Where Worse Decisions Are Made
“Oh yeah, totally not that bad.”
This was the professional opinion of Ted Calvez as he rolled around a sloppy lump of cafeteria lasagna in his mouth. “I mean, ya know, bad obviously, but we’ve totally seen worse, right? Remember the time Wade dared Trent to tie a ribbon around that Manticore’s tail?” Ted laughed, which sounded like a burst-fire sprinkler coming to life. A flat grin poked out from bush that was most of his head.
“Dude,” he continued, “I still won’t go near the water closet upstairs, I don’t care how many times they clean it. That place looked like a snowman blew his brains out!” he cackled once more, slapping his knee and drawing predatory looks from the students trickling out of the cafeteria. Not predatory in the usual way a boy might have feared, more in the sense of a den of lions staring at a very loud and slow gnat.
Milo just stared at him. A good part of him wanted to snap at him to show some sympathy, he had just certifiably had the worst day of his life. He had walked back to the cafeteria table in a pile of his own pants and a girl’s leather jacket, then proceeded to watch most of his friends give him a grim nod and depart silently without him.
This had not surprised him. It had been what he had expected would happen during the plodding walk back from The Den. Milo considered the group of boys his friends, but not in what might have been the ideal sense. Their relationship revolved around watching each others’ backs, with minimal bits of bonding between them all. When one of them got targeted, they might have helped if they could, but more often or not simply bowed their heads and left them to the whims of their new mate.
Milo’s friend group had added and subtracted sporadically over the years, and he had known he would be the most recent subtraction once he had picked himself up from The Den floor.
So seeing Ted stay behind was shocking to say the least, as was seeing his smile stay as bright as always. He hadn’t even stood to move away when Milo returned, merely kept pecking at his food and chatting.
More shocking still, Ted was not the only one. Sasha, quiet, awkward Sasha, had stayed behind as well. He was passing nervous glances from Ted and back to Sasha, blue eyes dotted with concern while he picked at the fabric of his large turtleneck.
“Does it hurt? Do you need the nurse?” Sasha asked, his head tucking into his turtleneck as he spoke, like he was ready to retreat fully into it.
“Uh,” Milo responded, still dazed, “Um, no. Well, not much. I’d rather just keep it to myself than take it to the nurse.”
“You got a spare pair of pants?” Ted asked.
“Then uh, you probably won’t be keeping it from anyone.” Ted snickered.
Milo started to say something callous in response, but a cold breeze on his exposed thigh silenced him.
“Yeah,” Milo said, “Well, I just want this day to be over. My face doesn’t feel that bad, so I’ll live.”
A thought occurred to Milo as he said that, and he turned it over in his head with a grimace.
“Um,” he started, “How bad does my face look exactly?”
Sasha shot a nervous look at Ted, who kept smiling at nothing. “W-well, the scratches on your neck are scary looking, but if you wear a shirt with a collar I don’t think anyone would notice.”
“What about my face?” Milo asked, a burning ring fading in out around his lips.
“Oh, your face is totaled,” Ted said, knuckle to his chin in concentration, “Kinda like uh….like someone tried to eat your face, but you were too chewy.”
“Fantastic.” Milo buried his face into his hands. “I…I don’t know what’s going to kill me. Like, if this bitch doesn’t kill me tomorrow, my Mother is going to ship me off to Hilda’s with a price tag around my neck the second she sees my face.”
“Who did this?” Sasha asked, “Did she claimed you?”
“No,” Milo responded, “I mean…not like girls usually do, I guess.”
The bush of hair around where Ted’s brow should be rustled. “She didn’t just beat the tar out of you? Then apologize with a sick jacket?”
Milo groaned. “Not exactly. She clawed the shit out of me, stuck her…big wolf tongue down my throat, then said I had to go see her tomorrow morning,” he tugged at the sleeves of Isha’s jacket. It was too large for him, he kept having to tug back on the sleeves to keep them from engulfing his hands. “I think she has my scent, so even if I ditch the jacket I’m fucked.”
“She uh….a werewolf then?” Ted asked, conversationally.
Milo hesitated. Werewolf seemed so misfitting still, but he was sure she wasn’t a hellhound. “Some kind of wolf, at least. Do you guys know any Ishas?”
