It's a very rare person who is taken for what he truly is.
~Peter S. Beagle
A fire truck blared up the south entrance, an extra ambulance and police car in tow. Esther watched from the third story window as a medic escorted Dr. Lampman to the open back of the parked ambulance.
Esther's gaze remained on two officers heading Lampman's way. Ro's reflection swam murkily in the window.
"Interesting first day," Ro continued, leaning against the sill. "Man...That spaz Delia had pics up on her blog in five seconds, ya know it? Looked insane." She flipped her cell phone's screen sideways and up, revealing the key board.
"I was there, Ro."
"There's a few good shots of you attacking Lampman with your bag. Though it had all these swirly black smudges on it."
Esther snatched Ro's phone. Delia's blog, in pinks and golds, filled the screen.
"Go to 'Pics'."
Esther scrolled down and clicked.
"Try PC Xplode," Ro said, chewed finger nail tapping the newest folder.
Esther clicked. Four photos, small and pixilated, blinked onto the screen. "Which one is it?"
Ro took the phone. "There's Tobie on a chair—like he's leading a rebellion. There's the desks, smoke...The stampede...Back of the classroom for some reason. Um...What the..." Ro pushed the arrow key and scrolled down to blank screen. "Huh...that's it. Could've sworn..."
"Where are they?"
"Maybe the site's under maintenance. I know like 12 guys in my class alone have a Ublog. Could be overloaded. We can check at home." She pocketed the cell. "That's get lunch. I'm starved."
Esther glanced over her shoulder at the window and flashing emergency lights as Ro lead the way down stairs.
The lunchroom buzz surged. Ro and Esther pushed through the door and searched the lines.
"Man...you get here five minutes late and everything is ridiculous." Ro stood on her tip toes."Oh! There's Karu! Let’s see if she'll let us cut."
Ro dragged Esther towards the pizza line and Karu and, Esther's heart flipped painfully, Tobie standing just behind her.
"Ro...I don't want pizza."
"Every other line is stupid long, come on."
"We shouldn't cut. Don't ask Karu to...Ro—"
The small girl with glossy black hair turned. She grinned. "Sup Sophomore?"
"Can we join?" Karu took a step back, jostling Tobie.
"Come on in guys."
Ro gave a mock bow and scooted ahead, dragging Esther with her. "Thanks Dive Queen."
"Karu, what the hell? They can't just—"
"Chill Sinclaire. It's two people."
"A cow and a freak..." Tobie muttered something caustic, running an irritated hand through his hair.
Esther tried to keep her eyes glued on her shoes, but heard Karu say, in an easy voice, "Well that's pretty."
She glanced around Ro's arm. Karu gazed up at Tobie, their height difference nearly making her bend backwards in the cramped line. The sandy strands near his temple, caught and pulled up by his fingers, revealed a silvery cuff attached to the curve of his ear. His eyes darted to Esther and the hair dropped.
"They let you have that?" Karu continued, unaware of Tobie glaring at Esther. "Thought guys weren't suppose to heave earrings."
"It's not an earring." Tobie crossed his arms.
"Well it’s cool." Karu smiled and Esther could have sworn a faint pink stain Tobie's cheek before Ro tapped her on the shoulder.
"Ignore him, Esther. Want cheese?"
Esther picked at her pizza, her eyes straying to the third table from the front of the cafeteria. Half the length of the building, but still a world away. She watched Tobie, feet up on the table, plate in his lap. She watched the swing of his hair as he ate, hoping to catch a glint of silver and wondering why she felt so compelled to at the same time.
It’s just a stupid earring. A cuff. That's it. Wasn't even that cool. Just a plain cuff...
A plain silver cuff. So why does it make me feel...
Holon sat next to him, chin resting in his hand, listening quietly while Gus, elbows over the back of his chair and Jacob talked animatedly across the table.
"He is cute."
"Yeah..." Esther heard a giggle and looked up. Ro grinned at her. Realizing what she'd just agreed to, Esther started, her hand knocking the plate and nearly flipping the pizza into her lap.
"Complete wanker, hangn' with Sinclaire already." She took a vicious bite of her pepperoni. "But cute in that tall dark and preppy kinda way."
Esther picked at her crust.
Ro leaned forward, conspiratorially nudging Esther’s shoulder. "Want me to play wing man so you can cull him from the heard? Get a date?"
