The whisper about her as if she had two heads – especially the boys from the shipping department, who tell everybody what she said in private to one of them, and now it’s spread throughout the store so that she can’t go anywhere without someone staring at her – the girl in the tight blue jeans, who caught the drift of some of it, went pale and then ran.
I caught her sobbing the lunch room, and she told me to “go away.”
The boss once called her “a smart cookie,” and she knows she’s smart, but also claims to have a heart. She always jokes about her brains as if she was ashamed of them, and used to say “Do I look like one of THOSE girls,” by which she means the egg-head type we all knew in school who hid their looks behind big glasses and ankle-long skirts.
She’s always “out there,” doing what she wants, acting out whatever she’s feeling, proving to everybody that she has blood in her veins, not ice, and breathes air like everybody else, not fire.
She lives her life on her own terms, and only has a few friends around this place, and now even they stay clear of her, not wanting to get hit by association. She confided in the wrong person, and now this has spread through the store, and she got trapped in the break room crying.
“I’m not like that, really I’m not,” she said to me before I could turn to leave.
Like what, I wonder, since I wasn’t privy to the tale being told about her, since my little group of friends at the store tend not to repeat that kind of thing, even though they are as anxious to hear about it as everybody else is, and I’m not one to ask.
In this place, small things get used against you when you’re foolish enough to expose them.
And she being pretty enough, and haughty enough, and defiant enough to make some people wait for the crack in order to exploit it.
Now she’s broken, the way a steed gets broken, and once tamed can never be the same, and can never aspire to the same admiration as before.
People admire wild things, but ache for an excuse to tame them, and then once tamed, those wild things become despised or forgotten.
And she haven’t skated over thin ice with so many of the men around her, flirting without committing herself, teasing but never caught, has finally fallen into the cold water, where the chill of some perverted sense of morality washes over her.
I knew she won’t be here by week’s end, and somehow this was a sad thing, not being able to see her parade proud and independent across the sales floor.
And I wanted to tell her how sorry I was, but some things are better off unsaid.