"I have a boyfriend now."
Her balding and middle-aged and certainly not attractive shrink gave her the adult-eyebrow-raise at that.
"Does he know that he's your boyfriend?"
The problem with being a liar is that no one ever looked at Allison straight-on enough to see when she was telling the truth, when she was expanding the truth, or when the truth was off flying somewhere near the rafters. Of course, no one looked at her straight-on enough anyway, except when Claire dressed her up like a fluffball girly thing and the boys that were not Bender had in fact acknowledged her presence as female.
Of course, she didn't look like that now. Her shrink would probably flip, and that's not what his job was.
Invisibility had its benefits. She'd put all the black shit back on--it wasn't worth keeping up with, and she could always do it outside of school if she needed someone to see her again--so she moved through the halls like a ghost. Sometimes even the teachers forgot she was in class. Sometimes she was there, sometimes she wasn't.
Right now she wasn't.
"You talked to her?"
He was smoking something, looking out over the football field, wearing probably more layers than she was. Allison half expected him not to be in school at all, but they had a similar affliction, even if he dealt with it differently than she did.
"Talked to who?" He knew what she meant, even if he didn't seem surprised that she was there.
She snorted. "The girl all the bad boys want."
It had been weeks, in fact, since she'd been in detention. The world hadn't changed. She hadn't changed. But she had a few faces in the crowd she watched now. That had changed. The way Claire's lips downturned after every smile and fake laugh. How Brian talked to himself when he was at his locker. How alone Andy always looked waiting for his dad to pick him up after practice.
And now, the way that Bender lied too.
"Yeah, that's what she thinks. So where's Mr. All-American?"
When Allison smiled, she knew it could either be kind or cruel. Because that's what her mother did, and she looked like her. So Allison smiled.
"That's why I came to see you first. I need a favor."
"I don't owe you nothing."
"No, I owe you. Just listen, ok?"
That got his attention. People probably never admitted debt to him often, and it caught him off guard. Allison was right to assume she'd be able to talk to him. He did acknowledge her first, anyway.
"How do you feel about about getting in a fight?"
When John Bender smiled, it could be either kind or cruel too.
Allison didn't know if Bender had been scared like she was. The week after, when Andy had looked at her she ducked behind the nearest person. She'd told her shrink that a beautiful boy had kissed her and he suggested that she might need medication.
Brian had said hi to her, because Brian didn't know how to lie.
She'd never seen Bender and Claire in the same area of the school, so she didn't know who was scared more. She imagined it was Claire, to make the next part of this much easier.
Her instinct was to squeak, because she didn't really like profanities. But 'hey there pretty coward, the invisible people want to speak to you' really didn't have the effect that she wanted. Which was that sort of shocked look on her face. Like she didn't have a potty mouth.
God, she should have gotten into a cat fight years ago.
School policy was, no matter who started a fight, both people got detention. Even if one of them was as rich as Claire. Rules were really nifty like that sometimes.
Plus, she'd always wanted her lipstick anyway. Kind of hard to get something like that without physical contact.
Evening detention was a lot different than Saturday detention. Vernon wasn't heading it, for one. For another, the room smelled.
Her boyfriend entered first.
Andy looked really confused. And apparently unlike the last time Bender had picked a fight with him, hadn't gotten him into a hold right away. That bruise looked a little painful.
"Allison? You get... bored again?"
She opened her mouth to say something clever, maybe, but that's when Claire stomped in, looking rather put off.
"What the HELL is your problem!"
It was a good thing that the evening detention teacher really didn't give a crap, or else all the yelling that was bound to happen might get them into actual trouble. And she'd probably used her last free pass to the Bender Patented Mayhem, since she hadn't told him that she planned on getting Claire in there too.
He really was easy to read when only shadows were watching. Shock, anger, and then back to that cocky normal expression in 4.5 seconds flat.
"What's wrong, Queenie, someone pull your hair?"
Oh yeah, it was still there. And now that Claire's distraction was there, she could properly talk to Andy. She hadn't been able to get the poof on right, but she remembered the eyeliner trick and stole one of her mom's shirts for something that wasn't black.
While he was looking so cute and confused, she might as well sit on him. "Why didn't you call me?"
"I... don't have your number."
"Oh right. I never answer my phone anyway. Do I look pretty?"
He stopped looking so confused and actually... well, Andy's face wasn't easy to read. But it looked pleasant. "You're really weird, you know that?"
"Can you be my boyfriend now? Since you won't ask me out."
