I don’t have a lot of time before first period starts, but I cross the hallway and stop beside Pearl’s locker. She’s pulling a textbook out of her backpack and attempting to cram it in her locker, which is already oversaturated with books.
She starts when she sees me. “Oh, hi!”
“Hey.” My eyes skip across the busy hallway before continuing. “Did Mr. Sumner talk to Henry yesterday? Do you know what he said?”
She takes some books out of her locker, juggling them as she tries to rearrange the notebooks on the top shelf. “I don’t know everything that he said, but yeah, Mr. Sumner talked to Henry.” She starts putting the books back into her locker. “And I’m sorry, by the way.”
Pearl pauses and looks at me with a tiny frown. “About what I said to you yesterday. And about Amber. I had no idea that she’d do… this.”
I shrug. “None of us knew. I mean, how could you?”
Pearl turns back to her locker and shoves the last book in place with unnecessary force. “I just thought I knew her better, I guess.” She pulls out a single folder then loudly slams her locker. “I was wrong.”
I wait a beat before asking, “So, what did Henry say?”
She turns to face me. “Nothing to worry about. He said he’d met her through me, and that he didn’t spend much time with her during the dance.”
I nod. “But now they’re going to have to talk to you. What are you going to say?”
The warning bell rings, and I jump. Pearl starts casually down the hallway. “I’ll just tell them what happened. The truth.”
I must’ve heard her wrong. “The tru--you can’t! I hope that’s a joke. Just say you’re friends, and she likes Henry. That’s fine, that makes sense.”
She turns her head sharply towards me. “The answers aren’t that simple. And I don’t think I’ll have much of a choice once they start asking questions.” At my surely incredulous stare, Pearl sighs and her mouth quirks upward. “It’ll be ok. I’m not ashamed to tell them, not anymore.”
I want--no need--to convince her not to tell Mr. Sumner everything for a variety of reasons. For her own good, her reputation, the possible consequences, my own peace of mind…the list goes on. What if what happened with her parents happens again? The teachers will hate her. They’ll throw her out of school, or sign her up for more counseling, or both. I need to stop this from happening.
But Pearl has reached her first period classroom, and she departs with a tight smile. And I can’t stop her because I have to duck into my classroom, my palms clammy and my mind racing with all the things that could go wrong.
. . .
I start to worry when I don’t see Pearl in Mr. Gleason’s classroom for fourth period. My fingers crinkle the fabric of my skirt as I watch the door for her.
But instead of Pearl, Maggie arrives and slides into the seat next to me.
“Uh. Hi. Maggie,” I stutter as I turn towards her.
She glances at the door and sweeps her dark bangs out of her eyes. “I’m not trying to take Pearl’s seat, I just wanted to talk for a second.” She smiles, so I do too.
“Oh. Yeah, ok.”
She leans forward and gives me a playful eyebrow-raise. “So. I heard you got called into the office. Was it about the vandalism?”
I make a face. “Vandalism is a strong word for it, right?” I say, my voice strangely pitched.
Maggie laughs. “Oh my gosh, Trinity! What did they ask you? Do they know who did it?”
“I’m not sure I’m supposed to say,” I tell her, sinking into my seat. Pearl still isn’t here.
“Come on, pleeease?” The bell rings, marking the start of class, and Maggie taps a finger against my arm. “Talk to you at lunch?”
I smile and nod as she stands and goes to her regular seat, leaving me staring at an empty chair.
Pearl does arrive, eventually. She’s nine minutes late and just gives me a nod as she hands Mr. Gleason a pass and sits down. It’s not until the end of class that I can say anything to her.
“What happened?” I whisper as I gather my books and stand up.
She straightens her ponytail. “When?”
“The office?” I remind her, shifting from foot to foot.
She just shakes her head. “They haven’t summoned me yet. I was just talking to Mrs. Vena.” I let out a sigh of relief, and Pearl’s eyebrows lower slightly. “You don’t have to be so worried about it. You aren’t even involved.”
“This is my choice, Trinity.”
