Zoya didn’t sit with Alice and Zee at lunch the next day. And she didn’t even think to tell them this beforehand, she just left Zee and Alice waiting for her by Zee’s locker where they met up every day. They waited until they were the last people in the hall and eventually decided she could catch up with them if she was coming.
She wasn’t coming.
When they finally got through the lunch line and found an empty end of a lunch table to sit at (quite a feat, considering that they were nearly last in line), they saw her. She was sitting with Tara and her friends, laughing her head off. Zee and Alice shared a look, then silently began to eat.
They exchanged some conversation, but most of lunch was them watching Zoya laughingly converse with Tara and her friends, occasionally theorizing and trying to figure out what was going on.
Neither of them had a good explanation, so a lot of the time was just spent in silence as they stared at their lukewarm chicken sandwiches, occasionally looking over to see Tara’s whole gang talking suspiciously and glancing over at Zee. Zoya was no exception to the giggling going on.
As usual, nobody could really hear themselves think in the din of the cafeteria, but Zee could have sworn she could hear every secret or embarrassing thing she’d ever told Zoya spilling out into the open, from the time she peed her pants in Kindergarten to her fourth grade crush...
Zee could only see the back of Tara’s head, but she could just tell the girl was soaking in everything with an evil grin behind the giggling face. She looked away and pushed her mushy broccoli into her chocolate milk. A little brown drop splashed on the table. Alice handed her a napkin. They both looked over to Zoya again.
Zoya apparently felt their gaze, because she looked over, made cool eye contact, and turned away, laughing. Zee felt like the wind had just been knocked out of her, like one glare was as strong as a punch to the stomach.
She pushed away her tray, not even willing to play with her food anymore.
Alice gave her a sympathetic look. “They might not be talking about you,” she said, as the entire clan of girls looked over and exploded into more peals of laughter, loud enough to be heard over the chaotic chatter echoing in the room.
“Yeah, maybe,” Zee said dispassionately, stabbing her apple with her fork. Seeing this, the other table burst into laughter, even louder than before. Zee looked over, just in time to see Zoya’s lips say “She’s so weird,” and laugh along.
A lump forming in Zee’s throat, she stood up, threw away her barely touched food, and walked out of the cafeteria.