But the shouting had stopped, Bender and Claire were looking at the doorway. Maybe the teacher had come back. And she'd thought that only Vernon cared enough for 'discipline'...
...But it was just Brian.
"I d-demand an explanation."
The first time they had all been together was full of angst, and tragedy, and all sorts of crazy things like that. This time was different because even if they didn't know it, everyone chose to be here. If Claire pushed enough, she could have gotten out of something as trivial as an after-school detention, and so could Andy. Fights happened all the time, you had to do something that affected a lot of people to really make waves.
Or blow up your locker. Or be invisible.
Maybe it was the way Brian had entered, or maybe it was the fact Bender had an easy target again, and Andy had backup, and Claire had someone to talk to that wasn't Bender. But whatever it was, the tensions from before had broken up like someone had just pulled out some weed.
"Oh the dweebs are going to disown you, you're missing Physics Club."
"I can miss up to three meetings with no explanation!"
Andy snickered at that one. Another circle on the floor, like they were kids in elementary school again. And if Allison stopped to think about it, that was what had allowed the guards to go down, if only briefly, and maybe never again. Bender knew it the most, how the circles ran, how shitty it all was. There would be no chances like this again.
She wondered when Brian would lose that, that dorky younger brother thing that either irritated her or made her want to ruffle his hair. She didn't have any siblings, though, so Allison could have just been projecting.
"Aren't you missing practice? Huh? Won't the jocks disown you?"
"I'm actually in detention."
And she knew that it couldn't end like this. Bender knew that too. Maybe that's why he'd agreed to help.
"I think you should quit your stupid clubs." Poor impulse control. That was the fancy term. Sometimes her voice caught in her throat and sometimes it flew out without her thinking about it.
Claire made that little 'o' with her mouth and pretended she wasn't holding Bender's hand. She finally understood that it was more than wanting what they couldn't have, then. No, they were theives.
Andy made a farting noise then, and it was back to business as usual. Attachments intact, except for her.
"So you wanted to be my girlfriend?" His type were never really the Casanovas and if that ever got out people like Brian wouldn't have to make up girlfriends in Canada. Truth was, boys and girls were always awkward with each other. At least from where she was sitting.
"No, I was just telling you that you were my boyfriend."
He scuffed his sneaker on the floor. How they'd gotten here, to where she would finally bat down impulse long enough to talk to him, she didn't know. But she could hear Brian chattering somewhere down the hall, likely cutting in on Claire and Bender's makeout time. She almost wanted to laugh at that.
"So... you want to go somewhere sometime?"
She bit her lip. "I want to go to the ocean. Let's go."
Allison never really had a reason to want to run away so badly. Unsatisfying home lives were one thing, and that was just enough to put the idea in her head. But as the minute Andy hesitated drew out, she'd finally found her reason.
Her shrink would be proud, even if he was going to miss all the money from the sessions. Couldn't have everything, after all.
"Allison that's... I mean, how'd we do that? Why?"
She squared her jaw, and wondered if he made faces like she was making when he was wrestling. "Because it's all just a bunch of stupid clubs. That's why."
Hopefully Brian would take good care of him. That's if Bender didn't kill Brian first.
She almost thought he was a homeless person, the way he blended in with the bus stop. She'd swiped the money from her mom's wallet and wondered if she'd even notice. If there was anything to notice, it was for something important like money.
It had to figure that the last person she saw in Illinois was John Bender.
"Don't." She wasn't quite sure what he was going to do, if anything, but she figured she'd warn him against it anyway.
"Dumb jock won't even know what he's missing."
When she smiled, it could either be kind or cruel. So she smiled. "Yeah, probably."
"Don't let anyone give you any bags. They're probably gangsters or something."
It had to figure that the last person she saw in Illinois almost understood why she was running away. Maybe it wouldn't do anything, but she had to do it. Before something in her just withered and she got attached to things that couldn't stand on their own.
"Don't end up dead."
If there was ever a proper goodbye, that was probably it.
They didn't see her, because Allison could never shake off being invisible. But it wasn't a sad invisible, or a bad one. No, being invisible meant that she could see things that other people didn't. And maybe sometimes she got it down on paper. And sometimes people bought what she put on paper. She didn't like calling it 'art', but it was something that people liked sometimes.
The thing about the coastline was that it kept stretching on and on, even in the winter. But it was summer, so that stretch was a lighter blue and brown. That way she could see their faces.
And she had to say, John Bender and his redheaded girlfriend certainly looked like gangsters.