Rebecca Hirsch Garcia | Fiction
In the months between eleventh and twelfth grade, at the behest of absolutely no one, Leonard Lawrence lost weight. A lot of it. Sixty-nine pounds to be exact, enough to just about make up one ten year old boy or maybe two four year old ones. If you stuck to averages. Which Leonard did.
Leonard looked it up on his computer, was constantly looking up weird, weight-related things on his computer that summer when he ate next to nothing at all and half of him disappeared in a snap like a vanishing trick. The next to nothing that sustained him, when he binged, usually at night to avoid the questioning stares from his parents, was mostly ice cream (plain chocolate preferably) and room temperature cokes (the ones that came in cans with the tabs he could twist and then snap). Sometimes, for variety, he would throw a bag of salted potato chips into the mixture. He would sit there in the dark of his room, lit by the flicker of his computer, choking down the nauseatingly delicious mixture until there was nothing left and then he would stack the cartons and cans in a neat pyramid at the back of his closet and carefully fold and pleat the empty chip bags into his bottom sock drawer. Sometimes in his weight related internet prowling he would stumble across material which detailed the symptoms of eating disorders and Leonard would skim them, allowing the faint feeling of recognition to flutter across his mind for one unsettling second even as he was reaching with his mouse to X out of the tab. No one in Leonard’s family, not his parents or his younger sister, Leora, or even really Leonard himself, thought of what he was doing in those terms. Eating disorders were what happened to wealthy white girls with ribs you could count when they lifted up their shirts. Eating disorders were what overbearing mothers passed down to their daughters, a legacy of cutting women down to size until they disappeared completely. Leonard was a half-black, half-Jewish boy with a wide, tear drop shaped nose and a hulking tear drop shaped body. His father called him husky and, even as he had slid from fat into obese, his stomach spreading outwards like the universe, his mother could only be coaxed into admitting he was just a little zaftig.
No, what Leonard was doing was simply losing weight.
He showed up the first day of twelfth grade expecting to be seen. This was what a lifetime of being a loner who watched movies instead of having friends had taught him. Whip off your glasses and run a hand through your hair and bam! you’re Ally Sheedy in The Breakfast Club or Rachel Leigh Cook in She’s All That or motherfucking Superman in every Superman comic, TV series, or movie ever. So losing those sixty-nine pounds (that elusive seventieth pound just temptingly out of reach) in Leonard’s mind made him the equivalent of a God. He was sure that this year not only would everyone notice him and find him wildly clever, charming, and sophisticated, but Karen V., she of the blond hair and the creamy skin and the bouquet of girlfriends who followed her everywhere, would literally genuflect at his new Adonis physique and blow him at her house. Or in her car. Or behind the bleachers (Leonard had a lot of fantasies).
Instead what happened was that maybe two people did a double take when they realized who he was and then those people clumped off into groups and talked about what everyone else was talking about, which was Margot Ordona. Margot Ordona who, depending on who you talked to, had tried to commit suicide, fallen through a window, or been run over by a car sometime in late July. She had disappeared abruptly last summer. One day she and Karen V. were supposed to go to the movies and Margot just never showed. A day later she received a call from Margot’s mother that Margot was in hospital. No further details forthcoming.
That was the story from Karen V. who was holding high court in the art hallway, her navy blue eyes wet with tears and her pupils blown.
She won’t see anyone, Leonard heard her say as he fiddled with the lock on his locker pretending not to eavesdrop.
I mean, like, I’m her best friend and she won’t even talk to me.
The bouquet bobbed and nodded around her and Karen V. sniffled and opened her wide wet mouth in a way that made parts of Leonard twitch and the bouquet leaned their heads forward in eager anticipation of what else she was about to say. The hallway fell silent, and people stopped breathing and even the janky neon hall-lights stopped flickering and held themselves steady, everyone waiting for Karen V. to speak. And then the bell rang and she giggled and said, Oh shit, I’m gonna be late for homeroom, and that was the last Leonard heard about Margot Ordona till she came to school the next day sporting a lightning-shaped scar across her face.
People who heard the news second-hand shrugged their shoulders.
