Hated them for as long as I could remember.
But the crowded school cafeteria didn’t make things any easier for me than the first moment when I passed through the blue double-doors and stood behind Jack Nickerson; waiting with an almost impatient air and a nervous gait.
Clothed from head to toe in a tight-fighting dark black and blue fabric, I looked like a mummy had just escaped from the museum and decided to rum amok around town scaring people half to death.
But it was mom’s idea from the start. No part of my body should lay exposed to either the elements or human contact. I was to be far removed from tactile touch as possible.
If I violated the rules, the end results wouldn’t be pretty. Not for mom, not for me, and certainly not for any unlucky sort who was the recipient of my errant probe.
I was death personified. And nobody liked that kind of a job description. But the Death Dealers did what they could to balance things and I was no different. I may be just a wayward teenager with a lot on her mind, but I also had a job to do. I was the hopeful keeper of the Orb of Truth and that was a heavy bit of responsibility that had befallen every member of my family since we had become of age.
My father was the last to hold the device until he passed away unexpectedly, now it would be my turn next–seeing how mom had no real use for it.
But it was a delicate thing. Prone to shocks and jolts. But luckily for us, it could not be broken in the conventional sense.
So why was someone like me doing in a school cafeteria waiting for the lunch line to die down (bad choice of words, I know), so that I could get what I came for and be on my way?
I was hungry. I hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast and the smells coming from the serving line made my stomach growl audibly.
Jack turned around at the sound my stomach made at that point and smiled gamely at me.
“Starving?” He teased relentlessly, the warmth behind his soft brown eyes most telling in the overhead skylights.
I blushed under my veil and nodded meekly.
I felt his impossibly warm hands through the thin fabric of my clothing–which sent shivers down my spine again–and was pushed back in jest.
“I’ll bring you your tray, Camille. Just like last time. You don’t have to worry about that.”
I nodded again, this time in a show of gratitude.
“Thank you, Jack.” I said, wishing in that instant that I could doff off my veil and mask and throw my arms around him, hug him, kiss him even, but I knew that it could never be.
I could never touch him. Not in a million years. No matter how much I wanted to.
Instead, he reached out for my arm and squeezed gently in response and nodded nonetheless.
“No problem.” He said. “I wouldn’t be much of a friend if I didn’t at least look out for you from time to time.”
“You’re always looking out for me. Ever since we were in grade school. Kindergarten even.”
Jack laughed a little. “I still remember what you looked like when your first arrived. A cute little bundle of joy with her arms immobilized by your side and those little ribbons you wore at the wrist. The knee socks, the pleated dress and everything from the neck down looking like you were wearing a niqab or something.”
“Well, I’m not Muslim.” I corrected gently.
Jack nodded nonetheless.
“No, but you are something else. Something very special.” He hinted warmly, giving me a reason to melt a little on the inside. That is, if it were ever possible for a living dead girl like me to feel such an emotion.