Marley Stevens, 54, Teacher, Divorced
Marley let her head rest against the rough brick surface. The hazy smell, acrid with a tinge of ash, drowned out the ambient cacophony of shouting children and passing cars. The black taste layered the inside of her mouth, capturing and extinguishing her own inner blackness. Class had been out for 5 minutes. Only 5 minutes. Marley thought it had been longer. Even the simple act of watching a one-legged pigeon hop across the mulchy garden bed was leagues more appealing than returning to that class. Most of them were good kids. Most of them. It only took one to plant a festering seed within her gut and soul. And that seed had a particular face. She flicked her cigarette, allowing some ash to spill onto her beige dress, and took another pull. Smoke lazed from Marley’s lips, dancing around her nose and escaping into the branches above. If only she could fly with it.
Footsteps to her left alerted her. Marley snapped her head in the direction and suddenly went still. Her body locked in placed, noticeably holding the red-tipped cigarette between her fingers. Meanwhile, her eyes stared down at the devil incarnate. Jarod Goodwin. The boy stared back, mouth slightly agape, as dim-witted as ever. With his lingering gaze, Marley saw her career slip by. No matter the years she put into this school, no matter the bottles of tears, this was an inexcusable infringement. And of course, it had to be Jarod-bloody-Goodwin. Marley’s face became flush, a fire burning beneath her skin causing steam to rise from her pores. She staggered off the brick wall and stomped toward the boy. His shirt was untucked, his tie undone, and his aura of metallic chocolate hit her even from steps away. Where he hid his horns and tail she didn’t know. But before she had the chance to unleash her building fury, the boy shimmied something from his pocket. A square blue and white pack of Winfield Blues. Marley eyed Jarod up and down once more. She huffed and took another pull from her burning stick of sweetness. She only tasted relief.