22 (rough draft)
October watched Morgan in the mirror at Mason’s Hair Hut. “If you happen to see Apple, which I doubt, not a word.”
Morgan Stayman smiled. “I did wish to thank you for taking such good care of our Apple while she recovers. Her face gets quite a workout at home, if you know what I mean.”
I really don’t wish to know what you mean. “Apple can stay with us as long as she wants. She’s not in the way. We have plenty of room.”
“We miss her already.” She unwrapped the towel from October’s head. “What do you think?”
“I think it’s black.”
“You wanted black.”
“Oh, I love it, I think. I don’t look like me.”
“Wait until I get the makeup done. Carol won’t even know you.”
“I can do my makeup, really.”
“Let me have a little fun.”
“Apple tells me you don’t want to sue the school?”
“I think Apple overreacted. He could have killed her. Did you know that asshole lifted her off the floor by her neck?” Morgan rolled her eyes at October in the mirror. “A guy in authority gets to run his hand over sweet Apple’s little honey box and does. Wow, what a surprise.”
“You feel she should just take it?”
“If she did, he wouldn’t have almost killed her and he wouldn’t have fucked up her face. It’s not like she’s never bartered that sweet honey box of hers. She thinks I don’t know it, but I do.”
“Still, even given that, what she does with her, eh, sweet honey box and whom she shares it with should always be her choice,” October said.
“Don’t be so naïve, Ockie. Properly played, you can get most men to do anything you want. Don’t think that I think my body is the source of power. It’s their desire I see as the source of my power over them.”
Morgan applied gray to black shadows, black eyeliner and blood red lipstick. “Now, what do you think?”
October turned side to side. “You’re right, Mom won’t know me.
With the opening of the door, Amaretto asked, “What’s going on?”
“I thought I’d Apple-up.” October climbed from the chair. “What do you think?”
With wide eyes, Amaretto, stepping toward October, said, “I feel violated and flattered, all at once.” She cradled October’s cheeks, barely touching her lips to October’s. “Thanks.”
October blushed as Amaretto stepped back. “For?”
“Being you. Being my friend.”
Morgan narrowed her eyes. “Are you guys lovers?”
“No, Morgan,” Amaretto answered. “We’re family.”
“Well, Case, what do you think?” October asked, walking hand-in-hand. “You haven’t said a word.”
“You could have asked me first.”
“I’ll just fall back,” Amaretto said, falling behind.
“What would you have said?”
“I mean, shouldn’t I have a say?”
“Sure, you can have an opinion, but not a say.”
“You’re my girlfriend.”
“That doesn’t mean you own me.”
“I like you better with brown hair.”
“Better? So you like it black?”
“Makeup kind of hot, huh?”
“You look like a slut.”
“Thanks,” Amaretto called from behind.
“You mean that you see me as a slut, not that I look like a slut.”
“What’s the difference.”
“You think guys are going to want to fuck me, and you feel threatened by that.”
“Guys and some of the girls,” Amaretto added.
“Shut up, Apple.”
Silence walked with them for twenty paces. “I guess,” Casey finally said.
“Casey,” October said. “You are my happy ever after. Nothing will change that. Guys – and some girls – can line up around the block to fuck me, but no one will. Guys – and some girls – can form a gauntlet for me to run, eye-fucking me all they want. That will never change the fact that you’re my happy ever after.”
“Gifts at you feet,” Amaretto said, again from behind.
“Yeah, blah blah, gifts at me feet, blah blah.”
Casey laughed. “I’m insecure. I know that. It’s easier for me when I say it out loud.”
“It’s temporary color. Comes out in two, three washes.”
“You could have said that.”
“I just did.”
“I think it best you guys wait out here,” Amaretto warned at her door.
October shrugged. “Case will jump at the chance to pace the sidewalk. As for me, I’m in.”
“Okay.” Amaretto pushed the door, cigarette and pot smoke mingled with stale beer and unwashed humanity hit them. “Could use some Glade.”
Mostly ignored, October and Amaretto worked their way over lounging people.