"Tobie'll start yelling the second you get within 10 feet."
"Pfft. I can handle Sinclaire." Ro let a calculating silence stretch a moment. "What time does Monica get home?"
"I dunno, like 8am."
"Wanna go to the mall after last period?"
"I have to pick up my uniform from the locker room."
Ro straightened and bit into her pizza. "I'll wait by the bike rack in North Quad," she said through a mouthful.
Esther nodded vaguely as Jacob punched Gus on the arm, nearly toppling him from his chair and Tobie laughed.
Late afternoon sun shone through muddy clouds. Holon rested his arms over the top of Mayan’s Hall ledge, watching a girl below. She hopped up on the bike rack and pulled up a section of brown hair. With a bobbi-pin in her mouth and hair ties littering her skirt, she twisted the strands up and away from her heart shaped face; revealing two hot pink stripes. She fastened the brown pieces back, pinned them, and started on the other side.
The door inside the small shed leading down to the Hall creaked. Holon’s eyes remained on the girl. "Don't you have clean up today?"
Tobie hopped up on the ledge. "The girls can handle it." He glanced over the side and down into the north quad. "Ugh...Really?" He took a pack of cigarettes and small yellow lighter from his blazer's inside pocket and packed them into the side of his thumb. "Don’t waste your time on that cow, man."
"You don't smoke."
"I didn't. Lots change in a year." Tobie tipped his head back, blowing smoke out in a stream towards the sky.
"It will impede your training."
Tobie laughed and the smoke singed his throat. Turning, he coughed into the back of his hand, cigarette bouncing.
"You sound like Lucus." Tobie wiped his eyes and flicked the ash into the wind.
"Don’t take your training so lightly."
Tobie glared at the glowing end of his cigarette. It slid out from between his fingers and rested on his thumb. Tobie flicked the cigarette and lunged. Holon ducked, caught Tobie's punch at the wrist, and spun; shoving Tobie sideways. Tobie caught his footing and kicked. Holon blocked, and Tobie twisted out of the kick, hands out. He cupped Holon's neck, grabbing his shirt. Holon spun, ducking under Tobie's arm, dropped to a knee and his leg swept the ground, cutting Tobie's feet out from under him. Tobie lost his grip, rolled backwards and sprang to his feet; keeping Holon at bay with a barrage of roundhouse kicks. Holon calmly deflected each one with a forearm. Eyes on the movement in Tobie's shoulders, Holon stepped into a kick and locked Tobie's calf in the crook of his arm. Holon grabbed Tobie between the shoulder and collar bone and circled, right foot behind Tobie's left, pulling his stance in. Tobie's knee bent. His body folded. Holon caught the momentum, yanking the boy up as if he weighed less than a child.
The cigarette hit the ground, embers scattering over the loose pebbles.
Tobie skidded over the roof, rolled and slid to a stop in the corner by the air conditioner.
Holon chambered his hands, palms forward; right at his hip, left up to the shoulder. He watched Tobie, slumped and motionless, the path of the throw carved out in the roof’s gravel. Tobie raised his head. His wrist rested on his knee. He ran a hand over his cheek. Gravel and dirt fell away, raining down on his shoes. He smiled coldly and stood.
"I'm done." He racked a hand through his hair. The hand moved to his blazer’s inside pocket. He paused. He glanced up at Holon. A crumpled pack of Marbolo Lights were crushed between two of Holon's fingers. "Son-of-a..!"
Holon calmly moved his arm back and let the pack drop over the side of Mayan's Hall.
Tobie’s stomach hit the side of the wall, the pack out of reach. He hung over the side. The pack spun and floated. The edges blurred, streaming out. The pack vanished. Tobie gritted his teeth. "I hope you burn yourself, you little thief! And you.” He whirled around. “Are you punishing me?" Holon paused, half way to the stairwell. "Are you? For that cowardly little nothing?" Tobie's fists clenched. His gaze fell to his scuffed shoes. "You leave for a year...a whole damn year and come back like…like…" His fists fell open. His body slid backwards, leaning casually on the ledge with a scoff of laughter. “You working tonight?"
Holon stood silently a moment, smoke seasoned wind tugging at his blazer. "Yes."
"Go on then. And take her with you."
The door swung out with a moan then creaked shut.
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