Echo Bridge

Echo Bridge by Kristen O'Toole Read Free Book Online

Book: Echo Bridge by Kristen O'Toole Read Free Book Online
Authors: Kristen O'Toole
were usually staked out by kids with more experience than me in being antisocial, and the way they were positioned at the end of each row of shelves, it would be too easy for someone to sneak up on you (this was, in fact, a common library pastime: trying to scare your friends into yelling loudly enough to draw the ire of the wizened librarian, Mrs. Astorly). There was a hallway of unused lockers off the music rooms that was often deserted, but this was a known fact, and as such, it was the location of choice for mid–school day makeouts.
    I wanted a cigarette desperately, but sneaking one on campus during school was to risk serious disciplinary action. We weren’t allowed to wander the school woods until classes were over, and if you went to the boiler room, you ran the risk of bumping into Madame Bergeron, the French teacher who smoked her own cigarettes there constantly. I silently cursed my fear of driving; as a senior with off-campus privileges, if I had a car, I’d have been able to drive myself to Echo Bridge, which was the preferred off-campus smoking spot. Then I remembered the dark room. If the ventilation system meant to draw out chemical fumes was strong enough for Marian Hayward’s joints, it was certainly strong enough for a Marlboro Light. I hitched up my bag and headed for the art wing.
    On the wall above the darkroom door, there was a detailed painting of Darth Vader with the words “Welcome to the Dark Side.” I opened the door to dim orange light and an angry shriek.
    “Knock, dammit! This is a
dark
room!”
    Sexy Lexi. Of course.
    “Oh, hell.” I slammed the door and stood against it. “Sorry.”
    “It’s not like anyone’s working in here or anything.”
    “
Sorry
.”
    My eyes adjusted to the half-light. There was a large, freestanding sink in the center of the room, in which several shallow trays of liquid were arranged. The projectors used for making prints lined the walls, each sporting a nametag: Weegee, Avedon, Leibovitz. They were all covered with a thin layer of dust, except for the one called Arbus. Lexi stood over the sink, one hand holding a pair of rubber-tipped tongs at her hip like she was Clint Eastwood with a six shooter. She wore a long, purple sweater dress with motorcycle boots (just barely in dress code) and an absurdly wide leather belt around her hips. “So… can I help you?”
    “I don’t think so,” I said. I crossed the room and hopped up on the counter underneath a humming open vent. I wasn’t going to let her intimidate me. I had as much right to be in the dark room as she did, even if I had never used a camera that needed film. I pulled out a cigarette and lit it.
    “Seriously?” asked Lexi. She poked at something among the trays in the sink with her tongs and shook her head. “I’m in enough trouble as it is.”
    “
You’re
not smoking,” I said.
    “Yeah, but if you get caught, they’ll lock this place up for good. God, at least use an ashtray.” Lexi picked up a can of Diet Coke from the edge of the sink, shook it, tipped it back for the last sip, and handed it to me. “Did Marian tell you that you could smoke here?” She said Marian’s name with a nasty edge.
    “No,” I snapped. “I just needed a cigarette.”
    “Well, this isn’t a smoking lounge, no matter what Marian thinks. I’m on disciplinary probation already.”
    “Is that because of Marian?”
    “Don’t play dumb,” Lexi said. “Even if she didn’t tell you about smoking in here, everyone around here knows everyone’s business.”
    “Not everyone,” I mumbled, mostly because the idea of everyone knowing everything made me nauseated right then.
    Lexi looked thoughtful. “Well, I suppose you’re right there,” she said. She lifted a piece of paper from one tray to another in the sink and turned on the water. I slipped off the counter and stood next to her at the sink, peering in. She turned off the faucet and tilted the tray toward me, the water in it waving back and

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