“Hey, deary, how are you?” sang from the kitchen.
Amaretto waved dismissively, taking a joint from a casual hand, drawing deep. “Thanks,” she said, entering the hallway, applying her shoulder to the door. “Uncle Jack, what a surprise,” she said, addressing the dimness.
“I like how your bed smells like you,” he answered.
“That explains why my dirty clothes basket is always messed up.”
“You’re in my bank!” He swung his legs over the side of the bed, naked, scratching his crotch. “Who’s your friend?”
“October Ferguson,” she introduced herself.
He offered a jolly laugh and a hand. “Uncle Jack!”
October eyed the hand. “I’d rather not.”
“Understood!” He stood, towering over the girls, cupping Amaretto’s face. “Who did this to you? I’d like to meet the asshole, and don’t tell me you walked into a door.”
She pushed the hand away. “I’ve got it handled, Jack.”
Again, he laughed, scratching his naked crotch. “I bet you do have it handled!” He turned on October. “Do you do bareback?”
Amaretto, wrestling with a duffle bag, said, “She doesn’t do anything, Jack.”
Uncle Jack leaned in October’s face. “Really? Five-hundred bucks, right now.”
“Leave her alone, Jack.”
“Thousand if I can video.”
“I don’t think so, Uncle Jack,” October answered.
“Tell you what, October Ferguson. Fifty bucks, all you have to do is slowly undo your belt, open your pants and drop your pants half way down your hips. Double that if you’re not wearing panties.”
October put her hands on her belt. “Just drop my pants twelve inches?” She held his eyes as he looked down on her.
“I don’t think so, Uncle Jack. I really have no desire to be in your bank.”
He laughed, dropping back on the bed, reclining. “Sorry, honey, you’re already there!”
Amaretto, struggling the duffle over her shoulder, pushed October toward the door. “We’re out of here.”
“How about a quick one, Apple?”
“You look like you’re doing fine without my help.”
Outside, October put her hands on her knees. “Dizzy.”
Amaretto passed the duffle to Casey. “That’s called a contact high. I told you to wait outside.”
“Do you actually fuck him?”
Amaretto shrugged. “Do you really want an answer?”
“I guess not.”
Carol Ferguson closed her eyes, silently counting to ten. “Ockie, I’m a bit disappointed with you, not having a conversation before doing this.”
“Everyone thinks they have a right to tell me what to do or not do.”
“Don’t be so defensive. If you told me you were going to color your hair after school today, I could have been prepared.”
“Maybe I didn’t what you to say no? Anyway, what do you think?”
“I think you’re in love with Apple.”
“That goes without saying. But what do you think of my look?”
Carol gave October a hard stare. “I think I like it better on Apple than you. Apple isn’t my daughter.”
“That, Mom, I completely understand.”
“Wait until you see how I dress her for school in the morning,” Amaretto warned.
“Let me sleep in, then,” Carol said.
“I feel it will be educational to see how people interact with Apple,” October explained.
“I thought you had your fill with Jack,” Amaretto said.
“You know, Mom, over the years you’ve seen me put on the flesh of others, like with Ms. Sconce.”
“Flesh of others.”
“Flesh of others, skin of others. Usually I just do it in my head.”
“I think she’s smoking hot, Carol,” Amaretto said.
“She is only twelve.”
“She will be thirteen in two and half weeks,” October said.
“At which time, I’ll say, she’s only thirteen.”
“Mom, I had a conversation with Ms. Sconce about my boyfriend, Principal Markus.”
“I’m wishing I pushed the button,” Amaretto said.
“As much as I love Apple, I’m putting on her flesh because I learned Principal Markus has a type, and that I’m his ideal type.”
Carol narrowed her eyes. “I don’t even know what that means.”
“It means, Markus has a schoolboy crush on Ockie.”
Carol dropped on a chair. “My god. Is he dangerous?”
“He was out in front of the house,” October said.
“This house? Here?”
“You saw him with the donuts, Mom.”
“First thing in the morning, we file a complaint.”
“I went on record today. Ms. Sconce says, even with his history, there’s not much that can be done.”
