Fiction

A Sideways Glance

Photo Credit: reidab. CC-BY-NC-SA.
Photo Credit: reidab.
CC-BY-NC-SA.

I

“I’m telling you, Babs. I think it’s love,” Tracy said.

“What?” Barbara asked.

“I’m telling you. What I feel for Mitch is really real.”

“Sure it is.”

“It is.”

“How do you know it’s real?”

“Cause whenever I see him my heart flutters, I feel really faint and my stomach kinda hurts. I can’t think straight and it’s really hard to talk. It’s like my brain has been like disconnected from my mouth or something.”

“Hate to tell you this, Trace. But your brain isn’t really connected to your mouth.”

“Hey, you know what I mean.”

“No I don’t.”

Barbara and Tracy moved slowly along the front portion of the cafeteria’s massive steel food counter.

Their yellow plastic trays rested atop the jutting silver metal ledge that protruded from the center of the food-filled steel counter.

A large assortment of meats, vegetables, fruits, breads, desserts and drinks lay in neat rows atop the shiny metal counter.

A large cash register lay on the far end of the counter. A short white haired old woman stood behind the large adding machine.

The aging woman was dressed in a crisp blue uniform. A black hair net had been placed atop her curls. A large white apron was attached to the front of her garment. A white plastic nametag marked “Delores” in large black letters decorated the right side of her uniform.

The old woman held her black cell phone in her grasp. She gazed at the screen of the device with a smile as she tapped at the screen of the device.

Barbara stopped walking near the center of the lunch counter.

“Let’s see what am I going to get today?” Barbara asked absently.

Tracy stopped at her friend’s side.

“There’s not much to choose from today,” Tracy said.

“Sure there is, and some of it looks good. Well — like three dishes look good,” Barbara said.

“Which ones?” Tracy inquired.

“Mostly the ones in my imagination,” Barbara said.

Barbara and Tracy looked at each other and they both laughed.

“But seriously,” Barbara said. She looked at the counter. “I need to seriously pick something to eat. I’m starving.”

“Yeah, I need to get something too,” Tracy said. She looked at the food on the counter.

Barbara and Tracy were quiet as they gazed at the assortment of neatly arranged food that occupied the steel shelves of the lunch counter.

“It’s meat eating time,” Barbara said.

Barbara moved closer to the counter. She grabbed a large plate that was filled with a thick slab of meat loaf, a large pile of buttery mashed potatoes and a small heap of vegetables. She lowered the weighted white plate carefully onto her tray before she grabbed a large crusty bread roll. She placed the baked item on her tray.

“I’m getting a salad,” Tracy announced.

Tracy raised her hand from the edge of her tray and she grabbed a small bowl of vegetable salad. She placed it on her tray with a frown before she turned to Barbara.

Barbara grinned as she grabbed a small bowl of chocolate pudding and whipped cream from a row of desserts.

“Yes,” Barbara said. She placed the sweet on her tray.

“Wow…chocolate pudding,” Tracy said.

Barbara looked at Tracy with a greedy smile.

A small dollop of white cream dotted her lower lip.

“Yes, it’s chocolate,” Barbara said. “And get this. The whipped cream tastes like the real stuff. I just checked.”

“Yeah I can tell,” Tracy laughed.

“Huh?” Barbara asked with confusion.

Tracy pointed at her lower lip with a pronounced pout. “You got something on your mouth.”

Barbara licked her lower lip quickly. “Oh yeah. I guess I did go a little crazy with the taste testing.”

Barbara and Tracy laughed.

Barbara turned from Tracy. She looked at the shelves and grabbed a large red apple. She placed the fruit on her tray. She snatched a small plate that contained a big slice of chocolate cake.

“You’re getting cake too?” Tracy asked with sadness.

“Yeah,” Barbara replied. She placed the cake slice on her tray. “Today I woke up and decided to live a little and eat a lot of sweets. Plus I kind of skipped breakfast this morning. I mean I had a strawberry cereal bar but that only made my stomach growl worse. I really need to eat some nutritious food. My belly needs nutrients. And sweets.”

