She slid her lunch tray across the metal rails, careful to avoid eye contact. Instead, she studied the fruit choices: sliced mandarin oranges or strawberries. Strawberries were her favorite, but she chose oranges because she’d be teased if strawberry seeds stuck between her teeth.
High school cafeteria, freshman year – it was always the same.
The cacophony of plastic trays on tables, dropped forks and raucous chatter gave her a false sense of anonymity. She paid the cashier; a plump woman wearing a hairnet and a frown, and then searched for an empty table.
Four steps and it happened – again. She slipped in a puddle of chocolate milk. A hush fell over the cafeteria. Covered in a mess of chocolate milk and mandarin orange syrup, she felt the heat of two hundred gazes.
Humiliated, she ran away. The first three doors she tried were locked. Hysteria rose inside as their laughter threatened to unleash her dammed tears. The fourth door swung open and she ran, dizzy and disoriented, to the bathroom. Her eyes wouldn’t focus through the blur of tears, but she pumped several squirts of pink liquid soap into her palm and rubbed it on her shirt anyway. The soap’s Band Aid smell gagged her.
She heard voices.
She knew the giggles outside belonged to Tiffany, and the seven girls who swarmed around her like insects after a storm. She knew they would gawk at her and giggle, then point and whisper. After a minute of scrutiny, Tiffany would turn on her heel and leave, and the others would lift their chins and follow their queen, dragging part of her soul with them.
When misery threatened to tighten its noose around her neck, she awakened. She always did.
She reached for the half glass of water and two pills kept on her bedside table. She swallowed the pills knowing deep down that they couldn’t exorcise her demons. But at 2:37 AM, she’d settle for prescribed drug-induced peace.
Here are the rules For this week’s Trifextra:
The challenge is to write a response that is between 33 and 333 words long and uses the words listed below. Use the words however you wish, but make sure that all three appear in your response. Oh, and they must appear in order. Good luck!