Sasha shook his head glumly, but Ted’s face scrunched up in apparent concentration, pale lips sucked into his mouth.
“Yeaaah….yeah, fuck, I do!” Ted’s mouth popped out as he spoke, and he slapped his palm against the table. He proceeded to ignore an aggravated shush from Milo and continued talking frantically, “Do you remember Freshman year when I, you know, didn’t hide the smell of the cilantro as much?”
“You mean when you stank like weed so badly everyone who hung out with you smelled like it? And my fucking Mother started strip searching me off when I got home? Yeah, I fucking remember.” Milo scowled, shooting paranoid glances around the cafeteria. Classes started in less than 15 minutes, but a handful of students were still chatting mindlessly in the cafeteria, layering agitated looks as Ted’s voice rose higher.
“Ted, please keep your voice down.” Sasha pleaded.
“I got my ass beat by an Isha freshman year!” Ted continued to yell, the only sign that their words were reaching him were his pauses between their sentences. “One day, this shrimpy werewolf dragged me into the courtyard after 4th period and beat the ever-loving shit out of me. I was really afraid she was gonna fuck me or something, but I lucked out and she just broke my leg.”
Ted chuckled, as if he had just shared a story of childhood mischief and not some horribly violent act of inequality. “Apparently, I stank like cilantro so bad it was giving her a migraine. Werewolf noses, ya know? She told me she’d break both my legs the next time I came to school smelling that bad,” Ted smiled and spread his palms out in front of him, presenting himself proudly. “So, I’ve been clean ever since.”
What should have been a valuable and potentially lucrative source of knowledge to Milo was rapidly overridden by his growing irritation with Ted.
“Fucking cool, Ted. Glad your friend’s Mom setting up an airport checkpoint in her house for her son didn’t get you to stop smoking, but some wolf bitch roughing you up did.”
Ted smiled meekly, rubbing his neck. “What can I say? I just wanted the whole world to chill out a bit.”
“Sasha almost got kicked out of his student housing, dude!”
“I-I really, it wasn’t that bad-” Sasha tried to cut in, but was immediately drowned out by Ted’s response.
“Don’t put that shit on me, dude! It’s not my fault his orphanage is so paranoid!”
“It’s literally only your fault, dipshit!” Milo was yelling now, a conflict three years dead suddenly brought back to life.
“Why the fuck are you mad now!?” Ted’s pale face had heated to a dull reddish color, “I stopped years ago!”
“You never fucking apologized! I’ve been fucking pissed about it for years!”
“Well what do you want me to do now!?”
“FUCKING APOLOGIZE!” Milo screamed. He was being unfair, and distantly he knew this. But what had been a horribly eventful thirty minutes was making him lash out at easy targets, and Ted Calvez was nothing if not an easy target.
As the fiery orange drained from Ted’s cheeks and a quiver gripped his lips, Milo felt a pang of guilt. Ted was infuriating, but he was still his friend. More than that, he and Sasha had stayed in his corner even now. It was juvenile to be mad at him right now, and he knew he should apologize.
And then he noticed the shadow that overtaken the table.
“Will you two shut the fuck up?”
Her green skin was the first thing Milo noticed, as he turned his head slowly to face the voice. The second thing he noticed was the bulging muscles on her emerald arms, and the third thing he noticed was the look on her face, which he would have described as “hate incarnate”. Her teeth were gritted with elongated canines pointing out, and the dark red of her eyes combined with the black horns shooting straight up from her head made her look like a tribal war mask made flesh and bone.
“I just got out of flunking a bullshit quiz, so the last fuckin’ thing I want right now is two virgins in a corner ruining my fucking peace.” She was towering over Milo in his seat, much closer than he would ever have liked her to be. Recent events had made her less intimidating by comparison, but recent events had also taught him that keeping his mouth shut was something he needed to practice more. So he did exactly that, averting his eyes downwards with what he hoped was an apologetic face.
Ted gave a nervous chuckle, the sound of which almost halted Milo’s heartbeat. “Whew, uh, sorry. Just trying to get some yucks in before Biology, ya know.”