“Oh,” Tracy said with a laugh. She turned from Barbara. She grabbed a carton of fruit juice, a tall bottle of water and a sesame seed bread roll from the counter. She placed the items on her tray slowly. She gazed longingly at a large piece of strawberry shortcake and that rested on the metal shelf near her.

Barbara took a small bite of her crusty bread. She looked at Tracy.

Tracy was staring at the strawberry cake and smacking her lips.

Barbara looked at the cake before she stared at Tracy’s tray.

“Uh…is that all the food you’re gonna get?” Barbara asked.

Tracy licked her lips and she turned from the fruity cake. She smiled wanly at Barbara as she spoke slowly.

“Yeah. I’m thinking about getting some soup too, but that’ll be living dangerously in this joint.”

“Well soup is good. Look. They have chicken noodle and straight vegetable today. Here I’ll get it for you. You like chicken noodle right?”

“Yeah.”

“Okay here you go. Careful with it cause it’s hot.”

“Thanks.”

“So what else are you going to get?”

“Um. I think I’ll just get some more bread.”

“You don’t want a hamburger or anything?”

“Nope.”

“How about a grilled cheese? Look: you can get two.”

“I don’t want any grilled cheese.”

“Look, Trace. They have ham and cheese sammies. You love ham and cheese sammies. I’ll get you one.”

“No, don’t put that on my tray Babs. I’m putting it back cause I don’t want it.”

“Are you sure? You love those sammies. Let me just get it…”

“No, leave the sammies there. I don’t want one. I’m good. I’ll just eat this salad and bread and soup. And maybe I’ll get a like a little teeny tiny dessert to you know. Treat myself and stuff.”

“So that’s all you’re going to eat?”

“Yeah.”

“Are you sure you’re not going to be hungry later?”

“I’m good. Oh, this chicken soup has loads of veggies in it. Cool. I need crackers with this. Wait. I already have bread so I shouldn’t get crackers too. Too many carbs.”

“I think you can like splurge and eat a few crackers. Here: take these.”

“Yeah I can. Thanks. And hey. I’m getting more bread too.”

“Okay then. Well I’m going up front to pay.”

“Okay. Wait. What is this junk?”

Tracy raised her fork and she poked at the center of her salad.

“I’m really hoping these red weird squiggly things in this salad are cabbage,” Tracy said.

Barbara peered at Tracy’s salad.

“It’s cabbage,” Barbara said.

“Okay,” Tracy said. She continued to poke at her salad. “Wait, is this orange dry stringy stuff supposed to be cheese?”

“It’s shredded cheese. It’s just really orange,” Barbara said.

“I hope it’s cheese,” Tracy stated. She placed her fork on the tray. “I think I’ll get some red Jello for dessert today. Well I’ll get it if there’s nothing weird like floating in it today.”

“Okay, I’ll see you up front,” Barbara said.

“Alright,” Tracy said.

Barbara grabbed her tray from the metal ledge and she walked away from Tracy. She moved along the length of the counter and stopped in front of the large cash register. She placed her tray on the steel table on the right side of the register.

Delores looked up from her cell phone. She smiled at Barbara.

“Hello,” Delores said cheerfully.

“Hello,” Barbara said. She pulled her wallet from her small black purse.

Delores slipped her cell phone inside the front portion of her apron. She looked at Barbara’s tray. She raised her left hand and counted the items on the yellow platter in a low voice before she turned to the cash register. She tapped the worn keys of the machine quickly.

Loud dinging noises echoed from the shaking cash register just before a resonant beep poured from the object.

“That’ll be seven fifty five,” Delores announced.

Barbara pulled a ten dollar bill from her wallet. She handed the currency to Delores.

Delores took the money with a nod and she said, “Out of ten.”

The white haired woman’s fingers moved rapidly across the cash register keys.

The adding machine beeped and shook before the cash drawer popped open and a tiny slip of white paper jutted from the top right corner of the machine.

Delores reached into the cash drawer and she pulled out some change.

Tracy appeared at Barbara’s side with a low sigh. She lowered her half empty tray onto the steel counter.

“You want half of my pie?” Tracy asked. She pointed at the small bowl of whipped cream covered dessert that rested on her tray. “It’s cherry. I think.”

“No,” Barbara replied.

