|You Can Run
Author: Inbobniac PM
I'm not rich, smart, or talented. I can't run a mile in under ten minutes, I can't pass Algebra II, and couldn't afford my last electric bill. My face is asexual, sometimes I hit my head on ceiling fans, and my hair is so unruly it once smothered a hamster to death. So how, pray tell, did I end up at an all boys boarding school with a suitcase where my boobs should be?Rated: Fiction T - English - Humor/Romance - Chapters: 18 - Words: 76,074 - Reviews: 100 - Favs: 41 - Follows: 66 - Updated: 04-23-13 - Published: 06-04-12 - id: 3029148
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Let There Be Uncomfortable Burning Sensations in the Eye
After discovering my apparently no-so-subtle secret, my masculinity was stripped. They gave me a cup to put my contacts in, and this pot to stick my sideburns to and top my wig with, while Anne—a skinny brunette—ran to get my brace cleaned. My curls were currently corralled in a ponytail, constantly flicking the back of my neck in gratitude for its release. I was in a pair of school sweats and a ribbed tank-top. God, it was liberating, even though Winnie put me right to work. My job was to first scrub down any pans or lids brought in from the serving area—obviously I wouldn't be going out there—and hand them off to the dish room, as well as cleaning out the juice and milk containers. Which, saying it like that, didn't sound like much, but when you're talking about a school with about two-thousand five-hundred kids, is a lot of juice and milk containers. I was also supposed to sort all the dirty rags into the laundry, scrub and mop the floors, and any other obscure job requested of me.
Some people would bitch, but apparently I'm getting paid roughly fifteen American dollars an hour.
Fifteen. As in double minimum wage. As in five more dollars than I've made anywhere else. I'll make more money here than in some low rate thrift shop in Manhattan, and I won't have to get awkward come-ons by men over fifty while they checked out a used golf ball. Say hello eggs, because Calli's bringing home the bacon.
"Careful, sweetheart," Winnie muttered with an amused voice as she passed by, "you'll scrub away your knuckles at that pace."
"They'll just be really exfoliated," I murmured back, looking at the raw pink of my skin. As she walked away, I realized she was probably right and calmed my vicious scouring of the macaroni pot. My fingers felt dry and brittle, but that didn't stop my enthusiasm. Apparently I could work up to eight hours a day, depending on the severity of the job. Winnie told me that Monday's were the worst, and all eight of them usually had to work until eleven. Which I didn't give one fuck about, because that would be over nine hours, and it would make me about a hundred and thirty-five dollars—I pulled out my phone to do the math. And according to my phone, if I worked ten nights like that, I'd have my rent totally covered. Just imagine if I could work the whole say Saturday; nearly twelve hours of pure, wealthy bliss. Okay, definitely not bliss or super not pure—the goulash was unrecognizable after three hours—but the money I could make here could set me up for a quite a while. Long enough to find a serious job back home and afford three other human cretins, right? I couldn't help it, either; I did the math again. If I worked roughly fifty hours a week, I'd be up to three grand a month, and fifty hours was estimating low. I swear to God, I was salivating over the mop bucket.
"You know," the burly woman whose name I couldn't recall mused as she leaned on the mop, "you still haven't told us your name. The real one, I mean." I could suddenly feel a tidal wave of eyes on me, all preying on any information I would give up.
"Oh," I murmured, pressing down harder on the deck brush as if working faster now would suddenly finish the job and give me time to run. "No, I guess I haven't."
The burly one arched her eyebrow and put her hand on her hip, using the other the menacingly hang off the broom. "Well, do we get to know?"
Winnie cocked her head at me, clearly failing to understand how much in need of a sudden rescue I was. Why was I even making a big deal about it? It's not like the lunch ladies were in a gang. They already had a gang with enough trouble finding truffle exporters, why get involved with drugs and murder?
"Calli," I finally vomited out, meeting their eyes. "My name's Calli."
The swarm converged on me.
"Oh!" chirped the little red-head. "Isn't that just the sweetest thing?"
"Calli. You look like a Calli," said the fit, blond one.
"Your hair is just lovely, you know? Can't get curls like that on a boy."
"Calli. Is that with a 'y' or an 'ie' or just an 'I'? So many names today."
The middle-aged brunette grinned at me and spoke in a Spanish accent. "I bet you like one of the boys here, eh? The ones that revolve around you, right? Do they know?"
"Wouldn't that just be adorable if they knew?" one squealed. "Then you fell in love. Oh, invite me to your wedding, doll!"
