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Monthly Archives: February 2017

The Sulphur Selkie

Shade was seven years old when she heard the story of the Irish selkies. “They are taken from the sea and become wives and mothers to Irishmen,” said the traveling social worker in a special storytelling benefit for children. “But if someone finds her coat that she had in the sea, she’ll leave her husband and children and go back!”

The social worker was a man, which might have been why he seemed mortified that a woman would leave her husband and children, but didn’t have any problem with the idea that a man could just steal a woman out of her home and force her to get married and have children.

“Doesn’t she deserve a life?” said a still, small voice inside Shade. “Doesn’t she deserve a choice?”

But she pushed the voice aside. It was the same voice that often told her not to listen to the holy men, the same voice that told her to speak up for herself when she knew she was being wronged, even if it meant talking back to adult men. It was a voice that often got her in trouble.

“Don’t you listen to that voice inside you!” her mother often scolded, brandishing the Book in her hand. “For I swear to you, it is the devil!”

She didn’t like having the devil inside her head and she so tried not to listen. But sometimes that devil was the only one that made sense.

When she was fourteen, her village was raided and Shade was one of twenty-seven girls who were kidnapped and brought North to the City to be sold.

Shade prayed for help, but when the voice inside her offered to give her the power she needed, she shrank away from it. “No matter what the voice inside offers you,” her mother had always said, “no matter what will happen to you, do not trust it, for its power is Corruption!” So she let the men take her body, rather than giving up her Soul.

At the auction where they were sold, some of the girls seemed to know things about some of the men, which ones were particularly cruel, which ones sold drugs, which ones liked hitting. There was one man there every girl agreed, once she’d heard about him, that she would choose to be sold to, if she had the choice and not they.

(But why would you want to be sold at all? asked the Voice)

That man, the respectable one with the kind face, the one who did not beat his women, the one who campaigned for positive change, that man was the one who won the bid for Shade.

He took her home and he was kind, told the staff at his mansion to treat her as a lady, and they all spoke well of him, because of how well they were treated. And that night, when he came to her, he was gentler than she had ever been led to believe a man could be when he came to a woman.

He never beat her. Sometimes he would raise his voice in anger and she wouldn’t know why and that still-small voice would tell her “It’s not fair, you should tell him!” but she would slap it away, she would remind herself of all the terrible men who had been at that auction who she might have been sold to, and the bruises, she kept seeing on the wives of her husband’s business associates, which they didn’t even try to hide. And she would remind herself how lucky she was to have been sold to a good husband.

She gave him two children, a boy and a girl. They tried to have more, but apparently, her body failed him. (And could it not be his seed, said the Voice, failing you?) She watched her son and daughter grow up, thankful first that they had such a loving father, but also that her son was so handsome and strong and most especially relieved when her daughter did not speak about a still, small Voice inside her telling her that all she knew was wrong. She did not think she would be capable of beating her own child as she had been beaten. She did not think she could bear for her daughter to be Possessed, as she was.

But once her daughter started to come of age, thoughts started to occur to Shade. Whom would her daughter want to marry? To which of her husband’s friends (or which of their sons) would she be given? Her husband was a kind and gentle man, but he didn’t seem to know any other kind and gentle men. Only villains. She thought I should find a man for her who is as honorable as her brother, but then she thought Whom will he marry? And then she thought how.

That was when the Voice returned in full force. It should not be your husband’s decision whom your daughter marries! was one of the more ridiculous claims, but underneath it was It is up to you to protect your daughter because none of these men will! And when she tried to counter about her son and about her husband, about how they were good men, the Voice inside her took no prisoners but declared That man paid money to your kidnappers so that he could own you as property. 

There it was. The Truth she could no longer escape. Her husband was not a good man. He may be better than any man she had met since she was taken from her village, but that was not the same as goodness. And under his parentage, the Voice inside her twisted the knife, what man will your son become? 

It was all too much.

What can I do? she asked the Voice. How can I help my daughter? How can I save my son? 

I can help you, said the Voice. But there is a price. 

She had always known there would be, yet she caught her breath at what the thought implied. What must I do? she asked the Voice, desperately trying not to add, not to even think, I’ll do anything!

You must forget everything your parents taught you. You must abandon your husband, perhaps even your children. You have a Power inside you that is too great for one man to keep locked away, and you have a responsibility to wield it. Join me. Give yourself to me and I will give you the power to destroy the men who once ruined you—the men who soon will ruin your daughter, also. But in return, I expect you to continue fighting for me, to seek out and destroy any men—or women, either—who would traffic children for profit. I can give you this Power, Shade, but in return you must wield it for me. 

