Chapter 19: Cryptic BanterMature

Narrator: Frith Gryms


I could tell that my request had done nothing but cause her to turn off her flash. Though miffed, I liked how she knew just how to get what she wanted.


The blank, lined page in front of CJ was staring back at him with longing. And all he could manage right now was to tap his fingers against the rings of his binder tentatively.

I dipped another chunk of pineapple into the container of whip cream that sat between my brother and I. Not soon after, I was gnashing it into tiny, tasty fibers.

Evelyn watched me chew with curiosity. And then, her camera came up, and snapped a quick candid of Jankin's eyes rolling into the back of his head as he bit into a strawberry.

"Crop me out," I requested.

"Can do," Evelynn answered.

"Kaywinnit Lee Frye, much?" asked CJ, looking at Evelyn.

She nodded.

I missed the reference entirely.

Jankin looked up, "What's this about Kaylie?"

Evelyn and Christina burst into hysterical, coquettish laughter.

My lips pursed of their own accord, and I dug my nails into the table.

"Ow!" said CJ.

"I-I'm sorry, I thought my hand was over the table," I stammered, looking at the red marks on CJ's lower wrist.

"Wait," he said, closing his eyes and drawing in a slow and calming breath. His voice suddenly seemed tranquil, "Do that again."

I frowned, and looked over at his face. "Come again?"

"Do it again, please..." he said wistfully.

"Mmm..." said Evelyn, as she stared intently at CJ with a face that betrayed her understanding. I coveted that understanding. Understanding is something I always search for in life.

"Just... do it," his voice became acid.

A chunk of cantaloupe beckoned to me, and my lips watered. Ignoring it, I moved my left hand down his right forearm, and lightly pressed my polished black nails against his skin. "Here?"

"Anywhere," he said, eyes still closed.

For a moment, I pictured blood dropping upon the page that lay just beyond his arm. I forced myself to ignore the chunk of cantaloupe that now connected Jankin and Christina, dripping down her modest chin. I dug in as suddenly as I had the first time, and looked away from CJ's face.

Evelyn chuckled, presumably with sadistic pleasure. "What's the verdict, sunshine?"

"Heh... heh... heh heh...."

"Hey, it's not fair unless you share!" she said, raising an arm as if to slap him.

I finally allowed myself to look at him. His long nose flared, skin folded upon itself at its corners, below light brown eyebrows that seemed intent upon pushing each other off his face. There was a twisted grin on his face.

Evelyn slapped him, cleanly across the face, for reasons unknown to me.

I looked up at her afterwards, head tilted down in shadow but making what must have been firm eye contact. Though I could not see his face, he did something that made his whole scalp wiggle.

Then she smiled in delight, at some unspoken exchange of non-verbal cues, perhaps a raising of his brow. Evelyn promptly began to chew on her pen.

CJ turned to me, and his calm blue eyes bulged with a distracting intensity. "I know."

Damn it! I could tell from the look in his eyes that something had betrayed me. Now, I had to play with his doubts. How could I be so foolish?

Evelyn laughed, with the pen still in her mouth, causing it to point upward at an odd angle. And that, only elicited more laughter.

"You turn roser than Lucas," said CJ. "You've never been so naked, have you?"

I narrowed my eyes, "What is it that you think you know, preacher's boy?"

He drew back, "Who told her I'm a pee-kay?"

Grinning, Jankin raised his hand as he pulled away from Christina's face, "I think I may know this!"

"Mmm-mmm-mm!" mmm'd Christina, gesturing wildly from CJ to Jankin as she chewed.

"Oh, brother..." groaned Evelyn.

"This," I said, "is what happens when..."

"Mft-- J-jolene!" Christina blurted.

" don't go to church," I finished.

"Oh, Christ..." said CJ.

"Christ indeed," I said. "Now answer me."

"Good guess, Christina," Jankin praised. "Right on the money. How'd you know?"

"She sold you your toque!" she said, pointing at the black Raise-The-Roof toque under Jankin's left elbow.

"You've been a couple for ten minutes," observed Evelyn, "and you've already got matching toques. Well, at least it's for charity."

"Meh, I can only wear it when my hair's not spiked. It gets used to mold Frith's hair, though."

"Speaking of sharing," Evelyn began.

"What, you'd mind being a dyke?" asked CJ.

I was growing more confused by the second.

"I'd mind if you left my curiosity unsated."

"Sate it yourself," he told her, as he twisted a strand of his air around one finger.

"Not all of us are blessed with your abilities," she said with contempt.

"Well, what if I'm wrong, eh?"

Evelynn shrugged, "Potential castradefenestration, pending potential new jersey."