The girl leaned over Milo’s shoulder, planting her hands down onto the table. A warm bit of the girl’s clothed flesh pushed onto Milo’s cheek, straining his neck and causing his vision to lose his friends in a sea of white hair.
“I don’t give a fuck what you were doing, dipshit,” Milo heard the girl say, feeling the words rumble through her body as she spoke, “If you don’t shut your dumbass mouth, you’ll be yucking out a damn straw.”
“We’re sorry,” Milo could see part of Sasha to his right, a very apologetic set of eyes that were steadily sinking into his black sweater. “Our friend’s been-”
The girl shifted right, crushing Milo further into his seat. “I don’t give a flying fuck what your friend-” she began, then halted suddenly.
A dead silence filled the air. All Milo could make out was the uncomfortably warm body still pressing down on him, and Sasha’s nervous face. A face, he noticed with a pit in his stomach, that was getting increasingly nervous looking.
“Oh.” the girl spoke, breaking the silence. She finally shifted her weight off of Milo, and resituated her elbows on the table, finally giving Milo breathing room. He appreciated this for all of a second, and then noticed the girl’s eyes were now locked onto Sasha.
“Oh,” she continued, “Uh, what’s up with your friend, hun?”
Sasha blinked. He looked to Milo, who offered nothing but a confused look back.
“Well,” Sasha started, “Um, or friend has been…having a really bad day…so we just….” he stopped mid sentence, completely unsure where to take the conversation.
“Aww, you’re a real sweetheart, blue eyes,” the green girl was leaning onto the table now, relaxed and casual. “You know, I’ve been having a real bad day too.”
“Hey,” Milo started, deciding this slow downward spiral of a conversation required intervention, “We should probably be getting to class.”
“Sure, fuck off. So, blue eyes, how are you at back massages?”
Milo wished dearly that a few of his apparently former friends had been here. Ozzie would have lied their way out of this long before it had gotten to this point, or Yaz would have noticed the green girl by now and clamped a hand over Ted’s mouth. Hell, maybe she would have gone for Ulrich or James instead. The two of them were built like Sasha, and God knows Milo and the rest wouldn’t have had qualms about leaving the little shitheads to her.
But, unfortunately, it was Sasha. Sasha who wasn’t good at lying, wasn’t good at being lookout, wasn’t good at running away and wasn’t good at thinking up lies. All he was, unfortunately for Milo, was a very good friend.
Milo heard Ted slam his fist onto the table, and he would have liked to have heard what he had to say that would have invariably made the situation worse. Milo’s mouth, however, had started talking before Ted’s could.
“Sorry to bother you, my friends and I are going to leave now.”
The green girl sighed. She leaned backwards from Sasha, setting dull, tired eyes on Mio. She was intimidating still, but primordial rage had been replaced by primordial mild irritation.
“Alright, listen up, fuckstick. I’m gonna do something real fucking nice, that I don’t do fucking often and ain’t gonna be doing again, which is make a deal with a guy that can’t keep his mouth shut.” She leaned in towards Milo, black sclera accentuating red pupils that pushed uncomfortably close to his face, “Tell whichever dipshit teacher blue eyes has up next that Kana Kamikaze is taking your friend for a drive around town, and that she’s very, VERY sorry to fucking inconvenience them, won’t happen again.”
She continued before he could open his mouth, “And before you say whatever dumb shit you’re about to say, here’s what’ll happen. I won’t fuck him, I won’t beat him, I won’t even stick a few digits up his ass,” Sasha made a noise somewhere between a gulp and a squeak at the other end of the table. “All I want is to kill some time with a cute guy on a shit fucking day. And all you gotta do to leave here without a headache bigger than mine is fucking be cool. Deal?”
Milo hoped the hesitation wasn’t evident on his face, or at least was less evident than the fear he was quite certain he was showing. This delinquent, he recognized. Kana “Kamikaze” goldstein was one of the lower rated threats on the boys’ totem pole of the school’s dangerous women. They had classified her under, “Dangerous if provoked”, and they had mostly found that to be accurate. She was a grumpy, foul mouthed girl, whose reputation had come from a fight with a holstaur who had accidentally spilled her lunch on Kana one day in middle school. The holstaur, who was and is one of the school’s biggest proponents of peaceful relations between monsters and humans, beat Kana senseless in self-defense and left Kana with her moniker.
