Arssaya couldn’t concentrate; she tapped her feet and chewed the end of her pencil. Arssaya’s mind wasn’t on school today. Instead, she wasted valuable energy dwelling on the ‘incident’ as she called it.
Arssaya mentally scoffed. Incident? you froze your friend using your fingers.“Oh, and Lanika can grant people’s wishes, and who knows what Nick is capable of.” Arssaya felt a flash of guilt hit her. Then she shrugged it off, so what? He was annoying anyway.
Then finally the bell rang for lunch, Arssaya almost sighed with relief. Then got up and exited with the rest of the class.
“Arrssaya, can I talk to you?” The teacher, Ms. Sanchez, turned to her. Mentally sighing, Arssaya walked over to the teacher’s desk.
“I notice you’ve been struggling more since you dropped the large print textbooks.”
Arssaya felt panic start. “I still use them at home,” she argued.
“Your grades aren’t as good as they could be.” Arssaya felt her fears build.
What? I can’t be held back, I’ll be known as the school retard. she thought.
“Now the good news is there’s still time for you to bring your grades up, I suggest you use them.” The teacher’s tone came across as slightly forceful.
“The bifocals I use in English class are bad enough.” Arssaya dropped her voice to a whisper.
“I get it, you want to be cool, but you need to think about your future, high school won’t last forever,” Mrs. Sanchez stated.
“What if I moved to the front?” Arssaya argued.
“The glare from the overhead still throws you off,” Mrs. Sanchez pointed out.
“Can we please just try it?” she pleaded.
“Fine, but I suggest you find a tutor.” Arssaya frowned. Mrs. Sanchez’s tone left no room for argument. The teenager agreed then headed for the cafeteria. Misty and Latoya were already sitting at their table. Or rather, Latoya was sitting at the table; Misty was guiltily sitting in Josh’s lap like the Cheshire cat after she insulted the Queen of Hearts. She was wearing a skirt that almost defied the dress code and a creamy white blouse that looked expensive. She looked up from texting on her phone.
“Are you okay? You ran out of there pretty fast on Saturday.” said Misty.
Like she wasn’t a boyfriend stealing backstabber. Arssaya briefly fantasized about pouring her lunch, down the front of Misty’s blouse.
“Yes, I’m fine,” the fair-haired girl lied.
“I mean you’re okay with this, right? I know you haven’t been broken up long.” the backstabber started.
“They just broke up last night, Josh sent her a text.” Lanika voice was dripping with disapproval.
“Well, you know, I felt a spark and like always said Lanika you can’t deny love.” Misty took Arssaya’s ex’s hand with a smile. Josh shifted awkwardly and ran a hand through his hair. Her electronic device went off; Misty clicked a button on it and made a face.
“Ugh! Can you believe him, posting a picture like that for everyone to see?” Then a smirk crossed her face and she started typing out what looked like a response to the unfortunate guy’s picture. Misty had a tendency to be rather less than kind in terms of her responses on social media sites.
“Okay, let’s get down to business.” Misty climbed off Josh’s lap and stood she liked to stand while others sat. “We need fresh blood for the squad. There are about four choices, but I’ve already excluded them, because of Cis gender and white privilege. So it comes down to Shawna, Kathy, or Leslie?” Arssaya bit her lip, this was a big thing.
“Who was better at tryouts?” Lanika asked.
“Well, Kathy was.” The brunette looked uncertain.
“Then why not choose Kathy?” the other girl commented.
“Because we don’t have that many people of color. Us cool people represent the student body, how can do that properly without showcasing diversity.” Misty pointed out.
“Misty is right,” Arssaya responded out of habit. It was kind of the unspoken rule of their group.
“Yeah, women are treated badly and stuff, but white girls less so,” Josh parroted. Misty rewarded him with a kiss. Arssaya gripped her milk carton so hard she thought it would break.
“The squad should spend less time worrying about hurt egos and more time perfecting their routines,” Lanika answered.
“Did you see the last football game? It’s clear they haven’t been practicing much.” Arssaya remained silent.
“I’m going with Shawnee, “Misty responded in a clipped tone.
“Then why even bother asking?” Arssaya’s other friend demanded.
“Well, I was hoping as my friends you’d support me,” Misty replied.
There was an awkward pause. “Aww! Fine you have our support.” Lanika said. She was wearing her famous, ‘she really does’ care look.
“Great, now Lanika come here.” She flashed a series of pictures of various handsome guys.