“Aw come on, it’s delicious and I won’t eat it all. And I need your help Babs. There are real cherries in it today,” Tracy said. She looked at the dessert with raised eyebrows. “Maybe.”

“No thanks. Enjoy!” Barbara said.

Tracy laughed weakly.

“Here’s your change,” Delores said to Barbara.

Barbara turned to Delores.

Delores closed the cash drawer shut. She snatched the white paper from the top portion of the cash register and some cash and the receipt in Barbara’s direction.

Barbara took her change and receipt with a smile.

“Thanks,” Barbara said. She placed the receipt on her tray. She slid the cash inside her wallet and stuffed the billfold into her purse quickly.

“No,” Delores said. “Thank you.”

Barbara snatched her tray from the steel counter and she took a small step away from the metal table.

“Hey wait for me Babs,” Tracy said.

“I will,” Barbara said. She tapped her foot impatiently as she looked around the cafeteria.

“Okay,” Tracy said. She turned from Barbara. She moved closer to the register. She pushed her tray along the table. She stopped the motion of the yellow platter near the adding machine.

She looked at Delores.

Delores looked up from Tracy’s tray. She focused her sight on Tracy’s face. She smiled before she spoke.

“That will be five thirty five,” Delores said.

“Okay,” Tracy said. “Let me get my cash.”

Tracy pulled her large pink leather bag from her shoulder and she placed the parcel on the metal counter near her tray. She opened the satchel and rummaged within its interior.

“Where’s my wallet?” Tracy asked.

Barbara looked at Tracy.

Tracy’s right hand was shoved inside of her purse. She wriggled her limb within the pink satchel’s interior with an expression of agitation.

“It’s got to be in here somewhere. Oh — my portable phone charger! I was like totally looking for this in English class,” Tracy said.

“Tracy,” Barbara said.

“What?” Tracy asked still rummaging inside of her purse.

“You want me to get your lunch for you?” Barbara asked.

“No, I’m good. My wallet is in here somewhere. I just have to find it,” Tracy replied.

“Are you sure?” Barbara asked.

“Sure I’m sure. Just give me a sec,” Tracy said.

“Okay,” Barbara said. She turned away from Tracy and looked around the spacious cafeteria.

The area was bright, large, crowded and loud.

The room was filled with dozens of circular-shaped tables.

Small groups of chatting students were seated at the tables.

The lunchroom’s exit that lead to the hallway was located on the left side of the area.

A row of tall windows decorated the right side of the spacious area.

A thick coating of ice and snow clung to the outer portion of the tall windows.

The partition provided a view of the high school’s football field.

The area outside was covered with thick white snow.

The sky was cloudy and overcast.

“Here’s my wallet!” Tracy said triumphant. “Um…how much is it again?”

“Five thirty-five,” Delores repeated.

“Right,” Tracy said. She handed a wrinkled bill to Delores.

Delores took the money and she jabbed her fingers against the register keys. “Out of ten.”

The sound of the whirring cash register filled the air.

Tracy placed her wallet onto the top of her opened purse.

Delores grabbed some change from the register drawer. She shut the cash compartment and grabbed the receipt from the top of the adding machine before handing the money and document to Tracy.

“Here’s your change and receipt,” Delores said.

Tracy took the items and said,” Thanks.”

“You’re welcome,” Delores said.

Tracy grabbed her wallet. She slid the cash inside of the billfold and placed the leather object inside of her purse. She closed her bag. She balled up the receipt and tossed it onto her tray. She grabbed her tray and turned from the counter. She moved to Barbara.

“I’m ready,” Tracy said.

“Cool. I see a table over there by the window,” Barbara said.

“It’s cold over there,” Tracy whined.

“You’ll be fine. You have on your cute sweater,” Barbara said.

“Yeah I do. Okay let’s go sit over there in Siberia. I mean by the windows,” Tracy said.

Barbara made a face at Tracy.

Tracy laughed.

“Come on. Let’s go before some dorks take our table,” Barbara said.

“Okay. Lead the way,” Tracy said.

Barbara and Tracy walked across the cafeteria.

The sound of loud laughter, faint music and cheerful conversations filled the space.

“Look at all of that ice on the windows. It’s going to be really really cold over there,” Tracy said.

