Almond waited by the side entrance of the music store. It was just around the corner from the parking lot, down an alley with enough breeze that any smoke was carried away. The young man, or old boy, depending on how you viewed things, did not let down his guard.

His hair fit the curves he designed. He sprayed a mint spray in his mouth, breath freshening with perfume and alcohol. The jacket had the right patches, the jeans the right lack of brand. He had no money and he did not care. That night he would be mixing LPs at a rave, and he knew that something would take care of him.

Sure enough, she emerged a moment later. Probably caught in her own thoughts, which had nothing to do with reality. A parent's credit card. For a moment he was angry. That passed and he fell into pace behind her and caught her hand. "Oh, Almond!" she threw her arms around him for a full kiss. He held her for a moment and the warmth felt good. For her almost anything was possible. He almost caught a thought he was in the process of forgetting as it occurred to him.

They walked down the main part of town, past the Chinese convenience store, the two banks, the faculty housing, the hardware store and the oldfashioned pharmacy. Three kids and a cigarette were warming up the small northern parking lot. She told him about her day, her worries about making it through an exam, two friends who were fighting. He was very patient he thought.

"So baby, what are you doing tonight?" he asked.

She shrugged and smiled up at him. "We can go out... I have to be back a little early, though," she said.

"Early?" He winked. "Shoot, that blows out what I was planning. Are you sure?"

"Aren't you worried about finals too?"

His hair caught the breeze, and he clamped it back into place with a delicate firm touch of his two forefingers. "Naw, not really. That's why I take anthropology classes, see, there's not too much to do. I get by."

She giggled.

"It's better than spending your life worrying about tomorrow, trying to plan and keep money around, pretty soon everything's in a tiny little box and doesn't make sense at all, you end up just wasting your time," he said. He remembered and turned back to her. "So you can't go to a desert party?"

Her fresh face fell. "Oh, Almond, I'm so sorry, I know you'll be disappointed, but this test is coming up, it's two days away..."

"Two days! Girl, don't you whine, silly. You'll do fine. You're the smart one."

Her green eyes were looking away, harmonizing with the sky as his absorbed them. "Not reall, Almond. I'm not any good at math, that's why I'm taking this one so serious."

"I understand," he said. "Listen, we'll talk about it later, OK? I've got to get some people together so I can get my DJ gear there tonight. I'll miss you. But I'll be thinking of you." He kissed her goodbye.

A block later he paused under the juniper bushes. It was too bad she wasn't game. Now he could smell his afternoon sweat, and the mint of the breath spray was gone. He needed to do something for a ride.