Well, that wasn’t so bad was it? A little lightning-shaped scar was something a girl could pull off, something a girl could be disproportionately ashamed of, in the way girls often were, about Liz Taylor-type beauty marks above their mouths and heart-shaped birth marks on their thighs, pretending to act like these were disfigurements and not something that made them more adorable in every way.
Only this wasn’t some cutesy Harry Potter type-thing. More than one person actually shrieked when they saw Margot, and Leonard, who by the time he caught sight of her in in second period had been warned, still had to bite down hard on his lip to keep from sucking in a sharp gasp of air. No, the scar was on Margot Ordona’s face was something physically distressing to look at. It was pencil thin but long. It began at her brow and paused at her left eye before continuing down over her cheek in a ripple before it hooked delicately just under her jaw line, taking up a David-Bowie-circa-his-Ziggy-Stardust-era size real estate on her face like a tribute done in scar tissue. Whatever stitches had once held her face back together were gone, but the scar was still painfully raw and red as if it might just split open again. It was all anyone could see when they looked at her: first carved flesh and then the remnants of Margot Ordona somewhere beneath that, like a double exposure.
She had cut off all her hair too. It was what Leonard found himself fixating on, partly because staring at the scar was uncouth and partly because it was the only thing he really remembered about Margot Ordona pre-scar, the black swaths of her hair that fell mid-way down her back like an inky river. Karen V. used to play with it during lunch, braiding it into thick ropes with her milky hands, her skilled fingers working with a feverish dexterity that made Leonard wish that they were at work on him.
There were rumours that Margot Ordona had hacked it all off herself the night before school, and Leonard could just imagine the quiet zig-zig of the scissors as they worked, all that thick, beautiful hair falling away in awkward, jagged clumps. That was why, the rumours went, she had come to school a day later than everyone else. Her mother had freaked and called around and hired someone to come to the house and even out the strands like Margot Ordana was a rock star whose service people came to her and not the other way around like the average pleb. Her mother insisted on bangs, people said, to try to hide some of that raw scar tissue, but it didn’t end up mattering anyway since she pinned it all back with bobby pins. Allegedly (and this really must have been a rumour because Leonard couldn’t imagine how anyone would know) Mrs. Ordona had walked into the room and gasped out a single breathless, Why? of horror upon seeing her daughter and Margot Ordona had laughed and said, The better for you to see me, my dear, and snapped her jaws click-clack like a wolf.
Leonard didn’t know why anyone would do that. He didn’t know why Margot Ordona in particular would do that, because the Margot he remembered was timid as a Victorian era virgin, her hands constantly fluttering in her lap and her sour mouth turned down. She had always looked unhappy and this, Leonard supposed, was because she was always second best, first loser, the one who no one saw behind the dazzling white light of Karen V.
Leonard had learned from TV that this did something weird to girls that addled their minds and made them familiar with the tickle of their fingertips deep in their throats and the slice of Bic razor blades skating safely across the street of their wrists. Or, in Margot Ordona’s case, made her a sulky sweet that no one could bear to swallow down.
Only the Margot Ordona who came back after that summer, with a broken face and an eyebrow that drooped under the bulk of scar tissue, was no longer the passive little consumable that watched, unblinking, as boyfriends and friends turned their faithless eyes to Karen V. The Margot Ordona who came back was hungry and wanting and all bite.
Leonard never would have believed it possible, the way he would never have believed he could lose sixty-nine pounds and be ignored, but people got used to Margot Ordona’s scar. By November, they weren’t talking about it at all even though it was still a bright enough red to match the dying autumn leaves. What they were talking about instead was how Margot had made all six of her fall semester teachers cry. She had told Mrs. Zhao, going through a divorce, that she would die alone. She had told Mr. McAvoy that he was a pathetic pedo who got off on failing ninth graders. She was the reason the police visited the school two times: both times because she was found smoking a blunt in plain sight in the music hallway. In the middle of English class (and this was something Leonard actually witnessed, slouching in his chair and feeling his soul depart his body as it happened) she stood up and said she refused to partner with Jake Riley for Death of a Salesman re-enactments because he was a nasty little rapist-in-training who liked to stick his hands up the back of girl’s shirts and snap their bra bands.
