4 Blood Red

654 84 332

Stark against the checkerboard hallway, drops of blood trail Sheila.

She doesn't see them yet.

But I do.

And so do all of the kids with their friends leaning against rusted lockers pointing at her. One boy with a pompadour holds his phone up, recording the pitter-patter. Another hides a chuckle behind his hand.

Usually, I scramble out of World History so fast I don't give Sheila time to talk to me. But today she buzzed like a damn mosquito about Colt Colby choosing me as his partner, blocking my attempts to get away.

I, for one, don't want to discuss Colt Colby because something about him reminds me of Ethan Morales.

And anything that reminds me of Ethan makes me remember That Awful Thing he did.

Colt gathered his stuff in a hurry, hightailing it from class with his boys without giving me a second look. Leaving me to wonder why would he choose me as his partner, then ignore me.

"Sheila," I hiss from behind her as she leads the way to Algebra 2. Doesn't she feel the blood?

I gave her a head start because I don't want these kids thinking she and I are friends.

"Do you have any idea how lucky you are?" she asks over her shoulder, clutching her purse to her chest like a shield. "The Colt Colby knows your name. You know what this means, right? You've been noticed by a god, basically."

She pauses. "I mean not God like Jesus Christ. But more like Pachuck royalty. Colt picking you is the epitome of serendipity."

I'm not sure how any of this is serendipitous. But I don't say this because my eyes are glued to the bright, red droplets falling out of her beige, knee-length corduroy skirt.

It reminds me of that time I found my mom in the bathtub.

Though Mercy would say it wasn't, that was probably my fault too.

More snickers crescendo around us as Sheila plods down the long hallway towards Mrs. Deeker's classroom. Tugging on her arm with more force than I intend, I say, "Sheila, you're bleeding."

"I am." Sheila whirls around to me, her hands smoothing her frizzy hair.

Splotches of acne riddle her cheeks. Her nose is too large for her thin lips. The red-and-white striped turtleneck she wears looks as though she bought it from Goodwill, and not in a funky, hipster, I'm-so-cool kind of way. No, she looks as poor and worn as me.

I just do a better job at hiding it.

"Girl, I am a bleeding-heart romantic," she continues. "And all of this gives me the feels. This could be one of those rom-coms, you know, like Maid in Manhattan or The Wedding Planner. Hot guy picks lonely girl as project partner and they fall in love. Jennifer Lopez will play you, oh my God, I can see it."

She purses her lips. "But are you Mexican like her?"

I gawk.

She stands in the middle of a hallway, blood spilling out of her like a leaking pen, impervious to the kids making faces and holding their noses, to ask me if I'm Mexican. Which Jennifer Lopez most certainly is not.

"Sheila, look at me," I level a steady gaze at her. "I think your period just came. Let's go to the bathroom."

"What?"

Confusion clouds her eyes as I point to the floor.

And then, like automatic streetlights springing to life at dusk, realization strikes her. She notices the drips. The red-brown on the back of her calf. Finally acknowledges the gaggle of kids with their phones, choking on their laughter.

Like Lambs LedWhere stories live. Discover now