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|The line was at a stand still. Mark could only see the backs of a couple lower schoolers, but could smell the near by buffet perfectly. The last few hours had been the longest of his life and now there were just a couple of overgrown gold shirts between him and sure satisfaction.
His stomach gurgled at him again. It reminded him that it was hungry, as if Mark had forgotten. His bowels twisted just enough to tell him that not only was he ready to eat, but that his gut knew food as near by. Mark would have been more than happy to eat right then, but to his annoyance, the dimwitted trio didn’t budge. Mark could hear parts of their conversation; none of it sounded important enough to be holding up the line. At least, it wasn't to Mark. So why aren’t they moving?
If anyone had cared to notice the symphony coming from Mark’s stomach, maybe the line would have moved a little faster. It wasn’t only the food, his hunger or the gold shirts that were getting to him though; it was Josh. The past four hours were filled with worry over his friend. Mark still couldn’t shake the incredible guilt and embarrassment for what had happened on the bus. Each time he tried, he would hide his face underneath his hair and just want to cry. Of course, no one noticed, but for once, Mark was glad that they didn’t.
However, in this moment, Mark felt like screaming at the people ahead of him until finally the line began to move again. The gossip squad was either done for now or at least had grown enough of a brain to move along the buffet. Grabbing a large, red, plastic tray, Mark eagerly awaited his chance to start pilling on the food. His mouth let out a small glint of drool. Like a starved dog, he was ready to eat.
The trio moved further down the line, opening Mark to all the choices a wealthy Academy had to offer. As he worked his way down, he must have taken at least two of everything: a sandwich here, some salad there, a bag of chips off to the side, and so forth. Finally, he had made it to the end of the row and the three lower schooler’s had checked out. As they moved out of the way, the cashier, who was a woman in her mid forties it seemed, got her first glance at the mound that was Mark’s lunch.
He glanced up at her through his wavy hair, noticing the silent, accusatory disapproval on her face. She reminded him of one of those nosy neighbors you would see on TV. On any other day, it might have embarrassed him some, but on any other day, he wouldn’t be this hungry.
Setting his tray down next to her register, he pulled out his student ID and handed it to the embittered woman. Ripping the card out of his hand, she glared at the picture on the ID. It seemed to Mark that she was almost hoping that this wasn’t his ID, and all because of a little food. Well, who was Mark kidding? It was a lot of food, but still, she had no right to be sending him through the ringer just because of his selection.
The cashier seemed disappointed that the picture did resemble Mark. There was the same long hair nearly covering his face with a glint of green in his eyes. This allowed the irritated woman to ring up all the items on Mark’s tray. It took a while to punch it all in, but most of that was because she was now intent on making sure every piece of food got rung up. She shuffled the food with her eyes, making sure to get every last bread crumb.
Finally, she swiped his card and handed it back to him. As he put the ID away, a rather long receipt printed out next to her station. She quickly ripped it off, throwing it into Mark’s hands. Rather than getting even more frustrated at her, he just tried to let it go. Folding up the receipt, his slipped it into his pocket. Mark picked up his tray, his two drinks and now needed to find a seat.
Emerging from the row of registers Mark had been staled at, he began contemplating where to sit. He slowly walked through the littered sea of round and squared off tables, many of which were already filled students. Mark either wanted to sit outside or in one of the secluded corners. Despite the foyer like appearance of the cafeteria, there were one or two corners that hid from the vast windows, giving Mark his predestined seclusion.
The sun had trouble shining in through the clouds, but that did not detour Mark from picking his final spot outside. It was unlike Mark to sit outside, but for some reason, he wanted to. Crossing the lake of wine red carpet, Mark pressed his back against one of the glass doors. These lead to a nicely sized courtyard of stone tables and benches, many of which were deserted. In fact there was only one other person outside. Mark couldn’t get a good look at him since his back was turned. All he could see was his straight black hair that hung just above his shoulders. Along with him, there was an occasionally breath of wind followed by the chirps of various birds. All in all, it was a fairly peacefully, though sullen day.