“We’ll be fine. Besides you have that hot soup on your tray.”

“No. Having this hot soup won’t matter if we sit over there because it’ll just get cold. And then I’ll probably have to like chip ice off of the top or something to eat it. You got an ice pick in your bag?”

“No.”

“Aw. I guess I’ll have to use my fork. And I’m wearing my scarf and gloves too if it’s really cold over there. I have them right here in my bag.”

“Please don’t.”

“You know I get cold easily. Man, there’s a lot of people in here today.”

“We got ten inches of snow last night. So everyone’s staying inside.”

“We shouldn’t sit by the windows. We should…oh no…it can’t be…”

Tracy stopped walking beside Barbara. Her eyes were fixed on a table across the cafeteria. Her eyes were wide, her cheeks were flushed and her hands were shaking while she took a series of small gasping breaths.

Barbara stopped walking a few paces in front of Tracy. She turned around and looked at her friend.

“Tracy, what’s the deal?” Barbara inquired.

Tracy did not move forward. She continued to gaze at the faraway table.

Barbara turned around. She followed Tracy’s gaze and she focused her sight on a table that was situated near the center of the cafeteria.

Four laughing teenage boys were seated at the table.

The first young man seated at the table had bright red hair and was seated lazily in his seat with his feet propped atop an empty chair beside him. He held two large foil wrapped burgers in his left hand and had pressed the foodstuffs together and took large bites from the objects.

The second young man was slender with pale brown hair. He sat with his chair placed closely to the table. He held a large bowl of corn in his left hand and shoveled large spoonfuls of the golden kernels into his mouth between loud guffaws and chuckles.

The third young man had black hair. He was seated across from the brown haired and red haired youths.  He held three small portable gaming devices in his hands. His gaze alternated rapidly between the three small screens of the machines while his thumbs and fingers moved rapidly across the tiny controllers of the objects.

The fourth boy was seated beside the dark-haired gamer. He possessed a head of thick golden blonde hair and sparkling blue eyes. A large plate of golden French fries drizzled with a small amount of blood red ketchup rested on the table in front of him. A tall can of cola lay on the table beside the heated dish of sliced fried potatoes.

In between sporadic bursts of lightning quick finger movements, the occupied dark-haired youth would cease his gaming sessions to lean forward and drink from a jutting yellow straw that protruded from the top of a large bottle of energy drink on the table in front of him. He laughed with his friends in between sips before removing his mouth from the jitter-inducing substance and focusing on his games once more.

The yellow haired youth held his cellular phone in his grasp. He sucked idly on a white plastic spoon that jutted from the left side of his mouth. He alternated his sight from his phone’s screen and his joking companions seated around him.

“It’s him…it’s him…” Tracy gasped.

Barbara turned to Tracy.

“Him who?” Barbara asked.

“Can’t you see?” Tracy rasped. “Don’t you have eyes in your skull, woman? It’s Mitch Paul, the finest of the fine. The most handsome boy in school. And he did us the honor of staying inside for lunch today. So awesome.”

Barbara turned from Tracy. She looked at the table with a frown.

“Mitch? Is he the dude playing all those games?” Barbara inquired.

“Nope. That’s Charles Crandon,” Tracy said breathlessly.

“Oh. So is he the one with the corn fetish?”

“No — that’s Anthony Stevens!”

“Oh. Well, which one is Mitch?”

“Do you even go to this school? Mitch is the fine one…the blonde one with the new iPhone. He is so hot.”

“I really can’t tell from here.”

“What?”

“If the new Phone is hot. I mean, I’ve been hearing mixed reviews about that phone but you know I still want one. It looks major from there, though.”

“I’m not talking about the phone, Babs!”

“But you just said…”

“Babs, keep up. I’m talking about Mitch. Hot handsome Mitch. I love him.”

“Oh.”

“Just look at him, Babs. He’s looking so cute sucking on that spoon.”

“Yeah, eating plastic utensils is cute.”

“Stop making fun of me and my feelings, Barbara.”

“I’m not.”

“Oh! Just look at him, Barbara. I wonder if he even knows I exist. Cause I think about him all the time. Especially at lunch.”

