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Pink like bubblegum
The blue cap clipped on with a quiet snap, audibly echoing against the tiles of a bathroom that was scrubbed too clean to be comfortable in. Nervous eyes checked the instructions, confirming everything once again. She reached up to place the stick on the high windowsill by balancing on the toilet seat lid, wondering why it needed sunlight. Did the test work like a plant? Absorbing light and piss, then spitting out answers.
60 seconds. Just 60 seconds and she’ll know.
It was too long a wait.
Zara chewed on her lips, swollen red and puffy, chasing the faint sickly sweet remains of her chapstick. She had picked the flavour because it was Davey’s fav, and more than anything she had wanted to be his fav.
Davey wasn’t like the other guys in her class – he wasn’t a dude bro, a preppy kid, a chav or a neck-beard breathing heavily over her shoulder because she once expressed an interest in anime.
He was a quiet weirdo with an obsession with bubblegum. The entire year knew how he hoarded bags of pink bubblegum, changing it out several times a day so he always had a fresh chew. Teachers would watch him with beady eyes, waiting to catch him and send him to the hallway for eating during class. Davey got caught at least once a week, but it never curbed his habit, his addiction to the sweet stuff.
Everyone knew Davey like bubblegum.
But Zara knew other things about Davey.
He liked old Hellboy comics and listened to artists she had never heard of like Al’Tarba and Icon For Hire. He spent his free time burrowing inside a classroom just above the corner where chavs hid to smoke, blowing pink bubblegum bubbles bigger than his head and drawing epic dragons doing mundane human things. He always wore headphones, but had recently stopped whenever Zara was with him, watching him plod through his day to his offbeat tempo. Zara didn’t think he was particularly cute, and Davey definitely wasn’t handsome with his small squirrely appearance, but she loved his novelty and the imperfections that marked his face.
She remembered tracing fingers from his up-turned nose to his jaw, bristly with soft baby fuzz that might threaten a beard one day. He had clumsily dove in for a frantic kiss after that, knocking his teeth against her lips before rearing back with a shy apology.
Zara had thought Davey was naïve and sweet, like the bubblegum he loved so much. So she had kissed him again, but more saccharine, begging to replace his favourite flavour and remain on the tip of his tongue a moment longer. He seemed surprised, unsure, nervous but thrilled, smiling with pink lips and pinker cheeks as she had guided his hand down her skirt. Zara had wanted to suck on him all day, drowning herself in Davey’s sugary taste.
Checking her phone, she still had 30 seconds left. Zara felt impatient, surrounded by the sterile bathroom, squatting on top of the cold toilet seat lid and choking on the pungent bleach odour. She missed the mild sweetness of Davey, despite how terrified to face him she was.
How could she turn to sweet little Davey and explain that the condom might have busted, or broke, or not done something that it should have. How could she ruin her not-quite-a-friendship, not-quite-a-relationship with darling Davey, who still got up early on a Saturday to chuckle at Spongebob Squarepants, like some lil kid.
It was unbearable that she might be the one who took away Davey’s sweetness.
10 seconds left and the taste of bubblegum was gone from her lips, replaced by harsh metallic flavours as her teeth tore her skin in her anxious state. She savoured the difference between the artificial bubblegum flavour and the unpleasant taste of blood, grounding herself in the tiny bathroom cubicle before her mind drifted away. Mentally she whispered a soft prayer.
60 seconds was up and she scrambled for the test stick and pulling it towards her like it was a cup of water in the middle of a desert. Zara thirstily drank up with results, zeroing in on the box that held her precious answer.
And there, sat dead centre on an off-cream coloured square, was a tiny bubblegum pink positive-cross.