Another day, same way. Kelsie jabbers and words pour from her mouth as she dresses. She hears her brother’s dreams prancing, and her mother gives her some protein. Kelsie rides her bike.
Even though it is raining. She goes to class and has to stay awake to her professor’s dead hum again. She will find that murderer.
She will find and wrestle that professor’s voice back to life, somehow.
Lunchtime. Kelsie’s stomach ties despite of herself, and she is about to chastise it—
Kelsie freezes. She feels that she is underwater.
She squints her eyes. Looks. Yup, there is someone right in front of her. Looking right at her.
Kelsie thought she was early. Not too many people when she is early. But he's still blinking at her. Kelsie doesn’t want to drown. He is supposed to briefly brush his eyes at her.
Like the others do. Then create her a path, an even one, like the Red Sea. Kelsie is the Moses of the school; everyone parts away for her. She never misses her Red Seas.
So here is this guy, not making a path. But instead, letting her sink in the depths. She cannot swim—or float—she quickly averts to the right.
Oh no. You’re not in my way. I-I am new here. Do you know where I can find Professor Carmichael?
Kelsie surely doesn’t want to drown. She stares at the guy who possesses the voice. Guy with black, inky hair. Like a pen has exploded and landed all over his head.
Except it is frothier, messier. His clothes look like he’d been through a fight, but this guy doesn’t look like a fighter.
Kelsie briefly gives him directions to Professor Carmichael’s classroom, grabs her lunch, then darts to the lunch table, her heart fizzing and buzzing.
And she listens to the conversations. Not really listening this time though. It crashes and crackles in her head, making her ears pop.
She sees people touch.
She longs for a cinnamon bun.
She feels cold and shivery. Why her? Why him...directing his words? At her?
She only gathers, not gives. She only accepts, not offers.
She doesn’t feel—only when she must. And right now she feels rigid, and really cold...
She feels a hand on her shoulder.
She shoots up, her food exploding in all directions.
She yelps, her voice echoing through the whole cafeteria.
She stares, at the Inky boy’s eyes, staring back at her in horror. His hand scurries from her shoulder.
I just--I am sorry--but you left your purse in the line…
Kelsie snatches her purse from him and flees out of the cafeteria, in attempt to escape the freezing cold, away, away.
She doesn’t go to the coffee shop. She doesn’t go home either. She surprises herself. She rides right into the playground. That is across the street, not far at all, but she never stops here.
The sky is still laced with fog, and the ground shimmers with remains of rain, but that doesn’t stop the children from running around, playing. They have different hums.
Almost like her little brother’s. Dreams, dreams spilling everywhere. She parks her bike. She sits on a bench, closes her eyes. A kid babbling about a kitten he saw.
A kid trying her best to persuade her mom to buy her a dollhouse. Other kids shouting that they are the Kings of The World. Kids squealing screaming pushing.
They’ll resolve it, Kelsie thinks without looking. They always do. Why can’t she learn?
Kelsie jumps again, and her hand jabs at the splinters of the bench. That hurt. This Inky hair boy is trying to hurt her. She could be bleeding, bleeding all over...
her heart almost gets stuck in her throat. She can hardly look at him.
-I’m not a stalker. I-I promise. I just take my little sister here every afternoon, even before I attended this school, rain or shine.
A chuckle, a kind of pleasant hum. -She loves to be outdoors.
Pause. Hesitant. Short breaths. Kelsie clenches her trembling hands into fists.
-Do you have a little brother? Sister?
-Oh you are just here...just to be here. Do you like children? Do you...do you want to be a teacher?
He sits down next to her, holds out his hand. I am Cameron, by the way. What’s your name?
-We-we don’t have to talk.
So he doesn’t. He just continues to sit next to her, watching the kids. Kelsie’s eyes are still closed, but she can’t hear the children anymore. At least, in the present.
We don’t wanna play with you.
Cause you smell like old fish and you poor.
No I’m not!
Uh huh! My mommy says so.
I’m not gonna talk to you no more.
They’re children. They’ll resolve it. They always do.
Conversation. Like Double Dutch. You want to jump in. You really do. You clench your hands, lean forward, ready to jump. But someone already jumps in. With their own rhythm, one two, one two.
They finally jump out, and you brace yourself yet again, ready to jump in. Except you don’t know when. The ropes are swinging too fast. Too fast. Blinding. Now. Now? Now...do I jump? Scared.
Shaking. The ropes won’t slow down. Go faster. You finally leave, because there is no point in jumping now.
Kelsie gets up and leaves Cameron in the rain that resumes in the fogged-up air.