I don’t consider myself to be a lucky person. In fact, I am quite certain that if you were to look up the definition of unlucky you would probably find a picture of me, Lucy Garner, staring back at you. It wasn’t always like this.
Once upon a time, I was one lucky kid. But that all changed one day some seven years ago. Picture it: It was June 13, 2008. Friday the thirteenth. I was nine years old and spending my first day of summer holiday snooping. I was on a mission to find my birthday gifts. I had searched mom and dad’s usual hiding places: under their bed, in the crawl space, and the small patch of space in the far right corner of our already packed basement. I was desperate though, I even checked the garden shed.
Bored and frustrated with coming up empty handed I decided to check the one place I hadn’t looked: mom and dad’s closet. It seemed like an obvious place, but that’s exactly why I hadn’t checked. It was too obvious and mom and dad both knew this. I stood there and scanned the farthest corners. I found a few boxes of old love letters. There were boxes of designer shoes lined up across the bottom length of the closet. I shifted articles of clothing from left to right, checking in between every nook and every cranny. Just when I was about to abandon my mission, wave my white flag of surrender, I spotted an unfamiliar box.
That year I asked for a Nintendo Wii, not because I’m some gamer or some wanna be gamer. I was a very realistic nine-year-old, I sucked at all video games. But I wanted one all the same. It was what all the cool kids had and I wanted to be cool more than anything else I wanted. More than I wanted that Nintendo Wii. The box was Wii sized. My heart leaped with joy. So much so that I couldn’t leave well enough alone. I stretched and managed to grab a hold of the box. As the box slipped off the shelf and towards my outstretched arms I quickly realized two very important things: first, the box was much heavier than I expected it to be, and second I was a complete klutz.
Instead, it crashed with a loud thump and an even louder crack onto the linoleum-lined floor. Something had broken. I just hope it was something forgettable and not some family heirloom. I opened that box hesitantly, afraid of what I would find. There was a lot of junk in there, but among that junk, there was a mirror that had cracked and broke into what seemed like a million pieces. I stood there with three broken shards of glass in my hand. Realizing that just like that, I was struck with seven years of cold, hard bad luck.
At first, I did not think anything of the broken mirror, but as the air shifted around me, something felt different. Something wrong even. The very next day bad luck settled upon me as the dust settled upon a useless figurine. I needed to talk to Calvin, my one and only friend. I had to talk to someone, I had to find a logical reason why I was suddenly feeling like there was an ominous black cloud hanging over my head. But as luck would have it, bad luck reared its ugly head.
I never made it to Calvin’s house because I tripped on an uneven pavement stone. In the act of trying to break my fall, I ended up breaking my wrist. Breaking my wrist caused me to miss out on some desperately needed summer fun. A few days later I finally had made it to Calvin’s. And once again there was bad luck. Before I was even invited into the house Calvin told me he didn’t want to be friends with me anymore. He said I had a bad case of the cooties. I heard the snickers of a group of boys coming from behind the door. I stood there, shocked and on the verge of tears.
Within a week I had broken my wrist and lost my one and only best friend. The following week didn’t get any better. My pet lizard died. I lost my cell phone. And worst of all, mom informed me that I’d be spending a week with Aunt Kim and my cousin’s, affectionately known as the devils’ spawn.
The summer of 2008 was a crummy one. I had experienced more bad luck than I would have thought was humanly possible. I just had to wait it out, that’s all. I started high school with high hopes. But as the days turned into weeks, and weeks turned into months, my bad luck shrouded me like a cloak. That year I flunked physical education and was forced to take it again in summer school. Calvin still wasn’t talking to me. In fact, the only time he really paid any attention to me was when he played some mean-spirited prank on me. And when I broke my own personal rule of not wearing a skirt to school I ended up flashing the entire class my undies. I more than flashed, I advertised.
And here we are. The first day of summer holiday, seven years later. I waited bad luck out and I had survived. Things are going to change. Starting today. The bad luck spell was broken, well at least I’m hoping it is.
