- Pink’s Slut like You
Chapter 2: Questionable Morals
† Once the novelty of brightly colored math decorations had worn off, I found myself just as bored in math as I always was. The comfy armchairs someone had placed in the room (“to make it homey” my aging Math teacher, Mrs. Pufferman had said) only seemed to make falling asleep more likely. Fortunately there wasn’t any learning going on today. An hour later, the loud voice boomed over the speaker once more and we were released for different torture.
Latin was taught in the language building, which, for reasons unknown to Liv, was shaped like a tape recorder and headphones. The teacher, Magister Dominic, was a funny little man in his late 30s who liked to add a joke to everything he said. Leaving the room after class, I was content that there was at least one class I would not completely dread attending.
Liv had been with me every step of the way, but I had clung to her a bit as classes went along. I was polite to those she introduced me to, but I was too distracted by my surroundings to pay attention to who was in any of my classes. I know the Luke and his brother had been in at least one each; Zack’s limp had grown in the past few weeks, and while it wasn’t obvious as he sat, I could tell he was in pain. I was glad to see him without a walker, but wished he would use the cane instead of leaving it idle for Luke to carry when he refused to bring it with him. When we reached the beaker shaped building Liv turned to face me.
“Ok, Jenna, you’ve done really well in all of the other classes, so I think you can do this. Ill bring you to your classroom, but… I’m not in your science class, and seeing as I my own class three stories up, I’m sure you can sit through it on your own.”
I must have blanched, because she quickly added, “Don’t worry! Wait in your classroom when you’re done and Ill come and get you and we can go to lunch together, ok?” I nodded, embarrassed that she’d seen my nervousness. I was the ‘tough one’, but I guess even ‘tough ones’ have first days. Being out of my element had given me a disadvantage.
Not unkindly, Liv grabbed my arm and pulled me through the building. Past classrooms and poster boards alike, Liv steered me through the maze of hallways until we turned a corner and an immense Aquarium, filling up a two-story stairwell, top to bottom, filled my view. I stared in wonder at the coral polyps glistening an aqueous rainbow of gritty terrain as a clownfish appeared between an anemone’s tendrils like a magician from behind a curtain. I wanted to study it more, but even as I spied the iridescent eyes of an eel from inside a gaping cavern, Liv grabbed my collar and dragged me across the hall to a door jutting out from an opposing identically structured Stairwell.
Unlike the one across from it, this one had shelves and shelves of brass and steal gears and motors all moving and whirring away like a clockmaker’s shop. The whole stairwell, encased a door, and the walls below the instruments were lit along the bottom by gas fires contained within a glass wall. Clear ducts ran from these fires to a mechanism at the top, just below an upper arboretum. A humongous knotted tree, situated one floor above, rose up through the mouth of the building’s beaker-like construct, and I wondered for a moment how everything stayed dry when it rained, with an open vent like that. Other smaller trees cascaded down what must have been an artificial hillside creating a waterfall of foliage. Some of the trees had begun to change colors. A metallic sign posted near the classroom door announced that the carbon dioxide let off from the fires in the glass were controlled and used as a resource to promote plant respiration, while also heating the entire campus. I’d seen a green building before, but nothing like this.
All of this I took in in only a few seconds, as I was pulled through the doors lined with fire walls. While I continued to study the various moving machines from inside the classroom (the walls were glass on both sides, it turned out), Liv looked around for a seat, and having chosen one, plopped me down into it, before sprinting to her own class.
Feeling a little dazed and embarrassingly in awe, I studied the human components of the room. The teacher, while absent, made a large presence, and despite the room having limited wall space, Posters covered every available surface. Two mottos were hung at the front of the classroom from pipes in the ceiling. The first was the school motto, “Nobis in Sapientia Pascat” which I had translated one day when the summer had taken an uncharacteristically wet and cold turn. Brochures had assured me that it translated to “We feed on knowledge”, but when declensions and verb forms were taken into account, I had found it mistranslated: It actually said, “Knowledge feeds on us”. The second motto, for I could only guess that a motto was what it was, concerned me a bit, and I questioned for a moment the sanity of my teacher. For Mr. Helvawitz, as his nameplate on the desk proclaimed him, had strung to the ceiling a lengthy swath of black fabric, which read in a bright red, spiky font, “WHEN YOU BURN, YOU LEARN”.
