First published in Deep South Magazine
Lunchtime. The one hundred seventy-three students at Warren County Consolidated High School were in the cafetorium. They’d gone through the cafeteria line or brought their lunches from home and settled at the long tables with their buddies for the forty-five minute lunch break. Jocks sat together. Cheerleaders and their pretty wanna-be friends were at a different table. “Nerds” were in one group because no one else understood them. Kids who didn’t know where they belonged formed loose, shape-shifting groupings. Alvaline Turner never fit in anywhere and she didn’t care. As usual, she made her rounds of all the tables, eating chips at this table, part of someone’s sandwich at that one, some fruit at another. She never bought or brought her own lunch and no one ever denied her.
She was only in the eleventh grade, but she’d been the talk of the school since the ninth grade when her figure bloomed. The good girls wore skirts that brushed their mid-calves. They topped the skirts with white, puffed-sleeve blouses. A few, from families that couldn’t afford decent clothes, wore dungarees, loosely fit, with blouses or sweaters that barely acknowledged their femininity. On the other hand, Alvaline’s dungarees clung to every curve and cleft of her beautifully rounded body. Her blouses and sweaters did the same. The female teachers clucked at her appearance and regularly requested that she be sent home to change, but the principal was a man and her mode of dress was never officially questioned.
Alvaline’s curly, copper-colored hair touched her shoulders and always looked as if she’d just climbed out of bed. She gave wet dreams to all the boys in school. Everyone thought she put out. Some boys claimed to have personal knowledge, but no one could really prove it.