As I walk to Mo’s Music on Main, minding my own business, I stop. There in front of me was a small, wild-eyed squirrel and it was barking. It’s never a good sign when a squirrel barks. He positions himself to attack. And just when I thought he was going to go about his squirrel business, he launches himself onto my already beat up sneaker. He tears at the laces with all of his light, but I’m bigger and stronger. With a powerful shake of my leg he flies backward into a shrub that lines the walkway.
Obviously this has shaken me, and I think that maybe it’s best to skip this outing all together. I’m only going to Mo’s, and it’s not like the store will not be there tomorrow. Maybe seeing if my order arrived isn’t as important as not pushing my luck. I sit on a bench across from Mo’s. Should I or shouldn’t I? Should I go to Mo’s, shouldn’t I go to Mo’s? Should I go home? Should I face my bad luck head on and continue on across the street?
I know I look stupid, but I can’t help myself. The past seven years haven’t exactly been a cakewalk. With my head down, I sigh heavily, a bad habit inherited from my father. It’s then that I spot the penny. But this penny isn’t your average penny, it’s shiny. So much so that it looks as if it could have come directly from the money press. Besides that, it’s heads side up.
This has been the sign I’ve been waiting for. A sign to tell me that once and for all luck will be on my side for once. I pick it up and turn it over in my hands. It’s warm as if it’s been laying in the sun for some time. More than that though, it seems important somehow. I pocket the penny and head across the street to Mo’s.
Mo’s is probably the only store in town that I shop in. It’s a record store and it has a really great collection. Mo’s carries a large collection of both CDs and Vinyl, two formats that some would argue are out of date. That is unless you are either a die-hard fan or a hipster. There’s also has a large collection of audio cassettes, you know for the collector types. And if it isn’t in the store, whatever you want can easily be ordered. Sure shipping can cost an arm and a leg, but sometimes it’s worth it. At least for me, it is.
I walk through the doors, sending the tinkling chimes into a frenzy as I push open the glass door that is so laden with band stickers you could hardly tell that the door is in fact glass. Mo, the owner and who the store is named after looks up from his magazine. “Lucy Lu!” he exclaims. “Mo!” I shout back with false excitement.
“What’s up?” he asks as if he doesn’t know the reason why I am here. It’s the same reason why I’ve been coming in every other day: to see if my imported Sexy Mavis record came in.
“Nothing much but the sky,” I say lamely.
“Good one. You here checking on Mavis?”
“You know it!”
“Sorry Lucy Lu, I don’t think it’s in yet,” he says with a shrug of his shoulders.
“Can you check?” Even though he checked two days ago, he doesn’t argue. He’s a good guy, even though most everyone thinks he’s some sort of weirdo. He saunters off to the back room. I wait, fidgeting. I want to look around but can’t. I can’t let myself spend another dollar in this store. I’m almost broke, and the funds I do have to go towards public transportation to get me back and forth to work.
I wait, and wait, and wait until I cannot stand it any longer. I start to roam the aisles looking at what’s new. I sing along to the song that’s playing throughout the empty space. And then stop when the bells above the door tinkle loudly. It’s a rare sight to see more than three customers in a time. I often wonder how Mo can keep this place open, but don’t question in fear that if questioned, it will fall apart and my beloved indie record store will cease to exist.
I glance towards the door too curious to stop myself. It’s Ethan Finch. I stare awkwardly. Stare to the point where it’s blindingly obvious.
“Hey,” he says with a small wave. I look around. Is he really waving at me? No way, guys like Ethan Finch don’t casually wave to a girl like me. They don’t even notice me. “You’re Lucy, right? I think we had Chem lab together last year.”
“Yeah, I’m Lucy.” I can barely manage to speak. All the words have left my head. What. Is. Wrong. With. Me?
“Do you come here a lot? I thought I was the only one who ever shops here.”
“I’m here at least twice a month. You?”
“About once a month.”
We stand there staring nervously at each other. “What do you listen to?”
“Listen to?” I ask sounding confused.
“What kind of music do you listen to?”
“All different stuff. You?”
“It changes. Right now, I’m into experimental prog-rock,” he says excitedly.
“Like Sexy Mavis?”
“No way! You know who they are?”
“Of course! Have you listened to their basement sessions yet?”
“Not yet,” he answers.