I blinked then shook my head. What kind of place was this?
I began scanning the room for people I recognized from previous classes. A few rows in front, I saw that girl named Trisha talking animatedly to an Asian boy with brown hair, who’s named I believed was Kevin Collins. He’d been in my Latin class before this. Scanning the rows behind, I didn’t seem to know anyone back there. Gracing my own row, there was a mousy boy twitching as he swung his feet in a desk too tall for him, and on my right sat a boy I had seen in pictures but never actually met.
“Oh, its you!”
It was only after I said it that I realized that Asher had probably never even seen me. I was notorious for dodging out of pictures or at least covering my face during them. He raised an eyebrow but smiled lightly as he replied, only slightly awkwardly:
“Its me…? Have we… met?”
More crimson welled up in my cheeks. I had no plan for this and lying would only seem stupid later.
“My name’s Jenna—uh, Jenna Doloramor. You know my friends—unless you aren’t Asher?”
The boy nodded and relaxed back into his seat. When he chuckled it was easy and breathy. His hair was short, ashy blonde, and he had a cowlick that gave his hair a natural edge. He wasn’t bearded, but several patches of scruff were visible where he had missed shaving. Like Luke he wore a black button down shirt and belt. His tie was plain blue grey and some wear was evident as if it had been well taken care of but well used. His pants were dark, and it took me a moment to realize they were made of black denim.
“You can get away with those?” I asked, gesturing at his legs.
“Not a fan of the royal garbs, princess?”
I couldn’t think of any quick comebacks, so I settled for ignoring his comment.
“Black jeans—they’re Kosher around here?” I asked again.
“Sure on me, but that’s cause none of the teachers want to steal a glance at my legs. I have a flat ass, you see.”
I glanced at his butt for just a moment in spite of myself. It seemed pretty average to me, but I wanted Asher to like me. Liv had said he could be kind of rude, but so could Zack and Luke, and I wanted him to be my friend so I could integrate into my friend’s social group without drama. He seemed the type to enjoy a good fight.
“Really? I was going to ask you if Sir-Mix-A-Lot had used your bubble butt as inspiration.” That caused him to snort into a smile.
“How old are you? That song’s got to be almost twenty years aged.”
“No way—” I said. “I used to hear it played at middle school dances—it’s only a few years old, right?”
Asher gently cupped my hands in his and leaned closer to me. He gazed at me and I noticed his green eyes were flecked with red-brown stippling.
“I’m sorry Jenna, but that song couldn’t be about me, and it couldn’t be about you—” For a second I was incredulous—my curves were plenty kickin’. “—because that album was produced in May of 1992, before we were born.” He looked at the wall with the whirring gears. “However, from the second I popped out of the womb a month later, it has been my anthem. Because I do, Jenna, I do. I like big butts, and I cannot lie—”
“QUIET GUYS AND GALS!”
My lips curled into a smile as I turned to face the front. I was still shaking my head at Asher, but I had to admit I liked the guy. It hadn’t been lost on me what Asher had said about his birthday. 1992… So he was a little bit under two years older than me, but still in high school. Despite my curiosity, I vowed not to ask him about it, or even snoop information out of Liv or the twins. His past was his own. If we were ever close enough, I’d let him choose to tell me.
The progression of this class was the most bizarre yet. Mr. Helvawitz exuberantly explained to us what we would study in the coming year, and that’s about where all relevant things left off. Upon finishing the syllabus, he immediately started in on a lecture of the proper way to peel an orange. I tried to follow along, but none of it seemed important so I passed the time doodling in my notebook and occasionally chancing a look at Asher. To my satisfaction, he was writing in his own notebook, paying less attention than I was. Listening was a lost cause. When he noticed me looking at him, I shrugged it off, hoping I had looked love stricken and not like I had been wondering about his age difference. By the end of the lesson, I saw that he seemed interested in what I was drawing, and I looked down at my paper myself. I’d been absent-mindedly drawing a chicken.
