[The latest weekly writing challenge from The Daily Post, Overheard, is about the guilty pleasure of eavesdropping. I’m so inspired by this prompt, I’m going to run with this for another day or two after today.]
“Ain’t she on the fencing team?” Terri scanned the faces of the other girls at the table. A flurry of voices erupted in discordant answer, the majority of the opinion that yes, there was a fencing team at Bark Bay High School and that yes, Annie Hutchinson (who they all knew wouldn’t want to be seen DEAD with any of them) was a member.
Sitting at the end of the long cafeteria table, outside the rectangle of conversation, The Bird remained silent, as usual. Last night had only been her first practice.
Terri had taken a small tube of ChapStick from her jacket, had finished saturating her lips, which glimmered plastically. “Figures.” She licked her plastic lips. “Fencing’s a sport for stuck-up people.”
A giggle rippled through the table. The Bird sat silently, looked up at the large analog clock above the kitchen wall. Six minutes until first bell. She heard a voice say that she saw them getting ready for practice last night, after school.
“Where?” Terri had taken out her ChapStick again, and after hearing that the practice was in the cafeteria, she pointed the tube down at the floor, her eyes wide. “HERE? In this smelly place?” Another ripple of giggling. “Well, stands to figure. Guess they’re too good to practice in the gym with the other teams.”
The Bird wanted to explain that no, Mr. Jacobs (the members of the team called him Coach Dan, but she wasn’t on the team so he was still Mr. Jacobs to her) told her last night that the gym was reserved for the basketball teams, and in fact he said he liked using the cafeteria, something about the pattern of the black and white floor tiles.
But The Bird knew she’d be ridiculed if she spoke, not only for admitting to practicing with the fencers but merely for the sake of saying anything at all. None of the girls at the table had ever invited her to speak, and she had witnessed, from her comfortably lonely perch at the end of the cafeteria table, how girls who violated the social protocol of the group were treated.
Besides, she found a certain liberty in being ignored. Better to let the conversation run its course, and learn what she could.