Her nickname had not had the intended humbling effect most of the school had assumed it would, however, and she had instead taken to wearing it proudly, and with an inexplicable sense of accomplishment behind it. Kana caused trouble with no real rhyme or reason to her actions, typically spurred on by either someone mentioning her nickname, which reminded her that she was capable of wanton trouble and mischief, or in retaliation to some kind of slight that may or may not have actually been aimed at her, let alone happened at all.
Milo’s friends had deemed her an “Attention Junkie”, an angry young woman who acted out when she thought she wasn’t being taken seriously, but not someone who actively sought to uproot the peacefully paranoid lives the boys had lead, nor did she presumably have a group of friends she would be eager to pass a boy around to. If Milo apologized to her profusely for bother her and peppered her with a few fictional compliments, she would leave with an undeserved grin and a vague threat not to bother her again.
Unfortunately, with how fast the conversation was going, Milo’s brain had only managed to pull up the most superficial information it could manage to remember about her. To the great detriment of everyone at Milo’s lunch table, that information was, “Probably not a threat.”
“We’re very busy and we will be leaving right now. Sorry to bother you.” Milo said this with a determined and unwavering timber to his voice, the same voice he used whenever he told his Mother he had a life outside of what she had planned for him.
Much like when he used the voice on his mother, his resolve went mostly ignored.
“Hey, glad to hear it. Shake a leg, blue eyes, we’re going out to the lake.” She was already circling around Milo towards Sasha. Sasha was dead still, like a deer looking up past the headlights to see a cougar behind the wheel.
In the steadily increasing gap between what Milo’s brain was working furiously to tell him and what Milo was actually doing, he had somehow reached up to grab Kana’s shoulder as she had passed him. In diong so, it was almost as if his brain finally overloaded and had to shut down for a moment. Milo’s stream of consciousness went to gripping Kana’s shoulder, then blackness, and then he was lying flat on top of the lunch table with a green hand around his throat.
Hearing came back a second after, followed shortly after by a sense of dread as he registered Ted’s voice.
“Hey,” Ted said, again and again, “Hey, hey, hey, let’s all calm down here, huh? My friend’s a little slow, he doesn’t-”
“Did you just touch me, fuch head?” Kana’s voice hit Milo’s ears, coming from up the trunk of the arm gripping his throat.
Kana’s head bobbed into view, blotting out the dull light of the cafeteria. Her face was shadowy from below, but he could just barely make out the pointed fangs in her bottom lip poking out in a snarl.
“Did…Did I?” he asked, genuinely.
“You fucking touched me.”
“Sorry?” he said, trying to sound as apologetic as he could while horribly confused and strained for air.
A clap sounded out from Ted’s side of the table. “He’s sorry! He’s so sorry, Ma’am! CLEARLY, there has been a huge-”
“Tell your friend to shut up.”
“Ted,” Milo gargled, “Shaddup.”
“I’ll go,” Sasha whispered, “It’s fine, I can go.”
Kana’s grip slackened and air flooeded back into Milo’s lungs. She released his throat and backed away from his limp form slightly, but still towering over him.
She snorted, “Fuck you think you were doing? You got a girl or something to hide behind when you act dumb as fuck?”
“Please, Miss, he’s sorry.” Kana turned her eyes to Sasha, and a flash of something distinct from her anger passed over her face. “He got beat up today, and he’s just on edge.”
Kana withdrew a little, scratching at the back of her head. “Yeah, well, not surprised to hear he’s had his ass handed to him before,” She snorted, seemingly having finally noticed that Milo’s clothes were mostly strands of fabric and a leather jacket. “What, werecat?”
“Wolf,” a new voice said, Milo’s heart crashing to a near stop as he heard it again, “Real bitch from what I hear.”
There was a stir around the table. Milo turned away from the voice to see Sasha shuffling backwards and Ted quickly stepping in front of him. Kana had braced herself against the table as her head turned to the new arrival, annoyed confidence washed away by a look of shock on her rapidly paling green skin.
Milo, who had rolled awkwardly onto his side on the small table, peered up at Ted. Ted broke his nervous gaze with whatever was behind Milo to give him a look of panic and a confused nod, followed swiftly by a choked gasp as Milo was pulled backwards off the table.
