Tuesday, 15 December 2015 16:43

Seven Periods and a Bell by Christina Dalcher

Seven Periods and a Bell by Christina DalcherFirst Period: Homeroom

The homecoming game is this afternoon and she sits next to me in that short cheerleader skirt she wears every Friday. Slices of gold peek out from the navy-blue pleats and I figure the skirt must have some weird magnetic qualities that only work on eyeballs, because every boy in the classroom is homing in on her legs. So am I, except I'm not a boy. The magnet thing doesn't gender-discriminate.

Second Period: Trigonometry

One plus one makes two. I learned that rule over ten years ago, but I think about it differently now. Sometimes, one and one can equal one. When two people come together, does each of them turn into a half? Or does one become a zero? That's how I feel as I watch her talk to the football captain and make tiny arcs in the air with a sneaker-clad foot.

 

Third period: Chemistry

We're lab partners today. I'm working on acting cool, but acting cool is tough when you're the class geek and you have to fool around with acids and bases next to the Homecoming Queen. The teacher passes out little strips of red and blue litmus paper, and I find something funny about the idea that red is always supposed to be for girls and blue for boys. One of the strips floats down to the floor, and the cheerleader floats down after it, her skirt exploding in a star around her waist. When she hands me the paper, her fingers brush mine. Electricity tingles all the way up my arm.

 

Fourth period: English

No one speaks as we watch the second half of Romeo and Juliet. It's really The Most Excellent and Lamentable Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet, but I don't see what's so excellent about tragedy, so whoever changed the title was definitely onto something. One joker in the back of the class makes a stupid comment about Juliet's breasts, and when I turn to look at him, I see the cheerleader staring straight at me. I want to write her poems and sonnets and odes and tuck my words into a silent corner of her heart.

Fifth Period: Geography

She's on the far side of the classroom, near the window, surrounded by a wall of jocks. I'm in my usual spot by the door, the unofficial no-man's-land reserved for nerds, losers, and bad dressers. She brushes a stray lock of hair from her cheek and I imagine my hand there, tracing the map of her face.

Sixth Period: Health

This afternoon's topic is everyone's favorite but mine: human sexuality. Reproductive organs, gender identity, heteros, homos, and queers. The one thing they don't talk about is love. The cheerleader rolls her eyes, as if none of this is new to her. I'm wondering how many boys she's kissed; she's gazing at me with question marks in her eyes.

Seventh Period: French

I stare at the braid in front of me while we conjugate verbs. J'aime, tu aimes, il/elle aime. Elle aime. She loves. The cheerleader turns and asks me how I manage the strange vowels. I purse my lips and make the 'u' sound while she watches. She mirrors my mouth and I think about what it would be like to kiss those perfect, pink lips.

Final Bell

She catches up with me at the bus stop, the starry skirt swaying from side to side with each step, and calls me by a name I didn't realize she knew. Her voice is silver when she asks if I'd like to watch her cheer at the game this afternoon; mine is tinny when I explain I don't really like football. She laughs and says she doesn't get it, either, but cheerleading keeps her parents from bugging her about why she doesn't have a date for the Homecoming dance. I say that's the second thing we have in common. She wonders out loud if there might be a third, and reaches for my hand.

Additional Info

AUTHOR BIO: Christina Dalcher is a linguist, novelist, and flash fiction addict from Somewhere in the American South. You can read her short work in Zetetic, Maudlin House, and Defenestration, among others. Christina never made the cheerleading squad, but she was president of the Pascal/Fortran Computer Programming Club. Find her at christinadalcher.wordpress.com.