“Hey, since when does Mitch eat lunch at this time? I thought he ate during seventh period.”

“He had his schedule changed last month, and he’s been eating at this time. He usually goes out to eat and I see him by the lockers before he leaves.”

“Oh.”

Barbara turned away from the table of young men. She looked at Tracy.

Tracy was gazing at Mitch with a dreamy expression across her flushed features. Her hands had stopped shaking and her breathing was slow and irregular.

“Um…Tracy?” Barbara asked.

“Yeah?” Tracy inquired with her gaze still fixed on Mitch.

“Are you okay?”

“I’m fine. I’m looking at the man I love.”

“Uh huh.”

“He’s so fine. I just can’t. I just can’t deal.”

“Well, don’t worry because you won’t have too. For a few minutes anyway.”

“Huh?”

“Let’s go and get our table by the window before those wanna be hacker geeks try to take it.”

“He’s just so cute. And I know he doesn’t have a gf. I mean, his FB status says he’s single you know? But the last time I checked it was first period. Like hours ago. It could have totally changed to ‘It’s Complicated’ by now.”

“Huh?”

“Babs, you just don’t understand the way I feel about him. I really hope he doesn’t have a gf. I’d be totally crushed if he does. I mean my life would like really suck cause I love him so much and we should be together and stuff.”

Barbara moved closer to Tracy. She looked at her friend’s face.

Tracy was staring at Mitch with a glazed look in her slightly bulging eyes. Her lips were parted She blinked slowly and swallowed with great difficulty.

“Uh Trace,” Barbara asked. “Are you alright?”

Tracy nodded slowly. Her eyes became wider and she released a small strangled choke.

“Trace?” Barbara asked with concern.

Tracy took a gasping breath before she spoke in a high pitched and panicky voice.

“He’s coming over here!” Tracy screeched.

“Huh?” Barbara asked.

“Oh! I can’t!” Tracy wailed.

Tracy turned away from Barbara and she ran across the cafeteria.

 

II

Tracy sprinted across the crowded cafeteria. She clutched her tray tightly in her hand and her large pink purse flew behind her as she ran forward.

A few of the seated students watched Tracy’s hurried flight across the lunchroom.

Tracy stopped running in front of an empty table near the window. She tossed her tray onto the table in front of her before collapsing dramatically into an empty chair.

“Whoah,” Barbara said.

“Hey Barbara,” a low voice said behind her.

Barbara turned around and she looked at the space behind her.

Mitch Paul was standing in front of her.

His plastic spoon jutted from the left corner of his mouth. He grinned at her with a nod.

“Uh, hey Mitch. How’s it going?” Barbara asked.

“Good good,” Mitch said. He pulled the spoon from his mouth.

The white utensil came free from his lips with the sound of a loud pop.

Mitch pressed his lips together before he spoke.

“Hey uh. Did you finish that report for Mrs. Langtree’s English class?” Mitch inquired.

“Uh, I started on it but I need to do more research,” Barbara replied.

“Yeah, me too,” Mitch said.

Mitch shoved the spoon into his mouth. He moved the utensil around before allowing it to the settle into the left corner of his mouth. He sucked on the spoon loudly before he said, “Yeah I uh really need to start on that. I was just about to go to the library. You know. To do that report and get some other stuff done.”

“Yeah.”

Mitch pulled the spoon from his mouth. He thrust the white object in Barbara’s direction as he spoke. “Did you do the reading for today’s class?”

Barbara made a face and said, “Um, some of it. I need to finish it though.”

“Yeah, me too,” Mitch said. He slid the spoon into his mouth again. He chewed on the utensil loudly as he stared at Barbara.

Barbara looked at Mitch with a frown.

Mitch shifted his sight from Barbara’s face and he looked across the room. He grinned, pulled the spoon from his mouth and moved closer to Barbara before he looked at her and spoke.

“Why was Tracy running like that?” Mitch asked. “I mean is she okay? Cause like she might wanna know that a few people were like totally recording that and it’s probably on YouTube right now.”

Barbara turned around and she looked at Tracy.

Tracy was reclined wearily in her chair. Her eyes were shut and she rubbed her lids slowly while breathing rapidly with her mouth open.

