7 (rough draft)
Randi Sconce released the clear tape on the front door of her apartment, freeing the white carnation, smiling her grimace, pushing the door in. “Thanks, Melody,” she called to the interior.
“For?” Melody asked, coming from the kitchen, towel in hand. “Oh, sure.” Bright eyes, the color of a storm sky, greeted Sconce, approaching, working the shoulder bag free, taking the carnation, sharing a kiss. “How was your day?”
“Chamomile interesting or wine interesting?”
“Definitely wine interesting.”
Reclining on the third floor balcony overlooking the river park, Sconce drew on the white wine, letting a long sigh free. “It’s a good time to be alive.”
Melody narrowed her eyes at the distance. “Depends.”
“Indeed, it does. I was speaking specifically of our relationship.”
“Nothing like when we were kids.”
“Nothing like it.”
“What did Markus say this time?”
Sconce looked over her glasses at Melody. “He still doesn’t know, not that I make it a point to hide it. I figure if I tell him, he’ll stop making those homophobic remarks around me.”
“You want to keep a record.”
“I do.” She sighed. “He comes from a completely different background, completely different culture.”
“That’s no excuse –”
“Here, he’ll drown in our culture. It’s a good time to be alive. When we were kids, anti-bigotry got lip service. Now, we can expel, permanently, students for hate-speech. It’s not as easy as I’d like it, but it’s not that difficult.”
“He makes my skin crawl. Did I tell you he floated an idea last year to give extra credit for church attendance?”
“It didn’t get that far. This is New Jersey, not Texas.” She hesitated. “I met a girl today.”
“Should I worry?”
Sconce grimaced her smile, sipping the wine. “She’s twelve years old. Markus stormed my office like an excited puppy. I thought he’d pee on the floor. I baited him last year.”
Melody leaned toward Sconce, eyes wide. “Oh-my-god. Not that demon-child thing.”
“I thought he should be drooling.”
“Demons appearing as children, but only a special few can see them as demons?”
“Let me get this straight. Markus came to you, saying he met a demon, and he’s an enchanted traveller, specially empowered to see this demon?”
“How can anyone give in to such thinking?”
“I think religion is gateway programming to other magical thinking.”
Melody closed her eyes. “All of last year he’s surrounded in this sea of little girls and all of a sudden he singles one child out? This is his first demon, isn’t it?”
“That I know of. I had his background check pulled. If that even hints at anything, I’m going to let the police know.”
“I want to meet this child.”
“That was my first thought. I had her called to my office.”
“Big mistake. She knew exactly what I was doing and why.”
“Attractive, too. Not demon-beautiful, but she’ll have the boys and some of the girls chasing her down the hall. She had this way of looking at me, as if she saw my soul. I understand how an enchanted traveller may think she’s a demon.”
“You think Markus is a threat to her?”
“Other way around, I’d guess.”
Rib-it, a spacious family restaurant, local owned on a stand-alone lot toward the middle of Edgewood. The casual tourist may think they specialize in barbeque. The restaurant was called Rib-it for its frog theme. Fair prices with a friendly atmosphere made Rib-it popular with young people, a place to go, sit with friends, eat or not eat.
“I like it so far,” October announced over her plate of French fries. “Though I hope the school work gets more challenging.”
Candice nodded. “I think we attended one of the better elementary schools, and they have to teach to the weakest.”
“Two days, and I only had to put my hands on one kid,” Brigantine bragged. “I don’t see any difference, just more of it.”
“That was funny,” Amaretto added. “Kid twice your size blubbering.”
“Wasn’t funny, Apple. Sad,” October said. “In my ideal world, the kid would have knocked me down, picked me up and apologized. Now, he’s walking around on eggshells, thinking Brig’s going to jump from the shadows.”
“I could have made him apologize, Ockie.”
“That’s not the point, Brig. I’d like to see you counting to ten before putting your hands on anyone.”
“I’ll count to three.”
“I’ll accept that.”
“You missed what happened right after we were making out in the hall.”
Candice and Amaretto sat up, giving a collective, “Huh?”
“I’ll add a huh to that.”
“Seems our new principal was lurking in the shadows, jumped up in my face, thinking we were making out.”
Amaretto laughed. “I’ve seen the guy. We don’t have hallways big enough for him to lurk in.”
