Sleeping with Spiders
She heard a sigh from beside her. “What did you do now?”
“I think I just lost my science project.” Aislin peered into the telescope, trying to find any of the ants she was using in her habitat report. She took a quick glance around the table and the floor. “Serena, you don’t happen to see a fugitive red ant, do you?”
“Actually, yeah.” Serena pointed toward the window in front of them. “That your escapee?”
Aislin’s eyes squinted and stared at the bottom corner of the window. There was her red ant… tangled up and motionless in the soft gauzes of a spider’s web.
“Dammit.” Aislin took out the square thingie that keeps the subject matter that one is studying under the telescope and washed it under the science table’s faucet. “Now I have to go find another one and introduce it to Jordan.”
Serena’s mouth quirked at the edges as she stuffed her own reports and research into her backpack. “Jordan?” she repeated. “Who is that?”
“My black ant,” Aislin said. “He was just starting to get used to Dylan too.”
“Rest in peace, Dylan,” Serena called into the lab as she exited behind Aislin, shutting off the lights and closing the door.
“I don’t see why you didn’t just do the longer research paper like the rest of us,” Serena said while the pair walked among the crowds of their high school.
“I’m not the only one who chose the insect version of the project,” Aislin said, somewhat-gently pushing other students out of their way when the friends made it to their lockers.
“Right.” Though Aislin had her head in her locker as she switched books to and from her bag, she could tell by Serena’s tone that the other girl was rolling her eyes. “You and Nick Gangy, the science nerd of the millennium.”
Aislin slammed her locker shut. “You know I suck at writing reports. This way is the chance of a better grade in that class. It’s a shorter paper and I really don’t mind doing the hands-on experiments.”
“But bugs?” Serena stuck her tongue out and she shuddered. “Ants are okay, I suppose,” she considered, “but I heard Nick was doing something on centipedes! Imagine, bringing in a jar full of those long, icky things…! At least you have an ant farm.”
Whatever else Serena wanted to say about gross insects was drowned out when the two entered the lunchroom. The girls got their lunches, and the subject of the science projects disappeared from their minds as they and their other friends discussed more important topics. Who was dating whom, what the latest celebrity scandal was, those sorts of things. Lunch hour ticked on by and Aislin was soon trudging up the school’s stairs toward her next class. Her mind drifted in and out of her last three lessons of the day while she kept her face in a neutral Of-course-I’m-paying-attention expression. The joy that came with the end of the school day, and week, was short-lived. Aislin walked home with her head bent down, hoping that she would find Dylan II before she went through her front door.
“Keep your chin up, dear.”
Aislin blinked and glanced around when she reached the edge of her yard. She spotted her grandmother on the porch in a rocking chair, and Aislin returned the old woman’s smile with a crooked one of her own.
“You’d best keep your chin up,” her grandmother repeated when Aislin walked up the porch steps. “It’s easier to see the future coming at you.”
“Hi, Gramma.” Aislin gave the woman a quick hug as her bag fell to the wooden porch with a thunk. “I was just looking for some red ants.”
“Ants?” Gramma looked shocked. “You should be watching out for spiders. They always come calling when the weather starts to get warm like this.”
“I should have guessed.” Aislin said. “It was a spider that killed the red ant I was using for my science project.”
“Ohhh, I see.” Gramma nodded as if Aislin had just said something so wise, the Pope should hear it. “Well, it must have been that ant’s time to go.”
“Sure,” Aislin said, humoring her grandmother. Hoisting her bag over her shoulder once again, she said hastily, “Well, I got to go get started on my homework—”
“You can skip the geometry tonight.” The screen door almost smacked Aislin in the face when she whipped around to stare at Gramma. The woman was staring serenely at the street. “Mr. Donahue won’t be in tomorrow.”
“Um, okay. Thanks for the tip.” Aislin skipped every other step as she went upstairs and into her room, wondering how Gramma knew her math teacher’s name.
Aislin made sure to feed Jordan and she imagined the black ant was scurrying around the ant farm frantically because he was looking for Dylan.
“Dylan won’t be back to help you with the tunnels, I’m afraid,” she said. “He’s a spider’s dinner now.”
She made a note of Dylan’s unfortunate demise in her science report and thought she was pretty clever for adding in a theory on how Jordan would react when another red ant would be added to the scene. After the science homework, she was about to start on her French vocabulary translations when Serena called asking for the answers. Aislin struck a deal with her friend, saying she would give Serena the French translations as long as Serena would give Aislin the answers to the response questions for their current scene of Shakespeare’s Hamlet in their English literature class.
“Why is French so easy for you?” Serena asked after the pair finished the homework. Before Aislin could respond, Serena added, “You have some hot French pen pal or something over there to help, don’t you?”
Aislin laughed. “Trust me, if I had a hot French guy here, homework would be the last thing on my mind!”
“That’s my girl,” Serena said. “I’d love to think more about this guy with you, but I have to write some journalism crap for the school’s newspaper. Think anyone will catch on if I make up quotes and student names?”
“Students probably wouldn’t,” Aislin said, “but I’m sure the newspaper supervisor has access to the student records.”
“Damn, you’re probably right.”
“Why did you join the newspaper again?” Aislin asked.
“Shut up.” Serena knew when she was being teased. “I always knew I wanted to write. Joining this club helped me realize that I do not want to write news and be a reporter. I want to be the next J.K. Rowling!”
“With your determination and crazy mind, you could do it,” Aislin said.
“Aw, thanks!” Serena said. “Now that’s why I love you. G’night!”
“Bonne nuit.” Aislin laughed when Serena exclaimed that she knew what that meant and the two hung up.