Lanika quickly averted her eyes. “What the heck, Misty!” she exclaimed.
“Your social life has taken a serious nose dive because of a certain incident not mentioned. Also, you don’t provide the right beverages,” The brunette looked at her sweetly. “So being an amazing best friend have figured out how to raise it. Simple, you need a boyfriend.”
Arssaya closed her eyes. This was going to get ugly. “I thought the point of being empowered was not needing men?” Lanika crossed her arms.
“It’s not about the men, it’s about the status,” Misty argued.
“I can’t believe you’d do this to me!” the other girl said.
“I’m doing this for you, some of the other girls have been talking,” the brunette continued.
“Look, I’m not quite comfortable dating and I don’t think I ever will be.” she argued.
“It’s an outdated idea!” Misty argued.
“It’s my choice!” Lanika reminded her.
“Are you a feminist or not?” the other girl asked her.
“Of course I am, how could you even ask me that?” she stated, sounding hurt
“Then prove it. Stop being a little bitch and go on the date I set up for you.” the other girl commanded.
Arssaya, sensing the tense situation, got up. “You...I have to...bathroom.” Arssaya got up and hurried out of the lunch room. She heard Misty protest as Josh got up and followed her into the hallway. Arssaya looked around to make sure it was deserted.
“Go away, Josh,” Arssaya said tightly, walking down the hall at a fairly rapid pace. He grabbed her arm. “Let go of me!” She brushed him off.
“Why are you mad at me?” the boy asked her.
“Are you serious?” Josh looked at her.
“I needed someone and you weren’t there,” he argued.
“I’m not there just to stroke your ego,” she said indignantly.
“No, you didn’t stroke anything!” he snapped.
Arssaya froze. “Is this because I wouldn’t have sex with you, honestly?” She felt her body trembling with anger.
“I don’t see why you’re so high and mighty, it’s not like you have guys lining up to stare into your eyes.” Arssaya instinctively closed her eyes shame filled her. Arssaya felt at that moment like a lost child aimlessly wandering the mall after its mother abandoned it.
“But you told me I was pretty...” she said in a small voice.
She was cut off by the sight of Lanika striding up to Josh. “Get away from her. Now.” the other girl ordererd her dark eyes flashed.
“Get lost,” he responded.
Lanika ignored him and took Arssaya firmly by the sleeve of her red sweater. “Come on Arssaya, let’s go.” Her voice jolted the other girl into action.
“Right,” she agreed, not looking Josh in the eye. The two girls headed into the girl’s bathroom, a group of giggling freshmen stood around the mirror. Arssaya snapped her fingers, the girls stiffened.
“You. Out.” she commanded, the girls rushed out of the bathroom without protest. Lanika stood there her back to the wall. “Do you want to go home; I can call your father,” she suggested.
“Then I’d have to explain to him, and he might get himself arrested,” the blond explained.
“Your shame needs to be avenged,” Lanika protested.
“I didn’t sleep with him,” Arssaya said flatly, and then a thought struck her. “Do you think I should have?”
Her friend gave her a look of bafflement.
" I mean maybe if ...I you know had sex with him; he wouldn’t have gone so...so close to home to satisfy his urges” the other girl continued.
Lanika sighed “Josh is a selfish boy, he would have strayed eventually.”
Arssaya nodded uncertain. “I guess,” she said quietly.
Lanika took her hands; her brown eyes softened. “Arssaya, he is not worth ruining yourself over. Catty, Christen, Annie, every girl who’s had physical contact with him, have had their reputations smeared. You are lucky you’ve escaped.”
“He implied I’m a freak,” she responded with pain in her voice.
Lanika growled. “He’s a dolt,” she responded.
“Why? He’s just saying what everyone else thinks,” Arssaya said despondently.
“Well he doesn’t speak for me,” her friend said firmly. “I don’t care okay, I don’t care if you have no pigment, or shoot ice out of your fingers. You’re still the first person who reached out to me, who bothered trying to get to know me. You’re my best friend and that’s what matters.”
“Yes, but you’re one person, the majority of the school is still questioning Misty’s choice.” Her eyes narrowed. She had worked way too hard to lose everything. The two of them stood in silence
“I... can’t. Let’s face it, without Misty and her crowd we’re nothing. ” She paused and swallowed.“I need to be a part of something. I can’t go back to what I was before. I’m fine with not coming first, really I am. I just want to be included.”
