Claire found me after first period. I was at my locker when I heard her stomp up behind me.
She came around to face me, leaning against the row of lockers and crossing her arms over her chest. “You know what’s up, Frankie. Why are you avoiding me?”
“What? We don’t have first period together, how could I be avoiding you?” I knew she wouldn’t be happy with that answer, so I continued looking into my locker as if I was holding a conversation with my school books instead of my best friend.
She swung open the locker next to mine while leaning in beside me until we were cheek to cheek. “We’re locker buddies, Frankie!” she stage whispered. “We always hang out here before second bell.” Without looking she threw her books into the bottom of her locker and grabbed another off the shelf. “I know you’re mad at me for putting you on blast yesterday in English. Can we just get over that?”
I turned to look at her. I knew she was sorry, but if I let this go, it wouldn’t be long before she embarrassed me again. “First of all, we don’t always hang out here...it’s only the third day of school. And secondly, you humiliated me, Claire. My...” I looked around to make sure no one was near us, “...ghosts are my business, not yours. I told you in confidence.”
“Ghosts? Lighten up, Frankie, no one cares that you used to stutter when we were kids. You didn't tell me in confidence, either. We've gone to school together for eight years. I know all of your 'ghosts.' If anything, your stutter makes you endearing. You can be kind of a jerk, but now you seem...charming, almost. I helped you.”
She wasn’t getting it. “Look, Claire.” I put my hands on her shoulders, making direct eye contact in the hopes that she understood what I was about to say. “We’re in high school now. No one else from our elementary school goes here, so no one knows us yet. We...we can recreate ourselves! This is the time when we can be the people we dreamed about being! I don’t want to waste this.”
“Hey guys...everything okay?” It was Calvin, a quiet kid from our English class.
“Calvin? I didn’t know you spoke.” Claire looked over my shoulder to where he stood. I dropped my hands to my sides and turned to face him.
“I-I don’t, much.” Calvin looked down at his feet, then back up at me. “I st-t-tutter too.”
Claire patted me on the back. “I’ll leave you two alone,” she whispered. There was nothing left for her to do but walk away.
Merry Christmas Eve! I'm writing for The Speakeasy again.