“If you were to describe yourself in three words, what would they be?” Olivia asked the boy next to her, swiveling around to look at him. She couldn’t help but wonder what he would look like in a top-hat, although the substantial pimple on his chin ruined the image. Turning away in disgust, she suddenly remembered that she’d asked something.
The girl next to her didn’t know, apparently, or at least couldn’t be bothered to answer. Olivia was sure it was something important, though. Something about… “Oh, that’s right. We still need one more!”
The teacher, lecturing in the front of the room, spared a glance away from his precious equations to glower at her. The girl beside her – Charlotte or Caroline, or at least something with a ‘C’, although what that really meant, Olivia would never understand – giggled softly at something on the screen of her phone. She had to hold it behind her backpack, up on the desk, so the teacher couldn’t see it.
Why she would want to bother talking to the little machine, Olivia might never know.
Laying her head on the table, she looked out the window and watched the leaves blow in the light breeze, changing the pattern of the shadows on the glass, until the bell rang. But that idea, that she could find the last one, was still fresh in Olivia’s mind.
“If you could be anything, what would it be,” she asked the girl with a locker next to hers.
“Hmm, I don’t know, ‘Liv. Maybe a doctor. They make a lot of money.”
Olivia thought for a moment. “No, that’s not right. We don’t need a doctor.” She walked away, combination lock still dangling from her fingers.
She was exiting the building, the lock still in hand, when she saw them walk by. “Zack, Blake!” she shouted, running to catch up. It wasn’t hard, considering how slowly they traveled. “If you could have a pet, what color would it be?”
Zack just laughed and brushed her off, but he stopped when Blake did. Olivia had always liked Blake, liked the way he looked at her like she was normal. There was none of the pity she saw in every other pain of eyes. Maybe it was because they were both broken inside, even if it was in different ways.
“White,” he finally answered, voice slightly slurred. Olivia looked closer, stepping right up to him so she could really see his face. It was bruised, she noticed, his lip split. The way his eyes were rimmed in black looked like a raccoon, and she couldn’t help but smile as she reached up to touch one of his cuts.
“Somebody touched my friend,” Olivia whispered, drawing back. “They must be punished.” Surprisingly, it was Zack who grabbed her arm before she could go look for the culprit. He shook his head wordlessly, and she turned back to Blake, but her mind was elsewhere. Actually, it was in the parking lot, trying to decide if she could fit the L11583 sniper rifle she kept compartment designed for spare tires into her backpack.
Her thoughts flitting back and forth between her gun and her quest, Olivia bounced away, heading for her next class. Now that she was focused on something, nothing was going to interfere with her.
Next was… psychology. It was a useless class, she was sure. Even if she’d never actually been there before. Every few steps, she stopped to ask someone nearby a question. She just needed to find the perfect answer, and she’d have her suggestion. The others would have to listen to it. Olivia was sure they would understand that she’d thought it through, that it was important, and she wouldn’t pick just anyone.
The girl next to her in class looked like a little kid. She had eyes too big for her face, and a chin just a little too sharp. Olivia liked her. She didn’t wear makeup to hide herself behind a layer of paint. But she hid behind a lot of other things.
“If you could talk to one person, who would it be,” she asked her table-partner. The little girl – a freshman, Olivia was sure – looked at her with huge, scared eyes.
“I don’t want to talk to anyone.”
“If you could be a plant, what plant would you be?”
The girl paused before answering this time, her pencil tapping against the table. Olivia glanced at it and saw lines across her arm. She didn’t know what they were, but somehow they were fascinating, all silver and white and pale. Pretty, almost.
“I would be a mushroom,” she finally answered. Olivia knew she must look skeptical, but she couldn’t help it. Why would anyone want to be a mushroom? The girl read her mind, it seemed, and continued. “They grow best on dead things, and people ignore them most of the time. They aren’t like flowers or fruits, that get picked and killed. They get left alone. And most of them are poisonous.”
Olivia grabbed the girl’s arm and gave her a hug. She felt her flinch, practically jumping out of her skin, but held on tight. Humming happily, she let go and started doodling on her paper, drawing a circle of mushrooms over a picture of a brain.
“Found the last one. Now we can be a family again, and nobody has to be sad anymore.”