Echo Bridge

Echo Bridge by Kristen O'Toole Read Free Book Online Page B

Book: Echo Bridge by Kristen O'Toole Read Free Book Online
Authors: Kristen O'Toole
the negative into the Arbus enlarger. “So now if there’s any more trouble—if, say, she were to walk in right now and see you smoking—they’ll close down this place for good. It’s a shame. Do you know this is better equipment than a lot of art schools have?”
    I hopped back up on the counter, dropped the cigarette into the soda can, and lit another. “So are you guys, like, dating?” The light inside Arbus went on for a few seconds, shining down onto the test strip of paper Lexi had placed underneath.
    “What, me and Marian? No.” She dropped the test strip into one of the trays in the sink. “She’s fun, but she’s a flake, and anyway, I’m pretty sure Marian mainly likes boys.”
    This was my opening. “What about you?”
    She looked at me straight on, evaluating. I tried to keep a neutral expression on my face, not too interested and not too innocent. Lexi must have decided I was all right, because she bent back over the sink, moved her test strip into a different bath, and said, “I’m equal opportunity. It’s not like one thing over the other; it’s two different things. And before you ask, Farah Zarin is not and never has been my girlfriend. She’s a good friend, but she’s totally straight.”
    “Oh,” I said, nodding. I took a deep breath and said, “So I guess you gave Hugh Marsden an equal opportunity then, too, huh?”
    The tongs rattled in the sink, and Lexi turned around and took a step toward me. “What did you hear?” Even in the dim light of the dark room, I could see that her face had changed, and she was glaring at me. Without taking her eyes off me, she picked up the X-Acto knife—she didn’t even seem to notice she’d done it—and held the knife in a closed fist down by her side. “What did he say? Did he send you in here? I should have known.”
    “Lexi, chill.” I pulled nervously on my smoke. “I was just making conversation. Hugh didn’t send me in here, and honestly, he didn’t say anything, at least not to me. I heard about it secondhand.”
    “Who said that? What did they say?” Her grip on the knife tightened.
    “I don’t know. It was just going around. That you guys ran into each other at Echo Bridge and hooked up. It’s no big deal.” But obviously, it was. “What happened?”
    “Hugh motherfucking Marsden.” She closed her eyes and shook her head. Then she opened them and looked at me. “We happened to be in the same place at the same time. End of story.”
    “Obviously not.” I said. My heart was pounding. I could feel the hot little ball of anger in my stomach ballooning. “You’re holding a freaking knife, Lexi.” Suddenly I noticed a few dark droplets falling from her hand. She’d been squeezing the X-Acto knife so tightly she’d cut herself. I jumped off the counter again. “Do you need a Band-Aid?”
    She looked down at her hand in surprise. “I need Hugh Marsden’s head on a stick, is what I need.”
    “I know what you mean,” I said, and it felt almost the same as saying the actual words, the ones that would make it real. I felt deflated and loose. Her head snapped up and her face softened as she studied mine. I carefully took the knife out of her hand and dropped it in the sink. “I… he…” I didn’t have to say it. Lexi knew.
    “I didn’t think I was the only one,” she said quietly. She grabbed my hand and squeezed it hard, her blood running over our fingers. We stood there staring at each other for what was probably a second but felt like an eternity, hands clasped, nails digging into palms.

Chapter 4
    Our moment of mutual recognition was a little overwhelming. We both opened our mouths to speak at the same time and were both cut off by the sound of the bells signaling the end of fifth period. Belknap Country Day had an actual bell tower, and instead of the usual institutional buzzer, a series of large bells chimed out one set of notes to signal the end of a period and another set exactly seven minutes later to

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