After the Jake incident Leonard, along with about seven other socially delayed mouth-breathers, lurked outside the admin offices where Margot Ordona was being questioned. They were like a pack of acne-riddled vultures, desperate to know what was going to happen. He heard and saw next to nothing, but the position did allow him to get his first and only glimpse of Margot Ordona’s mother, a pocket-sized white woman with blonde hair who actually succeeded in making her daughter look huge and Hulk-like beside her. Leonard heard her before he saw her, the sharp double click of her heels against the cheap linoleum of the school floor authoritative and comforting. She was fiddling on her phone on the way in and still fiddling with it when she came out five minutes later with Margot Ordona trailing behind her.
I swear to God, I’m going to sue the entire fucking school, Mrs. Ordona said as she walked off. She turned the corner and then came back when she realized that Margot wasn’t following her, lifting her head from her phone for the first time. Her eyes were a surreal blue, like ice. It was terrifying.
Margot, she said and actually snapped her fingers together, like her daughter was a dog. Come on.
Margot shook her head. Her back was to Leonard and the rest of the boys (only boys) that had been waiting for a glimpse of her as if she were a queen and not a delinquent. Leonard had no idea if she knew they were there; he, along with the seven others, pretended to consider the candy in the vending machines.
I can still make the end of fourth period, Margot said.
Her mother blinked at her once.
We should have sent you to private school, she said. Fine, go to fourth period. Try not to make anyone else cry.
The motherly advice dispensed, Mrs. Ordona left and Margot turned around and headed in the direction of her groupies who were now all frantically scrambling away, some peeling down the hallway darting into the guidance office, and one idiot spinning round and round in circles, flinging his hands about. Leonard, who stuck the course and stayed by the vending machines, feeding change into the machine like it was his life’s business to do so, was embarrassed to be associated with him even if only by virtue of being in the same hallway together.
If Margot was aware that she was the cause of the meltdowns she gave no indication. She continued steadily on her path, but she stopped just in front of the vending machines where Leonard hadn’t punched in any numbers. He pretended to consider his choices as he stared at Margot’s reflection in the cheap glass. Her reflection made her scar look like a distortion, a flaw in the glass and not a part of her face. She was close now, very close, but she gently reached past him and punched in the letters D3, making Leonard’s choice for him.
You’re welcome, she said as she left.
D3 was a kind of joke, black licorice that no one ever bought and seemed to have been in the vending machine since before Leonard was born probably. As far as Leonard knew he was now the only person to have ever wasted pocket change buying the thing. A fair punishment he guessed, for staring at Margot when he had no business doing so.
Leonard ran to class where even as he was apologizing for his absence he was, in his head, talking to Margot Ordona, telling her he appreciated her joke and that she looked like her mother, even if her mother was a tiny middle aged white woman and Margot was a teenager with distinctly Asian eyes (epicanthic folds, he found they were called later that night after taking a pause in his internet wanderings from calculating and re-calculating his BMI. Or plica palpebronasalis, which he disliked because it sounded like a disease). He wanted to tell Margot that he thought about it and it was their chins that made them look alike. The same points that curved just slightly to the right. That and the way they held themselves, like royals. He wanted to ask her how she did that, how she could look right past everyone like they didn’t exist even while everyone was staring at her.
Instead of having his coke and ice cream brew, that night he chewed on the black licorice, tough and tasteless.
Leonard found he had a lot of things he wanted to talk over with Margot Ordona. The more he talked them over in his head the more he thought of new things to ask her to the point where conversations with her began to rival his sexual delusions involving Karen V.
He thought that maybe he could be friends with this new, torn Margot Ordona. That maybe if she saw him and they could talk, just a little bit, she wouldn’t try to make him cry.