Just before the bell, I felt a slight bump on my right elbow. Looking up, I saw a note had landed on the floor next to my converse. Picking it up, hoping Helvawitz wasn’t a teacher prone to reading notes aloud when they were passed, I carefully opened it. Seeing Helvawitz had moved on from orange peels to talking about the safety concerns of electric can openers, I figured it was a safe time to read it.
In excited scratchy handwriting Asher had written, “I have to leave straight after class for a needs meeting at the front office. I assume you’ll be sitting with us at lunch?” A needs meeting? I wondered. Liv had said there weren’t many kids here with scholarships. How did she not know her friend was one of them? The note ended with a smiley face. He was watching me when I looked up. So I smiled at him, and folded up the chicken doodle into a paper crane which I passed to him. He gestured, asking me if it was the chicken, using charades language instead of words. When I nodded, he pumped a fist and put it in his pocket without folding it.
After that we doodled chickens, separate but now together as friends, pretending to listen to Mr. Helvawitz talk about the possibility of fey folk in Ireland until the bell for class sounded. Asher, true to his word, sprinted off directly after, but stopped long enough to send me a wave. Meanwhile, I sat around, waiting patiently for Liv to reappear and take me to the cafeteria. I was starving. However, Liv had a habit of getting distracted. Gossip fueled her, and while I’d only ever heard her gossip during the summer, when I was her main outlet for discussion, I had to bet that in a school setting she could find plenty of people to discuss the latest news. I stood up, hoisting my bag on my shoulder, about to go out and wait in the foyer, where, at the least, I would be able to check out more of the arboretum, but before I could, Mr. Helvawitz had pounced.
“So, Jenny,” he asked in a loud voice as if he were still addressing the class.
“It’s Jenna sir.” I corrected.
“Oh, right, right, right. My mistake. It was just the way Professor Lyre wrote it down—my mistake. Anyway, Jenna,” Continued Mr. Helvawitz. “Where is it that you are transferring from?”
I was relieved at how normal that question was. “Westhawk Regional.”
“Local, ah, I see, I see. And, well, you must know the answer to this question Jenna: How exactly do under-privileged students feel about the use of the Spork over a separate fork and spoon, given the option?”
I literally had no words for that.
“JENNA!” Liv ran into the classroom. I dodged that bullet, I thought still a little shocked.
“Sorry Mr. H, we’ve got to run. Jenna still needs to take some brain efficiency tests. I was just running off the paperwork just now. We’ve got to go.”
Smiling broadly, Mr. Helvawitz shook his head and replied in a sincerely happy voice, “That’s perfectly fine Olivia. Take young Jennifer and have fun filling out those Brain efficiency tests. See you tomorrow, Gals.”
“We will!” Liv said, and I nodded, forcing a smile onto my face.
It was only after we’d left the building and made our way through a quad that I was no longer sure if the Brain Efficiency Tests had been a joke or not. Liv giggled when I brought it up.
“But who would believe that?” I said.
“Apparently Mr. Helvawitz would. And you by the sound of it.” I would be lying if I said I didn’t want to wipe the smirk off of her face as she said that. I’d vowed to take the higher road though, and it didn’t require much effort to let it go.
“Where is this lunch anyway? I’m starving.” Food and I had a love affair not even my mother could prevent.
“Where do you think we’re headed? Girl, maybe you do need a brain test.”
“You will not let that go, will you.”
“Ha. You wish.”
“Is that what took you so long? Getting yours?”
