The pneumatic door pump hisses a warning of someone else coming in, and I go still in an instant. I dry my tears on my knees just before this guy sticks his head under the stall.
He’s probably about to take a smoke break, a suspicion he confirms when he says, “You look like you could use a coffin nail.”
I nod, leaning over to unlock the stall door. “And then some.”
The new arrival rises and opens the door, slipping inside and locking it behind him before he digs out a flip-top box from the hip pocket of his baggy black jeans. He’s wearing a black silk shirt too, and both of his ears are pierced with thick surgical steel hoops.
As he passes me a cigarette, he says, “I’m Scott, nice to meet you.”
“Peter,” I say, accepting his lighter and flicking it fast. I light mine, and then his.
He smiles as he takes back the lighter and says, “I always let my bitches light my smokes.”
I snort and say, “Not the right day.”
Scott’s smile relaxes as he leans against the stall wall. He takes a long drag, and then talks around the smoke as it exits his nose and mouth. “Somebody died?”
“Not recently,” I say, but then nod. “My sister. She…she died in an accident.”
That’s my little white lie, but I want to believe it’s not too far from the truth. I can’t tell anyone about my past, not even people I trust. They don’t understand, and they don’t want to either. So they’ll make me stop talking. First they’re polite and suggest that maybe I shouldn’t make myself “so vulnerable.” Then as more and more of the truth comes out, they become more rude and hostile. The truth makes people so uncomfortable that they will fight to keep living with lies covering their eyes.
So I gave up on talking, and I don’t bother anyone about it anymore. It doesn’t mean I don’t think of it. It just means everyone else is content to let me suffer in silence.
Scott’s smile is gone, a scowl of sympathy filling his face. “I’m sorry, man. I guess that’s pretty rough.”
I nod, puff my smoke, and try to keep myself together.
Scott doesn’t say anything else, so I spend most of my time looking at the floor. Between puffs I sneak glances at him. He’s shorter than me, I think. I can’t be sure hunkered down on the toilet like this, but I know for a fact that I’m built thicker.
This isn’t difficult to guess, since Scott is a classic beanpole teen; tall, scrawny and awkward looking. His face is drawn, like he’s intentionally starving himself. He’s got jet black hair like mine, but the lighter red color near the roots is proof of a dye job, while mine is natural. He’s paler than me, a nifty trick, almost translucent. The only places where he has real color on his face are the dark circles under his green eyes. They’re not bruises, though, and I venture a guess. “Anemic?”
Scott looks at me like he didn’t hear me, but then nods. “Yeah. I take pills for it, but it’s never enough to get rid of the bags.” He takes a drag, snorts, and adds, “Back in middle school, I had to visit the counselor once a month to confirm that I still wasn’t being beaten at home.”
Funny; nobody ever asked me if I was being abused. But then again, I didn’t go to public school like normal kids. Heather and I were home-schooled by our mother, of course. Couldn’t risk us saying or doing something to tip off the adults that we were already working stiffs. Or, I was… Bleh. That joke seemed funnier when I was thinking it the first time through.
We finish our smokes and head to the cafeteria together. I’m not sure why I’m following Scott, except my other choice is bugging Kenny and his band mates just so I won’t have to deal with “new kid syndrome.”
Scott has other friends already eating at a round table, and at a glance, I realize this is the goth crowd. Lots of black clothes, black hair dye, and white makeup. But the group is diverse, with teens in all shapes and sizes.
Scott sits down next to someone who might be male or female. I can’t be sure because they have a flat chest and an androgynous face that seems equal measures of boy and girl. They have light olive brown skin, huge brown eyes surrounded by thick black lashes and glossy black hair that hangs down their back like a single sheet of silk fabric. Male or female, I’d still do them.
Scott starts introductions as I wave and set down my tray. “Guys, this is Peter.” Kenny gestures first to the androgynous teen on his right, apparently noticing my curiosity.
“Peter, this is Pi.” Scott moves on without further explanation, perhaps considering gender unimportant when it comes to his friends. “Then that’s Jackie, Robert, Pedro, and Lindsay.”
Jackie is a heavyset girl wearing a black skirt and a white dress shirt. She’s wearing a black waist cincher, which looks wrong for her body type. But I guess she’s decided that she wants an hourglass figure, even if Mother Nature didn’t intend her to have one. In my head I see her as a German barmaid, someone built heavy by nature and proud of it.
Or maybe she really likes waist cinchers and I’m just being judgmental.
Robert is a thick, dark-skinned mountain. He towers over his friends, and I’d guess he’s taller than me by at least five inches. He’s also a lot thicker, like a Samoan wrestler. There’s an almost Asian slant to his brown eyes, giving his face an exotic look.
Then again, seeing how little color there is in this school, Pi, Robert, and Pedro all seem kind of exotic to me. In Houston, they’d each just be another face in the crowd, but here in this small town, they stand out. I wonder if they chose to be outcasts, or if they’ve been politely but firmly put over here.
And that’s just great too. Now I’m accusing the locals of racism. I’ve been here a week, and already I’m winning the “most paranoid jerk” award.
The sides of Robert’s head are shaved, and his kinky black hair is styled in a near perfect flat-top. He’s got a bit of a gut, keeping him back from the table. But his sleeveless muscle shirt reveals thick, muscular arms. This guy is practically a jock, and I’m not sure what the heck he’s doing hanging out with this crowd instead of the jocks. Maybe he’s here for the music?
Pedro is closer to Scott’s size, but he’s healthier looking. His cheeks don’t cave in, even if they are a bit lean. He’s got light brown skin and a long oval-shaped face, which is made more apparent with his long black hair tied back in a braided ponytail. He’s not really handsome or ugly, but he’s made himself more unique by wearing color changing contacts. Or, I assume they must be, since I’ve never seen anyone with gold irises before.
Lindsay is the poster child of the group, not too thin, and not too thick either. She is healthy, and her soft white arms have a toneless look because of a thin layer of body fat. She has silky black hair that can only be natural based on her dark, thick eyebrows and her bright grey eyes. They’re almost the same shade as my own, although I think mine are a bit darker. She wears an ankle-length black skirt, a high-waist black vest and a sleeveless white blouse. The fluffed frock on the collar looks like the collar that Kathy was wearing this morning.
I smile as I wonder if she would be offended knowing that she dresses like my foster mother.
She smiles back and says, “Share if it’s funny.”
I shake my head and say, “I was just wondering if it’s safe to ask if those are contact lenses.” I gesture toward Pedro. “With him, I’m pretty sure they are—”
“They are,” Pedro says.
I go on, acknowledging Pedro with a quick nod. “Okay, but with you, I’m not so sure.”
Lindsay smiles wider, her pale cheeks turning pink. “They’re natural.”
I grin, what my sister used to call my “big bad wolf smile.” It’s my most charming expression, and I hope to use it to full effect. “They’re even nicer for being real.”
Lindsay shifts colors, her white face becoming bright red. As I suspected, it’s not makeup. She’s really that perfect shade of white naturally.
She’s nice. You just don’t see that many real moon tans in the wild. Lots of girls powder everything from forehead to neck to achieve this look, and then they wear long sleeves and gloves to hide their natural skin tone. But to borrow a bodybuilding joke, it’s all her.
“Damn,” Scott exclaims, and then smirks at me. “I didn’t realize you were so smooth. You keep talking like that, and I think you’ll get Lindsay out of her panties before lunch is over.”