Excerpt #2: Cevinâ€™s Deadly Sin by Sally Bosco
Tilapia High is a big, pink birthday cake of a building. The architecture is in the Spanish style with two stories, a tile roof, and open outer hallways that remind me of a motel. Hot pink bougainvillea crawl up the sides of the columns. Even though it looks like it was designed by Conquistadors, Iâ€™m sure they wouldnâ€™t have painted it the color of lawn flamingos. Thereâ€™s a rotten egg sulfur smell coming from the sprinkler. Thatâ€™s the reclaimed water. Ugh.
As I walk toward the archway of the main entrance, I notice several boys in T-shirts and cut-offs. The girls are in halter tops, short shorts, and dresses made of material so tight it looks like itâ€™s been sprayed on. In my starched shirt and tightly pegged pants, I may as well be from Mars.
Buzzed off hair seems to be the norm here for guys. No one has all-one-length, model hair like mine. A kid wearing a backward baseball cap, a flannel shirt with the sleeves cut off (you might be a redneck ifâ€¦), and baggy jeans with his gut hanging over spits on the sidewalk directly in front of where Iâ€™m going to walk. I think he says â€œfairy boyâ€ under his breath, but Iâ€™m not sure. He snickers as he picks his teeth with a matchbook cover.
I walk directly into the building without commenting or taking any notice of him. Experience tells me that this is best. Donâ€™t give them any attention. I still have hope that maybe theyâ€™re not all like this.
Because the school is all open hallways, itâ€™s hard for me to find the office, so I have to ask. A couple of girls who look more or less normal in skinny jeans and Tâ€™s tell me where it is. This is good, but as Iâ€™m walking away they kind of snicker. Iâ€™m well aware they could be laughing at anything, so I try not to take offense. This is another survival tactic Iâ€™ve learned. Donâ€™t assume the worst, because it just makes you paranoid. Even though paranoia is sometimes justified.
When I get to the office, a chunky lady with a mullet (a mullet? seriously?) is all frazzled trying to take care of some emergency thatâ€™s come up. Sheâ€™s on the phone and her face is flushed and her upper lip is sweating. She covers the receiver with one hand. â€œCan I help you?â€
â€œIâ€™m new. Cevin Foster.â€ My backpack is digging into my shoulders, so I put it and the trumpet case on the floor.
She riffles through some papers she has in a file next to her PC. â€œKevin, I have your paperwork right here.â€
â€œThatâ€™s Cevin. You know, like the number seven?â€
She looks up at me, irritated. â€œI wish people would stop with these damned creative names. Makes my work harder.â€
â€œKevin, I mean Cevin. We have someone whoâ€™s going to show you to your first class. This is Derek Standard.â€
One look at Derek and I know heâ€™s the â€œitâ€ kid, the one all the guys want to be friends with and all the girls want to date. Heâ€™s tall with long limbs, has a square jaw, piercing blue eyes, and short dark hair fashionably cut with little spikes that stick up. He wears a button-down, white shirt and khaki pants. He thrusts out his hand and flashes me a smile that shows soap opera star teeth. I picture a little sparkle on them like in a toothpaste commercial. â€œHi Cevin. Iâ€™m Derek,â€ he says, extending his hand.
He pronounces my name right. His handshake is smooth, firm, and lasts the correct amount of time.
Derek takes one look at my overstuffed backpack and says, â€œWhat? Are you moving?â€
I stammer a little. â€œUm, uhh, Mom and I just moved here from Daytona.â€ I know that wasnâ€™t what he meant so I feel dumb after I say it.
â€œOh, well, let me take that.â€
In one swift move he takes my backpack and slings it over his shoulder. As he lifts it, the zipper pulls part ways open and I can see something black and lacy sticking out, just a little. Youâ€™d have to be looking for it to know what it is, I tell myself. Still this panics me so much I canâ€™t even think straight. What if he opens it?
But he seems to take no notice. â€œFirst, letâ€™s find your locker.â€ He leads me to one of the open hallways. â€œLetâ€™s see. Oh, here it is.â€ He reads the combination and spins the lock open for me.
Great. He knows the combination to my locker.
