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Working on Love
Like most stories and soap operas that include a beefy man with an eye patch at one point or another, my life started and ended with a girl. Not a girl that refused to wear bras, had multiple piercings and chain smoked behind the middle school but a young woman born and raised in northern Texas with a southern drawl that could cream butter. She had caramelized skin, forever pigmented from days of running on barren fields and dancing with the wheat farms. Long blonde hair caressed her back like a blanket and in the right light, it looked like thick threads of gold. Her lips pouted naturally, looking as though they were petals of the pinkest rose and didn't arch in the odd way as some woman's lips. Every bone in her body looked delicate and thin, like a dove made of glass.
She never swore, even in the most heated moments, helped her mother and father around the house and wore dresses that covered her kneecaps. A cross that held Jesus was at the base of her throat. Her eyes sparkled every second of the day like green emeralds, darting to take in every detail of the world like a newborn.
And naturally, I had to ruin all of it.
It started on a Monday, as most major things do, with her walking in the yellow bricked room that was crammed with stuff. Bookshelves lined the walls, billowing out hardbound books. The spines of the books held titles such as “Coming Out to Your Crazy Right Wing Parents” to “How to Apologize For Bringing Your Girlfriend Over and Getting Her Pregnant On the Kitchen Counter” in tiny print. Stacks of pamphlets covered the yellow wood table in the middle of the room. No chipping paint was exposed as thin papered manuals that explained the best kind of birth control (Abstinence!) to the best colleges in China. In the left hand corner of this crammed room, a remarkably clean desk stood. Only a computer, a printer and a cup that said “Best Mom!” was filled with pen and pencils were on a smooth dark wood.
A woman sat behind the remarkably clean desk on a brown cushioned wheel chair. Short white hair that ended jaggedly at her earlobes framed her high cheekbone face. Wrinkles from smiling were at the corners of her eyes, in between her eyebrows and underneath her bottom lip. Icy blue eyes stared out from behind large glasses, magnifying them to impossible sizes.
Squished in a make-me-smaller-than-a-mouse position in a worn plastic purple chair, was me. My feet were against my legs in crisscross and I was fitting almost perfectly in the small chair. I was wearing some old dirty jeans from the hamper and my ex's Flogging Molly shirt that he never bothered to get back
When she came in, my heart threatened to burst out of my throat. The cream colored door slammed against its frame before softly clicking shut. The sound of heels tapped against the ugly brown tile and a cheerful yet soft voice sung out in the almost silent room.
“Hello Mrs. Adam! I came to organize the pamphlets and books today!” I turned around and my breath caught in my throat. She stood, a flower patterned dress going down to her knees and pink plastic high heels clicking against the ground as she stood, smiling.
“This is Tamantha, my aide for this period. She helps me organize my...mess.” Mrs. Adam said in a soft voice, her eyes drilling holes in the back of skull. “Don't pay attention to us, Tamantha, we're just going over some things.”
I nodded at the girl, though she wasn't paying attention to me. Once those green eyes came to mine, my heart rate went up and my breath quickened.
“What's your name?” She asked, stepping closer to me. I caught the sweet and rich smell of apples and fresh spring grass.
“Kimberly,” I whispered, pushing my greasy black hair away from my eyes as I looked down.
Mrs. Adam coughed, making me turn around to face her. She looked at me, her owl like eyes searching my face for something she did not find. With a quick nod, more to herself than to me, she began talking in her soft voice.
“Right, back to your rescheduling. In Mr. Harrison's math class, there is an open seat and he is more than willing to let you into his class.” I swallowed, choking back bitter laughter as it threatened to swell out of my lungs. “If you behave yourself, of course.” It was a hardly concealed threat. Get your act together or you're out of this school.
I nodded and sent unwashed hair flying, my earrings brushed my neck in the gesture. Behind me, there was the soft sound of books being put away and Tamantha humming to herself. Every once and awhile, there would be two clicks on the tile of her feet moving.
“As for your grades, well...” Mrs Adam coughed, covering her mouth with one wrinkled hand and got rosy. I saw the standard gold wedding on her finger, folds of skin threatening to cover the ancient metal. “To put it easily, you're tanked if you continue what you are... Whatever you are doing.” She ended her speech, leaning back in her old chair and watching me through those large glasses. Again, I nodded as though I understood and would do everything in my power to change.
