Amy looked on from one row over and two desks back, disgusted and spellbound. Lars pulled his finger from his nose, stuck the booger under his desk, and rested his hand on his desktop once more. Blood congealed on the tip of his index finger, a crushed berry.

The fluorescent overhead lights flickered and went dark—that is, all except two. Amy and Lars were cast together in glowing shafts of light. Amy could feel the heads and eyeballs of her classmates rotating in the darkness, ringing her together with Lars in a net of gazes. Without warning, berries came raining down, pelting Amy in quick stings and staining her clothes. She looked at her fingertips, red all over. In a pang of guilt, she felt that she had brought the storm upon herself.

The lights come back on and Amy looked about. Her classmates were, for the most part, watching Ms. Fairbanks scribble out a long division problem on the whiteboard. None had been paying any attention to either her or Lars. But after class Ms. Fairbanks asked Amy to stay behind for a moment. “How on earth did you get that red all over you?” she asked.

Amy surveyed the smudges on her fingertips and the stains like blood on her sleeves. She considered herself a gentle girl but sensed that something might be changing. The lie she was about to tell was—unlike it might have last week—probably not going to make her uneasy.

© Thad Fowler. All rights reserved.

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