Waiting For Friday
Audrey just want's to survive high school, but life has other plans...
On Monday I walked in on Julian Phillips and Sarah Elliot making out in the girls toilet in the third floor bathroom. They had their tongues down each other’s throats, making all kinds of noises. I went in and just froze, my frantic heartbeat swallowing my ‘excuse me’ and turning it into an “Errrp.”
Sarah looked over at me, pushed Julian’s face to the wall and gave me her best stink eye.
“What do you want?” She walked up to me, her eyes wild. Fear was running my brain, my feet now made of jelly. She towered over me with her vinyl print heels. “This the seniors restricted floor. Little scraps like you don’t belong here.”
Stumbling backwards I tried to grab the door handle but my fingers had turned to overcooked spaghetti. “I’m…” I stalled, not being able to return her gaze. “I’m sorr…”
Her hand landed between my face and the door, blocking my escape. “Scraps don’t say sorry to me.” She spat. “Scraps stay on their side of the school.” I hit the wall, frozen. The cold tiles dug into my back, with one broken one digging in between my shoulder blades.
With her free hand she checked her shiny pink lip gloss in the next mirror. “Scraps don’t need to be singled out, do they? Or your week will get very scandalous.” The threat was all in her eyes, fierce as a snake.
Right then my bladder almost gave out. Sarah Elliot was the queen of our school; mean, tall and the Principal’s daughter. If she took interest in you, you might as well transfer.
“Got that scrap?" She finally moved her arm, letting the door to freedom swing open. I didn't answer, I just ran. As the door swung shut, I could hear her giggling and the word "toy" echo down the hallway.
All through lunch I took refuge in the library. What was once the domain of books was now the quiet place people checked their Facebook feeds. Screens took the place of paper.
I wasn’t immune to this, my device wanting all of time. I mostly read my friend’s posts from back home. Being sent to live with your estranged father could make finding new friends difficult, especially when it was a small town with loudmouth gossipers. I was always going to be Chris Albany’s kid here.
A pop up text from my friend Felicity showed a link to an article about the girl in a school back home who had a breakdown. The lead photo was of black government vans and police tape over the school doors, the other was a copy of the girl's yearbook photo. Acne and her braces didn't detract from how much of myself I saw in her.
When the bell rang I was late because I saw Sarah by the doors, looking for me. I was too scared to come out from the stacks.
Tuesday I watched as Sarah and her squad of like-minded girls went on a rampage through the girl’s change rooms. I had come back from baseball practice only to see her second in command blocking the doors. The only problem was my clothes were still inside.
Slowly, carefully, I walked around to the back entrance. It too was barred, this time by two fierce girls. I was stuck.
From across the quad I could hear Sarah's speech, her voice radiating off every shower block.
“Someone made a mistake yesterday.” She proclaimed. “Someone who I know I belongs to your year. This girl needs to pay her dues.” From inside one of the girls screamed. Anxiety knotted my stomach, quickly followed by guilt.
“So I have a message for her. Until she comes up with a really good punishment, I’m gonna take it out on everyone.” More screams followed. A few of the girls fled the block, towels and soap flying everywhere.
So I hid, in my dirt covered sweat drenched uniform, behind the art building. It took over an hour for everyone to leave, and Sarah and her goons to clear out.
Inside the block every shower was still running, any remaining clothes left to soak. My gym bag was sopping, one of about a dozen dumped under a shower on full blast. On the back wall was a message, written in someone’s soap.
By Friday Or Else.
By the time I got home, Dad was already passed out on the couch. The house was a wreck, with papers all over the living room floor and the TV left running but not a single light on. I picked up a few pages and realised they were the divorce papers Mum's lawyer had delivered yesterday. The package was unopened when I left for school. Clearly Dad had discovered them.
A news flash popped up on the TV, the flashing report casting freakish shadows across the room. The government had issued a statement about the High School incident, the one my friend had posted about. A stuffy man in an ill-fitting suit was reading from a stack of pages. The fifteen year old girl had apparently attacked some other kids at the school. He was trying to keep track of his statement but the press kept butting in, asking ridiculous questions about eyewitness accounts of a flying girl. A new bulletin rolled over the bottom of the screen. High school student in custody. Rumours of paranormal activity swamp social media. Government blackout of small town follows school shutdown.
I shut off the TV.
Wednesday was spent in the back of every class, my plainest hoodie pulled as low over my head as possible. None of my teachers knew my name yet and none of them had asked for it. Eight weeks into the semester and I was still just Chris Albany’s kid, kicked across the country. Drunk Albany’s kid who’s mum had dumped her back with her deadbeat Dad. The only person who had spoken to me called me by my Dad’s name. That person was the school’s guidance councillor on my first day.
The house was empty that night. Dad and the divorce papers were gone, along with the keys to the truck. The only thing in the fridge was a microwave dinner and a green slab of cheese. I took the microwave dinner, then sat, watching it rotate around and around and around.
My phone beeped in my pocket. There was a text from Mum.
“You’ll have to stay with your Dad for another few months. Been delayed in Paris on business. The deal will take longer to work out. Tell him the papers need to be returned ASAP.”
The microwave beeped. Inside the tiny metal box the meal had exploded, the leftover food looking like dead alien guts. Slamming the door shut, I dumped the remains onto a plate and grabbed the only clean knife and fork from the drawer. I swallowed every bite, slowly digging words into the dining table with my knife.
I could feel the muck sliding down my throat, burning the whole way.
Thursday we had biology. Being the odd one out I didn’t have a partner and was forced to cut open my own dead fish. Swampy rot filled the room, a gagging stench that got into your nose and stained your clothes.