Though he was in a new setting, he still had seclusion. Sitting far away from his black haired companion, Mark had set down his backpack beside him and was finally face to face with his glorious meal. This is what he had been waiting for ever since he left his house this morning: the chance to be full.
It took him no longer than it does a shark to smell blood for him to tear into his food. With quick hurried bites, Mark began devouring everything on his tray. His sandwiches were reduced to crumbs in mere minutes; chips became crumpled balls of packaging. As he ate, Mark could feel his stomach fill up like it had this morning, but even more so. His small belly quickly filled with all of the food rushing to it, making it stretch out his skin as it inflated. His thin stomach pudged out further as more food slid down. Mark had wiped out everything but the desserts on his plate before slowing up a bit. This gave his overfilled stomach a moment to catch up.
The little pudge that had swollen bellow his naval receded back into him. Mark couldn’t see it obviously, but he rubbed his belly with his hand and could actually feel his stomach flatten back out. This odd sensation and reaction didn’t scare him as much as he thought it would. Actually, Mark thought he was onto something. This was just like when he had fed in the kitchen earlier today. He ate past the point of what his stomach could normally hold, yet it held anything Mark threw its way. I think it’s like a furnace. I bet I could keep eating and it would just… collect for later use. He grinned at the notion and thought it was rather ingenious. Mark had never solved a problem like that before and he actually took a split second to relish in it, finishing with, So, maybe, if I eat enough, I won’t tumble over in pain the next time.
However, unlike his revelation about his new relationship with food, Mark was less pleased with what he had just thought. Crouching over on his bench, his mood lowered with him. “If there is a next time,” he muttered.
The thought of a ‘next time’ only sent waves of uneasiness through him. What had happened on the bus had left him shaken, and despite every attempt to get rid of these feelings, Mark still felt as if his friendship with Josh was hanging in the balance. The many hours that had passed brought him no closer to any kind of resolution. All he had was a filled stomach, a nearly empty tray, and no idea of what to do about Josh.
I completely wrecked it with my friend. I mean, I erupted on that bus like some kind of animal. I lost control and couldn’t…
Mark had to stop thinking. The terror of how he had emasculated himself was too much. Instead, Mark slowly fed on a large brownie. He slowly gnawed on it, only swallowing occasionally. His bites were small, and drawn out. The dessert hung from his mouth, just out of reach of his hand when Mark just stopped. All he could see was Josh’s face in his mind. Josh was flashing that perfect smile of his right at Mark. It was the one that made him feel better when he was down. It was the same smile that assured him that everything would be ok, even if it didn’t seem so.
“…I’ll always be there.”
Mark couldn’t hear the words; he could feel them. Mark hadn’t realized earlier, but he was clutching his new necklace through his polo. He could feel the dulled point of the M’s arrow poking into his hand. Something about holding that necklace, seeing Josh’s face and remembering those words gave new vigor to Mark. It made him grin with assurance that this would work out; that there was a happy ending in here somewhere.
Unfortunately, the brownie wasn’t so luck. As Mark’s mouth began to spread, the brownie that his lips had been so carefully holding fell out of their grasp and landed on the ground. It had fallen between his legs and tumbled off the stone bench. This startled him, but Mark couldn’t help but laugh at himself. He must have looked pretty silly having a big brownie hanging out of his mouth like a pack of freshly lit cigarettes.
Mark bent around the stone table, picking up the brownie to set it back on his tray. He had thought that maybe the other guy had noticed this little mishap, but he was gone. It must have been while he was reminiscing over all of this. All the while, Mark hadn’t let go of his necklace. He was like a small child holding his security blanket. Without thinking, he unsheathed the silver chain and symbol from his shirt, displaying it proudly around his neck. Something told him that everything was going to be ok. For a brief moment, he felt safe.
Mark was brought out of his trance by the sound of tones coming from the intercom. He knew what that meant: the last of the lunches was over. Collecting all of his stuff and throwing away the remains of his meal, Mark stared down at his present from Josh.
Josh had said earlier that this would bring him luck, and he hoped that was true. Mark still wasn’t sure what he was going to do, or what he was going to say. Last period was coming; something was going to have to be done. However, in some strange way, Mark felt that if he needed any help, he could just look to his sign for guidance.
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