He landed on his feet. Not at all on purpose, but because the person hoisting him up by his collar was angling his feet to the ground.
“You got shit on the back of my jacket, Konnie.” Isha growled. Milo knew it was her now. If the raspy, lethargic voice wasn’t enough of a giveaway, the iron grip and wiry muscles pressing into him felt all too familiar.
Kana’s face had lost its grassy green luster, and was currently so pale she could have passed for an unusually tall and horned human woman.” Isha?”
“Uhuh.” she responded. Milo couldn’t see her face, he could only feel her roughly tugging and pulling on the back of his rental jacket, inspecting something on his back.
“When….I….this guy isn’t…yours, is he?” Kana whimpered.
Kana obeyed with a lowered head, her hands wrung. The loud, boisterous girl who had nearly claimed a boy she just met was nowhere than Isha by a head, but was hunched so low to the ground that she was peeking up at her.
She straightened slightly when she was standing in front of Isha and Milo’s restrained, slightly dangling form. Her lip quivered slightly as she began to speak.
“I didn’t know-”
A hand whipped past Milo’s head, so fast he hadn’t realized what it was until it had dug into Kana’s breast. Isha’s palm was flat against it, claws digging into the sides of Kana’s cheap brown leather jacket. He thought for a moment that time had stopped, but the tremble of Kana’s lower lip made him aware of the dead silence that had overtaken them all.
Milo almost vomited at the sound of the cloth tearing. Kana looked to feel much the same, her eyes so wide they seemed ready to pop out of her skull. A growing trail of torn fabric was being carved out of Kana’s jacket and exposing her green, athletic midriff to the air, including a single exposed breast and a sickening creep of red blood following a second behind the trail.
For a brief moment, Milo was terrified that he had just witnessed Isha peeling off Kana’s breast. As Isha pulled away with a suitably large bundle of fabric clung to her claws, however, he realized that the blood flow was far too small. The wounds looked painful, but no worse than an average fight between monsters. Kana’s face also communicated raw terror and regret more than the raw agony he imagined a dislodged bit of chest would have drawn.
Isha’s hand disappeared out of his view, swiftly followed by a rough and repeating slapping on his back. She had torn off most of Kana’s jacket and some of her skin for a dishrag.
“Fuckin’ hell.” Isha’s voice startled him.
She spun him around after a final slap on the back. The split-second before he saw her, he dreaded being faced with her eyes, only to find them studying the front of his rental jacket when he had turned.
The cloth in her claw, which he had noticed in attempting to avoid his view even being near her own, was covered in red ketchup and mustard stains that blurred in a vile mix on the tan of Kana’s jacket. In the process of being thrown onto the table, he hadn’t thought to worry about what he was landing on, but now that he was, he remembered that Ted had just gotten a second serving of something or other and lasagna.
After a moment of awkward, paralyzed silence while he was inspected, Isha nodded.
“Thanks, Konnie.” she called out, standing up to her full height.
Kana blinked. “Yeah. Oh, yeah! No problem, Isha.”
Milo couldn’t have told you when exactly Isha punched her. He would have guessed a split second after she had stopped talking, but Isha’s fist moved so fast he couldn’t help but wonder if she had been hit a second before and no one had noticed. Either way, one moment Kana was standing and talking, and the next she had sailed across the cafeteria table, halfull lunch trays and plastic utensils clinking to the ground.
“The dipshit with the jacket has an owner, spread the word,” Isha rubbed her temple, “Goddamn headache.”
Then, finally, she turned to Milo, who saw the agitated beast from less than an hour ago slowly stirring to life in her eyes.
“Are you fucking retarded?” she asked, walking unhurried towards him.
“So you’re fucking doing this on purpose?”
“No! I didn’t, how the fuck could I know-” he stopped himself as she reached him, towering over him once more. Only a head or two taller than him, yet she seemed the tallest creature he had ever seen. There was a moan from the table and a frightened shuffle from where he had seen Ted and Sasha, and he took a moment of solace in knowing his friends were seeing the same monster he was.
“Bitch?” Isha’s voice was nearly sweet, like she was talking to a very dull child.