“Is she like having a panic attack or something?” Mitch asked.

Barbara turned to Mitch.

Mitch was sucking on the plastic spoon and he was staring at Tracy with a weird expression across his features.

“Or something,” Barbara said coldly.

Mitch turned to Barbara. He pulled the spoon from his mouth and said, “What?”

“Uh, Mitch I really have to go,” Barbara said quickly.

“Okay,” Mitch said. He pulled the spoon from his mouth. “I’ll see you in class?”

“Uh yeah,” Barbara said.

Mitch nodded before he turned around and walked to his table.

Barbara turned from Mitch and she rushed across the cafeteria. She moved to Tracy. She walked quickly to the windows and stopped in front of Tracy’s table. She placed her tray gently atop the counter.

Tracy’s eyes were closed and she was slapping at her cheeks slowly.

“Tracy, are you okay?” Barbara asked. She pulled up a chair and placed it on the floor beside her friend. She sat down quickly.

“Tracy?” Barbara asked.

Tracy stopped hitting her cheeks and she opened her eyes with a start. She looked up at Barbara.

“I’m fine,” Tracy said quickly.

Tracy raised her hands to her face and she rubbed her cheeks with quick jerking movements. She stopped rubbing her face. She grabbed a carton of juice from her tray and ripped the top of the container ajar before placing it to her lips and gulping the fluid.

After a few moments, Tracy lowered the empty jug from her mouth and she placed it on the table with a low burp.

“Yeah, I’m totally fine,” Tracy said.

“Are you sure?” Barbara asked. “I can take you to the nurse.”

“No, I’m fine. I don’t need to go to the nurse. It’s not that serious.”

“It looked serious to me.”

‘No. I was just a little lightheaded and faint. But it’s totally cool. It’s alright. This happens every time I see Mitch. I see him every day at this time and it’s the same exact thing. I told you, Babs. I’m in love. And it’s really really intense. I think about him all the time. And he doesn’t even know me. Love is sucky.”

“What you’re feeling or what you think you’re feeling for Mitch isn’t love, Tracy. Trust me on this.”

“Huh? How can you tell me how I feel?”

“Well, it’s almost one thirty now and you haven’t eaten anything since last night. I know because you’ve been on that stupid diet since like forever.”

“Hey, I’ve lost seventeen pounds since I started this diet last month.”

“Which is probably around the time Mitch started eating lunch during this period.”

Barbara turned from Tracy. She took the large red apple from her tray and shoved it in her friend’s direction.

“Here,” Barbara said. “Eat this fruit and you’ll feel tons better.”

“I hate apples,” Tracy said.

“You hate green apples. This one is red.”

“I don’t like apples.”

“You like red apples. You’ve hated the green ones ever since you ate that whole box of green apple sour chews when we were in third grade and puked afterwards. Remember?”

“Yeah, now I kinda do.”

“Eat this. You’ll like this one.”

“What’s so diff about this one?”

“Cause it’s special. So just eat it already. You’ll feel better.”

“I dunno.”

“You want me to mash it up for you?”

“Huh?”

“Just kidding. See you need to eat so that you’ll get my jokes. Here, eat it.”

“Okay.”

Tracy took the apple. She studied the outer portion of the bright red fruit for a few seconds before bringing it to her mouth and taking a huge bite from the foodstuff. She chewed quickly and swallowed with a loud gulp.

“This apple is pretty good,” Tracy said. She took another bite of the fruit.

“Tracy listen to me. You are not in love with Mitch. It’s just low blood sugar. That diet you’re on is just super stupid and you need to eat,” Barbara stated.

“My diet is not stupid,” Tracy said between chews.

“It is if you’re lightheaded and foggy brained all day.”

“I’m not lightheaded all day. And I know that what I feel for Mitch is real. I love him. A lot. I think.”

“You don’t even know him.”

“So? Ever hear of love at first sight?”

“You’re not going to listen to me about this are you?”

“Nope. Cause I’m in love.”

“Ugh!”

Barbara rose from the table and she walked away with a huff.

“I need to take care of this,” Barbara said.

“Babs!” Tracy called.

“I’ll be right back! Eat your food!” Barbara called over her shoulder.

