Emily and Susan went to the mall Friday afternoon. Susan complained the whole time about Ohio State, even while she praised the school. She did not have much interest in New Jersey State, which she called a poor excuse for a university. “I mean, IA football. What is that? But I suppose they have a good nursing school and that is what you are interested in, right?”
Susan was good most of the time, though as clueless about life as ever. Emily realized that was why she stopped hanging out with Susan after the tenth grade. She gave up all her sports in the ninth grade, except soccer, in order to hang with the popular girls. Of course, she did not fit into the right social set to make the cheerleader squad, and her grades were altogether too good besides, but it was a phase she went through. It was a stupid phase, she thought. She realized by the time eleventh grade started if she stayed with the popular girls what little brains she had would surely leak out on to the floor at some party and she would become as clueless as the rest. She moved into ROTC and on to another set of friends. She imagined if she and Susan had not been close since kindergarten, they would have long since drifted apart.
“So, I’m having a party Saturday night. You will be there,” Susan said.
“What?” Emily was focused on something that looked strange, and it took her a minute to figure it out. “Oh, yes,” she said as she stood up in time to bump a young man to the ground. He lost his grip on the money and it spread all over the floor. The man behind took a swing at her head, but she ducked, grabbed the man by his baggy pants and threw him on top of the first, his pants now around his ankles so he could not get up quickly.
Emily wiped the corner of her mouth and retook her seat. She had a burger and fries to finish. “You were saying, about a party?” Two men rushed up from the burger place, followed by mall security. Emily imagined the police would be there soon enough, and did not give the incident a second thought.
Susan grinned. “I see you have expanded your beating up the boys repertoire.”
“Oh no,” Emily insisted. “I wouldn’t dream of interfering.”
By the time Friday evening came, Emily needed a clueless break. She called Molly and met her and Cathy at the bowling alley. They got lane seventeen and talked about something other than accessories. Molly was studying business at the community college. Cathy was working the front desk at her dad’s car dealership. Cathy looked bigger than Emily remembered, but maybe she put on some weight. It was hard to tell since the girl had always been big.
They were laughing when Emily caught a glimpse of Brad. She tried to hide, but Brad came straight to her like the proverbial moth to the flame. She and Brad broke up senior year after the prom. She had to hurt him, physically, to get him to leave her alone. Obviously, she could not hurt his heart since he did not have one. It was another exercise in stupidity on her part, Emily thought. It was another memory to be ashamed of, to think there was anything she saw in Brad in the first place.
“Hey girls,” Duncan said it. He was right there with Brad and Hoover, as expected. The way Duncan said it, though, was something like middle school. It might have been, “Hey, look! Girls!”
“Duncan.” Emily acknowledged the boy, and then she paused. She smelled something as the boys came near. It was not zombies, but it was like death. It smelled demonic or something, definitely not normal. She briefly wondered where Amina might be. She imagined Amina could identify it.
“What are you guys up to?” Molly asked.
“Nothin’,” Hoover said, at his verbal best.
“Elected bitch,” Brad looked straight at Emily. “There is nothing special about you. You are just fooling yourself.” Duncan and Hoover both giggled. There was no other word to describe it.
“What?” Cathy spouted, though she was normally quiet when boys were around. “Get rude much?” Emily felt grateful for the defense, but wondered how Brad could know anything about her being one of the elect. He was certainly no seer. He was a heartless jerk.
“Go away,” Molly said sharply. “We were having fun before you showed up.”
Brad stared at Emily. “So, beat anyone up at college yet?”
Emily stared right back. “Yeah, one Mister Hilde, two football players and three geeks.” Her eyes took in Duncan and Hoover. “Oh, and three zombies if you must know, but I had to make them dead again.”
Duncan laughed. Hoover did not find it funny. Brad hardly flinched before he spoke again. “So I think you will get your butt kicked soon enough and see how you like it, bitch.” Brad looked once around the bowling alley and waved to the others. “Come on.” They exited out the side door.
“What creeps!” Molly came up beside Emily.
“What got into them?” Cathy asked.
Emily said nothing. It was her turn. She picked up her bowling ball and heaved it underhand. To be fair it bounced once before it broke through the back wall of the alley. Molly had to go to the desk.
“Chris, return on number seventeen,” the speakers spouted. Emily and Cathy watched as the young man wandered down alley seventeen. When he got close, they heard his words.