Elizabeth hesitated in the doorway, unsure whether or not she wanted to walk in.
She had nearly decided that the rumble in her stomach was preferable to what awaited her inside when an impact catapulted her several feet and left her sprawled on the sticky cafeteria floor.
“Oh, sorry...didn't see you, there.” One of the most popular guys at the academy smirked down at her.
Laughter echoed off the walls and ceiling. The cavernous space magnified its assault on Elizabeth's ears.
Without speaking, she stood, brushed off her jeans and t-shirt, squared her shoulders and walked to the serving area.
Elizabeth's dietary plan left her few choices. Finally, she spied an apple. It wasn't very appealing. Its once shiny skin had dulled and begun to wrinkle. No doubt it'd been long ignored in favor of the richer, more glamorous fare displayed elsewhere. There was a certain similarity of experience between her and the apple. She took it.
She scanned the room briefly. The hierarchy at the academy was understood by all; the spaces for each group, though not marked, were clearly defined. Elizabeth set her course for the far corner of the room—the outcasts table.
To get there she had to pass the middle-of-the-room tables of the in crowd.
“Have a nice trip, Dizzy Lizzy?”
“An apple? You've gotta be kidding! Who eats apples?”
“You know who...the freaks!”
“Ooh...love the shoes! Where'd you get 'em? Atlas Antiques?”
Although she knew she shouldn't, Elizabeth glanced down at her footwear. While her athletic-style shoes weren't new, they were clean and in decent condition. But, of course, they were nothing like what the in crowd girls wore.
Only a few more tables to go...
“What's the matter...is your Q-Pod out for repairs? Oh, wait, that's right, you don't own one!”
Again the crowd's guffaws resonated through the room, but by now she'd reached her destination.
The others at the table glanced up when she took her place. A couple of them nodded, but no one spoke. That, too, was against the unwritten rules.
Jennifer did dare a whisper to her once lunch was over, though, when the noise of the crowd returning to their study modules provided cover for the message. “We're going running after school...meet us on the deer trail through the Harper's Wood. It's too narrow for them.”
Elizabeth nodded. This time she didn't even try to hide her grin.
When the academy let out that afternoon she maintained the expected distance from the in crowd as they made their exits. But as soon as she was outdoors she ducked behind the building and hurried to the meeting place.
While she waited for the others, Elizabeth peeked out from the safety of the trees. A few in crowd stragglers maneuvered their Quick-Pods down the wide path. Perched on the wide seats of the hovercraft, their corpulent bodies were draped in yards of silken material. Since they didn't walk, gossamer slippers graced their feet. They were the ideal personified.
Elizabeth glanced down at her slim frame, still a little embarrassed but filled with new resolve. She would not change just to meet some advertising ideal. She loved to walk and run, and eat God-foods too much to give those things up.
Even if that made her an outcast.
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