Barbara walked across the cafeteria. She left the interior of the room and rushed into the hall.

“Where’s she going?” Tracy asked. She gnawed on the apple core in her grasp as she looked around the lunchroom. She stared at Mitch’s table. She pulled the half eaten-apple from her mouth with a gasp.

Mitch was gone.

His three laughing friends remained seated at the table.

“And where’s Mitch?” Tracy asked.

Tracy raised the apple and she ate it quickly while she continued to look around the cafeteria frantically.

Tracy stopped eating and she looked at the thin apple core in her grasp.

“Gone already?” Tracy asked.

Her stomach rumbled.

“Oh I’m so hungry,” Tracy said.

Tracy placed the gnawed apple core onto her tray before she grabbed her fork. She looked at the large bowl of salad on her tray. She stared at the large thick swirls of shredded dark red cabbage that decorated the top of the vegetable pile.

“Gross,” Tracy said. She swallowed with a grimace.

Her stomach churned again.

“Oh!” Tracy cried.

Tracy grabbed at her abdomen with a wince. She turned away from her tray and looked at Barbara’s tray. She stared at the meat loaf plate that rested in the center of her friend’s food-filled platter.

A thick slab of gray smothered meat loaf had been strategically placed beside a tall mound of buttery mashed potatoes, a small heap of golden yellow corn niblets and a few orange carrot circlets rested in the center of the plate.

Two cartons of juice, a bowl of chocolate pudding, a large half-eaten crusty bread roll and a slice of chocolate cake rested on the right side of the tray.

“Meatloaf,” Tracy said.

Tracy gazed at the meat.

“I’ll just sneak a little bite and Babs won’t even notice,” Tracy said.

Tracy licked her lips with a loud smack before shoving her plate of salad away from her. She sat up and snatched the plate of meatloaf from Barbra’s tray. She placed the plate on her platter.

“Yes! Meat,” Tracy said.

Tracy thrust her fork into the center of the meatloaf slab. She cut the cooked meat into several large pieces before consuming the dish. She ate the meat and vegetables quickly and soon nothing was left on the plate except a few pieces of corn, small crumbs of meat, bits of carrot and thick swirls of gravy.

“Whoops,” Tracy whispered.

Tracy lowered her fork to the table and she gazed at Barbara’s near empty tray with a hiccup of guilt.

“Uh oh,” Tracy muttered. “Maybe I can get Babs some more food…”

“Hey Tracy! I have someone I want you to meet,” Barbara said loudly.

Tracy looked up. She saw Barbara skipping across the cafeteria towards her table. She took a deep breath and started talking fast.

“Huh? Babs for reals, I seriously don’t know what happened to your meatloaf and…what?”

Tracy stopped talking when she saw Mitch walking a few paces behind Barbara.

Mitch was grinning and holding a plastic spoon in his right hand. He was looking at her.

Tracy grabbed at the left side of her chest with a hiccupping gasp.

Barbara stopped in front of the table. Mitch walked forward and he stopped walking beside Barbara.

“Mitch, you know Tracy right?” Barbara asked.

“Yeah,” Mitch said. He pointed the spoon at Tracy. “She’s in my Biology class. She dropped her frog during dissection class. Heh heh.”

Tracy stared at Mitch. She blinked slowly and remained silent.

Mitch waved the spoon at Tracy. “Hello Tracy.”

“Uh hey,” Tracy said in a whisper.

“Well, I need to get some dessert,” Barbara said. She looked at her tray. “And another meatloaf apparently. I’ll be back in a minute guys.”

Barbara walked away from the table and she moved in the direction of the lunch counter.

“Babs!” Tracy cried with panic.

“I’ll be back!” Barbra called over her shoulder.

Barbara smiled as she walked across the lunch room.

 

III

Tracy watched Barbara leave. She released a low hiccup.

Mitch chuckled.

Tracy looked at Mitch.

Mitch was standing close to her. He was sucking on the plastic spoon and gazing at her bosom with an expression of interest.

“So uh,” Mitch said. He pulled the fork from his mouth and continued to gaze at Tracy’s figure. “That plant experiment we did today. It was… It was interesting huh?”

“We didn’t do a plant experiment today,” Tracy said.