“Oh, that.” She rolled her eyes. “I was just preparing my bio teacher. I wanted to know if I could get extra credit for reading some book on amebas over the summer. Turns out that we were supposed to read it anyway, so all I ended up doing was telling my teacher that I’d only done the homework by accident. Not quite the stuff I’d need to impress him.” I tried not to judge Liv for what or who she did, but since the summer, she’d talked about one thing: getting with an older man. She’d picked her bio teacher, a man I’d never met but who’s russet, flowing locks and Heath Ledger good looks I had heard about in far too much detail. Liv may have had some game with boys and girls our age, but I seriously doubted her chances with a teacher as stoic as Zack had told me Mr. Angues.
“Ew, what’s with you and old men, Liv?”
“40 isn’t old- 50 is the new 40, so 40 is the new thirty and thirty year olds are hot.”
“I’m not sure that’s how that works.”
“Well he sure looks thirty.” She said, folding her arms and sneering at me.
It was a giant apple, the dining hall, with a large worm sticking out of the top as a turret with a table and students eating their meals, a view of the campus at their feet. Liv and I walked towards it, Liv still reciting the wonders of Mr. Angues
“Appetizing,” I said, gesturing at the butt of the worm that came around to make a handicap ramp to the door of the cafeteria.
The food was just as bad as the building’s entrance. The pasta was crunchy on one end, and falling apart on the other. I watched as the lunch lady slopped a hunk of mashed potatoes on my plate: the outside edge had a tough, leathery skin and when I poked it to determine texture, found the insides icy cold. I tried not to think about it while I waited for Liv to show me where our table met.
Following closely behind Liv as she wove in and out between tables, I was relieved to see that I knew everyone sitting at the table.
“Zachary Frederick Cane, how are Ya!” I boomed, as I reached the table to give him a hug before he could stand up. I didn’t want to watch him struggle, but I also didn’t want him to think I was worried, so I gave him a light punch on the arm which he returned affectionately. I sat down next to Zack and Luke sat down next to me, ruffling my hair a little. Liv trotted along behind us and set her things down between Asher and an empty seat. I had pretty much known from the get go she didn’t think of Mr. Angues as her soul mate, like she sometimes said, so I wasn’t surprised to see her trying to grab Asher’s attention. She’d flirt but she knew she never went far with anyone before she got bored and moved onto the next.
“You treated our girl, Jenna, nice and well is Helvawitz’s class today right, Asher?” She asked, pinching his cheek.
“Of course, don’t sweat it. I gave her the full run down.” Asher said, rubbing down Liv’s arm with his hand before pinching her in the side and making her squeak. I was a little surprised for a moment. Then again, I knew Liv had always been the flirty type, and I’d already pegged Asher as the same. This just made it look like they were together.
“Honey-boo-boo-bear-muffin-face” Zack said, turning to me, wildly gesturing to look like the cover of a romance novel. I played along.
“Suger-baby-lip-rose-kiss-nummer-farts!” I said as he pulled me onto his lap. I tried to support most of my weight on the bench without it being obvious to Zack. We brought our faces close together and his eyes merged together into one out of focus pool of grey. To sell it, I wrapped my arms around his neck, weaving my fingers through the short soft hairs on the back of his head. We rubbed our noses together for half a second then looked up. Luke looked genuinely amused, as he lay back, unaffected by the closeness. I turned to Liv who had an odd expression on her face I couldn’t quite identify before switching to disgruntled. Asher’s features were distorted into a look of amused disgust.
Liv tried to get his attention again but he put his hand over her face.
“That was the greatest use of the wibly-wumbly-gross-cute-couple dialogue I have heard in a long time. Congratulations, children, I will have to talk to the academy, but you may have earned yourself a Grossy nomination,”
“Oh come on,” Liv scoffed. She grabbed Asher’s head between her hands and turned his face towards hers. I felt Zack’s muscles constrict where I was touching him and heard Luke sigh, exasperatedly “here we go…” as Liv brought their mouths together, going in tongue first. Asher looked genuinely shocked but went along with the kiss until she pulled away and said, satisfied,“Now that’s how you earn a Grossy.”†
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