"Calli, Calli, Calli. I could say that name all day."
"You'd look gorgeous with a white dress, but you're so skinny! Don't you worry, we'll have you pack on some insulation weight in no time."
"I thought your eyes were brown. Were those contacts? Oh, yes, the blue did show through a bit."
"Eh, chumps!" Winnie finally yelled, causing my rabid horde of fans to break apart and look down in shame. "Sometimes people need this little thing called air, if you've heard of it. Give her some space, alright?" They returned to their stations and Winnie gave me a humorous look, shaking her head and went back to drying the crock pot.
I stood with the deck brush in my hand, still in shock at how frenzied older women get when given a youth to surround and compliment to death. After a minute, I remembered I existed and went back to scrubbing the floor, wondering how easy I could get my hands on prescription anti-claustrophobia pills.
When I finally returned to my dorm room, my arms were barely managing to keep the tower of take-home boxes filled with food from collapsing on its main support system—namely me—and causing human casualties. I unceremoniously let them topple over onto my desk, and before the last box even finished rolling, I tore one open and shoved whatever occupant it had into my mouth.
Mm, cream donut. The lunch ladies had this absurd notion that I didn't eat enough and when they shoved every food group—and probably some unknown to man—into my face times two, I wasn't about to protest. My stomach had been growling for three minutes longer than necessary, and I was in no mood to let it suffer longer. And that began the violent ritual in which the wild Callista devours an amount of food three times her own weight. I paused only to pick out the tomatoes and hiss at their presence in my holy mustard-bacon wrap.
I was halfway through the fried chicken and portion of my meal when the door open and Ian stalked in with his trademark scowl. Suddenly I saw myself in third person, picking through his backpack this morning. I choked on the breading. You didn't put any of the notebooks away, I remembered, blanching. I scrambled for my soda, which Ian diligently stole three inches from my grasp and held a good two feet above my reach.
"You," Ian hissed, throwing his backpack on the ground and watching my throat collapse in on itself on account of the piece of chicken lodged inside. I reached for the soda again, but he just held it higher, maintaining eye contact.
Bastard, using Mother Nature's gift of height for evil and not good. May several years of karma give him ever-lasting purple nurples. I heaved again, but this didn't seem to strike him as important.
"You," he barked, glaring at me. "You went through my shit, didn't you?"
I was going to contain my cough, but then thought, what the hell? I'm Mother Nature today, motherfucker. I opened my mouth and directly projected the half-digested chicken at him, jerking my hand at the soda as I did so.
Ian did not react as I'd hoped, which would've included him recoiling and me grabbing the bottle as he was distracted with my infectious cooties. Instead, he gave me this short, annoyed "Right" and threw the soda in my face.
I was suddenly back in my freshman year of high school, telling Becca "Bootymeat" Morris her that no, I didn't know the answer to Ms. Purget's history test, and she should try doing something useful with her cleavage, such as writing the answers in the tissues she used to stuff her bra. No one even got the chance to blurt "burn" before I was suddenly coated in twenty-four ounces of carbonated sugar water. Standing in my dorm now, licking the dribble off my lips, you'd think I would've debated a little bit longer on whether to insult people carrying caffeinated beverages. At least my coughs were gone.
Ian gave me a very small, strained smile. "Did you go through my shit?"
I wiped the soda from my face off and met his eyes. "That depends," I said, cocking me head with a fake smile. "Do you like mashed potatoes?" Before he could answer, I flung a handful of what felt like dog shit into his face. The vegetable slapped him in the face, a large dollop dripping onto his shirt and the other injected into his left nostril.
There was silence for a long, long minute.
A cup of ranch materialized in Ian's hand, then teleported to my face in a manner of seconds. I grabbed a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, ripped apart the two halves, and slapped them on either side of Ian's face, rubbing them purely for the sake of moisturizing his cheeks. Meanwhile, he was smashing multitudes of cream donuts on my head, and I could feel the poor pastry's innards being squished into my ears. I grabbed an apple in attempt to cover in his face, but as is life, apples don't spread well. Ian took the moment to smear taco meat all over my face, and I retaliated by ripping open a container of yogurt and squeezing its life onto his skull. Ian was about to dump a cup of salsa over my head when our artistic focus was effectively shattered.
"Am I… interrupting… something?" a voice questioned from the door.
