Lunch with Mindy Unsworth
We head on down to the cafeteria. Is he flirting with me?
I hope so.
I twirl a bit of ash-blond hair around my finger and I blow a kiss.
Too forward? Yeah, probably. But this is me. I don't know how to mince my words, I don't know how to shrink -soft lavender, indigo, violet -like a proper girl is meant to. No: I just lay it all out there, bright and shiny, me-to-the-core, nothing else to see here.
“Hey, Minnow. Are you coming?”
“You're really going that way?”
“Past the goblin cave?”
“Well, I'm taking the long way.” And anyway, he's going to follow. I know he's going to follow.
“You're mad, Mindy Unsworth. Everybody says it.”
“You can't argue with logic like that.” But I shake my bum a bit, twist in a waythat I'm pretty sure is going to get his attention, then I'm running for the stairs, leaving him standing for a moment, staring after me, next to the lift. You're going to come running after me, you know that, Brendan Capwell. You know you're going to.
A minute or less later, he does.
He catches me in the stairwell, and he thinks he's being so tolerant and reasonable. Doing the 'man-thing' – that is: indulging his girl, letting her have her feminine whims, letting her away with it because her eyes shine, and her legs are long, and his pants are calling the shots. He steals a kiss because he thinks he's earned it, arms around my waist, thigh pushed up against my thigh, seeing if he can get away with a bit of tongue. I give it because I want to take it, he tastes like pork and seaweed, he tastes spicy and salty.
“I'm bloody hungry,” he says.
He doesn't say thanks for steering me clear of that goblin nest. He should. Those things can be nasty.
“Can we go already?”
The cafeteria's crowded, overflowing. Brendan looks around to find us a place to sit. Me, I look around at the walls. How can I help it? The are bands of light racing along them, gouging into them slowly. The whole surface shimmers. There are bulges in it sometimes – something trying to get out. It's annoying, you know, being the only one who can see that kind of thing.
“There.” Brendan guides us over, tosses his bag on one of the seats before anyone else can get any ideas about it.
My hero, right? I slouch in there opposite.
“What do you want then?”
“Can I get a burrito?”
“Yeah, I think so.”
“And a coke? And a bit of cake?”
“Jeez, anything else?”
“Not yet. I need to eat a lot you know.” My kind usually do, our metabolism’s something wicked, it really is.
“Pad those scrawny legs. I'll be back soon.”
“I might be here.”
Boys. I lean back, put my feet up, arrange my skirt up high above those scrawny legs. He might say they're scrawny but I know he's been looking at them. Little punk. I can see a goblin perched at the top of the escalator. He's giving me a daring look, showing his pointy little teeth. I make a little pistol out of my hand, breath a bit of starfire into it, shoot a burst of light and lightning that knocks that thing on his ass. I can hear him scrabbling away, totally warned.
There's an aura of unreality beginning to settle over the cafeteria. It comes down like honey, slow and thick and invisible. But you can see it in the details, in the softened edges and heightened colours. Really. Not. The. Time. There are some wolfish looks on some faces out there. I can see a man's face grow fur, grow tiger stripes. He doesn't seem to notice. The floor is thick with ice, slippery and shimmery. No-one notices – but a fair few trip as they head to their tables, thinking nothing untoward of their clumsiness. They never do.
Brendon trips as he brings my burrito.
“Hey, watch it.”
“I got this.” He dumps it down on the table.
“Here's your coke.”
“What did you get?”
“Ooh, can I have some?”
“I'll swap for some of that.” He gives my burrito a meaningful look.
Cheesy. Meaty. Spicy. Tomatoey. I hadn't meant a trade. But then, shit, that sweet and sour fish looks bloody good.
So, I agree, and I'm reaching for it, when I suddenly see it move. I see it flick its tail. It didn't have a tail a few seconds ago, but it sure has one now, and it's got fins as well and scales. When I reach for it it's got teeth, they nip at my fingers.
And it's happening all over the cafeteria. I can see it all coming to life. A mountain of carrots are building on some guy's plate, sitting neat and criss-cross across from each other. I can see eyeballs on another plate – blinking ones – and I can bowls of soup reaching for the ceiling. The soup that as, as if something's pulling at it, reverse gravity. A bowl over there grows tentacles; they curl around it, hugging, sticking their sharp ends in. I wonder if the whole thing's going to tip, and suddenly everyone's going to be able to see this, not just me.
I look down at my burrito. Sure enough, it's rising up, curling over like a wave, and sharp points are coming out of the end, there's patterns all along – runes – that are glowing and at the same time burning themselves into the bubbling cheese. My plate cracks.
Brendan's fish flops onto the tiled floor.
“Now, look what you've done!” He thinks I dropped it.
“Don't you shush me...”
A table tips. Soup spills out over the floor, and it spreads, it becomes a swarm of wet insects, flowing out everywhere, growing, getting more complex as moments pass, big masses forming over their surface, something that's readying to hatch. I tense my fingers, I wait, I try to keep Brendan in the periphery of my sights – he's cute, I don't want to lose him, I don't want to see him filleted or broken. I like that stupid little punk.
Then it settles. The aura lifts. The colours soften.
“What the fuck?”
He's still whining about his fish.
“Oh, here.” I cut off a bit of my burrito – where those vicious looking spines had been. “There. You can have that.”
“Oh. Yeah, sorry. I guess the sauce is slippery.”
“Yeah. Do I still get a piece.”
I take it and pop it in my mouth – bursting sweet. And there's Brendan watching me, not really sure what to do with me. Is it worth going out with the school's biggest crazy even if she is cute, and her legs are long and smooth, and her hair's such a delicate, smoky blond? I take pity: “I fancy you, by the way. Just FYI.”
He blushes of all things.
Boys. I reach over for his hand. “Just thought you might like to know.”