“Did you get in trouble?” Brigantine asked.
“That’s where things went sideways. If I were to get in trouble for making out in the hallway, he would have grabbed you, too.”
“What did you do?”
October shrugged. “I carded him.”
The three girls laughed.
October shrugged again. “He was asking for personal information, and I didn’t know who he was. He thought being the principal entitled him to my home address, which I thought was pretty strange. It made sense when I got called to the office.”
Candice narrowed her eyes. “That’s why you got called out of English, because you were making out with Brig in the hall?”
“Then,” October said, “things got strange.”
Again, three girls laughed.
“My guess was Markus, the principal, went and said something about me to Randi Sconce, the senior guidance counselor, not my counselor, by the way. I don’t know what Markus said, but it was nothing about me and Brig making out in the hall. Scone was concerned.”
“This is really cute,” Amaretto said. “Ockie’s first boyfriend is going to be four times her age and ten times her size.”
Brigantine stiffened. “Guess I’ll dig out my baseball bat.”
“I’d really like to know what Markus said to Sconce. She had his notebook.”
A half an hour early, Richard Bly stood outside Rib-it, trying to look casual, twenty feet from the picture window, watching through the restaurant at the impression of Amaretto, the girl he knew as Apple, the image appearing and disappearing with the reflection of passing cars on the street behind him.
He didn’t see Rat. Rat was not clear where to meet, inside the restaurant or outside. He borrowed the $300.00 from his father’s strongbox, thinking to get a job, earn the money and put the money back before anyone knew it missing.
He thought to enter Rib-it, look around, catch Apple’s eye and maybe wave as if he knew her. He could say, “It’s Richard from school,” and with so many people in the school, she wouldn’t know they never met. Then, there was that girl who looked like a boy, the girl that pushed him off. Richard was sure she’d remember him from the morning.
A flame red splotch danced in the window’s reflection, coming to Richard’s side. “Hey, Dick.”
“Richard,” he bit hard.
“Sor-ry, Rick-hard,” Jill answered. “We’re across the street, in the park, if you still want it.”
“I sure do!”
Baby Huey, oh, Rat, you have no idea what you’re doing. “Let’s go, then.”
Rat stood on a wooded path, speaking with six other teenagers. Jill stopped Richard twenty feet off. “The money.” She offered her hand, receiving a stack of bills, counting slowly, twice. Jill was tempted to return $50.00, having a sense of fair market over free market. “Wait here.”
Jill nodded, returning the way they’d come.
Rat joined Richard, Rat passing a plastic bag. “Now, don’t hold it up, shake it and say Is this all? It’s an honest ounce. Put it in you pocket.”
“Do you have papers?”
“Take mine. I have more. It takes some practice to roll a good joint, so don’t get frustrated. Practice, practice. Let me know when you need more.”
Richard nodded, watching Jill at the group of boys, counting another stack of money. “Thank you so much!”
Jill shared a nod to Rat, Jill moving off again.
“A bag of Rat’s best for the good man,” Rat said, returning to the group.
Richard sat for an hour on the grass in the park, watching Rib-it. Finally, the four girls exited, the boy-girl and the pretty girl with blond hair, holding hands, went to Richard’s right, Amaretto and the other girl went to the left. Richard followed at a distance. After about twenty blocks and a long hug, Apple peeled off in her own direction.
Now dusk into dark, Richard came alongside Amaretto. “Hey, Apple! I know your sister! She cut my hair! She really likes me!”
Amaretto clutched a book to her chest, stepping away. “I don’t have a sister.”
“Wow. Morgan isn’t your sister?”
She stopped, looking up. “That’s my mother. What do you want?”
“I just wanted to talk. We go to school together. I’m a senior!”
“Okay.” She continued walking.
“I’m Richard. Your mom is really, really hot. Smoking hot. So are you. I thought we could go out, you know, and fool around.”
She stopped again, turning, looking up. “Look, freak, you need a better pick up line. You being a senior and so much older may impress some of the other kids, but not me. I’ve been with actual men that don’t slobber when they talk.”
He held up the plastic bag. “I have pot!”
Amaretto laughed. “Bring me a pound, maybe I’ll go out with you. Until then, leave me alone.” She turned, walking off.
Richard hung like Spanish moss, a tear in his eye, wondering what a pound of pot would cost.