An announcement echoed over the school speakers.
“Tomorrow’s assembly has been moved from the morning until after lunch.” An older lady spat every word into the whining microphone, peaking out just loud enough to make your ears hurt. “The Principal will be making a special announcement and attendance is mandatory. That is all. Please return to your classes.”
My gruff looking science teacher rolled his eyes and continued describing the fish guts in front of him.
My eyes glazed over as I dug the scalpel into the table, desperate hunger beginning to take hold. There was nothing to eat for breakfast when I checked the kitchen.
The bell finally sounded. Grabbing my bag I beelined for the cafeteria.
You could almost hear the sound of my shoes scraping to a halt as the doors to the cafeteria appeared in front of me. Sarah’s mob were checking the face of every girl who walked past, a print out of my school ID photo held in their hands.
Reluctantly I turned and walked away, caught up in the hustle and bustle of lunch while my stomach slowly rotated around, making the sounds of a whiny old dryer.
The house was dead when I got home. No lights, no food, no cash stashed under Dad’s bed and just to make everything perfect, no power. Using the light on my phone I eventually found the power bill. It was a month overdue.
I just couldn’t hold it in so I punched a hole in the hall wall, screaming at the top of my lungs. Next door’s dog began to bark, just long enough for someone to yell.
“Shut up, I’m trying to get some sleep.”
I cradled my bruised and bloodied fist to sleep, my empty belly my own personal white noise machine.
Every word that came out of my geography teacher’s mouth might have been in ancient greek. Nothing made sense, my world having taken on this haze, a filter of suppressed anger and hunger. I just wanted to go home, home that was five hundred miles away.
That’s also empty, a little voice in my head whispered. It empty and you’re empty.
The bell sounded for lunch but I didn’t know how long I had been waiting anymore. Time was just a waste.
There was no way I couldn’t go to the cafeteria today. Every step that brought me closer to the disgusting recycled food felt like a step towards an all you can eat buffet. I was ready to jump anyone with a can in their hand or a sandwich in their bag. I could actually smell the wafting odours of the two day old tuna casserole halfway across the school, pulling me in, making my mouth water.
Some part of me noticed a few girls hanging around the doors but I didn’t make too much notice. I should have.
The doors swung open, light glared in my eye and the concussive noise of hundreds of kids eating pounded into my brain. Through the din, someone began to clap. Every impact sent chills down my spine, tiny electrical shocks each causing sparks of pain.
The whole school was assembled; all at their own tables with their own clicks and right in the middle was Sarah, flanked by backup on either side. She was the one clapping.
My feet tried to backup but I bumped something hard and unyielding. I quick glimpse over my shoulder told me it was the rest of Sarah’s group, blocking my exit. I was trapped.
“She finally graces up with her presence.” Sarah announced to the school. At the sound of her voice everyone stopped talking, utter silence swallowing the space. It felt unnatural, that many people just sitting, watching, waiting.
Sarah stepped closer, her vinyl heels clicking against the floor. “You finally came forward, Audrey Albany.” My eyes went wide at my name. No one knew my name. I instantly regretted it because Sarah lit up like a Christmas tree. “Oh yeah, I’ve been learning all about you this week. Audrey. So your name is just a pathetic as you are, guess your drunk dad got something right.” She stopped right in front of me. The shoes name her so tall I had to look up to see her face.
“Don’t talk about my dad.” I spat out the words, my saliva hitting her dress.
She snarled. “I’ll talk as much as I like. This is my school, my town. I’m queen here.”
My hands curled into fists. “Every town does need its own Queen tramp.”
The assembled crowd let out a ground giggle.
A moment of panic in her eyes was replaced by rage. "I own you." She screamed. "Your life belongs to me."
She grabbed my hoodie in one hand and slapped me with the other. I didn’t see her move but I felt the impact, my skin stinging with a hundred tiny flames. I tried to fight back but her goons grabbed my arms.
She had another swipe, my head swinging to the other side. “I’m the queen.” She yelled. “I’m the one in charge.”
I couldn’t take it anymore. This was all too much. Dad and mum and this place and this girl… I could feel the anger swelling in me, mixing with my hunger and frustration and it all came out as rage. With my eyes shut I roared, the pent up heat flowing off in waves, burning as hot outside as I was inside.
“Leave me alone.” My rage continued, uncontrollable. I couldn’t stop it; I was being consumed by it.
Finally, I opened my eyes. Everyone was falling backwards, running, screaming to get out of the way. I could see the whites in Sarah's eyes as she fell back onto the ground. I looked down.
From the tips of my fingers flames had sprouted. I should have stopped right then, tried to pull back but I was out and I wanted to rage. More and more and more screeching fell from my lips and the fire flew out from my hands, burning, attacking.
Over and over I repeated the words, “Leave me alone.” Fire poured from my hands, the heat and light engulfing everything. Kids ran, trying to escape my inferno but Sarah just lay there, paralysed by her fear.
Plates blackened, chairs melted, even the metal tables turned white under my touch. The fire alarms began but I evaporated the water the moment it hit the air. Soon the ceiling was a twisted mess of metal and burnt paneling. What wasn't black was glowing, each an ember of my fury.
In the distance I could hear sirens over my scorch, the whining growing closer.
The power was all devouring. I was alive, raging, incinerating everything that had hurt me. I was untouchable now. It was my fire, my soul, my scorch. And I couldn’t turn back now.
About the author
I’m a writer and filmmaker living in Sydney with a passion for speculative genres. As a disabled, queer, culturally diverse woman, I want to change the culture around what makes interesting science fiction and fantasy.