The opportunity presented itself a few days later.
I stood in line to get my lunch, ignoring the boys immediately before and after me, and yet very much aware of the yellow head a few places in front of me. Despite the distance, I could hear him talking loudly, clearly too agitated to keep his voice down.
"Suspended! And for what?" he ranted. "They don't have anything on me, I'm telling you. What kind of shit is that? I could complain, you know."
"Will you?" asked some guy next to him.
"I will, you wait and see," Jesse snapped, and then added in the same tone, "I won't, of course I won't. But the bastards! I so wanted to go."
"Come on, it has its perks. You'll have the place for yourself."
"I'm sick of this place! Do you know how creepy it is when everybody's gone? What am I going to do?"
"Play chess with Mr. Calwin," someone said, and a few boys laughed.
"Or study—ever heard about that?"
As their banter continued, my mind worked rapidly. They were clearly talking about the upcoming Parents Weekend, the three days vacation we could spend at home. There was much talk about it lately, and it seemed that even the kids who enjoyed Highbridge looked forward to going home. I certainly did—a few days in a safe environment would be a welcomed break from the constant tension of being surrounded by people. My parents were also excited, and Mom kept talking about it each time she got me on the phone.
Yet now I wasn't sure. I didn't know what had Jesse done to be forced to stay at school when pretty much everybody else left, but it meant that he would be alone most of the time, without his usual entourage of friends. And if I stayed, he would surely notice me, and then…
I wasn't sure what would happen then, but I had to give it a shot. I felt a sting of guilt when I thought of Mom, but then I heard Jesse's voice again, and I knew it was worth it. I'd tell them that I had to stay and study, and they'd understand.
The days passed quickly now that I had something to look forward to. Mathew packed his stuff, like nearly everybody else did, and on the first morning of the vacation, a long line of cars crawled by the main entrance of the school, picking boys and their luggage.
The corridors were suddenly quiet and empty. The place felt even more deserted than on Sunday mornings, as if I could sense that instead of all the boys sleeping behind the closed doors there were now empty rooms. Jesse had been right, it did feel creepy. Even I with all my resentment towards people could sense that. Schools and dorms were meant to be filled with life and voices, not stand empty and silent.
I still had zero ideas of how to approach Jesse and make the best of us being currently the only residents of the dorm by the time Mr. Calwin stopped by my room to check on me.
"So, " he said. "It's going to be a long weekend. What're you up to?"
I shrugged. "I don’t know yet."
"Reading is a good idea," he said. "The library is closed, but you can borrow some of my books. Or check out with Jesse from 303—he's not much into reading, but his roommate Elliot has a large selection."
"Ah," I said, feeling a cartoon light bulb going on over my head. "A book?"
"Yeah." He picked some dust from his sweater that usually replaced his tweed suits on weekends. "Want to come to my place and pick one?"
"No, thanks," I said. "I'll check with…with Elliot's roommate."
"Yeah." He nodded. "Jesse is the name."
The corridor of the third floor looked almost identical to ours. I walked along the row of closed doors until I reached the one with the number 303 gleaming on it. There was no sound coming from the room. Perhaps he was asleep. I hesitated. Waking him up only to borrow a book would only get him pissed. On the other hand, it would let him know he's not the only student in the building.
I took a deep, shaky breath. I had to get this right, and if that required waiting until tomorrow, then I should do so. He probably would be in a better mood. Witnessing everybody else leave must have upset him.
I turned away from the door and froze, running into an unblinking stare of two blue-grey eyes.
"Surprise," Jesse said.
He stood right in front of me, dressed in a soft grey sweater and blue jeans, his version of a weekend casual attire. His hair seemed uncombed, but in its messy state it only looked better to me. He examined me coolly, as if evaluating a dog, trying to guess if it could bite.
"Well, hello, mister stalker," he said at last. "What brings you here?"