I don’t say anything else, because she’s right.
. . .
I normally eat lunch in the computer lab. It’s the only room we’re allowed to eat in other than the cafeteria, not counting the courtyard because that’s only on Fridays in the spring when the teachers are feeling generous and the weather is nice.
I don’t have the same lunch period as Pearl, and instead of attempting conversation with other students, I prefer to sit in the abandoned computer lab. The only reason we’re allowed back here is because the school wants to provide internet access to students who don’t have computers at home. It’s a nice idea in theory, but all the computers are at least twenty years old and they’re painfully slow.
I never actually use the computers, but I like to boot one up just in case Mrs. Leonard comes in to check on me. I don’t want it to look like I’m hiding.
Speaking of which, I hope Maggie doesn’t find me. I’m afraid if she asks me another question I’ll spill everything.
I look around at the empty lab. Six chunky computers, six wooden chairs. Walls bare save for the peeling grey paint and a single cross hung up above my computer. One door, leading to the library, which is perpetually empty.
I stare back at the computer, and open the internet browser. My fingers hover over the keyboard, and, after confirming once more that I’m definitely alone, I type.
what is asexual
I skim the google results without clicking on any links, afraid to leave too much on the computer’s search history. ‘Someone who experiences little to no sexual attraction,’ it says. ‘Asexuality is a spectrum.’ I read some more, brow furrowed, before clicking on the search bar again.
My hands slam down on the keyboard when I hear footsteps in the hallway, and I frantically minimize the window and also slap at the power button on the computer, my chair clattering as I push away from the desk and whip my head around.
Sister Bertha has entered the library, and is coming towards me. I swear every inch of my body begins to sweat. “Miss Reeding, I thought I might find you here,” she says. She’s so tall her habit brushes the top of the doorframe.
I lick my lips, because all the moisture in my body is currently pooled under my armpits. I can’t believe that she knows I come here. And then I can’t believe I ever thought that it could be unknown to her. Somehow, she knows everything.
“Yes. I eat. Lunch. I sometimes eat here and do computer homework. On the… the computers.” Mentally, I’m smacking my forehead against a wall.
“Is your computer working?” she asks. Her face is neutral, her tone severe, as usual. I can’t tell how much she’d seen, or if this comment is meant to mock me.
I glance at the computer screen, which has gone blue. I raise my shoulders to my ears. “It’s… well, it’s a bit broken, yes.” Before she offers any potential help, I rush to add, “But it’s ok, I wasn’t working on anything important.”
She blinks twice at me. “I’d like to speak to you about the incident at the Spring Fling.”
I wasn’t expecting that.
“I already spoke to Mr. Sumner,” I say, straightening my back. The wooden chair digs into my spine.
“Yes. And he hasn’t yet spoken to your friend Miss Fellows.” There’s a hint of something in her voice, but I can’t detect what. “In some cases, it’s best to reveal only the essential information. Do you understand?”
I can almost see my eyebrows, they’ve lowered so far on my face. “Um. I’m not sure…”
“Principal Sumner wants to know why Miss Fellows’ friend wrote the things she did. But as long as you and Miss Fellows are not involved in her mischief, the details of the dance are unimportant. All we want Miss Fellows to do is confirm that she is friends with this Amber Tailor. That’s all.”
I clear my throat, and the sound fills the room. “Oh. Ok.” I pause. “Have you told all this to Pearl?”
Sister Bertha stares down at me from her position in the doorway. “I’d like you to remind her.” She turns to leave, and I feel my shoulders slump in relief. “And Trinity, if you ever need anything--help with your computer homework, perhaps--just ask.” She doesn’t quite smile, but there’s a glint in her eyes when she looks over her shoulder at me.
Then, she’s gone.
I turn and stare at the blue screen of the computer. The words, ‘AN ERROR HAS OCCURRED’ stare back at me.
(first part: https://theprose.com/post/432343/trinity)
(previous part: https://theprose.com/post/441793/trinity-15)
(next part: https://theprose.com/post/442858/trinity-17)