It's just a dress. A really short dress, sure, but there's no reason for my dad's normally pale face to be as inflamed as it is now. I remember pondering, when I found the garment tucked out of place in the sale rack, the reactions of various school officials in charge of policing my weekday wardrobe choices, but I hadn't at the time considered the potential feelings of my usually oblivious, and equally permissive, dad.
"Go change," he says in his I-mean-it voice. My mom comes into the kitchen and, sensing the tension as well as calculating how late this argument will make us, rolls her eyes. With her dark brown skin and the unmoved look on her face, she seems every bit his opposite right now.
"Can you even wear that to school?" she asks, always coming at things from a more practical angle.
"We'll find out, I guess?"
"Go change," Dad insists again, but with a desperate tinge that undermines his position as an authority figure a little, if I'm being honest.
I decide to cut him a break. "Whatever you say, Father!" I chirp in a tone so obnoxiously and uncharacteristically pleasant he has to know something's up. I bop up the stairs to throw some shorts on underneath the slinky, shredded thing the tag announced as a t-shirt dress. I can see his issues with it, I guess. The careful rips expose my bra slightly, and the hemline is a practical joke. So, you know, it's everything I love in an outfit. But if it appeases dear old dad, I will wear some bottoms. For now, I mean. They're coming off before first bell.
Dad, to his credit and my surprise, catches on to this plan. "How is that better?" he snaps. "Those are a scrap of fabric, and what's stopping you from taking them off later?"
"Let the school handle it," Mom calls from the front door. "Mica come on, we're going to be late."
I scoot past my dad just as he starts yelling about how the school is handling it by calling him all the goddamned time to report my dress code violations.
"I'm going for the record," I say, grinning at my poor dad. The clothes are the one thing he loses his chill over. My mother, who is the strict one about everything else, usually is on my side when it comes to my outfits. They have these great quiet fights they think I can't hear boiling down to my dad freaking out about all the sex crazed young perverts I'm going to school with, and my mom calling him a victim blamer. It's pretty entertaining. Mom says he's only so worried because when he was younger he was something of a fuckboy—I'm paraphrasing of course—and fears anyone looking at me through the same lens he objectified women with. We both think he should just get over it.
They can be in agreement about things in a really annoying way sometimes, though. Like, the fact that my mom is even driving me to school right now is ridiculous because I could be on the train like my brother. But no, I just had to tell my parents last year in eighth grade about the man who told me he liked my shoes, asked what size they were, then offered me money for a whiff of one of them. Here I am, thirteen and unaware a shoe fetish is even a thing, relaying what I think is this hilarious story to my parents and not even realizing I'd doomed myself to a year at the very least of my mommy and daddy dropping me off and picking me up. On occasion they'll let me ride with Dex, my brother. On many other occasions, I travel public transit as freely as I please because they can't know what I'm up to all the time.
Besides, nobody with a little shoe fetish is going to hurt me. This isn't Law and Order: SVU. This is real life, and real life is a boring suck fest peppered with the little funny moments like a creeper asking to smell your shoes on the train. I resent my parents for— attempting to, anyway—take away a potential life experience goldmine like that.
"We should have kept her in private school," Dad is saying as we're closing the front door, raising his voice to be heard from the kitchen. "What's wrong with uniforms for everyone?"
He is conveniently forgetting all the times I was written up for uniform violations in middle school as well. The combat boots were the first battle, followed by the middle fingertip length skirt requirement. I'm a tall girl with long ape arms, so I chose to protest what I saw as a violation of my rights by wearing my horrible navy pleated skirt a good distance above my knees. The boots, well those were just a stylistic choice.
It's not really the hugest deal in the world at Northland to be in violation of the dress code. It's already pretty lax, so I suppose I'm just testing the boundaries. When I cross them, they just make me change into clothes from what I assume is some old lost and found. It kind of amazes me that at a high school for supposedly gifted and talented kids, where the focus is supposed to be on our awesome brain power, they seem to think a short skirt is just going to disrupt the whole learning situation in the classroom. I guess they're teaching us that hormones are clearly more powerful than any higher level functioning in the mind. No surprise there.
I get to school and power walk down the halls to my favorite bathroom, the one with the biggest handicapped stall and the tile mosaic done by some of the art students a few years ago. Nobody ever really comes in this bathroom, which suits me perfectly. I have some theories as to why. It's in this dank old hallway that was part of the original building of the school before the many renovations, and there's nothing down there but some unused old science labs and a janitor's closet—the leering janitor, mind you. The combination makes it smell like ammonia and, like, dead frogs or something. So yeah, I can see why this isn't a restroom hot-spot. But it makes it a great place to come and shimmy out of my shorts, or smoke a joint or apple bowl with Loren at lunch or while skipping class (lately that's been third period English—like, fuck Romeo and Juliet, really). In one mostly unpleasant but also hysterical situation it was the site of the infamous Marcus Grant make out and boob assault. And, make no mistake, an assault it was—not a simple squeeze or fondle.