It happened between classes. Before Leonard knew what was what he was falling down and smashing his chin along the gritty tiled floor of the music hallway. In his zest to escape the swing of the auditorium door as it rushed towards him he had whirled away with such effort that he tripped over himself and crash landed on the floor. Humiliated, Leonard looked up wanting to give whichever fucktard had done this a verbal flaying only to find himself in the bizarre position of looking up Margot Ordona’s skirt. Just as blood hit the edge of his tongue and heat pooled in his cheeks he turned his head delicately away to avoid seeing something he wasn’t supposed to.
If Margot knew that at that angle she had exposed herself she gave no indication. She didn’t seem ashamed at all when she kneeled down beside him and tilted his chin up with one surprisingly strong finger, the nail digging sharply into his under chin which was sore from where he had bashed it. He didn’t want to look her in the face, didn’t know what it would be like to see all that twisted up scar tissue just inches from him, but the touch of her hand was so soft that he found his eyes flicking upwards involuntarily.
Her tongue darted out and licked her top lip right on the cupid’s bow and that’s what he was looking at when she said it.
Hey you, she said. Didn’t you use to be fat?
Leonard had never, not once, not ever, been in trouble before. He was the type of student who, in elementary school, had gotten called in to the principal’s office to claim attendance and behaviour awards. In the administration office waiting to be told off, his face throbbing and the total shame of what he had done closing up his throat and threatening to drown him, he found himself looking to Margot for comfort. Margot who was slouched in her seat as if she were in her living room while he sweated uncomfortably in the pool of his too large clothes, the ones he had refused to lose even when he lost all the weight.
He had never wanted to hit a girl before and he still didn’t but when Margot Ordona had asked him if he used to be fat something in him had snapped. That she was the only one who had noticed and that she had brought attention to it filled him with an anger he couldn’t explain, even to himself. Which was the only excuse he could come up with for what he had said.
What did you say you Harvey Dent faced bitch?
The music hallway had gone silent. Half the hallway (the nerdier, distinctly male, half) had gasped dramatically. The other half, which included Margot Ordona and Karen V. just looked confused. Margot Ordona’s brows drew together, her face a mess of confusion that made the scar tissue pucker.
Leonard had wanted to die both because what he said was so cruel and because it was the worst, the most pathetic kind of insult, one so ineffective that it needed an explanation to work. He opened his mouth to try to clarify, at least, that it was an insult. Before he got a word out a fist came out of nowhere.
Somewhere from far away, while rolling around on the floor, sobbing with an abandon that reminded him of the primal furies of toddlerdom, Leonard was conscious of a teacher demanding explanations. Even though he was sure his face had been broken as wide and as deep as Margot’s there was enough in him to be able to hear Margot claiming responsibility even though it was a boy (the name Tiernan Josh appeared to him) who had given him the kiss with the fist. So Margot and Leonard had both been hauled off to the principal’s office, no one brave enough to act the snitch.
By the time they arrived and were told to wait Leonard felt more ashamed than anything. Even though his cheek was tender to the touch, the pain was receding quickly. His own tears and fears that his face was broken now seemed like a disproportionate response to so small an event. The teacher who had brought them in had unearthed an ice pack and a compact and Leonard had been allowed to examine his face, which had only just begun to swell and showed no traces yet of a bruise.
Margot, innocent for once of the crime she was accused of, lost interest in Leonard and pulled her phone out of her skirt pocket and started scrolling through it.
When she found what she wanted she nudged Leonard and tilted her phone screen at him. She had pulled up a series of photos of Harvey Dent, half his face eclipsed in burns.
This is what you think? I have a scar not a burn, Lard Lad.
Leonard felt the heat rise in him again, but this time he had the pain in his face to chasten him and he turned away.
In the end they were set loose with a series of warnings that amounted to hot air. Principal Wilson made the key mistake of interrogating them at the same time and Leonard, feeling guilty, claimed that he had hit his face himself when he tripped.
Why did you say it was your fault? Principal Wilson asked Margot.
He tripped over my feet. That teacher didn’t even ask questions, just assumed I was guilty.
Principal Wilson looked helplessly at Leonard and Leonard tried to pull off a Margot-shrug and ended up wincing from pain instead. Margot was set free but Leonard had to wait for his mother to take off from work and come pick him up.