"Would the two of you care to stop speaking so incomprehensibly?" Lucas complained. "It's getting on my nerves. Just get a marriage, while it's still legal for you heteros, and be done with it."

With unison creaking, Evelyn and CJ both backed their chairs away from the table at once, to put distance between themselves. However, they only managed to make it seem as if they were off to Vegas.

"What's castradefenestration?" asked Jankin.

"No!" admonished Christina. "Don't ask that question! Ever!"

"Ugh," said Lucas. "You say that as if you own a pair. Yikes... Ow! Don't kick me."

"Sorry," she said.

"Oh, I think she has a pair," Evelyn said as she shot a glance at Jankin.

"Will any among you be so kind as to clarify things for me?" requested Jankin.

"Trust me, Jack-o, ya don't wanna know," I said, before dropping a cream-covered strawberry into my mouth.

"The cafeteria line-up must be hell, right now," said CJ.

"What I don't understand, Junior," Evelyn stated, "is how you plan to write once everyone else is around."

He shrugged. "Cocktail party syndrome?"

"With Frith over your shoulder?"

"What's cocktail party syndrome?" I asked.

"It's how anyone who can manages to focus in this cafeteria," put in Christina. "Ignoring all the background noise, the smells, the sights; all that is distracting; so that they can read a book, write an essay or... focus so intently upon the leg under the table that's touching them."

"Am I took close?" Jankin asked.

"The wimmins, they like the cocksure lads, they does," Lucas said in a thick and phony Australian accent.

"Wildlife documentaries, much?" I said.

"Too much," Evelynn corrected.

"I know because I can," came a whisper in my ear.

Creepy bastard. "You don't know anything," I fumed.

"Wait," asked Lucas, "what do you knoooow?"

"Don't!" Evelynn brought a hand to CJ's mouth. Then her voice dropped to a whisper that Lucas surely could not have heard, "Drop any bait, for anyone."

"Fish metaphors, eh?" said CJ. "You're not thinking that..." In silence, a look of shock crossed CJ's face, causing him to fall back into his chair.

Her eyes, through her flat-brimmed reading glasses, threatened to sever his neck.

"If I helped her pull in a marlin," he paused for a sidelong glance, "what's left in the sea?"

"Rainbow bass."

CJ chucklesnorted, and then moved a hand, held flat, in front of his mouth, to express the silence he was forcing himself to endure. Then he opened his mouth, "You're not going to make Frith and chips?"

Fwap! She slapped him across the face.

"Don't worry," Christina said to me. "Those two are always like that."

"That's what worries me," I said, now realizing that Lucas and Jankin had switched places. There was a larger, thicker hand quite like my own, with those same black nails, tangling its fingers between hers.

"Don't go out of your way to decrypt their lingo. It's not worth the effort."

"Their lingo seemingly threatens to betray my enigmatic nature."

"Our lingo," CJ said, "is too ambiguous to do so with any certainty."

"No pleasure?" Evelyn asked.

"None at all," he said, both reassuringly and in a forlorn voice.

Her nails pinched sharply right above his left elbow.

He closed his eyes, breathing slowly.

I had no idea what they were doing.

"And?" she asked him.

"Freak," I said.

He smiled, "Enough that I can sense it. You've got nothing on either of them."

"What if you didn't know who it was? Maybe you shouldn't put so much trust in your conclusion," Evelyn cautioned him.

"Blindfolded, hands over ears, I could flawlessly tell the difference between Jolene and Davina."

"Who's Davina?"

"Davi's a friend of Jolene's."

Evelyn chuckled, "And there's a perceptible difference between Jolene and Davi?"

"Oh, fuck you, Evelyn," he said. "She converts nothing. You sicken me."

"Admit it, you'd compare Penny and Crystal if you had the chance!"

"N-no, and besides, Penny's in a relationship and her team's colours are all-inclusive. Saruman's robe. Jacob and the-"

"Aahhhh!" I screamed, though I was dampening my volume for the sake of the cafeteria and its patroling teachers. "Stop it!"

"How about a paper cut from that letter?" she suggested.

"This isn't psychometry!"

"Ahhhhh!" I screamed again.

I wanted to understand them, so badly. I wanted the sheer intellectual stimulus I knew was hidden in their words, I just couldn't pick up on it. I felt stupid, against all reason, even though I'd probably be joining them after a week, speaking fluently in marvelous code.

"Okay, let's stop now. Frith's losing it."

"Shit, Frith, there's hair in your hands," CJ realized.

I looked down, much calmer now, "Oh, so there is. Well, don't worry, it's not real."


"Yeah, CJ?"

"You can stop pinching me now."

The End

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