“Dude! What the hell is wrong with you? Are you waiting for some kind of invitation?!” I say a bit meaner than I intend to say this.
“I missed it when they were live on their website. I had debate team practice that night. You have no idea how angry I was about missing it?”
“There are other ways to listen to it, you know?”
“Yeah, but the sound quality is pure crap.” I nod knowing exactly what he is saying is the truth. “Wait … did you say you’re on the debate team?” I ask with a condescending snort.
“Are you laughing at me?” “No! I’m…I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to laugh or to offend you. I just didn’t expect you to be on the debate team.”
“Well, what can I say? I’m full of surprises.” Is he flirting? Is he flirting, with me? My face instantly flushes.
“I guess you are,” is all I manage to say. Geez, where is Mo? Did he fly to Australia to get my album? I don’t know what to say to Ethan. I can tell that he doesn’t know what to say either. When I think the awkwardness will kill me, I hear the door at the back swing open. “Lucy Lu! Looki-y what Mo’s got for you!” He said as he held up the Sexy Mavis album I special ordered. He hands it to me. It’s the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. I turn the album over in my hands, looking at every inch of it.
“Mo, you are the best! Seriously! I love you, man!” I say enthusiastically!
“Ah! Look who it is! Sir Ethan, I didn’t even see you standing there. How’s it hanging man?” Mo says.
“Sir Ethan?” I interjecting questioning this odd nickname.
“Don’t ask, please.” His eyes are pleading with mine. It’s too soon in our relationship to know all of his deep dark secrets.
“Sir, you’re order is here too,” Mo says as he bends low behind the counter, digging around for what I assume is Ethan’s order. He hands Ethan a CD but I can’t make out exactly what or who it is. There is absolutely no writing on the cover. In fact it’s just one solid orange colored cover. I’m intrigued. Not exactly knowing what to do or say since I got what I came here for and don’t really need anything else. I mutter a “thanks Mo!” and slip out of the door and onto the sidewalk.
I lean against the brick wall, thinking about mine and Ethan’s brief exchange. Even if I never talk to him again, I will always have this day.
“Hey,” Ethan says as he slides up next to me.
“Oh, hey,” I say, startled.
“I didn’t mean to sneak up on you?.”
“It’s fine, really.”
“Do you want to do something?”
“Uh, I guess.”
“Don’t sound so enthusiastic,” he said
“No! It’s not that. I’m just ….”
“Surprised? I told you I’m full of ‘em Lucy Lu!”
“Okay, let’s do something,” I say with a smile. He took my hand and we walked in the opposite directions of Mo’s. I wasn’t sure what he had in store, but he walked with purpose and direction as if he had pre-planned this.
“Where are we going?”
“You’ll see,” he slyly responds. We walk on further, and in silence. But not the awkward kind of silence. But rather the kind of silence where you’re comfortable and at ease, a silence of familiarity. We stop walking, just outside of the city limits. We’re facing what appears to be an abandoned warehouse. Unsure and a bit uneasy, I wonder if this is some sort of elaborate prank schemed up by Calvin. But it can’t be, Ethan and Calvin aren’t friends. Or at least I don’t think they are.
“Where are we?” I ask.
“You sound scared? Don’t you trust me?”
“I don’t know you that well.”
“That’s what today’s for. Come on,” he says tugging my hand.
“Seriously, where are we and what is this place?”
He sighs. “If there’s one thing to know about me is that I love surprises. I love to be the one who surprises people and I like to be surprised.”
“That doesn’t answer my question.”
“Let me finish. I like you Lucy. I have liked you for a long time. But I didn’t know how to tell you. So I figured that I’d show you instead. I didn’t just randomly bump into you at Mo’s today. When I came in to pick up the new Pinball Adam, that was all planned. The cd had arrived at Mo’s easily a month ago. But I knew you hung out there, and I asked if he could let me know when your album came in so I could coincidentally bump into you.”
“Wait Mo actually told you when my album came in before telling me?” I ask outraged.
“Yeah, he also told me that you visit the store two times a month like clockwork and that you just happen to be his best customer.”
“It’s a little creepy that he told you all that. It’s even creepier to know that you wanted to know all of that.”