On the way home from school he asked if they could stop for chocolate chip cookies and, since he had been so good with his diet, and for so long, Leonard’s mother bought him the box of drug store chocolate chip cookies. He turned down dinner to lock himself in his room and ate the chalky treats one after another, chewing through the pain, until the entire box was empty.
Somehow, even though they were the only two people in the principal’s office, word about Margot Ordona calling him Lard Lad got out. Leonard certainly didn’t speak of it and he didn’t imagine that Margot was in a great huff to tell anyone either, but she must have. Must’ve let it slip to Karen V. one day, must have squinted her eyes and screwed up her fucked up mouth in a way that wrinkled her fucked up face and asked what that former fat kid’s name was, because suddenly people were coming up to Leonard and doing exaggerated double takes and saying, Hey, Lard Lad, didn’t you use to be fat?
The weirdest part was that no one was trying to be mean. They were actually trying to be friendly. Friendly because the new, legendary, Margot Ordona had baptized him with her bitchiness the day she noticed him in the hallway.
Even Tiernan came up to him and clapped him on the back in a kind of apology.
We cool, LL? Tiernan had said and Leonard, scared of a second punch, simply nodded.
Leonard didn’t know what to do with it, with this new ability to be seen. It wasn’t funny for him and it became a whole lot less funny as the months wore on and Leonard went from being a former fatty to a current one. He blamed Margot Ordona for that.
Because ever since she had exited out of the principal’s office he found himself thinking about Margot Ordona and eating everything. The coke cans weren’t stacked neatly anymore, and the ice cream cartons had taken over the closet.
Karen V. was reading Lady Macbeth in English and when she said, What, will these hands ne‘er be clean? in her flutey voice Leonard thought of himself at night with his fingers stained with potato chip grease, or whipped cream, or jam. He would lick his fingers clean, promising himself that this time would be the last time. Only it never was and by the time spring rolled around he was half-way back to his heaviest weight and wholly back to being invisible.
Maybe not as invisible as he would have liked to be. In class Karen V. clapped her hands to get everyone’s attention when the teacher stepped out of the room. Leonard focused on her right away (he still felt that uncontrollable tug that made him aware of her whenever she stepped in or out of a room) but everyone else took a moment to settle. No one had much patience for Karen V. She still commanded a certain respect, but only in so much as she was the one who was closest to Margot Ordona, Margot who continued to fascinate with her reckless cruelty.
Everyone, Karen V. called out, clapping her hands once more until enough people were finally looking. If she cared about her plummeting stock she didn’t show it. She smiled widely, friendly as ever, and invited everyone to a surprise party for Margot.
Leonard stopped listening after that. He knew that everyone did not actually include him so he was surprised when the bell rang and class broke up Karen V. caught up to him as he barrelled down the hallway, her long legs easily matching his get-the-hell-out strides.
Hey, she said as she tapped him on the shoulder, nearly causing him to trip up. Leonard briefly wondered what it would have been like if Karen V. had been the one who tripped him up that day. Different, certainly. Karen V. always wore jeans.
Hey, you should definitely come to Margot’s party. She smiled and he looked down, unable to meet her eyes. He was embarrassed by how badly he wanted her to like him, still.
Oh, he started to come up with an excuse, but Karen V. was already holding out her hand for his phone and Leonard found himself handing it over, waiting awkwardly as she tapped in her details.
I know Margot wants you to be there.
She touched his shoulder and squeezed it lightly and then left, jogging through the hallway on her way to her next class.
Margot Ordona lived in an apartment downtown which, to Leonard, meant that she was poor. Everyone he knew lived in two storey houses in the suburbs on winding lanes that curlicued into each other and sported names that sounded like granola bars. Nature trail. Blue Willow. Thistlebrook Crescent.
It took Leonard two buses to get all the way downtown and another five minutes and a consultation with the sweaty crumpled up sheet of paper with Google map instructions on it which he printed out for safety since his data plan was shit. By the time he arrived in the lobby, stuttering an unsure thanks to the doorman, confused as to whether he was supposed to acknowledge him or not, he realized that Margot Ordona was the opposite of poor.
