Steam was rising inside of her. Bobby could feel it inching up from her chest, into her neck, and through her cheeks. She was sure it would burst out the top of her head if she held it in much longer.
The girl released her vice grip on the table before her and smeared sweaty palms over her stanch white overcoat. A beaker of foamy liquid bubbled in front of her, its colorful concoction rising through the narrow glass neck and inching near the rim, resembling the boiling vapor in her head. She set her eyes on the mess of chemicals and stared hard. Behind her, the giggles were growing as well. They were getting louder, bolder.
But she wouldn’t turn around.
“I think she cuts her hair that short to look like a boy. It’s, like, longish boy’s hair.”
“And why doesn’t she dye it? She could use a few streaks of color in all that black.”
The whispers were taunting.
Bobby refused to finger her thick, ear-length hair. Smooth, silky ebony that looked so much like her mother’s ... or so her Daddy told her. But she wouldn’t defend her hair.
She wouldn’t turn around.
The giggles bubbled at the table behind her. Slime green, chemical liquid bubbled at the table in front of her. Her steaming anger hissed louder than both.
Bobby squeezed her fingers into her palms, balling them into rock-solid fists. Fists just like her Daddy’s in the days he used to box. A question that she had once asked him jumped into her mess of thoughts.
“Daddy, what makes you fight so good?” She was only a little girl at the time. Her soft, ebony bangs had hung lightly over an innocent face.
Daddy had brushed aside the silky bangs and stared intently into her bright, little eyes. It was a somber, honest stare. He hadn’t sugarcoated his answer. “Sweetie, I fight good because I store up all the anger and all the hurt from the bad things that have happened to us, and when it’s all built up so much that it can’t go anywhere else ... I let it out through my fists.”
Derisive whispers still sliced through the air. Bobby stared at her experiment.
“She doesn’t wear eye liner or anything.”
“I know, right? It’s like she’s never even heard of makeup!”
Bobby closed her eyes. She wouldn’t wear makeup for at least another three years. Not until she was seventeen. She was too young, Daddy said. And she was pretty enough without it that, well ... boys would come knocking.
I won’t turn around, Bobby seethed inwardly. I don’t care what they say. I won’t turn around.
Burning eyes glanced down to knotted fists. Bobby remembered the day Daddy said he wasn’t fighting anymore.
“I’ve found something better.” His eyes had sparkled like never before. Bobby had searched them for their usual rigid sadness, but it was gone. “I’ve found Someone who will take the anger and hurt away. I don’t have to hold it in or let it out on others.”
The present whispers were barbs to her thoughts.
“She even has a boy’s name!”
Her fists tightened. Harder, harder. Fingernails dug into her flesh. Daddy doesn’t want me to fight anymore. He wants me to give it up like he did. To give everything to Jesus.
She couldn’t. She couldn’t turn ...
“I heard that her mother is a druggy and they don’t even know where she lives.
“No wonder she acts so boyish. She doesn’t know how to be a girl because all she has for a parent is that ex-boxer father of hers.”
Bobby spun around with all the force of a bullwhip. “Don’t talk that way about my Dad.”
The girls cast a snobbish look of disgust in her direction. One of them popped a wad of bubblegum with a loud smack. “Freedom of speech. We’ll talk about whatever we want.”
Slime green liquid erupted over the beaker’s edge as Bobby introduced her fist to her classmate’s face.
Slouching in a firm-backed chair, Bobby glanced at the clock on the principal’s desk.
Daddy would be there any minute.
“I’m sorry, Daddy.” An agonized whisper tumbled softly into the empty room. The girl looked down at her knotted fists. With ebony strands falling over her face she slowly, finally let them free.
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