Drop of Doubt

By: C.L. Stone

UNDER THREAT OF A BIRTHDAY


My phone buzzed to life in my bra.

My head shot up from the English textbook we were supposed to be reading. Kota was bent over his desk in front of me and didn’t appear to notice. I was afraid to glance at Gabriel in case I was going to distract him. I wasn’t sure what Luke was doing behind me, but since he wasn’t messing with my hair and he hadn’t nudged me in a while, he must actually have been reading, or maybe he was wrapped up in another daydream.

I didn’t like having my phone out in class, but the only people who had my number were Academy guys. They wouldn’t send a text during class unless it was an emergency.

I slipped the phone out of the cup of my bra and used Kota’s back as a shield just in case I drew attention from Ms. Johnson, the English teacher.



Victor: Isn’t your birthday this week? What do you want for your birthday?



My mouth popped open. Victor! That wasn’t an emergency.

I was tempted not to answer him. I checked the date on the phone. He was right. My birthday was in a few days. I hadn’t noticed. It was also not important right now.

My fingers hovered over the illuminated keyboard. It was hard not to respond. Ignoring him felt rude. I simply didn’t know what to say.

Kota shifted in front of me, twisting in his chair. I jumped, startled that he’d noticed, and tried to tuck my phone in my lap.

Kota snagged the phone from me before I could get it under the desk.

I bit back a surprised noise. Kota didn’t approve of using a phone in class and was trying to prevent my getting into trouble. I couldn’t disagree with him. I got into enough trouble at school. How’d he know?

A motion in my peripheral vision caught my attention. I glanced over to find a smug Gabriel, half leaning over his desk. His eyes were intent on my phone tucked between Kota’s hands.

Nosy! He must have tattled. When it came to the boys, there was little I could get away with. They seemed to notice everything.

I slowly raised my eyes to check on the teacher. Ms. Johnson was sitting at her desk, hunched over a collection of paperwork, making notes. I crossed my fingers the boys wouldn’t get into trouble for fooling around.

Kota’s head bent down and, from the angle, I could tell he was checking my phone. It was Victor’s fault anyway for texting during class time about something so trivial. What choice did I have, but to check if one of them sent me a text? Maybe Kota would let Victor know he shouldn’t do that during school unless it was an emergency.

Kota twisted in his chair again, facing me for longer this time. His eyebrows drew together behind his black-rimmed glasses in a puzzled expression.

I raised an eyebrow at him, confused.

A thunderous siren erupted from the overhead speakers. My palms instinctively covered my ears and I ducked slightly.

“Fire alarm,” Ms. Johnson called. “Let’s go. Leave your things.”

This command was ignored as the entire classroom slapped their books shut, grabbed book bags and made a beeline for the exit. Maybe it would have been safer to simply run if there was a fire, but no one wanted to leave their book bags unattended. Not in this school.

Kota was still twisted in his chair, looking back at me with my phone in his hands. “Why didn’t you tell me?” he shouted over the siren and the chatter of other students as they filed out of the classroom.

“Tell you what?” I asked, though probably not loud enough for him to hear.

“What’s going on?” Gabriel asked.

I was picking up my book bag when Luke’s hand shot out. He collected my bag, slipping it over his shoulder with his own. “This isn’t another one of those Friday Fall things, right? It isn’t Friday, is it?”

Kota stuffed my phone into his pocket, pulling his things together. He talked to the others over the siren and the students shuffling out the door. “Sang’s birthday is this week.”

Gabriel’s eyes bounced open. “Holy shit. Are you fucking kidding me?”

Luke paused halfway to the door. He turned to me. “What day?”

A contorted sigh escaped my lips. “Guys! Fire alarm? We’re supposed to go outside.”

“North is going to flip out,” Luke said. “I don’t think he knows.”

I groaned.

“Why didn’t anyone say anything?” Gabriel asked. “How am I supposed to ... god damn shit.” He kicked the door open and stomped out of the classroom.

I followed the others, trailing behind them as they started talking amongst themselves. The morning air had a heady chill. A thick overcast sky hung overhead. October in the South might have been warmer than what I would have gotten back in Illinois, but South Carolina couldn't escape winter weather forever. I folded my arms over my stomach to reserve a little body heat in the cold shadows of the buildings.

Streams of other students were heading out toward the parking lot. I followed along with the guys toward a grass yard on the other side of the lot. It was strange to see the majority of the student population on this thin strip of land. Two thousand students huddled together, most relieved that class had been interrupted.

“Stay here,” Kota said, dropping his book bag on the ground. He nodded to Gabriel. “Keep an eye on her.”

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