When the elevator doors opened on the penthouse apartment and a wave of happy drunken noises hit him, he had a sick feeling in his stomach. Margot Ordona was pretty fucking rich.
The first thing he saw were the bodies, clumped together in twos and threes, hands where they shouldn’t be, at least not in public.
Leonard felt a flush creep over him, over the entire length of his bulky body and had never wanted more than then to be thin again so that there would be less of him to be ashamed.
He had to look away, he couldn’t look away, he had to and then he must have because suddenly there was a whirl of blonde.
Larry! You came!
It was Karen V. She gave him a sloppy hug and then whirled away from him.
Leonard, Leonard corrected.
Okay, Karen V. said smiling blankly.
It’s the Lard dude, Tiernan said, coming out of nowhere, and then he was surrounded by a surge of faces he barely recognized, all cheering on the Lard Lad, a nickname that had stuck even as the irony of it had slipped away.
It wasn’t a good time. Leonard drifted to the kitchen and then the dining room, circled back round to the living room where he hovered round the edges of every conversation. A girl he vaguely recognized as a tenth grader seemed friendly enough. She nodded at his inquiries for liquor and opened her mouth as if to answer before delicately bowing down and vomiting in a little pool that partially splashed on Leonard’s shoes.
Leonard decided to find a bathroom he could hide in for a moment. There was a second floor to the apartment, one that everyone else seemed to avoid by consensus, but the first floor bathrooms were occupied and Leonard felt the problem with his shoes was a pressing matter. When he ascended the stairs he was greeted with silence and rows and rows of doors. He hesitated, not knowing which one was the bathroom, but not wanting to stumble on anyone’s private moment. Then he saw a door that was already open and went to it, vigorously pushing it shut and closing out the noise from downstairs.
Margot Ordona was sitting at a vanity and brushing her hair slowly. She had grown her hair out a bit from the beginning of the school year and it now hovered at the tips of her earlobes. As she brushed she kept going past the ends and hitting her shoulders as if she were combing out the hair that she didn’t have. The hair from before.
Hey, Lard Lad, she said when she saw him. There was something a little bit off about her, something that made Leonard sick to his stomach even though he was already sick to his stomach.
Someone threw up and it got on my shoes.
Oh, gross. Her nose wrinkled up. There’s a bathroom through there.
Leonard followed her pointing finger to the bathroom where he took off his shoes and realized that nothing in his life and nothing in the bathroom, a series of pretty pinks and soft creams like something out of a Barbie playhouse, had prepared him on how to clean vomit out of his shoes. He blotted at them with a tissue and some hand soap that smelled like synthetic peaches, but all he succeeded in doing was rubbing the sick into the weave of his sneakers where he had a feeling it would never come out. As he rubbed he realized what had been so strange about Margot Ordona sitting all alone at her party brushing her hair. All of her scars were gone.
It’s makeup, she said when he finally came out wearing his socks. He had left his shoes to dry in the tub, hoping to avoid putting them back on for as long as possible, hoping that when he returned they would somehow be clean.
She raised her hands as if she were going to touch her face and then dropped them again as if she couldn’t bear it.
My mom wants me to get plastic surgery. Apparently there’s shit they can do with lasers. It’s… whatever.
That’s great, Leonard said.
Margot squinted at him and as she did her scars puckered, just a little, so that you could see them if you knew where to look, which Leonard did.
Take off your shirt, Margot told him, which was when Leonard’s brain began short circuiting.
For all of his dirty shameful thoughts about Karen V. he had never even held hands with a girl outside of forced activities like eighth grade square dancing. Kissing was something he would have liked to happen someday soon but hadn’t happened yet. His was suddenly very conscious of the way his heart beating kept the blood flowing in his body and he felt sure this was indicative of the fact that he was going to have a heart attack before Margot Ordona could finish having sex with him.
Oh my God, you little pervert, Margot said, her eyes scanning his face and reading his panicked thoughts. I’m not going to fuck you. Just take off your shirt.
The relief was so great that he found his fingers obediently tugging his t-shirt over his head before he had really thought about what he was doing.
