The Cold Inside
By AL BRUNO III
Monday December 19, 1994
Midterms week had begun but it was obvious to Tristam that not everyone was focusing on their exams. Warren found a package of hot dogs sitting in the middle their table at the cafeteria. Adelphos grabbed it and threw it in the trash. Simply touching the damp room-temperature package caused the popular table to erupt into a chorus of hoots and catcalls that continued until it disturbed the lunch aides from their languor. Tristam risked a glance at the front tables and noticed the rifts he'd seen opening up earlier were growing wider. The popular kids seemed to have unconsciously divided the table in half. There had always been feuds; when Tristam had been among them he'd been shocked at the brutality of some of the cheerleaders and the cattiness of some of the jocks. Now they were split between two camps; his sister, her boyfriend and their followers on one end- Evan, Fred Trager and their chosen circle on the other.
Am I seeing a palace coup? Tristam wondered.
“I talked to my Dad about what was happening with Drew.” Greg said, “And he took it upon himself to speak with Drew's father.”
Warren groaned, “Oh man. How could he?”
“What's wrong with that? He knows Drew, she's been over to the house just about every weekend for almost two years.”
Yusuf asked, “Is this one of those 'It takes a village to raise a child' things?”
“Look.” Warren said, “His father getting involved makes it look like we've been doing nothing but worry about her for the last two weeks.”
Tristam shrugged, “That is mostly true.”
“Did he find anything out?” Adelphos asked.
“Yes,” Greg finished the last bite of his lunch and fell silent.
Rich cleared his throat “You're being a bit vague there pal.”
“Sorry. It's just not easy to say this. Drew isn’t coming back.”
Yusuf dropped his sandwich, “What happened? They couldn't afford tuition anymore?”
“No. She's moved away to live with her aunt. Her father said she couldn't take the way this place was making her feel. He said she was practically suicidal.” Greg explained.
“Those fuckers.” Tristam said, “Those fuckers couldn't lay off her could they?”
“She promised to try and write us once she got her head on straight again.” Greg mustered a smile, “That's something I suppose.”
Would this have happened... Tristam wondered, Would this have happened if I had just had the nerve to kiss her?
“And then there were six.” Warren looked like he'd been punched.
“We need to start fighting back.” Adelphos said, “We need to start kicking a little ass around here.”
Yusuf said, “A nice idea but I think you and Tristam are the only ones of us that can fight and you and Tristam are the ones closest to getting thrown out of school.”
“There's a thought.” Rich stuffed his half-eaten lunch back into the brown paper bag, “Maybe we could all get thrown out together. A blaze of glory kind of thing.”
Tristam shot another glare at the front table, he had a momentary vision of it burning. “Where does Drew's aunt live?”
“Where is she moving to?”
Greg said, “Somewhere upstate, near Herkimer I think, they didn’t want to be specific.”
“What I don't get-” Adelphos said, “-is why she all of a sudden lost it. I mean kids have been ragging on her since Kindergarten. It would just roll off her like water off a duck's back.”
Rich gestured vaguely, “This has got to have something to do with all the free groceries we've been getting lately.”
“Yes.” Yusuf agreed “And the slurping sounds.”
Something clicked in Tristam's head, “Shit.”
“What?” Warren leaned forward.
“Think about it, think about the way they've been acting. Think about why Drew would suddenly pull out of school and move far away.”
Greg shook his head, “No. No. No. No way. Things are bad but they're not that bad. That's movie of the week crap you're talking about.”
The sound Warren made was somewhere between a gasp and a sob, “They raped her. They raped her and now they're laughing about it.”
Rich snorted with disgust, “Even for us that's crazy talk.”
“You have a better idea what's going on?” Tristam thought about how Phil said that people where no good- that people were all savages on the inside. He had said, that in the end you couldn't change the world or enlighten the masses. All you could do was protect yours and your own.
“It had to be that bastard Evan. He lives right next door to her.” Warren said.
“We need to find who did this.” Adelphos said, “We need to be sure. And then we need to bring the thunder.”
“Woah!” Greg raised his voice, “Look we are not going to go off all half-cocked here. If we do anything we get in trouble and they still win.”
Tristam said, “I think Greg's right. We need to find out what happened but if they hurt her… If they did what I think they did…”