â€œYouâ€™ll be wanting to get rid of some of this heavy stuff, I suspect. Do you want to pull anything out of your backpack before I toss it in?â€ As he lets it drop from his shoulder, his eyes go right to the lacy black material, but he doesnâ€™t say anything.
â€œNo, thatâ€™s okay.â€ I throw my trumpet case into my locker over my pack. I wanted to get my pens and notebook out of there, but oh well. Iâ€™m slightly relieved now that my girl stuff is safely stowed.
â€œItâ€™s too late to get you to homeroom today, but you have Mr. Toporek for first period Chemistry. Iâ€™ll show you where.â€
He leads me across to the other side of the building and another open hallway. Trailing behind him, I notice a clean scent of soap and fabric softener. This guy is so perfect it makes me sick.
Even though weâ€™re late for class, one look at Derek and the teacher is all smiles. Derek introduces me, says, â€œHereâ€™s another victim for you, Mr. T.â€ The teacher and the class laugh, then he leaves.
After Derek is gone, Mr. Toporek resumes his previously dour expression. Heâ€™s a small, nondescript man with metal-rimmed glasses and a two-inch fringe of hair. I would so shave that if I were him. He gives me a book and tells me to take a seat. The only seat left is in the front row. Great. I get the evil eye from some of the kids in the class and giggles from others, and one guy says, â€œHis mommy dressed him up nice for school today.â€
The teacher glares at him and carries on with his lesson. Heâ€™s talking about some formulas that are Greek to me. Since school has been in session for two months, I have some catching up to do. I open the book and try to follow along, but I keep noticing the girl sitting next to me in the front row. Sheâ€™s blatantly writing in a leather journal right in the middle of Chemistry class. She looks different from all the others. First, sheâ€™s pale in a sea of tan Florida crackers. She has long, straight, black hair and is wearing a pink polo shirt and black jeans. One feature stands out. A black choker that has a chunky cross and a couple of silver bats on it adorns her neck. I try not to stare, but sheâ€™s just so interesting.
She seems completely unconcerned about anything going on in the class, and the teacher isnâ€™t batting an eyelash.
Mr. Toporek starts asking a series of questions, and he gets a few volunteers to answer each one. But when he asks, â€œWhatâ€™s the general formula for oxyacid?â€ nobody raises their hands. I look down at my desk hoping he wonâ€™t call on me.
He says, â€œTessa, can you tell us?â€
Just as I think, Oh no, sheâ€™s busted, she says, â€œHaHbOc.â€ She answers with one hundred percent certainty, then goes back to writing in her journal.
â€œAnd whatâ€™s the definition of an oxyacid?â€
She momentarily looks up. â€œAn inorganic acid whose molecules contain oxygen, such as sulfuric or nitric acid.â€
â€œVery good, Miss Wilkinson.â€ The teacher brightens up.
Wow, sheâ€™s a brain. And apparently unconcerned about what other people think of her.
Finally, the bell rings and everyone rushes out. I need to put my red panties back on. Thatâ€™s the only way I can possibly deal with all of this small town Florida mentality. Weâ€™ve just moved a couple hundred miles into the interior of the state and we may as well have traveled to the moon for how different the people are. Daytona had its small-minded people, but it had cool people, too, which I havenâ€™t seen here so far.
There might be just enough time for me to get to my locker, get my backpack, change, and get to my next class. I run to my locker, twirl the combination and Yay, the door opens.
But what I see there nearly makes my heart stop. Someone has dumped my backpack over and strewn all of my girl clothes around the floor of the locker.
* * * *
Sally Bosco (sallybosco.com) writes young adult fiction. Novels include Death Divided, The Werecat Chronicles, Shadow Cat (written as Zoe LaPage) and Cevinâ€™s Deadly Sin. Recent publications include a chapter inÂ Many Genres, One Craft and stories in Small Bites, Hazard Yet Forward and Cellar Door anthologies. She has an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University.
Her newest book, Cevinâ€™s Deadly Sin, is the story of a hetero, teen cross-dresser: his struggles with first love, self-identity and bullying during his senior year in a small, Florida town. It is published by QueerTeen Press.
- About the Author
- Posts in the Past
Sally Bosco writes young adult fiction.