I check the clock over Miss O’Keeffe’s tower of blonde curls as I leave the office. There’s only five minutes until class change, and there’s no reason for me to go back to chapel. By the time I’d have walked across the campus, I’d just have to turn around and come back.
Instead, I decide to wait in the hallway. Luckily, no one ever checks for hall passes. Plus, there’s no chance of running into Sister Bertha’s disapproving presence, because I know for a fact that she’s in the chapel with all the other ninth graders.
The other ninth graders. Like Henry, like Pearl. It’s clear that Principal Sumner hasn’t talked to either of them yet. I realize then what I have to do.
When the bell rings, I wait at the side doors and watch the ninth graders march across the grass back to the school building. Henry’s tall, but he blends in easily with the other ninth-grade boys, so I almost miss him.
But I don’t.
“What--Trin?” Henry frowns down at me when I tug on his shirt sleeve, catching him coming through the doors. I pull him off to the side of the hallway, but we continue walking.
“Mr. Sumner is asking us about the Spring Fling. Us.” I tell him earnestly.
He sweeps a hand through his hair, and dimples appear on his chin when his frown deepens. “What do you mean?”
“Amber,” I hiss at him. “She wrote the graffiti--or whatever they’re calling it. Mr. Sumner wants to know why you brought her.” Technically, this isn’t my problem, but my voice is pitched too high and my fingernails are digging into my palms. I don’t want Mr. Sumner to know the real reason Amber was at the dance any more than Henry does.
He looks at me for the first time, dead in the eyes. I almost flinch, because it reminds me of that day in the library, of the angry fire in his eyes. Except now he there’s no fire, just an ocean of worry. “What did you tell him?”
“I told him to ask you.”
“What should I tell him?” Now Henry’s tone matches mine. Tight. Panicked.
“Make something up. Say it was a blind date. I don’t know!” I try to stop, having reached my locker, but a few students jostle me forward as they continue walking. I plant my feet and Henry walks a few more paces before he notices and turns back to me.
“Has he talked to Pearl?”
“I don’t think so,” I say, hurriedly collecting books from my locker. I should be getting to class, and so should he.
Still, he’s in the center of the hallway, the foot traffic flowing around him as he rocks back on his feet and forks a hand through his hair again. Even in the midst of a crowd, Henry seems untouchable.
I collect my last notebook, then open my mouth to say something else to him. But when I turn again, he’s already striding away, his head ducked down.
. . .
In science, I anxiously spin the cap of my pen until Pearl arrives. She gives me a big smile from the classroom doorway and sits next to me with a “Hiya!”
I lower my voice and lean close to her. “It was Amber. The Spring Fling.”
She pulls away from me and looks at me skeptically, a surprised smile flickering over her face. “The sign thing?” I nod. “Yeah, right it was.” Her face is stuck in this incredulous expression, and I shift in my seat when I realize it’s directed at me.
“What? It was. There’s proof. She--”
“She wouldn’t do that, Trinity. I know her.” Pearl’s eyes darken and she angles her body towards the front of the classroom, away from me.
“I was called in to Principal Sumner’s office! It’s on the tapes!” I’m trying to speak as quietly as possible, mostly because Maggie sits two rows back and I know if she catches wind of this conversation the whole school will be buzzing with the news by lunch.
Maybe Pearl doesn’t hear me, but I can see her eyebrows furrow. She doesn’t say much to me for the rest of class.
. . .
At home, I scribble essay ideas onto sticky notes, because I saw online that it’s a good strategy for brainstorming. So far all I’ve done is waste paper and come up with a billion terrible essay topics, but at least it’s better than an empty page.
I jump when I hear my ringtone, an old song from the electropop band Radon Runners. I pick up my phone and check the caller ID, but it’s an unknown number. I decline the call.
When the same number calls a second time, I wonder if someone actually needs to reach me, or if it’s just a dedicated telemarketer. Either way, I absolutely despise phone calls. Just thinking about talking on the phone doubles my heart rate.
Then, they leave a message.
“Trinity, hello? It’s me. Pick up? Pearl told me… listen, can we just talk? Please? It’s Amber, from the dance. You know who I am.” The message ends with a loud sigh, and then a click.
I’d rather talk to a telemarketer.
I stare blankly at my pink and yellow sticky notes until my phone plays Radon Runners again. I swipe my finger across the screen.
“Trinity? Oh finally. I thought Pearl’d given me a wrong number.”
I clear my throat quietly. “Oh. Nope, this is right.” I wait.
Amber fills in the silence. “So you know what’s up, probably. About the dance thing. Are they, like, for sure I did it? Pearl didn’t really have any details.”
I squint at my most recent sticky note because I don’t have anything more relevant to squint at. It reads, ‘day in the life of Shakespear’. “Did you do it?” I ask, which is stupid, because I know the answer.
She barks out a laugh. “Good lord, Trinity. Obviously I did it. Did you read the original sign? What a load of BS.” I’m glad she can’t see my horrified expression. “I just wanna know what they said.”
“I don’t know if you’ll be in trouble, or what they plan to do, if that’s what you’re asking.”
“They can’t get me in trouble. I don’t even go to school there. What the hell are they gonna do? Expel me?”
I take a deep breath. “Why did you do it?”
I can feel a wave of anger passing over me. “Why did you do it? Pearl brings you to a dance, and you ruin it like this. Why?”
I can hear rustling over the phone, but I don’t know what it is. “That dance was fucking boring, Trinity. You know when I said things got interesting? I wasn’t talking about Henry’s panic attack, although that was kinda exciting. I was talking about fixing that dumb sign. That was me making things interesting for me. I didn’t hurt anyone, and I only wrote what’s true. Pearl agrees with me. I thought you’d be a little more accepting, but I guess you’re not. I’m surprised Pearl doesn’t complain about you more.”
I can’t even process everything she’s saying. “She… Pearl what?”
“Yeah. She says she came out to you, and the best you can do is never talk about it? What a shitty thing to do. You know how fucking hard it is to trust someone with that kind of thing? We’re just trying to be normal, Trinity. We’re all just normal kids going through normal kid shit, it’s just that some of it’s about boys and some of it’s about girls and some of it’s both or neither or it depends.” Amber sucks in a loud breath on the other side of the line, and I’m afraid to make a noise.
She continues. “Sorry, I’m kinda being a dick. But in all seriousness, I think you should go on the internet and look some stuff up. And not just for Pearl. I think you might want to read up on some things. It might help you.”
I can barely follow this conversation. “What are you talking about?”
“I could be a thousand percent wrong, but I don’t think you’re into guys, Trinity.”
A shocked laugh tears through me. “Excuse me?” I knock the yellow sticky notes off my desk as I lean forward.
“You didn’t even bat an eye at Jackson, and he’s very attractive. Very. And I’m a lesbian. From what I can tell, either you’re into girls and you’re too god-fearing to see it, or you should Google the word ‘asexual’. And, hey, I could be way off-base. But it helps to read about these things anyway. Just to know they exist.” When I don’t say anything, Amber says, “It helped Pearl. It helped me.”
It’s a lot harder to find my voice than I think it should be. “I have to go.”
I stare at my blank pack of pink sticky notes for a long time after I hang up. I can't think of anything to write. I can't think of anything at all.
(first part: https://theprose.com/post/432343/trinity)
(previous part: https://theprose.com/post/441401/trinity-14)
(next part: https://theprose.com/post/442423/trinity-16)