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She did her homework, took a shower, and got dressed in warm clothes to go to the vigil that evening. She was wearing a long sleeve sweater with her black jacket over it, off-blue jeans, Adidas sneakers, and her Dieous tech to accent. Her parents dropped her off at the front of the school. The student body council greeted the students and walked them through the school building and out back to the baseball stadium. The faces of the students, teachers, and coaches were put on large cardboard displays and shown at the entrance to the stadium with the words: NEVER FORGET on top of the display. Below the display was information about the victims, and some words from their own friends and family members. News crews were lined up along the outside of the stadium with their field reports talking into the black lenses like the whole world was watching. Mostly because it was.
Kyane broke the barrier from the outside of the stadium to inside. The heat and mixed smell of pizza, barbecue, burgers, and hot dogs smacked her all at once. The temperature increased ten degrees by the pure number of bodies and hot cooking food alone. Everyone was wearing black. Students stayed in their cliques, breaking one of the cardinal ideas the student body said about themselves. Meanwhile the teachers were conversing with their own departments. The visiting Superintendent and adjacent government workers walked from person to person to give condolences and not to well hide the fact they were selling themselves for the next election. One random white guy in a black suit with a red tie came up to her, grabbed her hand, shook her wet noodle hand, said sorry, and left without even giving her a second to process. The only lone person she saw and wanted to talk to was Mr. Ayer leaning on a railing and looking out as workers finished putting the stage for the speakers together. He was wearing his outfit from this morning with a black leather jacket over it.
Kyane moseyed on up to him. “Hello, Mr. Ayer,” she said meekly.
“Kyane!” Mr. Ayer said. His face lit up. “How are you feeling? I’m surprised you came tonight. I figured you would take any opportunity to sleep.”
Kyane feigned laughter. “I wouldn’t think a teacher would condone taking time off from school stuff.”
“Everyone needs some rest, Kyane.”
Kyane leaned against the railing with him. She looked at the group of other science teachers talking and eating together. “Why aren’t you with the rest of your kind?” she asked. She pointed to the group.
“I just needed some quiet contemplation,” he said.
Kyane backed away. “I can go if you want. I just came over to show you I was fine and stuff. I’m kinda hungry and have been dying for some pulled pork.”
“No, it’s okay,” Mr. Ayer said. “You can hang here.” He rubbed his face. “You know, I grew up on the wrong side of the tracks if you get that reference. I saw a lot of violence at school back in the day. I had to fight for the advantage I had. It was brutal. So, when I got into education I wanted to go back and help those going through that brutality. Boy, is that not as easy as it sounds when I say it.” His words came out like this had been something he had pondered for a long time.
He continued. “I decided on science because my adopted dad was a scientist of sorts and I figured that those same kids who got nothing could use it for something. Like the cure for cancer could be in one of those kid’s heads. Long story short the old district pushed me out, and I came here. I missed those more violent kids and days. That’s weird to say, I know. I got used to it, but anything like that happening here just shakes me to the core. Like I forgot how bad the world could really be sometimes.”
Kyane stood silent. Her gaze remained fixated on this teacher who seemed like he grew up in the suburbs and was slumming it by teaching at a public school. “Wow,” she thought she heard herself whisper. Her face must have looked horrifying because he tried to console her almost instantly.
“It’s fine, it’s fine,” he said. “Well not fine, fine. This is all horrible. But my situation is fine.” He looked around and saw Desmond driving a slice of pizza into his mouth like a truck into a tunnel, Harry competing with him by having two slices stuck in his mouth, and Jamie standing next to them eating a hot dog. Jamie wore a suit a size too large for him, Harry was in a slim fit polo shirt, with an equally slim jacket, and pants, while Desmond wore a black button-down shirt with a white tie under his same letter jacket. “You may want to go talk to your friends over there.” He motioned to them.
“I’m not their friends. Plus, I was kinda a major ass to them. Sorry I said ass, don’t write me up.”
“I didn’t hear you say anything.” He turned and rested his back on the railing. “Just go apologize. They’re chill dudes,” he said in a way that he tried to make sound cool, but instead sounded lamer than anything else. “Plus, hanging out with old people like myself makes you a bigger loser the longer you do it, so I’ve heard.”
Kyane rapped on the railing. Her grandfather’s words rang in her head. “You’re right, Mr. A. Thank you,” she said. She got off the rails and walked over to the two with her hands in her pockets trying to hide the fact she felt closer to a scolded dog than a too cool for school teenager.
Jamie looked up from his hot dog to see Kyane strolling over to them. He slapped Desmond’s pecs in quick succession to get his attention. “Hey,” he said. “Hey Desmond! Kyane’s coming! Didn’t you say you were going to get her food!?”