As I maybe not expected but certainly hoped, none of the teachers or staff pay much attention to me as I make my way to my locker before homeroom. I'm folding the shorts and placing them on top of my Algebra II book when I feel a light flutter from behind, at the bottom of my dress. I hear a snorting sort of giggle and turn to find this idiot I hardly know smirking at me. I definitely couldn't tell you his name—I've been calling him Crayon due to his ever changing hair color. He's one of Rob's friends, which makes him a tool, obviously. It also means he's going to say something completely fucked up to me, right after he practically put his hand up my dress.
"Not dealing with it today," I say, slamming the locker shut and starting my fast walk again. Just gotta make it to the corner and turn and he'll be out of my sight for the rest of the day hopefully—but if it's not him it's some other guy. They all do this, Rob's friends. Even random dudes who've heard the rumors they spread, sometimes. Not that I care. It's nothing I can't handle.
Crayon follows me, walking closely beside but almost behind me, so he can speak as close to a whisper as possible while also attacking me with his bad breath. It's like he had a frozen burrito for breakfast, or something. "I like your outfit. Where's the rest of it?" I keep my eyes trained on the green exit light down the hall, counting my steps—my form of meditation when these imbeciles start in on me. "Hey," he says a little louder, "I heard you give blow jobs for weed. You down?"
I stop and turn sharply, ready for retaliation, but a teacher beats me to it. "You! With me, to the office, now," Mr. Thelan says, pointing at Crayon. "Mica, get to class. I want to talk to you later."
I can't truly avoid whatever he wants to talk about, given he's my second period Creative Writing teacher, but I guess I could put it off by skipping. As Mr. Thelan carts Crayon off for some disciplining, I keep walking toward the exit. This whole day's been a big thing already. I'll maybe check back in around lunch.
Moira, who is I guess like my best friend here, immediately wants to know why I skipped second period when I sit down with her at lunch. It's not that she wants to shame me or anything, she just likes to know when I'm off doing something exciting. We're not that similar, really, but somehow perfect complements. I've agreed to tell her all of my exploits, as she calls them, so that she can use the situations for her fantasy series in which a powerful heroine gains extra powers and abilities through her sexual expression. I love everything about it, especially knowing her parents would be mortified to know that she was writing anything like it and that it was semi-based on my slutty proclivities.
She's disappointed when I tell her I wasn't off with some guy or anything like that, then upset when told about Crayon. Mo's way more sensitive about the way Rob and his sad band of followers treat me than I am. She's gotta have claim to the title of nicest person on the planet, I swear. Sometimes it's almost like I feel bad she's so completely kind to—and I'll admit, even a little fawning over—someone as garbage as I am. I deserve the friends like Loren, who will blame me for the bottle of vodka hidden in her room to her parents, more than I do the sweet girls like Moira, who worries when I'm not eating enough at lunch and lets me over anytime to cuddle with her cat since I can't have one thanks to Dex's stupid allergies.
"Positively plurian," Mo says after I'm done telling her about Crayon. "Such a scum-bag." Plurian is a word for anything distasteful that we adopted from the dystopian sci-fi novels that brought us together in the first place, when I was somewhat embarrassed to note in class that a drawing she was working on looked like Felicia, the main character in the series. She was overjoyed to tell me I was right, and we've had a sort of bond ever since.
"Enough about that," I say, waving my hand in dismissal and everything. "We should talk about your party."
Moira's fifteenth birthday party is kind of a historical occasion, considering the fact it's the first time her parents have ever agreed to let her have a gathering of people without their presence required. Her older brother is chaperoning, and I don't know him or anything but I feel like a college kid home for spring break can't be too stringent. Unless maybe following the rules is just in their DNA.
"What's there to talk about?"
"Does Alissa have to come?" I ask, whining.
"We've been over this. What's the problem anyway?"
My real problem with Alissa is that she, like Moira, is one of the "good" ones and I am not. People at this school can be super judgmental about those like me who care more about fun than our grades. Alissa likes to talk shit behind my back, trying to poison Mo against me so I don't steal her away to the dark side or whatever.
"The alcohol, Mo. She's going to get all huffy about it."
That's the other thing making this a historical occasion for Moira: she's finally letting me get her drunk. Or at least she's going to try alcohol besides the Manischewitz her parents let her consume for like religious reasons or something. My parents have had an untouched bottle of mandarin flavored vodka for the longest time that I plan on swiping. And hey, if Mo and the others decide not to get drunk at this birthday slumber party, it just means more for me.