That night, Shade brought her daughter and son to her old village. When she returned, she murdered their father. For the next week, she worked her way through all of his friends, liberating their wives whether they (thought they) liked it or not, and then fought her way into the distance, not to rest until the evil she had always known but never heeded was wiped from the face of existence.

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The Giant and the Dwarves

Once upon a time, there was a family of Dwarves who lived in the cul-de-sac at the end of Amethyst Place in Trinity’s Field. I say “Dwarves” instead of “Dwarfs” because they were not exactly like the dwarfs we are (somewhat) used to in our society. Hypoplastic dwarfs can have children of a “normal” size, but Steve Sheehan’s Dwarf genes were dominant rather than recessive, which meant that all of Linda Larchman’s children with him were about the same size they were.

People often joked about them; many of the jokes they made were cruel, enough that even the ones that were harmless stung. One of the ones that came up all too frequently even as a serious question was whether they lived in a house that was as small as they were. They did not—in fact, their house was quite large to house their seven children, and the ceilings were even somewhat higher than normal on the first floor. But in the kitchens in particular, there were steps leading up to the counters and even to the cupboards, making the entire downstairs seem to the untrained eye like an obstacle course.

All of the children, from Alexander to Zachary, were sent to school with other children who were not Dwarves, the parents priding themselves on not being intimidated by or prejudiced against “big people”.

But when Rebecca Larchman-Sheehan went to Trinity High, she came back one day talking about a boyfriend.

Talking about Clovis Schumacher wasn’t that big of a deal, of course. By then, Alexander and Melissa had already dated and Victoria was practically engaged—in and of itself, there was nothing odd about this, then.

But then Rebecca brought Clovis home with her.

After the initial encounter, which Clovis, at least, had thought was pleasant enough,, Steve sat Rebecca down on the couch to talk to her about how she had blind-sided him.

“Blind-sided?” Rebecca was offended. “I told you I had a boyfriend and you knew he wasn’t a Dwarf because we’re the only ones in town!”

“Yes, but…” Steve wasn’t quite sure how to continue, aware he was not on the solidest ground. “You didn’t say that.”

“What? That he was black?”

At this, her father turned a brighter shade of red than she had ever seen on a person—not counting her little brother Richard when he’d had the chicken-pox. He (her father, that is, not Richard) subsequently launched into a tirade about how he, of all people, scorned and ridiculed by all, his whole life, how he could not possibly be accused of such levels of bigotry!

“Then what is it?” His daughter was going to make him say it.

Fine. “The man is a GIANT!” Steve Sheehan protested. “Our ceiling is seven and a half feet tall and he was ducking in here!”

“I think that may have just been his posture,” Linda interjected.

“That only makes it worse,” said Steve. “He’s so terrifyingly tall he probably has to duck wherever he goes!”

“The poor dear,” her mother supplied.

Rebecca now turned her incredulous offense on the woman who’d bourn her. “Are you in on this, too, now?”

Her mother sighed. “I just don’t know if it’s a good idea,” she confessed. “I mean, there are things one ought to think about…”

“Mechanical issues…” Steve realized too late he wasn’t saying it under his breath.

“Well, what will people think?” Linda finally put it.

“What will they say?” Rebecca finally stood up from the couch. “They’ll think it’s cute! They’ll think it’s adorable he’s three times my size!”

“But when they…” This was Steve again. “I mean, anyone would have to wonder… how…”

Ew was Rebecca’s only thought. “Seriously, dad, ew! Why would they think that and why would I care? It’s none of their business! For that matter why are you thinking about it? Just… ew!”

Linda, meanwhile, had bourn seven children by this time and was unconcerned with this issue.

“I’m just concerned,” her father pleaded to Rebecca. “I’m concerned about… well, about why. What do you see in him?”

This was a question calculated to give his daughter pause, to make her slow down for reflection. Rebecca needed to do no such thing.

“He’s not afraid of me,” she said. “Everyone in my life tiptoes around me and expects me to act like a child because of how I look. But him? Everyone else is so small to him, he didn’t even notice I was a dwarf. Didn’t treat me any differently.

“Also, he’s really into Magic: The Gathering.”

“I think there’s more to it than that,” said her father. “I think this is you, lashing out.” Rebecca had always been the wild child of the bunch, always contrary, always quick-witted—

“By falling in love?” was her retort this time. “Gee, wouldn’t that be original?”

“Maybe we should all just take a breath,” said Linda.

