Some Things Just Don't Belong

"You've changed!" she barked through the phone.

I must've, because instead of being hurt or worried I was just a little taken with the corniness of the phrase.

"Well," I replied, "that's probably true." I rolled to my other side and looked at the wall. It was covered in little pockmarks and pencil marks.

"I don't even know you anymore, Pearl." Goodness, I thought. One after the other.

"Sorry," I answered. "I'm not quite sure what you want me to say."

"You don't even leave your house. When was the last time you walked outside? When was the--"

"Yesterday actually. I was out of milk so I went to the corner shop."

"This is what I mean!" she yelled through the little holes in my receiver. "Why are you so dimmed out? What's with this mellow attitude?"

"I've always been a mellow fellow, Malo…ry." I stretched out the elastic center of her name and pressed my fingertip to one of the pencil lines on the wall. If my hand, with writing implement brandished, had been a drooling monster leaping all over the place, this little mark was surely a violent stroke of spittle that had collided with the wall in the frenzy.

"Seriously, you are scaring me. What is wrong with you?"

I decided not to answer this one since I was really not sure myself. Instead I began to count the spots on the wall.

"Pearl."

Seven, eight, nine, ten…

"Pearl!"

"Shhh, I'm counting."

"Pearl, what the f*** are you counting? Oh my god. What are you doing?!" Her voice had become a frenzied monster of its own.

"Don't worry Malory, it's just spit. It's just spit marks. On my wall."

"I am coming over."

I stopped tracing the darkness on the wall. My hands gripped the blankets, and I pushed myself to an upright position.

"Don't do that, Malory. If you must, at least go on Autumn Street."

"That's the long way, Pearl. What is wrong with the usual way? Is there something going on? You have to tell me."

"No. Just give the used bookstore a wide berth."

"Um… you're really freaking me the f*** out."

"I tend to do that to people, so don't even worry about it. It's probably better if you don't come over."

"I don't get it. What's wrong with the store, Pearl?"

I looked across the room onto my desk. It was the most organized it had been in years, due to the fact that I had begun to clean my room every day starting at noon (and ending around one thirty, just in time for lunch!) My mirror was propped up against the wall. I had made the frame of the mirror myself in day camp when I was around nine years old. We'd been given flat slabs of clay, cut into the proper shape, and a bunch of stamps to press into it. We'd also received several different kinds of glazes we could paint it with. A lot of kids went all out, with all the stamps they could find and as many glazes they could dab on. I went with one stamp and one glaze. You see? Always been mellow.

I could see my reflection in the mirror. The frame rose up and around me like an arch.

"You're probably right, actually. There's nothing much wrong with it. It's the same as it always was. I'm the one who changed, like you said," I said. "Since you're still the same, or the same enough to have detected the change in me, then it will probably have no effect on you." Pleased with my logic, I nodded my head towards the sitting figure reflected in the glass. I could hear Malory take a deep breath through the phone, and I could imagine perfectly what her face looked like at the moment. I imagined her poised at her bedroom door, her hair in an unfurling bun, trying to sort through the things I was saying to her. I felt a little bad for a moment, wishing I could go back and join her in the pleasant world I'd apparently recently graduated from.

"How does the used bookstore affect you?" she asked, struggling to keep the impatience and frustration from dripping out from the cracks in between each individual word. It didn't work too well, because I could hear it color the spaces a deep magenta.

"I don't know how to explain it, Malory. Have you ever heard of fatal attraction?"

"I don't get it. Do you want to buy a lot of books?"

"That's not quite it."

"Uhh… are you in love with someone who works there? Is it that Italian guy? You could really do better, Pearl, I head he's--"

"No that's not quite it either."

"I don't get it. Please try to explain it. I'm really worried about you."

It was my turn to sigh into the space separating us. This was one of those things I knew perfectly well in my mind but could really not translate it into words and noises.

"Once I step in, it will be a life changing experience. A whirl of wind. A trial and and a quest. A new foothold. And I have no clue what to wear."

"What are you saying."

"Basically…" I puffed out some air from my lungs. I imagined it whooshing forth and around to meet the spots on the wall. "I really really really need to work there."

I couldn't even hear her breathe.

"Excuse me?" came her voice.

"I need to get a job there, Malory."

"You've been sitting around at home for a week because you want a job at the used bookstore?"

She doesn't understand, but it's to be expected: people who live in two different worlds usually run into some comprehension problems.

"I guess if you were to translate it into such, um, simple vocabulary, yes."

"You don't even like books that much!"

"That's true, I didn't at all."

"You don't even like English class! You got As in math!"

"That is also true."

"What the HELL, Pearl."

"You don't understand. When I see it I just have this feeling like I'm going to spend at least the next five years at the peeling cream counter ringing up worn tomes."

"Is this a joke? Because this is pretty f***ed up."

"Anyway what should I wear? You're right that it's been a while. I think I'm probably ready."

"What the hell, Pearl. Just wear a skirt and that shirt that you have with the buttons."

"The yellow one or the brown one?"

"The brown one."

"Alright."

"I have to go to Jim's. I guess I'll call you later."

"Bye, Malo-ry."

I could hear her mutter "what the hell" one last time as she drew the phone away from her mouth in order to press the end call button.

Thank goodness, I thought. It's all been sorted out.





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