Claire and Grandma – A Short Story by Leona

“Halmeoni” Claire called toward the front door. “I’m coming!” 

She slipped on her sneakers and grabbed her rain jacket. Earlier, Claire had heard from Pa’s radio that there was “a high chance of rain in the greater Chicago area”. She tumbled down the stairs carefully to slow down right as she landed on the entryway. 

“Claire!” Her grandmother said, waiting for her, “You need to slow down when you go down the stairs! One day you’ll trip and fall and end up who knows where.” 

“Yes Halmeoni” Claire looked down at her shoes. Oh shoot! One of them needed tying.

“You ready to go? Our lunch date is all ready.” Her grandmother smiled and turned. Claire carefully followed her grandma, trying not to step on the loose shoelace. They got in the car. Every 3rd Saturday of the month, Grandma and Claire would go out to lunch and chat. Claire enjoyed spending time with her halmeoni and telling her all about school. But today she didn’t want to talk about school or her friends. She wanted to eat yummy food and watch kpop music videos on the big TV at the restaurant. The previous day at school had been one that Claire wanted to forget and especially not talk about. She looked out the car window and fogged up the glass, trailing her fingers to create a sort of pattern. Claire and her grandmother did not exchange words in the car. They were even silent as the waiter sat them down at a table. Her grandmother smiled and looked at the menu.

“What would you like to eat, Claire?” she asked.

“I just don’t want to even be his friend anymore!” Claire said crossing her arms and leaning her head down. “I don’t need friends,” she mumbled.

Halmeoni knew this was how Claire processed difficult things. You just needed to give her space and then she would talk. Her granddaughter was at an age that required freedom but also guidance.

“I think I’ll order us both Yok Gae Jang and then you can tell me about how you don’t need friends.” There was a pause. “Do you really think so? I’ve always found friends to be valuable, in my life.” Halmeoni said. She ordered the food and even a soda for Claire who was still sulking with her head in her arms. Claire sat there, enjoying the darkness that her crossed arms provided. It shielded her from all the feelings and thoughts she didn’t want to acknowledge. She wished she could stay in the darkness forever.

“Your hot tea and cherry coke.” a voice said above Claire. She looked up. Cherry Coke? That was her favorite! Halmeoni smiled. Claire scooted the cup closer and took up the straw and started slurping. The yummy fizzy taste of  the cherry pop made her feel a little better. 

“Halmeoni, you know how I have my friend Sherlock?”, Claire asked.

“Yes, he’s one of your good friends at school. I believe you met this year?” Halmeoni cupped her hands around her tea mug. She knew full well how good of friends Claire and Sherlock had become. Always hanging out together after school.

“Yeah, he was new this year, and well I don’t know how we started hanging out. But you know he’s so…so DUMB. A stupid boy person. And I don’t want to be his friend anymore.” Clarie said with gusto and then emphatically took a gulp of soda. The carbonation caused her to cough and she ended up looking and feeling ridiculous. But Halmeoni didn’t seem to mind, instead she pressed in with the questions.

“Why don’t you want to be James’ friend anymore?” Halmeoni always used Sherlock’s first name. 

“Well, you see we were at school and he basically just said we’re not friends. So there.” Clair took another gulp of her soda. She then decided it was worth telling Halmeoni about Sherlock. She went on.

“You see it was the last period of the day and I had just had a terrible time in English class. Somehow I couldn’t find my homework from last night. My teacher let me go into the hallway to look for it in my locker. Mrs. Bell believed that I did it but she still wanted me to turn it in on time. So I was in the hallway going through everything. I took almost every book out of my locker and was flipping through all the pages to see if it had gotten lost there. All my stuff was stacked a certain way so that I could remember how it went back in my locker. Sherlock came down the hall from his other class and asked what I was doing. I explained how the homework was finished but lost. He started double checking the books I had looked through just in case. You know, a second pair of eyes kind of thing. I thought it was kinda a dumb thing to do but I let him help me. I know Sherlock probably didn’t want to be in class, that’s why he was in the hallway. Then Ptooey came down the hallway and kicked all my stuff!” 

“Ptooey?” Halmeoni asked.

“Yeah “Claire shrugged. “ It’s just what we call the bully in the other class. I don’t remember his real name.”

“You should try to call people by their names, Claire. It is important.” Halmeoni said.

Claire took a long sip of coke; she didn’t want to tell her grandmother that she wasn’t sure that Ptooey even had a real name. She continued “So I yelled and was kinda upset and the bully just laughed in my face and said ‘What are you gonna do about it? This guy help you?’ He laughed in a mean way that is so annoying!! But you know what Sherlock did?”

“James” Halmeoni interrupted. 

“Yes, James” continued Claire. “He didn’t say anything. He just looked at me, stopped looking at my books and didn’t answer. Ptooey asked him straight out. ‘Is she your friend?’ he was pointing at me. And Sher- I mean James said ‘She’s not my friend, I was just helping her pick up things.’ At this point I was really upset, Halmeoni, and I almost started crying. Sherlock, I mean James, says dumb things but it has never been that dumb. Ptooey laughed at us and walked away. He made sure to step on my books as he left. And James just handed me a piece of paper, which amazingly was my lost homework and didn’t say anything!”

Claire had pushed herself to her feet and was standing up. At that moment, a server walked over with their meals, set them down and moved quickly away. Claire stood for a moment longer and then slowly took her seat. Halmeoni handed Claire chopsticks and a napkin. She prayed a blessing over the meal and then said to her granddaughter,

“Do you think James had a reason for not answering this person? As you mentioned, he isn’t kind to other students.”

“Well,” Claire took a bite of food. The yummy spices warmed her mouth. She ate a few more bites of food. The meal was making her feel better. 

“ I dunno, Sherlock just doesn’t want to be friends with me anymore. He didn’t even wait for me in the pick up bus line. So I guess…” Claire trailed off. Her thoughts were so jumbled. She was upset at Sherlock but more at the fact that he was now avoiding her at school. 

“Maybe you and James need to have a conversation.” Halmeoni said. 

“Yeah, about how Sherlock is being a big JERK.” Claire said.

“No,” Halmeoni said. “I think you need to ask James what is really going on. It seems like there is more to the story. You can be upset, but before you think you aren’t friends, you need to hear his side of the story.”

Claire didn’t want to listen to her grandmother. She was angry and sad. She thought of Sherlock as her best friend so it hurt her feelings when he didn’t say it. But as she ate more of her food in silence, Claire realized that her grandmother was right. She wanted to still be friends with Sherlock. She wanted them to explore that house at the end of the street. Sherlock was surprising and it was always fun when they got together. She sighed.

“Halmeoni, I’ll talk to him on Monday.”

“You promise to ask James his side of the story?” Halmeoni wanted to drive this point home.

“Yes I promise. I just want to be friends again.” Claire said, looking out the restaurant window. Hopefully Sherlock would be willing to talk to her.

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