taryn began to think of him as Shy Tim.
In late January and early February there started to be talk of a virus in China. Taryn paid the talk no mind. That was in China and this was Ohio. Her mother refused to watch TV news or read a paper. Taryn had more or less followed that pattern.
Then came the dark day in March when the schools were closed “until further notice.” Taryn calmly cleaned out her locker and walked outside. A group of students, mostly Juniors and Seniors were already planning a bonfire and a party in the woods.
One of the Juniors, Mark somebody who was on the football team began razzing Shy Tim as he tried to make his way to the bus.
“You should come to the party, Tim. You might actually get laid!“
Mark and his Legion of Goons all laughed. Tim ignored them as though they hadn’t heard.
“Keep ignoring them. They’re idiots,“ Taryn said to him.
“I know that. You can leave me alone too.”
Taryn was not about to give up. Shy Tim was a challenge.
“Give me your phone. I can type my number in and we can stay in touch.”
“I’m not giving you my phone!” Tim scowled.
She took out a slip of paper and her purple pen, scribbled her number and stuck it in the pocket of his jeans.
It took a week before she heard from him. By then, Taryn was already going stir crazy with boredom. Her mother lost her job at the motel, so Taryn had no idea where she went all day.
She tried keeping up with her assigned schoolwork but couldn’t concentrate. She would sit on the balcony reading the same chapter of her History book over and over.
Then one morning she picked up her phone to see a simple smile emoji from Shy Tim.
She looked across the courtyard to see him lounging on his own balcony.
Taryn: A smile emojI? That’s the best you can do?
She watched from afar as he clicked away.
Tim: Sorry. I‘m not real good at this stuff. My mom didn’t even let me get a real phone until I was thirteen.
Taryn: Really??? What are you Amish or somethin?
Tim: No! Would I be living here if I was Amish? What do you want, Taryn? You could find guys who have more going for them than me.
Taryn: Those guys are jerks. I like you.
The conversations continued for several weeks. She asked him to come over, but his mom was working from home and hovering all the time. Besides, he was trying to adhere to the social distancing. He didn’t even go out with his mom when she braved the grocery store.
Taryn found herself opening up to Shy Tim like she’d opened up to no one. How her father had bailed when she was two. The years of moving from one crappy apartment to another as her mom lost job after job. Sometimes, it was due to her temper or her laziness. Most of the time it was due to her drinking.
She sent Tim funny memes and he sent her answers to their Geometry homework. But he never revealed himself to her in the same way she had.
April came with no end in sight. Taryn didn’t hear from him in several days. Then one morning she was on the balcony with coffee when her phone pinged.
Tim: My mom is driving me nuts. She comes into my room every fifteen minutes to make sure I‘m doing my schoolwork. She treats me like a six year old.
Taryn: Consider yourself lucky. My mom could give a damn. She acts more like my older sister than my mom.
Tim: I guess. I was spending every other weekend with my dad but I can‘t go there now. My step monster had a baby and doesn’t want anyone around it.
Taryn: This is all so weird. When do you think it will end?
Tim: I don’t know, Taryn, No one knows. My mom is concerned about me falling behind in school and damaging my college admission.
Taryn: Ha! At least she wants you to go to college. My mom has never mentioned college once!
Taryn: This is our graduation day. We have been through hell and back but we survived. Although we ended up as friends, I am so happy to call you my friend. I am so proud of you for being Valedictorian and going to Ohio State. I am proud of myself for deciding to go on to community college. I am proud of my mom for going to AA and getting a steady job. Take care and I love you. As a friend.