Kelsie sits. And listens. She wants a sandwich. Cameron comes a little late. Kelsie’s body, tensed the whole time, relaxes once he sits down.
-Sorry I’m late. My-my sister had a doctor’s appointment today.
Kelsie makes a mistake of looking at him. Cameron’s head turns away at the last second, but she thinks she saw purple under his eye. Another fight, it seems; Kelsie is sure he lost.
She can’t deny his scrawny frame, after all. His eye is as purple and faded as his hoodie. Her eyes linger at his long sleeves, his arms bury in the pockets.
She was wearing the same thing, yesterday. Except hers was black. Is Cameron copying her? Trying to mess with her head by probing with her style choice?
Cameron catches Kelsie looking at him. He looks at her for a long moment, purple eye and all. He puts his hand on her shoulder.
She feels the touch for hours and hours. And when she goes to bed that night she cannot understand that although Cameron’s face held uneasiness, her shoulder still feels the touch of his comfort.
You need to make new friends.
I don’t know how!
Just say hi first.
I’m too scared.
Too scared to say hi?
Kelsie feels Cameron slouch down to the bench. The bench creaks. He unwraps a peanut butter jelly sandwich. Kelsie can tell without looking, she can smell it.
It escaped, the naughty thing, before Kelsie can catch it.
Cameron turns to her. His clothes are more disarrayed than ever, but his eyes glow. Light. Too much light. Why all the light?
H-hi! How are you?
Kelsie covers her eyes. Turns her back on him. She feels him staring at her, trying to figure her out.
Are you...are you hungry?
You are in middle school now.
I let it slide when you were in elementary, but you are too old now to be scared of talking to people.
They are more merciless in middle school, Mom.
When I try to talk to them...when I just say one word to them—they come at me—
Shh. It’s okay honey...
They say I'm ugly.
Now you know--
Why can’t you get a real job? Maybe then they will stop torturing me.
Kelsie, you need to start ignoring the mean people and let the good people in. You're shutting both out.
You-you just shut up, Mom! You don’t know anything!
Cameron’s eyes are red, faintly bleeding with his purple lids. And almost half shut. Kelsie feels like she yelled at him even though she didn’t. Or maybe he was tired. Of her.
She kicks a pine cone hard and watches it bounce and disappear, while her foot throbs with anger.
Still, they eat sandwiches, silently, together.