“Are you going to try to forbid me from dating him?”

The operative word “try” did not escape her parents’ notice.

Clovis never noticed any awkwardness or unkindness from Rebecca’s parents—though, to be fair, this may have been beacuase he was used to cold deference from white people and just figured that was how they were.

It took Steve and Linda some time to adjust their thinking and the angle at which they held their heads, but they got there eventually.

Rebecca and Clovis are together to this day. They still play Magic: The Gathering every week.


The Room of Sheets

The morning before her first day at the new school, she had a new kind of dream. Or maybe it wasn’t new, but she didn’t remember having it before. It was like déjà-vu: everything seemed familiar, even the first time she saw it. Maybe that’s the way dreams always are. But this one felt different.

She was in a room. It wasn’t a small room, as rooms go—in fact, for a bedroom, it seemed like something straight out of a Disney castle, with blues and reds popping out from the walls and the wardrobe and furniture, and a bright purple bed in the center.

That bed.

At first, it felt like she was alone in the room, but then all at once, she felt hands circling her waist, soon followed by a nuzzling kiss on the back of her neck. She had never been touched like that, awake, yet it felt natural, and like she knew the man who did it. She turned around to greet him—

And that was when she woke up.

As dreams go, it wasn’t too elaborate, but it left an impression that lingered during breakfast and the ride on the metro with the woman trying to be her mother, and even when she joined the class that would be hers.

She couldn’t help but wonder, later on, if that dream had been what made her fall so quickly and completely in love with almost the first boy she came into contact with.

His face was soon put upon the body that called to hers in the dreams. That very night, they picked up where they’d left off in the not-so-small room, gazing into one another’s eyes and drinking deep. There was a caution in those first few nights, but it was born of excitement and played as a lingering within each other’s touch, a savoring of the company of each other’s dreams.

They didn’t speak much at school, but when they did, he smiled and she was always aware of his presence, even when she pretended not to be. But they didn’t speak much, even when their eyes found each other across rooms and the crowded courtyard.

Until they did.

“I hear you write songs,” she was bold enough to say to him after sitting down near him in the study hall.

In response, he merely lifted his eyes up at her with the shadow of a smile on his lips.

“What are you writing about?” He twirled the fountain-pen in his fingers like a tool for inspiration and the words on the page were arranged like verses.

“Everything,” he told her.

It was a megalomaniacal answer, for sure, but “Does that include love?”

He seemed taken aback by the directness of this riposte and she caught his eyes flickering up and down her frame. “Perhaps,” he confessed, and then lifted the pen to his lips like a cigarette for a long, magical drag of inspiration.

That night in the red-blue-to-purple room, they explored the bed at last, its purple majesty, tossing sheets about like waves as they dove into one another. It occurred to her that though the room was hers, this was his domain, and he played the fabric of this little world like a chef in his kitchen, like a librarian on the subject of his endless collection, like a rockstar performing for billions and then surfing their waves. All she could do was cling to him. It made her feel safe, but at the same time, excited.

The next time they spoke, he showed her one of his songs, upon request. It wasn’t a song about love (not yet) but it was lovely and it resonated: it was about a home across the sea and living in two different worlds, not sure which of them was the real one. They didn’t talk about love, but she thought she caught him gazing at her neck and wanted him to kiss her there.

Every time they spoke, no matter how many other people were nearby, there was a tension between them. They would stand next to each other. They would lean in and “accidentally” touch. But then they would back away. She wasn’t sure why. She did it because he did it, and she couldn’t help but wonder if the same was true for him.

At night, there was certainty and purpose. He would bend the world around them both and wrap her up in its sheets. He would build mountains and cities out of fabric and then wrinkle them down into dust. He would whisper her name in her ear from behind her as he pointed out their room in the palace of silk, but it wasn’t her name, not the same one she answered to, awake. This name was older.

There was a trip, with school. After driving eight hours South, they would spend a week in the wilderness, biking and hiking, an adventure, if somewhat controlled. The bus drove down at night and though they had held hands once or twice, no words had been spoken between them that mattered. But on a bus ride South with school, no one gets much sleep and what sleep they get, they get at different times. That was how she came upon him sleeping and found herself lingering a bit too long, wondering a bit too seriously what he might be dreaming about, and she heard him breathe her name.

Not her real name, mind you. Her name. That name. From the dream.

She couldn’t know before that moment it was real, but now she did. Now she knew it and the knowledge was almost too much. Could she bring it up? No, it was crazy. Even if she knew it was true, it was crazy—especially then. But how could she just let it linger, let the word fester between them. One of them had to do something!