Lanika scowled. “Included doesn’t mean becoming part of the Hive Mind.”
“I’m not becoming part of whatever it is you said,” Arssaya protested. “Let’s be honest, you’re just as afraid of being isolated as me.” the fair haired girl realized as she took out a tube of lipstick and applied it.
Lanika sighed. Arssaya moved on to the blush and applied that as well heavily. Lanika lowered her voice. “I do kind of want a boyfriend, part of me is ready to be swept off my feet. But then I feel really guilty about it. Now my dream guy could come up to me right now with a dozen red roses and, offer to date me and I’d say no because stupid Misty would be all smug if I accepted.”
“You read way too many erotic romance novels,” Arssaya told her.
“Oh, speaking of which.” Lanika took her kitty book bag off her shoulders. Lanika wasn’t the type to just leave her belongings in her locker, she hardly ever used it. Instead, it wasn’t uncommon to see her lugging her back pack about even to the bathroom or P.E.. She unzipped her bag and took out a novel with big breasted women in the arms of a strong armed hero in an elegant dip.
“Here, couldn’t put it down, George is a fine hunk of man, and I swear my pulse skipped in tandem with Pricilla’s just reading the description of his abs glinting with sweat,” she confessed giggling nervously.
“Yeah I checked out another one from the public library recently it’s called Luscious Lips, only read the first page, but it is steamy,” Arssaya warned.
“I managed to get through Red Hot Fire, I can handle it,” Lanika boasted.
“Maybe, but you’re not getting it until, I see the next audio book of Martin Jupiter.” Arssaya folded her arms.
“You cruel temptress!” Lanika joked.
“Well unless you want your parents to see the words Luscious Lips on your library card,” Arssaya said with a shrug.
“Okay, fine. What I don’t get is why you’re secretive about your choices. It’s not like your parents are anti-Science Fiction.” Lanita friend pointed out.
“It has the word science in it,” Arssaya explained.
“So we define what’s cool, we don’t follow a set of silly rules,” Lanika argued.
“You are far too idealistic, Misty would label me a nerd and throw me out faster than you can say Metorgate”
Lanika blinked in confusion. “Oh, God, now I sound like a dork! Ugh! No wonder Josh didn’t want me.”
The other girl patted her shoulder. “I’ve said this once and I’ll say it again. Someday you’re going to find your soulmate. He’ll be the biggest most handsome, kind man in the world and you’ll be like ‘Josh who?’” Lanika comforted her.
“You really believe in that soulmate stuff?” Arssaya asked her.
“Of course, Allah has created someone for everyone.” Lanika’s eyes were serious.
Arssaya sighed. “Sometimes I wish I had your faith,” she confessed.
Lanika pulled out her phone. “I’m thinking of changing my profile picture, so what do you think of...this one?” She selected an image of herself and her grandmother in a faux model poses. “Or this one?” The other had Lanika laying in a chair by the pool of her house wearing her pink Mona Lisa Burkini swimsuit which completely covered her head, arms, legs, and even her hair and chin. Lanika was smiling her glass of root beer held out as if to propose a toast.
“What’s with the ridiculous expressions?” Arssaya demanded.
“It’s a little thing called....having fun, you and Misty should try it,” her friend quipped.
“You know there’s a reason you get a lot of hate comments.” She felt a ting of irritation.
“I know exactly why I get hate comments, but why dwell on bad things, people have said many positive things as well,” the other girl responded.
“Does the good outweigh the bad?” Arssaya asked.
“I think so, I haven’t exactly been totaling up my nasty comments,” she replied.
The fair haired girl’s cheeks turned pink. “Yeah why would you do that? That’s ridiculous.” She did a fake laugh.
“Arssaya, I love you, but sometimes, you are so sad.” Lanita shook her head.
“You know what? You’re right. I’ve got to loosen up, stop worrying have some fun! Screw Josh, and screw Misty!” Arssaya said with more enthusiasm then she felt.
“Yeah! I’ll be with you every step of the way; I’ll be your fun coach. We will conquer the malls and theme parks, let no skating rink be unscathed, let no sleepover be unslept.”
Arssaya caught her enthusiasm. “Yeah, a party every night!”
“Alright booze, free of course, and no inviting William, I still haven’t forgiven him yet,” the Lanika grumbled, her tone grudging.
“You really need to get over that,” Arssaya grinned.