“History? He has a fucking history?”
“Calm down, Mom. We’re out ahead of it.”
“I can make a phone call.”
“We could smoke some pot, chill,” Amaretto suggested, placing the yearbook on the table in front of October, a finger on a photo. “Look familiar?”
“There’ll be no pot smoking in this house,” Carol proclaimed.
Amaretto winked. “I’ll meet you out back in ten.”
“Suzy Gunther? No. Doesn’t look familiar.”
Amaretto scribbled over the hair in the photo using a black marking pen. “How about now?”
“Morgan Le Fay? Really? That’s funny.”
“That, Ockie, is Sally’s sister.”
“Sally? My antagonist we drove underground with kindness all these years?”
“She’s still a princess and she still has your troll on her fucking pencil.”
“Troll?” Carol asked, adding, “Language, Apple.”
“The troll you gave me the first day of school, Mom. I gave it to Sally.”
“Sally stole it from you. Brig knocked her on her ass.”
“Sally needed it more than I did.”
“So much not like your father, October,” Carol said.
“I look like a raccoon,” October said, looking in the bathroom mirror.
“I’ll show you how to touch over. I go for the lived in look, not the model-ready-for-a-shoot look.”
“The just-been-gang-banged look.”
“And, ready for more. Pristine is for Abby and Sally Gunther and the like, the Barbies of the world.”
“Your mom said you should have ignored Mr. Fisher.”
“Morgan meant, I’m sure, I should have ridden his hand so Fisher could lick his hand later while jerking off.”
“Morgan gave me the same bullshit. Since I allow so many others there, what’s one more. Morgan really doesn’t get the idea of my body, my choice.”
“Your sweet honey box.”
“My sweet honey box, my choice. I hate that by the way. Never say it again with me in the room or I might smack you around.”
“I don’t care much for it, either.”
“What do you think?” Amaretto asked about the outfit, having dressed October in a spaghetti strap black tutu with red ribbon appointments, ruffled skirt, black nylon grannie panties. “I like to wear white panties with this, but then, I am a slut.” The ruffle of the skirt danced on the top of the black thigh-high stockings, the stockings breaking into the three-inch heel studded ankle boots.
“I absolutely love it. In the Midwest, I’d be thrown out of school if I showed up wearing this.”
“I saw a story the other day about a girl thrown out for her bra strap showing.”
“That’s what I was referring to. I didn’t read the story, just the headline.”
“That’s why you shouldn’t wear a bra with this. Don’t want to offend anyone, them having to look at your bra strap. Besides, even the hint of a cool breeze, my nipples show, which is kind of hot.”
“I was going to get you to stand in front of the refrigerator. You get used to it.”
“Desensitized is the word. Abby doesn’t even notice guys gawking at her anymore.”
“Guys look at you all the time, just not as overtly as they look at Abby. I notice.”
“I’ve not, really.”
October hung her black knit sweater on her shoulder with Amaretto’s silver two-inch pentagram, the sliver ankh and three-inch silver cross around her neck.
“I pretty much feel naked without these, but I’ll survive,” Amaretto said. “With this trio, you’ll piss off eighty-percent of any crowd just showing up. In combination, the other twenty-percent.”
“I really don’t think kids are as religious as you think they are.”
“Oh, Ockie, don’t fool yourself. Just because the kids aren’t waving Bibles around, don’t get the idea they won’t want to burn you at the stake for offending their god.”
“Or, just having a messed up face.”
“Same shit, different flies.” Amaretto emptied the contents of her backpack onto the bedroom floor. “We’ll switch bags, too.”
“Angry Hello Kitty, it’s called, but I like to call it Fuck You Kitty.”
“I like my Rucksack. It’s functional.”
Amaretto dug in the bottom of her bag, coming up with six joints in a plastic bag. “Secret compartment. Can’t have you holding in school.”
“That was in there when Ms. Sconce searched the bag?”
Amaretto shrugged. “I won’t be holding in school for a while. I think Fisher’s going to have it in for me, along with Markus.”
