by Chip Cheek

She called him a fairy—the boy with the shaggy blond hair and dirty Texas A&M; cap, the one with the green eyes and perfect array of freckles across his nose, who probably didn't know she existed. She called him a fairy because she liked him. Unprovoked, alone, invincible, in front of his friends, her notebook in hand, striding past him under the spangled shade of the oak tree near the jungle gym, headed toward the secluded mound behind the dumpsters where she liked to sit and write stories about Bohemians in Paris, she smiled at him, too. The smile said, Do you see me now, mon chéri?

This was his reply: he hocked a loogey and spit it at her, and it smacked her, like a kiss, right on the side of her neck, wet and thick and already cold.

She froze. The thing crept toward the collar of her t-shirt, the new lavender one with the glittery comet on the front, the one her father bought her for making straight A's three months in a row. She was not the most popular girl in school, and her family wasn't rich, but she was pretty, and she wasn't one of the poor kids, and it was inconceivable that this could be happening to her. She felt a sudden, overwhelming urge to kick the boy in the testicles, to slap him, to tear his shaggy bangs out in clumps, but she had to run now, because the thing was still there, eating away at her skin.

She dashed off across the playground, past a hundred or more other kids who were oblivious to her, and as she ran she heard the boy's friends laugh, that idiotic sound they made when they sucked their breaths in. She burst through the school doors. In the ladies' room she grabbed a huge wad of paper towel and did not wipe but sort of picked the loogey off, careful not to spread it. She took another wad of towel, wetted it, and rubbed and rubbed and rubbed at the skin until it was pink, until i