A Different Blue
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"Later, Wilson," I called out, not even turning my head.
Manny was waiting by my truck when I reached the student parking lot, and seeing him there made me groan. Manuel Jorge Rivas-Olivares, aka Manny, lived in my apartment complex. He and his little sister had adopted me. They were like the stray cats that would hang around your door and meow pitiously for days on end until you finally gave up and fed them. And when you finally fed them, it was over. They were officially your cats.
So it was with Manny and Graciela. They just kept hanging around until I finally took pity on them. Now they thought they belonged to me, and I didn't know how to make them go away. Manny was sixteen and Graciela was fourteen. Both were small-boned and fine-featured, and both were incredibly sweet and annoying. Just like cats.
There was a bus that ran to the complex, and I made sure Manny's mother knew all about it and even assisted her in getting Manny and Graciela registered to ride it. I really thought this year would be different now that Graciela was in ninth grade and would be riding the high school bus too. Guess not. Manny was waiting for me with a big smile and an armful of books.
“Hey, Blue! How was your first day? Big senior year, Chica! I bet you'll be homecoming queen this year. The most beautiful girl in the school should be homecoming queen, and you are definitely the most beautiful girl!” Very sweet, very annoying. Manny spoke a mile a minute with a slight Hispanic accent and just a hint of a lisp, which might have been the accent but was more likely just Manny.
“Hey, Manny. What happened to riding the bus?”
Manny's smile slipped a little, and I felt bad for asking. He waved my question away and shrugged.
“I know, I know. I told Gloria I would take the bus, and I made sure Graciela caught it . . . but I wanted to ride home with you on the first day. Did you see the new history teacher? I have him for first period, and I can tell he's going to be the best teacher I've ever had . . . and the cutest too!”
Manny had recently started calling his mother Gloria. I wasn't sure what that was about. I also considered telling him he might want to reconsider calling Mr. Wilson cute. I assumed that was who he was talking about. I didn't think there were two new history teachers.
“I love his accent. I hardly heard anything he said all period!” Manny slid daintily in the passenger side when I unlocked my truck. I worried about the kid. He was more feminine than I was.
“I wonder what he is doing in Boulder? Ivy and Gabby are sure he is, like, MI-6 or something.” Manny had dozens of girlfriends. In fact, the girls all loved him because he was so non-threatening and fun, which made me wonder again why he couldn't ride the bus. It wasn't like he didn't have friends.
“What the hell is MI-6?” I grumped, trying to manuever through the crush of vehicles leaving the school. I hit my brakes as someone cut me off and then hung his middle finger out the window as if I was the one who pulled out in front of him. Manny reached over my arm and pounded on the horn.
“Manny! Stop! I'm the one driving, okay?” I commanded, knocking his hand away. It didn't even faze him.
“You don't know what MI-6 is? Freaking James Bond? Chica, you need to get out more!”
“What would someone from MI-6 be doing at Boulder High School?” I laughed.
“Beats me, but he's British, he's hot, and he's young.” Manny ticked his points off on graceful fingers. “What else could it be?”
“You really think he's hot?” I questioned doubtfully.
“Oh, definitely. In a very naughty librarian kind of way.”
“Oh, sick, Manny. That only works when the librarian is female.”
“Fine, a naughty professor then. He's got sexy eyes and floppy curls and his forearms are very well-developed. He's a hottie in disguise. Totally MI-6. Do you have to work tonight?” Manny bounced to a new subject, having clearly proven the new Mr. Wilson must be a spy.
“It's Monday. Monday means work, Manny.” I knew what he was fishing for and resisted. “Stop feeding the kitties,” I reminded myself firmly.
“I could sure go for some of Bev's quesadillas right now. I am one hungry Mexican.” Manny laid the accent on thick. He only referred to his ethnicity when he talked about food. “I sure hope Gloria remembered to go shopping before she left for work. Otherwise, me and baby sister are eating Ramen again,” Manny sighed mournfully.
The baby sister line was over the top, but I found myself weakening. Manny was the man of the house, and that meant providing for Graciela, which he did with gusto, even if providing meant asking me to provide. I worked at Bev's Cafe several nights a week, and without fail I brought home dinner for Manny and Graciela at least once during the week.
“Fine. I will bring you and Gracie some quesadillas. But this is the last time, Manny. It cuts into my paycheck,” I scolded. Manny smiled brilliantly at me and clapped his hands like Oprah does when she's excited.
“I will see if my uncle has any more mesquite you can have,” Manny promised, and I nodded and stuck out my hand to shake on it.