October knocked softly on Carol’s bedroom door. “We’re leaving now.”
The door opened. “I thought I didn’t want to see you. I was wrong.”
October twirled. “What do you think?”
“You going to be warm enough?”
“Trench coat to my ankles? Never take it off?”
“If I somehow imagine you’re not my daughter, I can say you really look great. I love the look. Maybe I’ll try it.”
“Ms. Stayman would be glad to help.”
“I said maybe. I don’t have the courage you do.”
“That, Ockie, is why I don’t disapprove.”
“Face looks better,” Brigantine said, bobbing a chin at Amaretto as she and Candice, hand-in-hand, approached their meet up corner twenty blocks from the school. “As for you, Ock, I don’t know what to say.”
Candice smacked Brigantine’s arm. “You look nice, Ockie.”
“Oh,” Brigantine said to Candice, “she’s smoking hot. Three-inch heels? That can’t be good for her feet.”
“There’s lots of conflicting information,” Amaretto jumped in. “I love the way my calves and legs feel. I’d never go higher than three inches, though. Morgan has some five-inch, which are just plain fucking crazy.”
Brigantine smirked. “I was kidding, Apple. Mom has one pair of heels, two-inch pumps, which I tried on once. I’ll stick to my sneakers, thank you very much.”
Still holding hands, Candice ran her free hand up and down Brigantine’s arm. “I think you’d make a very pretty girl, Brig. I’d love to dress you up in a dress, pumps and makeup sometime.”
Brigantine looked down on her, again with the smirk. “But, Abby. I am a pretty girl. Just ask your brother.”
Candice repeated the smack. “You know what I mean!”
“I do, yes.”
“Where’s Case?” Brigantine asked.
“Said he wouldn’t be in school today,” October answered. “He didn’t give a reason, I didn’t press him on it.”
“Must be a surprise of some kind for you,” Amaretto suggested.
As the four worked through the crowd of lingering students on the school’s main entrance court, October stopped. “Apple, give me a cigarette.”
Amaretto swung the Rucksack off her shoulder, kneeling, digging. “Let me first say, huh, as if I didn’t understand the question. Then, let me state the obvious by saying you don’t smoke.”
October accepted the cigarette. “Matches?” Taking the matches, October said, “I think this shall be an interesting day.”
As October scurried toward the street, Amaretto said, “Oh-my-fucking-god,” corralling Candice and Brigantine toward the school. “Don’t look, act normal, keep moving, nothing to see here.”
Candice and Brigantine tried to watch October.
“Come on, walk away,” Amaretto said through her teeth. “Ockie’s father is across the street.”
October danced fluidly with the cars, head down, lighting the cigarette halfway across the street, a technical violation of school policy. October wanted anyone giving her a glance to think her reason for crossing the street was to grab a smoke. Long-stepping up the curb, she turned, standing with the men, the teachers working hard on a last cigarette they’d get for hours.
“Students aren’t allowed to hang here,” someone said from the back.
October shrugged, watching the flow of students across the street, pulling on the cigarette, trying not to be offended by the statement or the cigarette. “Nice day,” she said, sliding a step closer to the man next to her, the only man not smoking, leaving no doubt whom she addressed.
He looked down on her, which she saw from the corner of her eye.
“If girls dressed like that when I went to school, I’d never gotten any work done,” came from the same voice edifying her about the student policy.
October moved still closer, almost touching. “I thought you may not recognize me, think me not in school and then not stop in to visit Mom.”
His head snapped, looking down on black hair. “October.”
“You know, I could save you some trouble and just hang a sock on the doorknob when I’m home.”
“This isn’t good.”
She turned, taking the final step, looking up into eyes much like hers. “It’s okay. The past five minutes never happened.” Dropping the cigarette to the ground, she twisted her boot on it, turned, took a step, turned back, stepping in again, looking up. “Oh, one thing: Don’t hit Mom again. Ever.” She danced back into traffic, crossing the street.
With a quick stop at her locker, October made homeroom just as the bell rang, sliding onto her chair, all faces watching her with smiles and nods, mostly. She smiled and nodded back.