“Mo’s my uncle. And if it’s any consolation, I had to pry this information out of him. He went on and on about privacy and that I shouldn’t be so creepy. But I didn’t want to just be like ‘oh hey, Lucy who I barely know but think about constantly, I like you.’ You would have thought I was totally weird.”
“You are totally weird. But I like that.” At that moment I trusted Ethan. Maybe it was because he was being so candid. Maybe it was because Mo was Ethan’s uncle, and I trusted Mo. Whatever the reason, I knew Ethan was someone I could trust.
“Well, what are we waiting for? Surprise me, Finch!” We spent the entire afternoon inside that supposed abandoned warehouse just outside of the city limits. Turns out that warehouse was really an old-school roller skating rink. Inside, not only did we roller skate, but there was an ice cream bar where we splurged on the largest milkshake I’ve ever seen.
Today was sheer magic. And I know once and for all that bad luck was no longer a friend of mine. And it was all thanks to the penny in my pocket. When night fell, Ethan walks me home. Never letting go of my hand, never letting the conversation falter. When he drops me off at my front door, he kisses me gently on the lips, leaving me breathless. We didn’t exchange numbers but instead promised to meet at Mo’s tomorrow at one. I practically float into the house.
“Hey Lu,” mom greets me from the kitchen. She’s cooking dinner, judging from the smells wafting through the house.
“Hi Ma,” I call back as I run up the steps and toward my room. “You hungry?” She calls up the stairs. ”
“Good! Dinner will be ready in fifteen minutes. Bring down any dirty clothes, it’s laundry night.”
I try not to leave my house before a half past noon. The walk to Mo’s will only take about fifteen minutes, but if I walk slow enough about twenty. I don’t want to look over-excited but I can’t help myself. And deep down I don’t care if I do look over-excited. I know Ethan is feeling the same way.
I take my time walking to Mo’s. The sun seems to be shining even more than normal. The birds seem to be singing just a bit louder. I haven’t even seen Ethan yet, but it’s already a great day. I arrive at Mo’s a solid ten minutes before we planned on meeting. I don’t go in. Instead, I lean against the brick wall outside and check the time obsessively. With two minutes to spare I start to panic. I thought he would have been here by now. I
look back into Mo’s thinking maybe he’s been waiting inside for me, but it’s empty except for Mo, who like yesterday is perched at the front counter reading a magazine. I wait another ten minutes. Ethan told me yesterday that he doesn’t drive and that he doesn’t plan to so he relies heavily on public transportation. I tell myself that the buses are just running late. But the tiny voice inside of my head tells me different.
I push those negative thoughts out of my mind and decide to wait. I wait another ten minutes. It’s now twenty minutes after one. I knew we should have exchanged phone numbers. I could have called him to make sure he was okay. Because at this point, I am convinced that something terrible has happened to him. And again that voice chimes in. I shove it deeper down and ignore it. I wait another ten minutes. It’s now half past one and I know in my heart of hearts that he isn’t coming.
The realization that yesterday was all a big joke crashes down on me. It takes everything I have not to break down in front of Mo’s. I turn back and peer into the store. Mo looks up and waves at me. I know I shouldn’t, but I have to ask. I walk into Mo’s determined to get the answers I’m looking for.
“Hey Mo,” I say.
“Lucy Lu! Two days in a row! What did you think of that Sexy Mavis album?”
“I didn’t get a chance to listen to it yet. Hey, listen Mo, can I ask you something? About Ethan?”
“We were supposed to meet today. But he never showed. Is he okay?” Mo looks confused. So much so that he actually scratches his head.
“Are you sure about that Lucy Lu?”
“Positive,” I say confidently.
“Well, sorry Lucy Lu, Ethan, and his mom went away last night. They won’t be back until August.”
I’m shocked. I nod and mumble a thank you in Mo’s direction. He keeps talking but I don’t hear him. I’m so upset I don’t care who sees me crying. Why would Ethan do this to me? Why would anyone find toying with someone’s emotions funny? Why? Why? Why? And suddenly I stop.
It’s because of the penny! I reach into my pocket and sure enough, I lost the penny. It must have fallen out somewhere. Maybe when it was in the laundry. All I know is that the penny is gone, and so is my good luck.