They unloaded and climbed on their bikes far too early in the morning. She had slept only briefly and dreamed a different dream, an older dream, covered in ash, where she was smoking blue flames, chased by spiders to a door she couldn’t go through until a storm hit—it wasn’t important, she told herself. They had slept at different times, so of course their dreams had been different. But now they spread out, seventy of them, kids on bikes going up mountains, careful of cars on the roads. Now she could speak to him.

She caught him alone on the trail, and, weak in the knees, her resolve and her confidence drifted away at the sight of him. They spoke, but only as they had spoken before, in vague whispers of what they really meant and riddles disguised as jokes. She wanted to do something drastic, she wanted to talk about rooms and how big they could be if you let them, or at the very least mention sheets, to see where he’d go with it. But it wasn’t until they crested the final ridge that he started humming a song and finally crooning the soft words he had written about a lady who was dressed in blue flames.

They arrived at the camp site and she wrote him a note to meet her at the large rock over the river at sunset—

I can’t tell you the end of this story. It’s too much. It’s stupid, the heartbreak. The reasons why it happened the way it did. How could she miss this appointment. She, of all people, she who had set it and made the arrangements. Stood him up. And for what? Reasons, she had aplenty. Excuses, she had none. Not ones she could tell herself. And when the day broke and camp was unsettled, she sought him out to apologize, and saw the truth of it, how in her absence someone else had been there when she’d stood him up, and now she was on his arm, she held his gaze and he avoided the one that hadn’t been there for him.

No wonder their dream had taken such a turn that night. Instead of in bed, they were upright and the door was open and he was turned away from her, light streaming in from outside, shadows dancing across the room. She kept trying to call to him, but when she ran to him, she slammed into the invisible glass between them, keeping her out, and he didn’t hear her.
I won’t tell you the end of this story. And neither will she. It pains her still, her part in it, and the fact that even now, it still isn’t over. But every night—not for the entire night, but some portion—she finds herself locked in that room, where the man she loves takes a stranger in her bed, thinking that it’s her. Why couldn’t she have just told the truth? Even now, why can’t she just tell him?

She tells herself it was all her imagination anyway. If only she could believe it.


“People Are Strange”

Declan Murphy didn’t have any real friends when he got to Trinity High. It’s not important why—he knew some of the people, but anyone he’d been close to had moved away or gone to Cliffside or been sent to a boarding school.

His older brother was a Senior—but you know how it is. Seniors don’t talk to Freshmen. Not unless it’s to make fun of their floppy, unkempt hairstyle and purposely ratty clothes. Or, alternatively, if the freshman in question is attractive and of the appropriate gender.

It was raining that first day of school, which only made the unfamiliar faces that much stranger for not being properly seen. It set the tone.

Declan liked the rain, though. Liked it more than people, anyway, and the feeling was mutual.

“Murphy!” the Civics teacher yelled at him. “You Tommy’s brother?”

“Yes, Sir.”

“Eyes over here!”

He paid better attention, though, with rain to look at.

After class, my brother Jasper caught up with him. “Hey.”

He’d been running and he was out of shape. Had Declan wondering why he would run. It made his lanky figure ungainly.

“Hey,” said Declan.

“Your name Murphy?”

“It’s Declan,” he said. “Declan Murphy. Tommy’s brother.”

Not that that would mean anything to a fellow freshman.

“I’m Jasper,” said my brother. “My sister’s Aly—I don’t know if you know her. I think I know a Tommy, though.” He did. “My other sister’s Kassandra—you probably wouldn’t know her. She just started at Cliffside Middle.”

“That’s cool,” said Declan, though it really wasn’t and he still wasn’t sure why he was talking to this guy.

“So you know uh,” Jasper stammered, “You ever heard of Murphy’s Law?”

How anyone who bore the brunt of that name could have not heard of Murphy’s Law is beyond me, but my brother was never the sharpest note in the song.

“Yeah,” said Declan.

Jasper nodded sagely, then flashed a rather gap-toothed smile. “Any relation?”

Their friendship would have been aborted in its infancy at this moment if not for a sudden encounter with Otis Ratson.

“Lunch money,” said the bored-sounding blob under the Sports Team-X baseball cap, extending an almost gelatinous hand at them. He looked more like a minimum-wage ticket checker at a movie theater than a thug.

“Are you kidding me?” said Declan.

“Nope,” said Otis, but the vowel sound took up at least three syllables.