Mitch looked up at Tracy’s face. He pulled the fork from his mouth and laughed gaily. “Uh we didn’t?”

“No. We did an experiment on cells today with the microscopes. Don’t you remember?” Tracy asked.

“I uh,” Mitch said. He looked at Tracy’s bosom and slid the spoon slowly inside of his mouth. “I wasn’t really paying attention.”

“Apparently,” Tracy said.

Mitch looked up at Tracy’s face. He pulled the fork from his lips and grinned. “So uh. You ready for French class tomorrow?”

Tracy made a face at Mitch. “What?”

“I’m having some trouble with translation. Madame Hillard has been helping me. Do you have trouble with French?” Mitch asked.

“I don’t have French. I study Japanese and I’m not in your class. I’m in your Biology class remember? With Mr. Wallace second period?” Tracy asked.

“Yeah right,” Mitch chuckled. He moved closer to Tracy. He gazed at her face and wriggled his eyebrows. He slid the spoon inside his mouth with a hearty laugh. He lowered his sight and stared at Tracy’s bosom with a smile and a nod.

“So uh Biology is interesting isn’t it?” Mitch asked.

“Not really,” Tracy replied.

“Uh Biology,” Mitch said. He continued to gaze at Tracy’s bust.

Tracy glared at Mitch and she straightened in her chair. She raised her arms and crossed them over her bosom.

Mitch blinked and he looked up at Tracy. “What?”

Tracy continued to glare at Mitch.

“You need to leave,” Tracy said.

“Uh okay,” Mitch said. He pulled the spoon from his mouth. “See you in class ninth period.”

“We had class this morning you idiot,” Tracy called.

“Okay,” Mitch laughed.

Mitch waved. He turned around and walked to his table.

Tracy watched Mitch leave.

“Boys,” Tracy said. She shook her head and grabbed her cherry pie.

 

IV

Barbara grabbed another yellow tray from the lunch counter. She snatched a meat loaf plate, a piece of cherry pie, a grilled cheese sandwich, a ham and cheese sandwich, a slice of strawberry shortcake, two cartons of juice and a bowl of peas from the neatly arranged rows of dishes that rested on the steel counter in front of her. She moved to the cash register and placed her food-filled tray onto the counter beside the adding machine with a smile.

“Hello again,” Delores said cheerfully. She looked at Barbara’s tray. “Your total is ten thirty-three.”

Barbara paid for her meal.

Delores rang up the sale quickly and she thrust the change and receipt in Barbara’s direction within minutes.

“Your change and receipt,” Delores said.

“Thanks,” Barbara said taking her cash and receipt.

“You are very welcome,” the aged lady said.

Barbara placed the receipt on her tray. She shoved her change and inside of her purse before she took her tray from the counter and turned around. She stared across the cafeteria and looked at the row of tables that had been placed near the windows.

Tracy was seated at her table alone. She was eating a salad and gazing at her cell phone.

Barbara looked at Mitch’s table.

Mitch was seated at his table with his three laughing companions. He was sucking the spoon and tapping at the screen of his iPad.

Barbara turned from Mitch and she walked to her table. She placed her tray on the counter and sat in an empty chair beside Tracy.

Tracy shoved a forkful of lettuce, tomatoes, cheese and carrots into her mouth. She looked at Barbara with a smile while she chewed.

“Hey, I forget to ask you to bring me back some ranch dressing for this salad.” Tracy said.

“Tracy,” Barbara began.

“What?”

“So how’d it go?”

“How did what go?”

“With Mitch?”

“Oh.”

“You two talked right?”

“Yeah.”

“So? What’s the deal?”

“There is no deal.”

“What?”

“He’s a jerk.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah. A big dumb one.”

“Really?”

“Yeah! He was looking at my boobs the whole time he was talking to me. And most of what he was saying didn’t make any sense. Let me tell you something, Babs. The world looks a lot clearer with a full belly.”

“I agree. Hey you want some of my cherry pie?”

“Sure. I already ate mine.”


Amanda Lawrence Auverigne has authored several books from horror to humor to romance and points in between. Check out her other work at Amazon and her blog at https://amandaauverigne.wordpress.com.