Chapter 20: A Flash of ColourMature

Narrator: Bastien "Bass" Barlow


More bodies pressed into us from behind, as if merely pushing forward would somehow allow passage.  The caf line was packed more than usual.  It apparently had something to do with a sauce shortage for the Monday Pasta.

"Silly humans," Juliet muttered.

"You can't blame them, really," I said, unsure if I was arguing for the sake of arguing or merely defending strangers.  "It's not like they know any better."

Juliet shrugged.  "Anyways, where was I?"  She turned back to Edward and continued her conversation about some sort of Mecha anime. Gundam... something.  I wasn't sure, my thoughts were elsewhere.

I absent-mindedly brought a finger to my teeth.  I'd stopped biting my nails ages ago, but I still had the habit of putting my fingers to my mouth.  I was quite inattentive, so It took a moment or two before I realized that Pavel was saying something to me, trying to catch my attention.

He gestured at my hands, speaking with only a hint of a Russian tongue "Hey, Bass.  What are those?"

I glanced down at my hand.  My sleeves were long enough to cover my fingers -- another habit -- but this one had slid down enough to reveal red fabric with a hint of orange.

"Oh, umm.  These?  They're, uh,  arm warmers."  I pulled up the sleeve self-consciously.  Wearing rainbows was a daring move, one I wasn't sure I was ready to make.  Stupid me.

Juliet's attention swung over to me like a gunshot.  "Arm warmers?  Bass is wearing arm warmers?  Lemme see."  Without warning, she reached over and pulled the sleeve down to reveal the rainbows in their colourful glory.

A silence fell over the four of us, probably emphasized only in my mind, and I could feel my face flushing redder and redder.

"Yeah.  I, um, wanted to wear some..."

Juliet looked from my face, to the arm warmers, and back again.  She smirked and gave me a thumbs up.  Her words were playful, "I'm not surprsed."

"Wait a moment," Edward said, "Aren't rainbows, well, gay?"

Juliet coughed and elbowed his side.  It was almost as if the party hadn't happened; the two were as chummy as ever.

"What was that for?"

"Oh don't be a 'phobe"

"A what?"

"A homophobe!"

On Juliet's last syllable, the cafeteria worker moved the desk aside to allow passage through the door and we shuffled into the cafeteria servery.  As usual, it was a tad too hot and a tad too sticky.  Edward and Pavel made way towards the fries and burgers, but before I could follow them Juliet grabbed my arm and held me back.

I turned to her in surprise but she cut me off before I could say anything.


"Pardon me?"

"Congrats for coming out!"

"I haven't exactly-"

"No need to!  I've known all along"  She nudged me in the side in a way clearly more playful than how she elbowed Edward.  Her attention left me for a moment as she ordered a wrap, and I took the moment to escape.  I walked away, opening one of the fridges and probing it's depths for a chocolate milk.

I hadn't truly planned for anyone to see the arm warmers.  Sure, if I didn't want anyone to notice them, the logical and rational choice would have been to not wear them, but I had figured my long sleeves would do their job.  Something had made more sense when I bought them the previous day, something more liberating.

As I searched my wallet for $1.80 for the milk, I heard another voice calling my name.  It was Pavel again, now accompanied by a tinfoil-covered cheeseburger and a coke.

"Rainbow arm warmers, eh?" he said, more of a statement then a question.

"Yeah, not sure what I was thinking.  Looks kinda gay."  I laughed nervously.

"No, no.  It's cool."

My response was merely a perplexed expression, eyebrows trying their hardest to meet.  It was his turn to laugh, and somehow it made me more relaxed.  His laughter was gravelly and for some reason I found it soothing.  I didn't notice I was looking at his smiling face for too long until Juliet elbowed me once again.

"You ditched me!"

"Did not!"

"Did too, but it's okay.  I forgive you."  Her casual smile was also reassuring, but not in the same way as Pavel's mirth.

We waited for Edward outside the servery, and when he at last finished paying for his burger we began our stroll over to the group's table on the other side of the cafeteria.

No one spoke a word on the way, and it made me feel as if the entire student body could see through my sleeves to the revealing colours underneath.

The End

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