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just a picture of a cloud
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Despite Georgia Lee’s best efforts, a smile crept onto her face.

It was hearing Fiyori and Bradley were on bad terms that did it because it was so normal and because they had that in common and because of course they were. Under the poncho and the cynicism and the permanent leer, Fiyori was still a girl, so of Bradley had been absolutely vile to her. If the old adage that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” held true, Bradley’s very presence on this trip would probably serve to unite everyone with a pair of X chromosomes.

She could see looking at her like she’d grown a second head, and Georgia Lee laughed out loud at the puzzlement on the girl’s face.

“I’m sorry, it’s just… do you think there’s anyone at this school who doesn’t hate Bradley? I mean he’s just so…”

Thinking of Bradley’s flat, hamburger face brought back memories of revulsion. Bradley was a festering sore of a human being, someone who lived only to disgust and outrage everyone around him, and women in particular.

“I remember once, we were in line at the cafeteria, and I notice him staring at my, y’know, at my crotch. This is freshman year, I’m wearing these… these light grey jeans, I don’t think I have them anymore, and I kind of… I guess I freak out a little. Just in my head I mean, I get scared, I think maybe I’ve torn them, or there’s blood, or I’ve left them unbuttoned or I’ve spilt something or I’ve wet myself or… y’know, whatever. A million things. So I look down, and they’re fine. There’s nothing wrong.”

Georgia Lee ran her thumb along her brow and tucked a stray lock of hair behind her ear.

“So I ask him ‘Hey, what’re you looking at?’, and he looks me in the eye, and he says…” Georgia Lee chuckled, amused despite herself. At the time she’d been mortified, but now, looking back it was actually almost funny. There was nothing like the threat of death, she supposed, to put some awful lump’s adolescent cries for attention in perspective.

“…he says ‘You gonna eat that?’”

Fiyori smiled, and Georgia Lee smiled with her. Then one of them started to laugh, Georgia Lee couldn’t’ve said who, and the other joined in with her. The girls laughed and they laughed and they laughed, until Georgia Lee felt tears in her eyes.

There was something so comforting about thinking about Bradley, even in all his awfulness. It was because it was so familiar, she decided. It was so common, as much a part of Kingman as any other annoyance, like the mosquitoes at night or the heat in the summer, you had Bradley at the school. He was a pain, of course, but he was Kingman’s pain, for whatever that was worse.

Georgia Lee’s laughter faded, as she realized Bradley was probably dead by now. She couldn’t count the number of times Bradley had annoyed her enough to want to end him, even just by being present. Now he was around people not only permitted and equipped to do that, but encouraged? If he was still alive, Georgia Lee didn’t see it lasting.

She looked down, no longer finding anything funny.

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Get Me Away From Here, I'm Dying · The Cafeteria