“I know.” It was a whisper from my throat, my cracked and bleeding lips spreading themselves over the word carefully.
“Then why aren't you doing anything about it?” Mrs Adam put her white tennis shoes on the brown desk, her eyebrows touching the top of her forehead. The sound behind me had stopped completely as Tamantha finished her work. I felt the back of my neck prickle as her eyes observed me, the blood in my ears quickening into a steady pounding.
“I don't know.” I looked away from Mrs Adam's owl eyes.
“Do you know how many times I hear that now and days? You're smart enough to get a scholarship somewhere nice, Kimberly. Instead you spend your days at school either asleep or flipping off teachers.” Her voice took on a harsher edge, losing its softness like one would remove a robe. “It pains me to see someone with such talent destroy their future without looking back.” Taking a deep breathe that ended in a sigh, Mrs Adam rose from her old chair and stared at the clock.
“Thank you, Mrs Adam, for letting me come in today.” Tamantha's voice was a musical, sweet and graceful. With a nod, Mrs Adam dismissed her and regraded me. Behind me, I heard the door shut softly and heels walk down the hall.
“Well, Kimberly, I believe you can make it to gym.” I nodded and rose from my chair, my body aching in several places from the long time I spent sitting.
Out in the empty hall, I felt safe and free. White tile made the floor, tea green tile went halfway up the wall until it ended to give into a dark cream colored wall. Posters were taped to the walls every few paces, most declaring how drugs were thugs and when the next dance was going to be. I left one hall for another, still swimming in posters and tea green tiles. But this hallway was different, special even, this hallway ended in a doorway. Classrooms had ended further away, this was a simple hall and a perfect getaway.
“Are you going?” A voice sung out from behind me. I turned around slowly, my muscles tensing into springs and my hands clenching in one violent motion to fists by my sides. Tamantha stood in the hallway behind me, fitting into the school's design perfectly with her flowered dress and cross wielding neck.
I nodded once as I stepped closer to her, covering the distance between us in two easy strides. My heart beat quicker when I inhaled the apple and fresh grass scent of her. It wasn't fake, like other girl's, her scent was real and magic in one. I noticed how small she was, even with high heels, she came to my collarbone.
She was smiling, a easy smile that tugged her lips perfectly.
Like rose petals, I thought. Despite myself, I smiled back and ignored the shoots of pain it caused when my lips split as though they were candy wrappers in a candy shop.
“But if you go, you'll get in trouble.” The smile was gone, though the rose petals remained. She looked concerned, two lines forming between her brow as she looked up at me. I still smiled, though I could feel blood dripping from my bottom lip.
“Only if you tell.” The halfhearted joke did nothing to make the lines go away. Tamantha looked me over once before stepping away. Her magical scent was gone and I couldn't hold back the sigh that came from me.
She shrugged, a strange gesture on her slim shoulders, as she walked away. “Fine then,” Tamantha said to me as she started to walk away, not looking back at me. “I won't tell.” The sound of her footsteps continued down the hallway until they disappeared around a corner.
I stood there, a stone statue in an unfitting gallery, until the bell rang and students filled the hallways. It wasn't until I got pushed against the wall that I moved, taking slow steps and heading towards the female locker room to get dressed for PE.
The room's smells assaulted me before any other sense. Sweat clung to the air despite the sickly mixture of cupcakes, chocolate, strawberries, blueberries and vanilla. A short wall hid the lockers and changing girls from the door. There were short bursts of laughter and loud conversations in the large room. Small lockers were stacked on top of each other three tall, causing confusion and discomfort for girls that had people using lockers around them.
“Kimmy!” A loud screech cut through all other sounds, making for a split second of silence after it ended. I winced when a thin body crashed into mine, my arms wrapping around her as I stepped back to steady myself. Allie looked up at me, only reaching around five feet and three inches, and smiled widely. “So how was the councilor? Are you getting your schedule changed?” She danced out of my arms, wearing her gym shorts and bra with her gym shirt in her hand.
I nodded, letting my hands to fall to my side and stepping away from her so my back pushed against the short wall. Allie was still smiling like a clown, twirling down the rows of lockers until she reached mine. My steps were slow as I moved to my small and almost empty locker, on the top row of the row.