by Lori Cramer

She’s wearing her don’t-mess-with-me outfit: black sweater and miniskirt, tights and boots. The college-girl version of a bulletproof vest. Inwardly, she’s a muddled mess of emotions, but in this uniform she’s invincible.      

She marches through the crowded cafeteria, counterfeit confidence in every step. Gaze riveted to the back wall, she pretends she can’t hear the cacophony of whispers. But there’s no mistaking her own name.

In the food line, she guides her tray along cold metal bars, the odor of greasy hamburgers turning her stomach. Appetite extinguished, she relinquishes the tray and heads to the soda machine instead.

She spots him in the corner with his friends, her stomachache taking a turn for the worse. His buddies are cackling like crazed animals, but he’s not even cracking a smile. Slouched in his seat, Iron Pigs cap pulled low over his eyes, he looks as if he’d rather be working out Calculus equations.

The soda dispenser hisses as it fills her glass. She takes a sip, carbonation gnawing at her throat, and recalls the scar on his chin, more discernible by touch than by sight. She’d wanted to ask what’d happened but hadn’t gotten the chance. Now she never would.

Get over it, she tells herself. What’s done is done. She turns toward the dish return.

He appears in front of her, catching her by surprise the way he did the night before, flashing that self-assured smile. “I was hoping I’d run into you.”

Invincible, she reminds herself, staring down at her boots.

“You wanna go somewhere and talk?”

“About what?” Mistakes?

“Anything. Everything. I wanna get to know you better.”

Shifting her gaze upward, she searches for the telltale mark on his chin, but the sunlight’s glare obscures it.

Maybe she’s not the only one adept at hiding scars.

Lori Cramer’s short prose has appeared in Boston Literary Magazine, Brilliant Flash Fiction, Riggwelter, Toasted Cheese Literary Journal, Train, Unbroken Journal, and Whale Road Review, among others.

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Twitter: @LCramer29.