“Girls, shhhhh,” a voice admonished them. Claire and Diana sheepishly peered toward the librarian, instinctively reaching to cover the phone in their hand.
“Sorry, Ms. Rose,” Claire responded first. Always a favorite of the teachers, she liked keeping it that way.
“I can see the phone, girls. Do you really need that to complete your homework?” the librarian seemed to enjoy living up to her role as the stern caretaker of library sanctity.
“We are using it for our algebra homework, unless you would like to lend us the abacus in your drawer,” Diana tartly responded. Never one to back down to authority, Diana didn’t seem too worried she might get caught in the lie.
Ms. Rose looked like she wanted to admonish Diana but thought better of it; her parents were one of the biggest donors to the library.
“Well keep it down. This is not a zoo.” She walked away huffily, presuming it gave her an air of importance when really it made her seem like a twelve year old rehearsing for a play.
Claire and Diana turned their attention back to their phone.
“Are you sure we should send this?” Claire whispered, trying to sound more matter of fact than she felt.
“Girl, come on. Don’t flake now! This is gold. Can’t wait to take that bitch down a few notches. All coming in here with her South African accent and her diplomat parents. Let’s see her act like she is all that after this comes out!”
Claire looked again at the photo she had taken that they were about to send to all her classmates. On her own she was never as bold as her friend, but Diana had a way of needling her to action. She knew she’d be in big trouble if her parents found out, but even they seemed to succumb to Diana’s charm. Plus, it was true, the picture she had taken would cause a commotion and Claire kind of liked that she would move from the periphery to the epicenter for a while. Lately, she had the distinct feeling that she was a colorless outline, like she was barely visible even to herself.
“Hey, you in or what?!” Diana impatiently rapped her knuckles on the table, eliciting another round of shhhhs from a neighboring table.
Claire sucked in her breath and before she could think about it any further, tapped the send button and heard the satisfying chime of the message racing through radio waves to her classmates’ phones and lighting up screens around town.
When Claire walked toward her locker the next morning, she felt eyes on her that made her walk a bit taller and flip her auburn hair a few extra times to maximize her air of drama. She sat a few rows back from her usual spot in the front of the classroom and daydreamed about how the rest of her sophomore year in high school would be different. “She’s a badass,” people would whisper. “She’s not afraid to take someone down! Don’t mess with her. Also, isn’t she so pretty?! And she now has the largest boobs in our year.”
“Psssst,” a sound poked into her thought bubble. Claire turned to the direction of the hiss and her eyes widened. It was the boy she had been crushing on for half a year and had never turned his head to look toward her. Alex’s sage eyes now looked directly at her while his arms outstretched under the desk were flashing something in her direction.
“Yo, did you take this?”
Claire quickly contemplated the tone in which she should respond, and speak the first words ever to her crush outside of “Hey, you dropped your pen.”
“Oh yea, haha, I forgot about that. Hilarious though, right?” Claire flicked back the hair framing her face as she responded hoping it would add to the breeziness coating her response.
Alex cocked his head to the right and furrowed his brows before shrugging his shoulders and turning back to the front of the room. Claire felt the heat rise up from her collar to her cheekbones as she tried to concentrate back on whatever her teacher was word-vomiting about in the front of the room. That was not the response she was expecting. Maybe he hadn’t really heard her? For the first time since she had pressed the send button, the doubts she had decluttered from her head started creeping back in like wild ivy. She had to find Diana at the end of class for her dose of emboldenment.
But her friend found her at the end of class, weaving through the hallway of open lockers and raucous classmates. Claire could tell she was heading toward her because Diana’s eyes didn’t leave her face as she practically swatted people out of her path. As soon as her friend reached her, she pulled her out through a fire escape door to the back stairs.
“Shit, Claire, did you hear”? Her friend’s voice was vibrating the words out with strain. Claire was so caught off guard with the fear radiating off her friend that she just gaped at her. Fear was a shade she didn’t recognize in her friend.
“Claire, Claire are you listening? Did you hear? Jesus, Nika, she...she. OK can you stop staring at me like a dumb duck? Claire, Nika attempted suicide last night and is in the hospital in critical condition.”
Claire felt the walls change direction around her and had a sudden sensation that she was freefalling down the stairs in front of her. She felt the weightlessness in her legs and the rush of adrenaline in her chest. And then she wasn’t entirely sure she was still awake; drowsiness filled her eyes as she wished the last twenty-four hours had never happened. That she could go back to the library and remove her finger away from the button that would send the photo of a period stain on a white dress to half her classmates.