There are certain people I can feel in the room long before seeing them. Maybe it’s because I’ve grown used to their presence over time, or they have an energy about them that simply can’t be dimmed.
“Oh my God. You’ve heard, right?”
My best friend, Beth? I can usually hear her coming long before she arrives just about anywhere.
“Ow! Watch it,” I mutter, rubbing the point of impact her purse makes with the back of my head.
Okay, maybe I lied. I usually feel her before I see her, too.
She offers a half-hearted ‘sorry’ and continues to squeeze between the back of my chair and the wall. Today I receive bodily injury from no less than four of the five bags she carries. I watch as she performs her daily ritual of spreading herself and all of her belongings over not only the surface of our cafeteria table, but at least three of its chairs as well.
I yank my magazine out from underneath the corner of bag number two and grumble as I stuff it into my backpack. I guess I can read more on ‘intricate pleats’, ‘princess seams’, and other ‘advanced techniques all seamstresses need to know!’ later.
“For someone so small, you sure take up a lot of space.”
She squints an eye in my direction and rifles through the smallest of her bags.
“Well, for someone … not small, you shouldn’t leave so much space for me to commandeer.” She waves one hand at me as the other triumphantly lifts a granola bar into the air.
“Commandeer?” I snort. “What are you, a pirate now? I guess you do wear enough leather. Pirates wore leather, right?”
“Shut up and eat your fries. Actually, don’t shut up. Answer my question—you’ve heard, right?”
After an inappropriately long pause I know will drive her insane, during which I start on my fries and take an enormous bite of my burger, I respond. With a mouth full of food and far less enthusiasm than I’m sure she expects. “About?”
She runs a hand through her pale hair and brings it to rest over one shoulder. An eyebrow, as dark as her hair is light, arches in a manner that completely gives away how eager she really is to share whatever gossip she’s holding onto. Beth bites her lip in an attempt to seem hesitant. I want to tell her how she’s ruining the black lipstick covering her full lips, but I roll my eyes instead.
“Well, if you haven’t heard already, I’m not really sure it’s my place…” She grins at me and primly lays one hand on top of the other on the table in front of her.
“All right, attempt at decency noted. Now tell me.”
“Oh good,” she says, lifting up from her seat to reach across the table. Apparently my hair, having a mind of its own like it often does, is offending her in some way. Once the big, springy, runaway curl is back in its designated place, she settles back down. “You know I’d hate to be considered indecent.”
“Naturally,” I agree in the most solemn voice I can muster before waving for her to continue.
“So you know Audrey McMannis, right? Short—well, taller than me, but still short. Dark hair? I’ve got econ with her this semester. I think we all had a class together last year. Maybe bio?”
I nod, knowing once the story’s begun, it’s best not to interrupt. Besides, I’m pretty sure there’s only one Audrey at our school in the first place.
“She wasn’t in class last Friday because she and her family had to go out town for her cousin’s wedding. I don’t think we know the cousin. Apparently she has this super big, super geographically spread-out family. But anyway, she had to go to her cousin’s match ceremony. I guess on the way there, her parents’ car got a flat tire or something, so they didn’t get there in time for the rehearsal dinner the night before.”
“Okay…” I break my rule of not interrupting. Maybe it’s because I didn’t get enough sleep last night or because I bombed my French quiz earlier, but this story seems pretty boring, and it is likely not to find its way out of Beth anytime soon without a little guidance on my part. “Was she supposed to be a bridesmaid, or something?”
“No. She just didn’t get to meet anyone from the groom’s side until the day of. Don’t interrupt!”
I stuff another fry in my mouth.
“So she shows up to the ceremony the next day, her family is seated on the bride’s side, blah blah blah. I think she was like, playing a game on her cell or something until the music started and they were seating the mothers. The music starts to play, she puts her phone back in her bag, looks up, and it happened. The black, and the white, and the gray … it just faded out and all of this color took its place. It seeped into everything. She nearly fell out of her chair.”
It’s pretty much impossible to stop myself from glancing around the lunchroom. I’m almost positive Audrey has this lunch period with us, but I don’t spot her anywhere. Unless she’s sitting at a table outside, which is unlikely with the current downpour, she must not be here today.
“That’s great, though. Right? I mean that her Soulmate was there, out of all places.”
I’ve never considered myself to be an especially romantic person, but the idea of meeting a Soulmate now? When we’re so young? It’s enough to excite even me a little bit. And Beth, well, Beth is one of the most disgustingly romantic people I’ve ever encountered, so it’s hard for me to believe she’s not swooning over this.
Instead the look she’s giving me now says maybe she’s not as excited over sharing this story as she was before starting it.
“It was his match ceremony, too. He was the groom.”