Gabby heard the whispering in the halls of her high school; some of it was intended to be overheard, especially by the new boy. Teenagers tend to be cruel – and not cruel to be kind. She had heard he had a few tufts of hot pink in his hair. “Gay” was what they were saying, but Gabby hadn’t seen him.
Gabby was pretty, but nobody at her school ever noticed. “Freak” was all she ever heard, sometimes whispered, sometimes out of the sides of their mouths, sometimes fully aloud for all to hear, for all to laugh at. She wished she didn’t care, but she was seventeen after all.
It was all going to change in about a year’s time. College was going to be different. She knew this. She only wanted to go to one school in particular. Her parents had strongly suggested she apply to a backup school. Unbeknownst to Gabby, her older sister, Brooklyn (named for where she was conceived) had made a deal with their parents. If Brooklyn could get Gabby to apply to a backup school, then they would permit Brooklyn to take her to Burning Man that summer. Gabby had been simply dying to go to Burning Man ever since her older sister started going a few years back. Gabby could actually taste the dust the way her sister described it.
The acceptance letter from the backup school, NYU, had arrived two days ago. Gabby hadn’t slept for those two days, envisioning cold, wet, gray days, necessitating the wearing of shoes. Maybe if her head weren’t in the clouds, she might have noticed the new boy, but it was and she didn’t.
Gabby was staring down at her black-and-white striped Hello KittyÔ pirate socks, praying to her personal goddesses that today might be the day that Berkeley deemed her worthy.
Her high school’s dress code demanded that socks be worn at all times. She conformed to that regulation, but Gabby found a loophole: It said nothing about shoes. She hadn’t worn any for the entire school year. Her parents came to the principal’s office when called in and backed up their younger daughter’s stand.
You know how time seems to slow to a crawl when you’re waiting for something? Well, Gabby was waiting for two separate, but linked, amazing events on her distant horizon. Time stopped. She’d stare at the clock sometimes wishing there were someone she could point it out to. But that would have been just something else for her classmates to mock her about so she remained mum.
Gabby was still praying and she was still staring down at her socks when the new boy passed her in the hallway. Neither noticed the other. That’s the way things go sometimes.…
Trevor moved to Los Angeles with his mom when she came south from Oakland to take care of his grandma. He could have stayed in the Bay Area and finished up his last year of high school, but he knew in a few months he’d be off to college. This was precious time and he wanted to savor it. He wasn’t a mama’s boy, but he recognized his mother for the amazing human being she was and a little inconvenience wasn’t going to deter him.
His girlfriend had been devastated, but Trevor knew that the same break was inevitable. Soon, she would be off to the Sorbonne and that would have been that.
Trevor wasn’t deaf. He heard what his new classmates thought of him. He sort of expected it. Part of his reasoning to move to Southern California was to get out of his comfort zone. If this doesn’t sound like the ordinary thought process of an average seventeen-year-old boy, there was a very good reason for that. Trevor was not your average seventeen-year-old boy. Both his parents at first, but now just his mom for the last seven years, had seen clear to that.
Trevor’s annual “What I did on my summer vacation” theme paper at the beginning of each school year had begun pretty much the exact same way since he was five: “This year at Burning Man...” It was something his mom had negotiated with his school’s principal to explain why Trevor always missed the first couple of days of the new term. He always arrived tanned yet amenable to the restrictions of public school, but Trevor had a faraway look in his deep, brown eyes that nothing in the Default World could quell for weeks.