Michael Benson, the history teacher, examined the seating chart on the desk, then looked for empty seats. The morning announcements streamed.
“October Ferguson?” Benson asked, holding the seating chart up.
“Here, Mr. Benson.” She raised her hand.
“I can see you’re here,” he snapped. “Come up here, right now.”
October abandoned her desk, going to the front of the room.
“Stop, turn around, face the class.”
October stopped, turning, making eye contact, smiling back at the kids smiling at her.
“Do you think you are dressed appropriately for school?”
She looked behind her, at Benson. “I do, sure, why not? Is my bra strap showing? Oh, no bra.”
The classroom delivered snickers.
Benson sat back, lounging in his chair. “Let me put it this way: You are not dressed appropriately for school.”
“I assure you, Mr. Benson. I’ve actually read the school dress code carefully, and I am not in violation. Though, I do grant that you may feel I’m not dressed appropriately.” She turned. “Why am I standing in front of the class? At moments like this, I really wish I took those tap lessons Mom insisted on.” She held her hands out, palms to the ceiling. “Look how I’m dressed, Mr. Benson. Putting me in front of the class isn’t going to humiliate me.”
She turned back to the class. “Show of hands. Who thinks I’m inappropriate?”
Every hand but one went up.
“Ah, you guys are punking me!”
Waiting in the office, October stood when Mr. Benson entered. “I really, really apologize for getting carried away in front of the class. You know, they started giggling and I couldn’t resist my next line.”
“That’s okay, October. In retrospect, I should have never put you in front of the class. God, you know, I used to hate teachers that did that, now I’ve become one.”
“I’m hard to humiliate, Mr. Benson. It’s one of my many superpowers.”
“I see that, but I still think you’ve pushed the dress code too far. We’ll see what Mr. Fisher has to say.”
The door opened to Fisher’s office, they entered.
Fisher gave October the look as if to say My-god-there’s-two-of-them. “What seems to be the problem?”
“I feel October is not dressed appropriately. We had a discussion and couldn’t resolve the issue,” Benson stated.
“October?” He narrowed his eyes. “October Ferguson?”
October went on a toe, hands joined high over her head, turning slowing, coming back around, finishing with a graceful slow curtsy. “So, Mr. Fisher, King Solomon us up.”
“This isn’t my first rodeo. I happened to agree with Mr. Benson, that in no way are you even close to being dressed appropriately.”
“However, that’s my opinion. My job here is not to enforce my opinion. My job is to enforce the school rules and regulations. I’ve actually read the dress code and, but for maybe the cross, you are not in violation.”
“I’m not an authority promoting religion.”
“That’s why I said maybe. I understand that you are not promoting sexuality or your sexualization, but that doesn’t mean others won’t see it that way and that’s where I part company with the policy makers. I do not approve of costume play in school, but I understand it. I don’t approve because, though you aren’t intentionally sending the wrong message, other people may still get the wrong message. Do you follow me?”
October nodded. “You feel I should dress as to not unintentionally excite anyone.”
Fisher held up a traffic cop stop hand. “I don’t want to get into a long debate about where we draw the line and should girls be wearing sheets with just their eyes showing. I feel you should apply common sense and I urge you to dress more conservatively in the future.”
“You can’t send her home to change?” Benson asked.
“There’d be no point. Mrs. Ferguson would be down here – wait, that’s Ms. Ferguson, sorry, I’d be told I was wrong and have to apologize.” He looked at Benson. “Study the rules and regulations before you drag someone else down here.”
“Sorry to take up your time with nonsense, Mr. Fisher,” October said, bowing.
“It’s not really nonsense if we all learn a little something.”
Benson stayed behind, October guessed, to argue a moot point. Can that be the same guy that had Apple by the neck? October wondered, stopping short directly in front of Markus at the main office exit.
“Watch where you’re going,” Markus snapped emotionlessly, stepping aside, allowing October to pass.
“Sorry, Principal Markus,” she said, head down, launching into the hallway, off to class. “Ha,” she said aloud.