14. Blackbird, Part One

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The blonde scoffed, but failed to come up with a rebuttal. Teeth sucked, tongues clucked; both girls retreated, dissatisfied with Emily’s refusal to get riled up. These girls were nail-clippers. Emily? Bolt-cutters.

“I’ll never understand,” Emily said. “They’re completely brainwashed, down to the way they talk and dress, and the whole point of the act is to find a man to care for them. But I’m the slut?”

“That’s exactly why they don’t like you.”

She hadn't heard. Emily was distracted by something. The raven-haired teen retrieved a vibrating cell phone from the child’s lunchbox she stored her things in. “David wants something. Want to come see what it is?”

"How did you get a phone?" I asked, incredulous.

"I told an old man I would answer when he called. Do you want to come, or not?" Emily was loosing patience.

“Yeah, of course.” How could I say ‘no’ to that? “Where is he?”

“Near. C’mon.” Emily stood; I followed her, abandoning my plans to wait for the bus. We walked around the school, watching the last few teachers escape as evening began to fall. We crossed the soccer field and ended at the baseball diamond. At the far corner of a small brick building used as a concession stand during games, David stood, can of spray-paint in hand, work of art before him.

He had painted an enormous human eye. Underneath this the words: ‘You are who they say you are.’

“What’s up?” I asked.

“Bored,” he said simply, staring at his handiwork with one hand on his chin. He looked dissatisfied. “This isn’t doing it for me.”

I noticed Emily’s demeanor changed around David; now she was silent. Instead of talking, she leaned back against the freshly-painted wall and idly rubbed her stomach, revealing long creamy tracts of skin contoured by the ridges of well-defined abs.

David and I caught ourselves staring. After an awkward moment, he shook his head, seeming to clear his thoughts. “I have an idea, but we have to break into the office. Are you both okay with that?”

“God, yes,” Emily exclaimed. “Give me something to do. What are we waiting for?”

“The office?” I asked. “Do you really think that’s a good plan? Aren’t there cameras?”

David stared at me disapprovingly, eyes burning holes through me. “Are you really worried about getting kicked out of school?” he asked. “I mean, what do you plan on doing with your life, Jacob? Another high school graduate flipping burgers? We’ve got a shot at doing something unique here. Who cares what the administrators think of us?”

A hundred objections came to mind. I might’ve pointed out David’s spotless reputation and how he’d never gotten in trouble, let alone punished. I might’ve pointed out that my distant future wasn’t the concern, but rather the weeks of detention I’d face. I might have told him breaking into the office wasn’t exactly unique.

But I didn’t. I didn’t, because of the way David looked disappointed in me. There was really only one option all along, and I was stupid for resisting. “All right, all right. Let’s do this.”

We followed David back to the central campus of the school. His lean frame strolled effortlessly across the field, as though he might walk for years and never show fatigue, some natural wanderer.

I held the door open for them both as we entered the halls of the school, which had fallen into an eerie calm. Voices of small groups of students ricocheted through the halls—a volleyball team, a choir practice, or us.

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