It was lunchtime when they finally cornered her. She'd been dodging them and their mean smiles all morning, ever since overhearing their "plan" on the morning bus.
-You could do with some lessons in subtlety,- she thought like a dagger at their backs, then ducked through the band room, dodging clarinets and tubas on her way to home room.
A clever array of after-class discussions with her teachers and the exploitation of some lesser known routes around the school had kept her safe throughout the morning periods. Friday lunch, however, meant chocolate milk and spaghetti, both of which she was loathe to miss.
So they caught her paying for her meal, descending upon her and surrounding her like a pack of vultures. Not a bad allusion, she thought at the sight of their eyes, glinting hungrily.
"Tobias," Julie said, linking arms with Toby. Toby hated it when they said her name like that. It made it sound so.. filthy.
"Toby, we have a gift for you," Jenny chimed in, tossing her hairspray laden black hair over her shoulder. Toby dug her heels in, but they had both of her elbows and she was trying to balance her tray of food. They steered her into the main cafeteria. Students were already snickering and staring, and Toby felt her cheeks flush in embarrassment and anger.
"We've been thinking, Toby. You were so helpful in our discussions about Homecoming, that we thought we'd give you a… special coronation." Toby's hands were clammy but she stared, resolutely, at her spaghetti. She knew what they were talking about; two weeks ago they'd discussed Homecoming decorations. Toby had, in one of her rare displays of vocal ability, pointed out that their proposal violated every major fire code in the district. They'd had to start all over.
Toby thought once again, irritated, how silly it was of her to have spoken up.
"Let me go," she mumbled.
"She speaks!" Julie stepped back dramatically, fluttering her mascara-thick eye lashes. She was a ghastly actress. "Her royal highness speaks!" Toby just stared at her plate, hands white-knuckled around her tray.
"Everyone! Everyone, listen up!" Jenny called, though uselessly. Everyone was already paying attention. "We've decided to make Tobias here a regular princess. Don't you think she's just perfectly royal?" The sneer in Jenny's voice was made only worse by the sickly sweet smile on her lips. Some of the kids twittered nervously, some less so than others.
Julie released Toby's arm, grabbing the straw from Toby's tray and wielding it like a royal scepter. "Tobias Dethewright," she intoned, her voice pushing the limits of snooty. "In front of this … royal court, I, Julie Henderson, do crown you.. princess of the garbage heap!"
There was mocking applause and Toby wished the floor would just open up and swallow her forever.
"Jules," Jenny chided. "You forgot her -crown-." And then she picked up Toby's plate of spaghetti, overturning it on the brunette's head. It made a disgusting squelching noise as she smushed it into Toby's hair, then tossed the empty plate back on the other girl's tray. Toby felt hot sauce leak through her hair, noodles dripping onto her shoulders and the ground. The students roared with laughter and the evil twins practically squirmed with malicious satisfaction.
"There you go, princess." Julie patted Toby's cheek and laughed. Her blonde hair swung out around her as she turned on her heel, prancing off with Jenny and her other cohorts flocking around her.
Toby stared at her tray, feeling strangely numb. Calmly, she picked up her plate, dumped most of the noodles still sticking to her on it, and then shoved it and the tray into the dish return.
Behind her, as the students got up and dispersed, no one noticed that some of the spaghetti noodles on the floor had fallen in the shape of a perfect circle.