He had only seen himself once in the mirror since he had lost all the weight, standing naked in front of the full length mirror in his bedroom. He still had dreams about it. Dreams where he looked in the mirror like he had that day only in his dreams his skin was smooth and perfect and he couldn’t stop touching it. As if she knew about those dreams Margot made him stand in front of the mirror after she had told him he was ugly, made him look at what he had done to himself, the stretch marks as fresh and as raw as Margot’s scar. Like a cat had clawed at his stomach. At his hips. His shoulders. Symmetrical rips that would never leave his body. When she flicked his stomach the loose skin rippled in a way that seemed less like flesh and more like a pool of water. He hated himself so much he wanted to cry.
Lard Lad, she said. She was so tender when she spoke, her voice gentle and quiet, just right for the two of them alone in the room. You’re disgusting. You’re beyond ugly. You’re repulsive.
For some reason the words didn’t sound so bad in her mouth.
Now do me, Margot said.
Margot had a little blue bottle of something and she poured some of it on a white cotton pad and began rubbing it on her face in broad strokes, wiping the makeup off so that the pad turned a tawny orange and the scars were unearthed, red from all the rubbing.
Do me, Margot kept repeating as she took up another pad and kept scrubbing.
For a second Leonard thought they were back to the sex thing and he hesitantly reached for the least sexual most exposed part of her, her elbow, and was rewarded with a sharp slap to the offending hand.
My face, you idiot, Margot Ordona said. Do what I did to you.
You want me to tell you you’re ugly?
Not like that. She shook her head a little impatiently. Tell me the truth. Please just tell me how ugly I am. Tell me I’m unloveable. Just tell me.
Leonard looked at Margot’s face. Up close he could tell she was drunk. She looked so hopeful, so earnest, her face rid of tension and smoothed out. Still, her brow bone drooped a little. The scar ruined the purity of her jawline where it tilted over her chin. The truth was people would look at Margot Ordona for the rest of her life and they would see the scars and they would wince and then they would get over it. She was no beauty but Margot Ordona was no monster either. Even with her face full of makeup, the scars buried in plain sight, and even the year before, when her face had been untouched and Margot hadn’t even known that that was something she should be grateful for, and even now with a magnificent scar, Margot was alright.
Up close, overpowering the alcohol, she smelled like perfume, something musty and expensive that turned his head. Up close the outlines of her scars gleamed in the light.
Leonard wanted to touch them, but what he wanted more was to live.
Well? she said.
You’re okay, he said.
It was quite something to watch her face fall. For a second he thought she was going to punch him the way Tiernan had, but instead she just picked up his t-shirt and threw it at his head, where it settled as gentle as a cloud.
You suck, Leonard Lawrence, Margot Ordona said. It was a bit weird to realize she knew his full name. He tugged his T-shirt back on and she went to the washroom to retrieve his reeking shoes.
He spent the rest of the weekend binge eating and thinking about all the ways that Margot would punish him. He dreaded Monday, thought about pretending to be sick, but he was still working out the details of how he would go about doing that even as he entered the school lobby. Then the first bell rang and it was too late to really do anything but slouch to class.
At lunch he walked down the music hallway and saw Margot and Karen V. eating alone in front of their lockers.
Karen V. was flicking Margot’s hair and Margot was laughing.
Leonard walked by. He kept thinking that now she would say something, slowed his steps as he walked away waiting for it to happen. Only when he got to the end of the hallway and turned the corner did he realize that the moment wasn’t coming. Because he had a soupçon of shame left Leonard did a long slow loop all around the first floor pretending for his own benefit he had somewhere to be, before he looped back around to the music hallway again. They were still there. He was still figuring out a way to call Margot ugly without getting kicked in the balls by Karen V. when he was almost past them.
Hey, Lard Lad, Margot said. She nodded at him with her chin, like a boy.
Leonard nodded back.
Hey, Harvey Dent, Leonard said.
And that was that.
Rebecca Hirsch Garcia lives in Ottawa, Ontario. Her work has appeared in The Threepenny Review, PRISM international, The Dark and The O. Henry Prize Stories.