“Aw, man,” said my brother, already reaching into his pocket.

But Declan held up his hand. “No, no, hold on,” he said, “Are you collecting for the school? Are you the official lunch-money receiver? If we give you money, will we get our lunch?”

Otis seemed to think on this a moment. “Yeah?”

“How will they know we gave you our money? Do we get, like, a voucher?”

“Could give you a black eye, [if it would] make you feel better.”

It was Otis’s cadence that made it clear several words were missing from his structure.

“So you’ll give us a black eye if we do give you the money?”

Otis was silent.

“That doesn’t make any sense,” said Declan Murphy.

Otis stood there a moment longer before finally stating “Dammit, Murph, this here’s why nobody likes you.” Then he walked off.

“What the hell was that?” said Jasper.

“I don’t know,” said Declan. “Been dealing with that boy for years, never know what’s going on in his head.”

My brother, who was used to having longer hair, instinctively brushed his hair through it before realizing it was cut very short. “You just made that better,” he said, and harumphed. “So much for Murphy’s Law.”

“Call me an outlaw,” said Declan.

“Man, people are weird.”

And that was the start of a beautiful friendship.

(To Be Continued…)

 


The Blood Father

There is a man whose blood heals any wound, cures any illness. He is called the Blood Father.

No one is quite sure where he’s from—even he isn’t, anymore, as it turns out. It’s said his mother had AIDS but was cured when she bore him—but of course, there are holes in that sotry. What is clear is that he’s never been sick himself, but that’s not what makes him special.

What makes him special is his willingness to open a vein for the sake of another person, for any person he finds who is dying or disabled or even just maimed. There are some things he can’t do, certain innate genetic ailments, and he can’t restore someone’s sight or help them grow back a limb once the loss has become a part of them. But he can still work miracles.

Which is exactly what puts him in danger.

He has been running for most of his life. While he runs, he studies and conducts research. He’s made friends and contacts who help him with this research, and no one has been able to figure out how his blood does the things that it does. It cannot be synthesized. It can not be replicated. Which means that there are only so many people that the Blood Father can help. And everyone thinks they need him.


Well

Brett Lewis was doing well. He had a good, steady job at the construction company, a nice pile of savings from the work he’d done since he was sixteen. He got along okay with women when the fancy struck him, but he felt no great need to settle down. And he was in peak physical condition.

He first met Dr. Shukti Prajapati when his boss at the firm made him go in for a routine check-up. He never bothered with those things, figured he knew his body best. Not like he smoked, and he ate healthy enough.

“How are you feeling today, sir?” asked the doc, and he was surprised not to hear an accent, because she was definitely not from around here.

“I’m feeling just fine,” he said, “other than the big fat check I’m gonna have to write for this check-up.”

“Most insurance policies cover this,” she assured him.

“Most insurance policies,” he countered, “are scams, which is why I don’t have one.”

“I see,” said Dr. Prajapati, and continued with the examination.

She wanted to say something pithy, like “Well, then I guess you have only yourself to blame,” but that would be unbecoming, not to mention unprofessional, and she could tell from the man’s body-language he was already uncomfortable with her—whether it was her race or sex didn’t really matter—and she was already on thin ice when it came to the hospital administration. they didn’t like her meddling with her patients by recommending insurance policies. They said it was none of her business; “Doctors should be doctors,” they said, “and leave the insurance stuff to the folks who know about it.” But wasn’t her job to care for the sick? Hadn’t she taken an oath to do no harm? If a family was financially ruined paying for a treatment that she recommended, with the result they wouldn’t properly feed themselves, wasn’t that her business as a doctor?

“Hmm…” she said, in her conversation with Mr. Lewis.

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“No reason to be alarmed,” she said. “I just might have to run some tests.”

“Nuh-uh, I ain’t paying for no tests.”

“But this could be important.” She explained what she’d found at the possible implications. She tries to be as simple as possible without being condescending or imprecise.

“No, no, no, no, no,” said Brett. “Nice try, Shama-lama, but you’re not getting me with all your mumbo-jumbo, I ain’t paying for no tests.”

And that was the end of it, she thought. There was a chance he had a condition. There was a chance that condition could be life-threatening, but without insurance, the test would be pricey. Not as pricey as the treatment, of course, but for this man (especially without insurance) the burden might weigh more than the risk.

So Brett Lewis got his clean bill of health (with a caveat) and returned to work, while Dr. Prajapati returned to feeling uneasy about healthcare. Maybe her medical school teachers were right. Maybe her heart was too good for America, her commitment too wide.