“He tried to...fornicate on my couch with Briana Testlow...I need another year.” The fair-haired girl cackled at the memory of a fearful, William and half-dressed Briana being chased out the door in his boxers by a furious Lanika as she brandished the Webster Dictionary.
“Okay, fine, no William, but there’s no guarantee one of the other cheerleaders won’t invite him,” Arssaya pointed out.
“I’ll have the Encyclopedia on standby in case,” Lanika said brightly. “We can meet after school on Friday,” she suggested.
“Oh, not Friday I have to start tutoring,” Arssaya grumbled.
“Wait, isn’t Nick Silver in all honor classes?”
There was silence as that sunk in.
“No way. I’m not getting help from that arrogant loser.” Arssaya stated.
“I know he’s bottom rung, but if you want to get to the top sometimes you must endure dealing with ...undesirable people,” her friend offered bluntly. “In fact, I’d suggest you go find him before the lunch period ends.” Lanika led her out of the bathroom and back into the lunchroom and impatiently, motioned over to one of the tables at the far end where Nick was talking to his fellow freaks and geeks! Did she really have to go over there? She looked back at Lanika who shot her encouraging thumbs up. Taking a deep breath she swallowed and approached the table. Nick, and his friends Allen, and Bradly and some other guy, an African American she had never seen before, an Asian girl sitting with a tall skinny guy in a tank top that exposed his navel. Girls with two pigtails were intently looking at people at the other tables.
“Excuse me, Silver, we need to talk,” she stated. Nick not even looking at her raised a hand. Did he just tell her to wait? Arssaya was infuriated.
“Oh, that is gross!” Bradly exclaimed, grimacing. Arssaya followed his gaze and saw Brianna tallow feeding her boyfriend french-fries from her hand.
“That’s nothing look over there,” Nick pointed to another couple where the girl was helping her boyfriend drink his milk carton.
“Aww, wittle baby want his bottle!” Allen mocked. Bradly made obnoxious sucking noises.
The new boy fake gagged.
“Uh, we do some pretty weird stuff ourselves,” the Asian girl remarked.
“But that is crossing a line.” the guy in the tank top nodded.
Then the girl and boy started to share the milk carton as if it was a plate of spaghetti. “Oh!” everyone exclaimed causing the couple to give them dirty looks.
“Okay, pay up.” Nick held out his hand.
“Not so fast gentleman over there is a most ghastly sight.” Bradly motioned the boys looked over and there was another couple who were exchanging French fries with their tongues.
“Oh, god, no one needs to see that, ugh!” one of the girls gagged.
“Get a room, you filthy animals!” Allen yelled.
“Alright, fork it over.” Bradly held out a plump hand. Allen took the bag of Cheetos in the middle of the table and handed them to him.
Bradly kissed them. “Thank God for PA, it makes lunchtime so much more enjoyable.” he crowed.
“Excuse me, still standing here!” Arssaya tapped her foot.
“Oh, you’re still here? Thought you’d get a clue by now.” Nick took a bite of his hamburger.
“Yes, I’m still here and I’m not going away,” she said coldly.
“Fine, what do you want?”
She glared at him.
Assarya glared at him. “For starters a little respect.”
Allen laughed. “You came into my after school science fiction club meeting last week and you and your Neanderthals threw Princess Starla in the trash can.”
“That was an image that was demeaning to women,” she snapped.
“We suggested it,” the Asian girl stated.
“I even brought it in,” Pigtails added, scowling.
“Wow, so it’s more important to make these losers happy then to fight against objectification?” she demanded feeling a bit disgusted.
“Anyway, our principal sided with me and now they’ll be no more attempts by you to dominate gender-neutral spaces. It’s nice to know not all men are sexist pigs.” Arssaya said making it clear the matter was closed. She turned to Nick. “I need a tutor.”
He looked at her. “And I need you to disappear off the face of the earth. Sadly the world doesn’t revolve around either of our whims.” he quipped.
“I’m serious, Silver,” she responded curtly.
“So am I,” he turned back.
“I have your scarf,” Arssaya bargained and he whirled around. “I got it from Misty, if you want it back, meet me on Friday at five, don’t be late.” Then after giving all of her contempt in a glare, she turned on her heel and walked back to her table, furiously typing on her cell phone the names of everyone at the table along with their offensive, revolting comments. She got to the Asian girl and Kathy but decided not to leave anything since they were merely victims of entitled nerds. Hopefully, one day soon they’d see the light. Then the bell rang furiously she got up and dumped her tray into the trash can.
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