“What does a bitch do when it shits the bed and makes its owner wipe its ass?”
“Thank…her?” Milo offered, with what we he sincerely, honestly hoped was an apologetic smile.
“Close,” she said. He could see a smile poking up from the corners of her lips, “Lemme put it another way: Say I said you had made me unhappy, and that I was going to jam a claw into your butthole and run it up to your earlobes. What would you say to your owner in that situation?”
“That I’m…very, very sorry? And then beg her to forgive me?” he hoped he wasn’t crying, but Isha’s growing grin made him think he might be.
“Wow, you aren’t totally deficient after all.” she paused. He swallowed, then noticed her slight smile was dripping downwards.
She growled, “So what the fuck do you do next, bitch!?”
Milo dropped to his knees and slammed his forehead onto the dirty floor flat, his palms slapped down on the ground to the sides of his head.
“I’m so sorry I keep starting fights!”
“And!?” she yelled.
“I’m so sorry I’m an idiot!”
The underside of what he could only assume was her foot pressed suddenly onto the back of his head like a fuzzy brick. The skin of his temple made a squeaking noise as his face was dragged in bumpy strokes.
“Even idiots know not to stick their noses in bear traps, Bitch. I think idiot is too nice for a reject like you,” she said. She was smiling, he knew it. Already he could pick apart the glee in her voice behind the raspy growls. “What the fuck are you, reject!?”
Isha cackled. “No shit you are!”
Milo’s loose skin unstuck itself from the ground as the pressure left his skull, the click-clack of Isha’s claws sounding out near his ears. This swell of vacating pain and his slowing heartbeat were immediately undone as a firm grip seized his hair and yanked him upwards with a yelp.
“Now, you thank me.” She whispered, grin splitting her face wide. He didn’t see anger in her eyes, just sparkling malice. She looked for all the world like a child in a candy shop with her mother’s purse.
She was happy to have an excuse, he realized. She would have been smiling wider if he had made the situation worse for a bigger punishment. Some kind of creature of immediate retribution, was that all she was? A monster to dog his footsteps for any perceived slight to punish?
He swallowed a twisted lump in his throat. “Th…thank you.”
He whimpered as she tugged harder on his hair. She looked contemplative, but still as smug as ever. “Mmmmm….almost.”
Her free claw pinched down on his chin, locking his face while she inspected it. The firm pressure on both sides of his skull made him painfully aware of what would happen if Isha decided to give herself a high five.
“See, you’re scared. And that’s good, because it means somewhere in that ditch of a head there’s something wired like it’s supposed to be.” she released his hair and then found familiar purchase by digging her claws under his chin. Roughly bandaged scratches prickled at her touch, with an accompanying whimper by Milo.
“But you’re not sorry, just scared.”
He flinched in the second before Isha’s palm crashed into his cheek. His entire face jiggled like a high impact blender as it connected, locked still in her grip on his chin.
“See, you should be drop dead embarrassed at your owner having to go to bust her ass for you,” another impact, another stomach-churning scramble of his sensory inputs. “Those cheeks should be bright red right now, Bitch.”
Another hit. The the heat of it sunk into the burning sun his cheek was turning into.
“So, I’ll help you apologize.”
His body hung limp on her claw as she switched him over to her free hand, then drew back to strike his clean cheek.
WHAM. WHAM. WHAM.
By the end of it, Milo was quite certain something was dislodged in his brain, though the flaring heat and stinging made it hard to tell what and where. He could swear he could see his cheeks puffing out to his sides.
Isha, for her part, seemed proud of her handiwork, inspecting it with a lazy turn of his chin with her iron grip.
“So, Bitch. What are you?”
“Good. And the retard is?”
“And he’s apologizing to…” she raised an eyebrow, and a wash of panic started to swell as he realized she was looking for one last reason to punish him.
She laughed. It was by surprise, he thought, as it seemed distinct from her usual cackle.
“Okay, I’ll accept that,” Isha lowered him until his feet came back to the ground. “Stand.”
He stood, and her grip slackened.
“Good Bitch,” she poked his sizzling cheek with a claw, drawing out a whimper. She smiled, then turned to leave. “Keep that jacket clean, dumbass.”
