Tommy and Bobby. Geometry class. Def Leopard tee shirts and gelled-up hair. They were like the fruit our mothers taught us to put back. Apples with bruises, berries gone squish. They weren’t much, but then, neither were we. Fleshbelt under our crop tops and fake tattoos. Nobody looking, but we wanted more.
Old Mr. Barren, tap-tapping his chalk nub front of the class. Eyes forward, he’d say. What’s the answer, he’d say.
Kevin and Danny, they were the answer, though we didn’t say. Back of the classroom. Flameless fire. Gorgeous and plum.
In the air all around us, triangles obtuse and leaning away from themselves. Same way we were pulled to the sound of leather squealing from their jackets. How we wanted to bury our faces there.
And then, Mr. Barren. His long gray suit next to us. Teacher smell, old paper and cafeteria milk. “Three times to the principal’s office,” he said. “Care to make it four?”
Everyone watching. Looking at us, the way they never did. We were movie star trouble. Danger dropping on us like a red-carpet spotlight. We looked at Kevin and Danny. Their eyes almost meeting ours.
After class, the hallway, We leaned against the cool, green wall. Kevin and Danny breezing by us, scent of leather as they passed. We watched them getting smaller and smaller.
And Tommy and Bobby, trickling last out of the classroom. “That was bitchin’” one of them said. “Walk you to French class?” one of them said.
The two of them looking at us. The near empty hallway. Their arms going around us, their hands on our shoulders, moist and uncertain like skittery fish.
Francine Witte is a poet, playwright, and flash fiction writer. Her stories and poems have appeared in SmokeLong Quarterly, Wigleaf, Passages North, Mid-American Review, and many others. Her flash fiction collection, Dressed All Wrong for This, was the 2019 winner of the Blue Light Press award, her novella, The Way of the Wind, received a highly commendable mention in the Bath Flash Fiction Award for 2019 and was published by Ad Hoc Fiction. Her latest poetry collection, The Theory of Flesh was published last year by Kelsay Books. Her flash fiction chapbook, The Cake, The Smoke, The Moon, is due out in September 2021. She is a former high school English teacher. She lives in NYC.