Ian and I both froze, suddenly aware that we'd been standing in a solitary spot, mushing food product all over each other's face without a word. Our hands were still in mid-yogurt/ salsa application as both our heads swiveled to the door, where a complete stranger in his mid-thirties stood, blue eyes wide and mouth slightly agape. My hands dropped from Ian's face, and it was almost as though my reaction was reflexive. I immediately brushed my filthy limbs off on my jeans and strode over to shake hands with the bewildered teacher. He looked pretty good for a guy in his thirties; blond hair and big, blue eyes. Like Daniel Craig a-la Casino Royale.
"Yes, actually, you were," I began, grinning innocently at the poor man. "Ian and I were just practicing the passive fighting techniques we've patented known as, Ways to Physically Attack Your Overly Aggressive Roommate Without Getting Expelled."
Much to my surprise, he actually shook my hand. "Calvin Poole?"
I blinked, shocked once more. "So you've heard of me, then? I knew this would make me famous."
The man grinned, but it didn't seem like he was laughing at my joke. Very slowly, he leaned in and said extra-soft, "Callista, your wig is slipping off on the left side."
Every nerve in my body felt like it'd been cut loose from my brain. Then, like a power surge, they all blared back on in one, huge explosion of response. I screamed and reeled back, trying not to choke on my saliva again. My body reacted faster than my mind, and it somehow figured I was a karate champion and decided to kick the dude in the chest. Though he appeared shocked, his hands caught my foot and twirled me around. I tripped to the ground and bellowed again, attempting to kick the door shut. The hit man was already too far in, though, and the only result was the doorknob nailing him in the crotch.
"Get him out!" I roared, scrambling across the floor like a demon. "Get him away from me!" Ian stood confused in the middle of the room, staring with wide eyes. I suppose now he'd be hesitant to attack someone who looked responsible, as opposed to random drunk men heaving me out of an elevator by my ankles.
"Poor choice of words!" the man gasped, doubled over at his wait. "I'm sorry, that wasn't—I'm not—Calli!"
I roared again in attempt to hide his beckoning while scrambling across the carpet like I was a demon being exorcised. I grabbed the first solid object I could find—a picture frame lying in my open suitcase—and hurtled it at the man. I figured I should mark this day down later, because for the first time in my life, an attack actually worked.
"Cal!" Ian bellowed when it appeared my aim was true.
The man had been caught unaware, and the corner of the metal frame nailed him right in the frontal lobe. He grunted, but seemed to have recovered from the first attack quite well. There was blood seeping from the frame's wound, but the man seemed unperturbed.
"What did I ever do to you people? Leave me alone!" I screeched, flinging a can of Axe at him, which dutifully missed. Tears were welling in my eyes, and Ian shifted his footing, acutely aware that the situation was more serious than he first assumed. My breathing was becoming shallow and my eyes were having trouble focusing on the assassin before me. They began to burn, and I could almost feel their veins burst.
"Calvin," the man reprimanded—scolding me of all things—and got to a stand. Though he wasn't very tall, I duly noted his presence was terrifying. All my limbs were dragging me in different places at once, effectively keeping me sprawled on the floor, and finding only more shirts in my suitcase, hurled my shoe at the man. The throw was so sluggish that the hit man had time to roll his eyes before flicking it away with his hand. Great, I'm so bad at attacking they can be sassy about defending themselves. The burning in my eyes grew. I slammed my eyes shut, feeling a frigid thickness cover them while the insides flashed white in pain.
"Leave. Me. Alone!" I shrieked again, my breath shorting out. Everything blurred, and I felt myself collapse onto the carpet, my eyes rolling around in their sockets, both equally unfocused on the ceiling above me. Ohgodohgodohgod, I thought. I'm going to die here. Again. I was seizing haphazardly on the carpet with a hit man and my homicidal roommate.
I can't see. How do you see?
My body felt brittle and empty, like eggshells being crushed in an angry fist. Numbness broke out all along my skin, making me shiver and sweat all at once. Can't see. My throat heaved for air, but my chest didn't remember how to breathe. My heart was no longer pumping blood, but fear. Pain burst through my eyes, the moisture from them sizzling off my eyes and turning the skin to sand. My mouth tasted sickly sweet and my bloated face turned icy cold. Why can't I see? I wanted to scream. Make me see. I opened my eyes, but everything was black and agony poured into my sockets. Terror was making my veins swell with its electric chills, squeezing my lungs and making my eyes explode. Breathe.
