the people you've been before that you don't want around anymore/ that push and shove and won't bend to your will/ i'll keep them still
"What pictures?" Ro asked, trying to force a crumpled five dollar bill into the locker room’s vending machine.
"The ones from the lab." Esther sat on a bench along the lockers. "The ones you tried to show me. From Delia's Ublog."
"Hmm..." Ro snatched the dollar from the slot and ran it across the edge of the machine. "I thought I already showed you those."
"Yes." Esther huffed, annoyed. "Yes. But you said..." She sighed. "Never mind."
Ro shrugged and inched the dollar into the machine. It took it with a whir. "Finally!" She picked a smart water and a snack bar. Both hit the receptacle area with a hollow thud. A third joined them and Ro grinned. "Hey! Double prizes. You like grape, right?" She tossed the can to Esther, who scrambled to catch it. "At least we all get extensions, yeah?"
"Yeah." Esther ran a thumb around the edge of the can.
"Not hungry?" Ro asked as she sat beside her.
Esther shook her head. "What did you hear about the lab?"
Ro balanced the can on the top of her knee, bar between her fingers. "What ya mean?"
The top popped and Esther caught a whiff of raspberries and Aspartame.
"With the lab. What are people saying happened?"
Ro frowned and took a bite of her bar, head tilting to the side as she chewed. "Electrical malfunction is what I heard. Some sort of power surge."
"That's not what happened."
Ro made a face and stabbed the bar's wrapper with an accusing glare. "Hmm?"
"I said..." Esther bit her lip. It wasn't what happened...It couldn't have..."I said it's not really what happened."
"Okay. Then what happened?"
Esther clutched the drink can; mind a blur of dark shadows, wisps of claws, teeth, a tiny rhythmic heart beat scattering across the air.
"I only have a few more minuets here," Ro said, taking a swig of the water.
With the rush of shadows came the a pulse of heat, a flare of anger. Esther stood, pulling her bag over her shoulder. "Sorry."
"Hey." Ro snatched her wrist. Esther pulled against Ro's Tension, leaning towards the door; hair flopping over her shoulder. "I didn't mean it like that. Come on. You can talk to me. You know you can."
Esther glared at the soda machine.
"Talk to me."
Esther glanced over her shoulder, the other girl's worried face framed in her bangs. Ro held her gaze a moment before it slid to Esther's wrist, caught in her grip. She let go.
"See you after school?"
Esther continued to the locker room door, stuffing the drink can into her bag. "I have to get home."
"On line then?"
"Yeah, maybe later."
Esther pulled her hat onto her head, and pushed out of the locker room. Head down she rounded the corner. Her shoulder hit something unyielding and she stumbled. A hand grabbed her roughly and steadied her. Hat across her eyes she tilted her head back to see a freckled handed griped tight around her arm, which led up to a equally freckled face.
"Alright?" Simon cocked a ginger eyebrow.
Esther straightened quickly. The hand retracted, just as fast. "Oh! Yes, fine. Wasn't paying attention I guess..." She shoved her hat out of her face, fingers swiping at her bangs. His eyes trailed her hand before he leaned down.
"Where you headed?" He picked up a backpack from against the wall.
"Were you..." She lost her nerve as his gaze met hers. "Uhm, Mayan's Hall."
"Sophomore. Like Ro then."
They fell in step as they reached the field house exit.
"Yeah. And you're a Freshmen." He shrugged. They walked in silence a moment, Esther becoming all too aware of her footsteps as the silence stretched. "So...uhm...Do you have Dr. Abernathy?" she asked, trying desperately to fill the growing void.
"Not for home room. Just sciences."
"Oh, so your science track?"
Esther nodded vaguely, keeping her steps matched with his. The pompoms at the end of her hat swung and bounced they passed the tennis courts. "So...How long have you known Ro?"
"Met her this year. One of the few people I can stand on the swim team. Not like most of them."
Esther giggled. "Ro's not like anyone." She became aware she had walked a few steps without him. She turned.
"Let’s go through the music garden." Simon shifted towards the hedges outlining the garden behind Winsor JV music hall.
Esther glanced up the pathway in front of the athletic buildings that lead straight to the Sophomore building. Two figures walked, one hands deep in the pockets of a military coat, the other talking animatedly with blond hair swinging in his strides towards them. As if noticing Esther, Holon stopped. Ice water skipped down Esther's veins.
Esther started. "Oh! Uhm, yeah, sorry." She tried to keep her head from turning to look over her shoulder. They wouldn't follow, would they? "You, uhm, you know Tobie?"
Simon snorted. "Everyone knows Tobie," he muttered. His voice lightened as he glanced at Esther. "So what about you?"
"Huh?" Simultaneously trying to look over her shoulder and as well as startled by his sudden question, Esther tripped over her own feet.
Simon grabbed her arm. "You're pretty clumsy."
Heat climbed into her cheeks. "Uh, yeah...sorry..."
"He's not following us."
"Are you sure?" Esther said, so quickly she instantly felt ashamed of herself. You sound like a 4 year old. Grow up!
A slow smile creased Simon's lips. "Yeah. Don't worry." They continued around the small fountain and towards the outer hedges. "So what about you?" Simon repeated hesitantly as Mayan's Hall came into view.
"What about me?"
"Oh." Esther's gaze fell to the blond stones at their feet. "I haven't declared yet."
"I thought you had to by the time you passed the sophomore entrance exams?"
The courtyard became a wash of ringing bells. Esther grabbed the distraction with both hands. "Oh! Sorry! Got to go." She jogged off towards the building, turning around briefly to wave at the confused boy. "See ya, Simon! Thanks for walking me!" She ducked inside the doorway and pressed her back against the wall, then glanced guiltily out of one of the arched windows along the hall.
Simon stood flat-footed in the quad, a hand scratching at the base of his neck behind his head. Slowly he turned from the door and made his way back down the quad toward Giluten Hall. Esther took a breath, tried to blow out her guilt and stepped into the throng of student.
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