There were problems with Britain’s NHS, but it couldn’t be as bad as this—could it? Pharmaceutical companies creating new drugs they don’t actually need to feed money into testing them to justify driving up prices on everything else? The best equipment in the world that no one could afford to use? Food that makes people sick? Common-sense cures barred from even research to keep profits high on expensive invasive treatments that shouldn’t even be necessary? And all the while, the only way ordinary working-class citizens can afford to take care of themselves when the worst happens is to pay thousands a year to private insurance companies that take every conceivable excuse to line their own pockets by raising prices and denying claims.

“You should buy insurance now,” she said to Brett Lewis just before he walked.

“They won’t cover you with a preexisting condition and this could become a problem.”

“Yeah, you’d like that, wouldn’t you?” he shot back.

But then it became a problem. Six months after this check-up, after assuming that it was all bullshit, Brett Lewis started showing symptoms. They were exactly the kinds of symptoms Dr. Prajapati had described. Uncanny, even. He put off going in—“Doctors are quacks anyway”—and didn’t even tell anyone—“I ain’t no snowflake,” he would say in the mirror, “I can take care of myself”—until one day he collapsed while at work.

“You will die,” was the verdict from these new quacks, “without proper treatment. “And it was burning a hole in his pocket.

“Don’t worry,” said his boss, “we take care of our own.” But was that fair to them? Asking that kind of charity? A man takes care of himself, takes care of his family, if he has one. What kind of man lets other men pay off his debts for him?

“The kind of man who’s fallen ill,” said Dr. Prajapati. She found him when he was admitted at the hospital and remembered him. “We can’t solve every problem ourselves,” she added, “the modern world is too complicated for every single person to know every single thing well enough to surive in it unaided. And the human body? Not even doctors can be expected to know everything by now, and never make a mistake. So where does that leave you?”

“It’s a scam,” he insisted, and she didn’t disagree. “They take and they take and they take, and what do we get for it? Debts that can never be repaid. And what choice have we got?”

“You can die,” she reminded him.

“We’d be better off without all this shit.”

“No, you would be dead,” she reminded him. “And there would be no choice.”

“I could pay for all this myself.”

“Can you, though?”

Of course he couldn’t.

“The system isn’t perfect. Of course it’s not. But is the answer to get rid of it altogether? Let every man fend for himself? Where would that leave you? No, if something isn’t perfect, the last thing you do is throw it away. What we need is to fix it.”

In the end, though, the entire point was rendered moot. Brett Lewis made a miraculous recovery just before his money ran out. He gave the credit to supernatural forces and earned a fortune from the book deal and endless subsequent touring.

And Dr. Shukti Prajapati went deeper into politics, ultimately abandoning the hospital for the bigger picture because she couldn’t bear to see people like Mr. Lewis spiraling into endless debt—and taking their families and sometimes even friends with them—just on the slim chance of one day being well. 


“Help, I’m Alive”

I liked school, before. It was a place you could visit your friends, right? At the least? It was a place you were doing something, even if you were bored doing it.

What changed?

Somehow, I just didn’t feel welcome. Even before I stumbled into the building, before I met any of my old friends or any of my new friends, I just had this feeling, this queasiness beating like a hammer, coming in waves.

Do you know what I mean?

I’d been friends with Isabella Millar the year before. Now, suddenly, she was one of those doe-eyed blondes who was too good for me. Me with my glasses, my pathetic soggy brunette-ness and my way-too-skinny limbs. From the look on her face the first time we locked eyes that day, I knew she would eat me alive.

I met Lucy that first day, believe it or not. Do you? Believe it? I didn’t think we’d be friends, she seemed too… happy. At the time. For me. Like a cartoon character I’d outgrown.

It was a couple of days before Trevor made his way into my life. I didn’t mind. How could I?

But the next day, when I felt worse, the one who really made a difference was Kayla.

I don’t even know how to talk about her now. She followed me into the bathroom. Figured she knew what was going on. Asked me if I felt all right, needed anything. Midol? Tampon? Chocolate bunny? I could’ve lied, taken the out, given her the brush-off.

Instead I told her, trembling, “I think I can see the future.” And then I told her why.

“That’s weird,” she said.

“I’m sorry.”

“No, weird is good,” she assured me. No one had ever said that to me before. “I’m weird, too.”

I didn’t know at the time how true that was. I thought I was stupid.

“You mind if I sit with you?” she asked through the door of the stall.

I didn’t. I was the smartest thing I did in my life.

(To Be Continued…)