Cassidy's face flashed in my mind, and I gasped in a lungful of air. My eyes stilled burned, but I could feel the soft carpet under me, caressing my thrashing arms. Breathe, Cassi whispered to me. I could feel her words brush my cheek, and someone was wiping my face. Suddenly the ice and disfigured flesh vanished, and I opened my eyes to see the short man cleaning the salsa off my face with a sock and squeezing saline into my eyes. God knows where he got that from at such a short notice. What kind of assassin carries eye wash around in his pocket?
He met my eyes, apparently unimpressed with my dramatic panic attack. "I'm Michael Valentine," he said in a slow, agitated tone. "The defense instructor Darwin's just hired."
I blinked at him. So he was the one Nate was talking about. Whoops. The wound on his head was still seeping. No wonder he had saline. Health and preparation for any kind of situation was his job. The feeling of imminent doom vanished, and I turned my focus downward, to the sole reason my eyes were burning.
"My God," I hissed, bolting upright and giving the salsa an outraged look. "You mean that whole time I thought I was going blind, it was just fucking salsa on my eyes? Dammit, Ian!" My scratchy glare swiveled over to my roommate, who was standing above my with his mouth slightly agape. "Next time, we're leaving Mexican food out of our domestic squabbles!"
Other than an eye roll, Ian's face remained stoic. "Whatever," he muttered, and despite being covered in three kinds of dairy products and the required daily amount of fiber, Ian managed to strut out of the room looking as cool and collected as ever. This just made me wonder how much he really could hide underneath all that brooding. After the door slammed shut, I turned to face Michael with a look of pure innocence.
"Nice meeting you," I tittered, grinning and gesturing widely toward the door in a hopeless attempt to escape from whatever first-day lecture he planned to give me on the negative aspects of food fighting.
"Well, this isn't something you see every day," Michael observed, looking me up and down. "Is that a crème donut on your head?"
I grimaced at him, taken by such a surprise I didn't even admire his commentary. "You're not going to yell at me?" I gaped. The full effect of my gaping ability was marred when I had to wipe away a dribble of soda from my eyebrow before it made eye contact.
Michael gave me a blank stare. "I'd rather catch you smearing yogurt on a boy than conceiving children with him."
My mouth literally fell open. I, of course, snapped it shut before any dragons nested in it, but my whole body felt a wave of shock. "You mean you're cool with me fighting with my roommate who had the consistency of a brick wall? Nate would ring my neck!" I nearly shrieked. What kind of world cursed me with so much than gave me a blessing the size of Alaska? It was like playing with a dog and faux-throwing the ball so much that when you actually do toss it, the dog doesn't believe you.
My new body guard just shrugged.
I was still waiting for Michael to drop the façade and open up the proverbial can of whoop-ass. When he didn't, my glee manifested itself in the sound of a screaming pigeon. "Nate would be lecturing about the expense of my wig and telling me how tomatoes ruin the follicular weaving," I informed, though I hadn't the slightest clue why I was helping him discipline me.
He blinked at me. "It's washable, isn't it?
I felt like I was going to faint and die. Of all the things of beauty this earth has denied me, it keeps me alive on blessings like this. Nate was the hyper active, super-suspicious cop thousands of miles away. Michael was the roll-with-the-punches bobby who saw the bigger picture and didn't get farther than half a mile away from me at any time. My mouth opened, but joy sucked any words from my lips.
"Though," Michael began in the responsible voice, and my whole life plummeted back down into the abyss of authoritative oppression. "You shouldn't pick fights with him."
"Ian?" I asked skeptically, crossing my arms, then un-crossing them when I realized I'd just re-coated my hands in taco meat. "Nah," I said, waving my hand dismissively. "He's a big teddy bear when he's not punching me in the face and throwing me into walls."
Michael's mouth fell open a little. "He hit you?"
"I hit him first, and I can handle it," I replied, shrugging.
"Judging from the way you just tried to fight me off plus the amount of bruises you appear to have underneath all that sauce," he said, "I'm going to assume that you can't."
"Oh," I chirped, nodding with a pleasant expression. "See, I thought you meant intellectually. A battle of wits is my true forte," I explained. "Physically? Oh, physically he beats the shit out of me, but I could care less. He's beginning to pick up on that too, and it's just pissing him off more." Michael opened his mouth to express what I assumed what disapproval, but I killed his fetus of a sentence and continued, "I have this theory that one day, when I've made him feel especially inferior, he'll snap emotionally and spill forth all the details of what I assume is his very depressing and colorful life story."
"Right," Michael murmured, realizing I'd already adopted this philosophy, and nodded with me. "I still don't like him."
My gaze turned heavenly upon him and a twittered lightly, "It's like you sing to my soul."