The mostly empty cafeteria echoed with the clacking of her claws as she worked her way towards her den. Milo finally noticed the onlookers camped out around the edges of the cafeteria. All monsters, he noted, mostly passive ones. They gave him some nervous looks as they started to shuffle away, apparently not finding the leftovers they had been anticipating.
One human caught his attention shuffling out. It was his Biology teacher, Mr. Remon. He looked at Milo out of the corner of his eye, then tilted his head down in shame as he trudged away.
So, that’s the pecking order, Milo noted. Isha, then the rest of the school.
As the wolf girl and the onlookers all disappeared behind one corner or another, Milo felt a tap on his shoulders. He shot straight forward in the air as his heart restarted at the touch.
Milo heaved a sigh of sheer relief at Ted’s voice. “Yeah?” he managed to whisper.
“Dude. That’s the werewolf that beat me up.”
Milo felt tired. “Yeah.”
“Actually, shit, man! She’s on the boxing team too!”
“I believe it.”
“I think she’s the head of the team, actually.”
“Yeah, sounds about right.”
“Wow, dude. Are you gonna die?”
“I think so.”
Milo turned. A lump that had formed in his throat earlier had since dropped into his chest, and then dropped further down until it sat vindictively at the very bottom of his stomach. He saw Ted with a reflective look on his face, a very scared Sasha behind him, and a partially bare-chested Kana picking herself up from the table. Bits of lasagna and ketchup streaked through her previously pure white hair.
“Hoooly shit, your cheeks look like Mr. Tully’s head on sports day.” Ted exclaimed, the bits of his face peeking out from his hair looking awestruck.
“Yeah,” Milo responded, “What time is it?”
“We’re late to class,” Sasha said, “If that’s what you’re wondering.” Sasha’s eyes were as bright and concerned as always. “You should go home, Milo. Today isn’t worth it.”
“Can’t,” Milo sighed. That idea sounded appealing until he thought about it, “I’m…working on ways in my head to explain my face to my Mom. I can’t explain away a call from school saying I bailed.”
“We could go outside and I could hit you with my car,” Ted offered.
“Let’s just go to class,” Milo mumbled, and started his way towards the cafeteria entrance, far away from The Den. “I don’t give a shit what people say right now.”
Ted’s energetic footsteps caught up behind him swiftly, as did an overly friendly arm wrapped around his neck. “Atta’ boy!” he said, as their walk turned into an awkward, unrequested, moving hug. “One step at a time. This bitch won’t kill us.”
“Let go, stinkweed.”
“Sasha, you hear how mean he is to his friend!?”
Sasha didn’t respond. Then the sound of someone talking to someone else hit their ears from behind.
They both almost tripped over each other to run back to Sahsa, crashing into each other an eclectic pile of flailing limbs. They righted themselves and started to spring again, until they they both realized that, as opposed to being throttled by an ogre, Sasha had taken his sweater off and was handing it to Kana.
Kana, who was currently sporting a broken nose and a trail of red around it darker than the red in her hair, looked as surprised as they were. She extended a shaky hand to grip it, and Sasha bounded off towards his friends once she held it.
“Let’s go you two.” Sasha said, walking quickly in his white tank top.
“Heyheyhey,” Milo heard, as he willed himself to start walking, “Hey, hey, what the hell was that?”
“I have others, Sasha whispered. “It’s not that hard to do a good thing, you know?”
“You got spare pants under there?” Milo asked, as he ran up to the duo to match their pace. “My ass is gonna freeze off.”
Sasha’s smile was guilty. “I said you should go home, Milo.”
Ted turned. His smile should have been on death row. “Ohh, damn, Milo! How are you going to explain your pants to the teach? And to tiger mom?”
Milo tugged Isha’s jacket back, bundling it up around his elbows. “I dunno. I guess….I’ll tell Miss Uzza some girl messed up my pants, no way she’ll care. Then I’ll just ditch these things when I get home.”
Sasha frowned. “What if a girl bothers you?”
Milo thought about this, then a grimace took over his features as the realization hit him. “Then…I guess I’ll have to tell them that….”
He didn’t want to say it.
Ted snapped his fingers, “Oh, duh! Just tell em’ you’re Isha’s bitch!”