Desmond slurped up the rest of his pizza. He held a second piece of pizza in his other hand. He looked at it, then at the mostly eaten pizza in his other hand. “I was going to eat it. She can have it though I guess.”
“Eyy whinnn,” Harry said with his mouth full of pizza.
“What are you guys talking about?” Kyane asked, stopping a few feet from them.
“Pizza!?” Desmond said as both an answer and a question. He extended his hand in offering.
Kyane held her hand up. One of the Dieous bracelets slid down her arm. “I’m good. I wanted some barbecue.” She paused. Her stomach felt like a pit. “Thank you though,” she said. It was the most of an apology she could give.
“Good!” Desmond said reflexively. He folded the crust of the eaten pizza, placed it onto the body of the second and took a giant bite of both. Grease trickled down his cheek and onto the concrete.
Kyane looked and Jamie. He looked back at her. Both of their faces were painted with expressions of disgust and confusion. “That’s really attractive,” she said in her normal sarcastic tone. She walked to the booth where two guys in green smocks were selling barbecue out of heated aluminum trays. She got a plain bun with a pile of pork, coleslaw, and spicy sauce on top and took it back to the two. She took a bite of her sandwich. Barbecue sauce and drippings from the coleslaw rolled down her chin.
Desmond laughed and snapped his finger at her. “You’re right, that is really attractive!”
“It’s really not, man. I can at least clean up like the man I am,” Harry said.
“What?” Kyane said, totally unaware.
“Oh nothing, nothing.” They laughed. A group of math teachers by the dugout gave the three looks like they hadn’t turned in any homework all semester, then asked about getting extra credit.
“This is really uncool,” Jamie said. “We shouldn’t be laughing and stuff. This is serious.”
Kyane swallowed hard on her food to speak. “You’re right.” She rubbed the sides of her lips with her wrists then pointed to two cliques of students. “But, those Barbie-bitches are Snapchatting away and trying to get tons of likes for their selfies. Meanwhile those jock heads are just trying to score. We are by far more respectful right now.”
“Not cool dude,” Desmond said. “Those jocks are, like, totally cool.”
“Name one that is as cool as either of us,” Harry said. Desmond searched for an answer. His lips would form words, but nothing would come out. “Exactly. That’s why I look for someone out of our pool.”
“Actually, it’s closer to someone in your pool.” The two jocks both laughed.
Kyane and Jamie just looked at each other. “I’m just saying laughing isn’t like the worst thing going on here,” Kyane said.
An announcement came over the speakers to tell people to get to a seat. Desmond took Kyane’s trash and walked over to the can with Jamie. “Hey, can you grab the four of us seats?” He said to Jamie and Harry.
“Yeah, but I need to get something where I can leave to get the video feed,” Jamie said.
“I trust you,” Desmond said. “But I want to talk to Kyane alone for a minute.”
“Okay.” Jamie walked away and joined Harry at one of the rows further back from the field and grabbed the seats.
Desmond took a handful of deep breaths and walked up to Kyane. She stood under the dim bulbs of the cheap stadium lighting. He thought her black hair shined like a newly washed car. He straightened up his jacket before he spoke.
“You ready to go?” Kyane said before he could get his words out. “Did they grab us some seats?”
“Yeah, oh, yeah, yeah,” Desmond said. He rubbed his face with his hand for a moment. “I just need a minute is all,” he said. He kicked the ground.
Kyane rubbed his thick tricep. “I understand. I am sorry for your loss. I wish I did more to help.” She backed away and started toward the seats.
“Wait,” Desmond said almost too late. Kyane stopped and turned around. “I just wanted to say…” he looked up at the light Kyane previously stood under. “I just wanted to say thank you. You did more than enough to help with that. I’m sorry I was, like, rude and stuff to you. How about I make it up to you by getting us dinner or something sometime?”
Kyane froze. Her heartbeat drummed through her whole body. She looked to the ground, then back up at Desmond. She moved a stray hair behind her ear. “Everything okay, Kyane?” D13 asked through her earpiece.
“Yeah,” Kyane said.
“You sure, Kyane?” D13 said.
“Cool, cool,” Desmond said. “I’ll text you the details later.” He walked up to her confidently. A smile widened across his face. “We better get going to our seats.”
“No wait. I didn’t mean ‘yeah’ like that,” Kyane said. He was already out of earshot. “I mean ‘yeah’ as in I have a literal voice in my head talking to me-nevermind.” She exhaled. “Did he ask me out on a date?” she said.
“I think so,” D13 said. “Have you ever been on one before?”
“No. Now’s not really a time to talk about this though, Die.”
“You are correct. I was just trying to provide friendly communication in a distraught time,” D13 said.
“It needs work, Die,” she said.