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a rare moment of self-doubt

      The class went on for the next few minutes, during which Mr. Gianelli reviewed the quadratic formula and the guys in the back of the room reviewed Brigid’s shoulders and either her left or right butt cheek, depending on which side of the room the guy was on.

 

        “Attention.  Brigid O’Dierna, please report to the Principal’s Office.”  It was the scratchy voice of Ms. Kennedy, the Main Office secretary.

 

        This announcement jolted everyone.  What is going on?  It could not be because Brigid was in trouble.  She was the least likely kid in the school for that.  Maybe having something to do with the parade tomorrow?  But then wouldn’t it be Sarge who would have to see her?

 

        Mr. Gianelli seemed unperturbed.  Looking up at the loudspeaker after the announcement died away, he said, “Well Miss O’Dierna, I suppose you’ll need that hall pass after all.”

 

        Brigid seemed as puzzled as Rod.  She walked up and got the pass, and with a quick shrug, trotted out of the room.  They heard the slapping of her bare soles trailing away in the hall.

 

        Minutes went by and it occurred to Rod that maybe Brigid had a family emergency.  He had heard somewhere that her mother had a heart condition or something like that.  He watched the clock and tried to engage with the classwork.  More minutes went by .  .  .

 

        Almost half an hour later, just before the period ended, there was the slapping of feet again in the hall, which could only be Brigid.  Strangely, she had her hands crossed over her breasts and she walked with her head down and her legs together.  Putting the hall pass on Mr.  Gianelli’s desk, she went back to her desk and sat down.

 

        “We’re on problem 14, Miss O’Dierna.”

 

        “Thanks.”

 

        So there was no family emergency, Brigid was back in class.  But Rod detected something wrong.  The majorette slouched in her chair, foot sticking way out onto the floor of the aisle, elbow on the desk, propping up her head.  When the bell rang, she grabbed her bookbag and was the first one out, walking again with her breasts covered and her legs together.

 

        Rod snaked his way through everyone else, determined to catch up with Brigid in the hall.  He finally did, on the concrete stairwell in the far end of the hall, the one that hardly anyone used.

 

        Rod caught up with Brigid as she went through the fire door at the end of the hall and into the north stairway, a dreary place with no tile walls.  Few kids used these stairs because it was the long way around to wherever you were going.

 

        He found the scantily-clad majorette leaning against the cinder block wall, dropping her bookbag at her side.  She again crossed her arms over her breasts, and looked down, her flat tummy going in and out with her stressed breathing. 

 

        At first he stood there.  It was just him and her.  The heavy metallic fire door closed behind him with an echoing thud.  Then he said, “Brigid .  .  .  is something wrong?  You don’t look right.”  In spite of his concern he was proud of himself, in being able to speak clearly in her presence, with his heart racing so.

 

        Brigid looked down and flexed her toes.  The smooth concrete floor must have felt like ice to her bare feet.  “Rod .  .  .  do you think I’m .  .  . N - naked?”  She clutched her arms tighter around herself, and crossed one knee in front of the other.

 

        Then she slid down to the floor, the cinder blocks rough against her bare back, until her bare butt cheeks were on the floor, her knees up to her chin.  It seemed like she wanted to disappear into the wall.

 

        Rod was dumbstruck, fumbling for an answer.  “Um .  .  .  well .  .  .  you wear a lot less than the rest of us .  .  .  but .  .  . um .  .  .  That’s being a majorette.”

 

        She looked up at him, her green eyes meeting his brown eyes, as if daring him to tell her the truth.

 

        The fire door burst open and two guys, Phil and Bill, bounded past them and down the stairs.  Phil looked up and said, “Brigid! Must be Frigid!”  Bill laughed.  Then they were gone, the fire door downstairs clanging shut with an echo.

 

        Rod shot a look of arrows down at where they had disappeared, then returned his gaze to the love of his life.  There was no heat in this stairwell.  He could feel the drafty chill even through his uniform.  “It’s cold here .  .  .  Let me help you up.”

 

        “No.  .  .  I’m a majorette,” she said dully as if by rote, “I’m used to the cold.”  Then she looked up.  “So am I .  .  .  naked?”

 

        “Uh .  .  .  Majorettes have .  .  .  uh .  .  .  skimpier uniforms than everyone else.  That’s true in any band.” Suddenly warming, he said, “You’re Brigid, the Tunemasters majorette!  We’re practically famous, and you’re our leader!  Brigid, you’ve shown us how being a majorette is .  .  .  like .  .  .  it’s the hardest job in the band.  It’s being an athlete.  And a dancer.  You work hard at it, all those tricks you do, those high throws.  .  .  you’re our inspiration, what you go through for us and for the school.  You’re one of the great ones, Bridge!”

 

        Brigid looked down at their feet.  She stretched her foot out and wiggled her big toe against the toe of his marching boot.  “Thanks.”  They were silent for a moment, she sitting against the wall, he looking down at her.

 

        The fire door opened, with a waft of warm air from the hallway.  This time it was Jaycee and his new girlfriend Nilda, a Hispanic girl with dark skin and big boobs.  She wore her soccer team uniform.  They waved and passed by, absorbed in each other.  Rod smirked, thinking how hard it must be for his friend to keep his eyes trained on his new girlfriend’s face and not further down.

 

        Brigid watched them disappear downstairs.  She was on the soccer team too, and Rod was afraid she was going to say, “I should have worn my soccer uniform instead of .  .  .  this!”  But she didn’t say it.  She would have said it a moment ago.  He gave himself credit for his little pep talk.

 

        She let him help her up, and brushed dust off her butt, her hand slapping the bare skin.  “Am I O.K. back there?” she asked.  She turned to show him the back of her body, which was entirely bare, from her bare heels up to her red, tied-up hair.

 

        He looked closely.  The light here was pretty dim.  “Um .  .  .  you’ve got some dirt under your shoulder.”

 

        Brigid tried to reach back there with her hands but couldn’t.  “Get it for me.”

 

        “O.K.”  He brushed his hands as quickly as he dared from her shoulder blade down to the small of her back.  It gave him a thrill.  Her skin was not cold at all, considering the chill in here.  “There, it’s gone.”

 

        “Thanks.”

 

        Of course, she would have done the same for him, brushing dirt off the back of his jacket.  Tunemasters took care of each other.  It was something Sarge always stressed, part of what he called “the teamwork ethos”.

 

        Brigid turned up one foot, spreading her toes, then the other, checking for dirt.  Suddenly she stood up straight and wiggled her shoulders, making her breasts dance, the bits pointing crazily here and there, left and right, up and down.  She swung her hand behind her neck.  “Akkk!”

 

        “What’s wrong?”

 

        “Somethin’ back there -- it’s icky -- ”

 

        Rod got behind Brigid and looked.  “Oh it’s a -- ”  He hesitated a moment before saying it.  “Spiderweb.”

 

        “Eee!”  Brigid jumped up and down, dancing wildly, the thudding of her soles against the concrete echoing throughout the stairwell.  “Eee!”  Her little squeals echoed too.

 

        “But no spider, don’t worry!”  Actually he wasn’t sure about that.  But there was a cobweb that came down from the ceiling and had fastened against the wall.  Brigid must have caught part of it when she squatted and leaned back.

 

        Rod wished he had his uniform gloves.  As it was, all he had to work with was the bare skin of his hands.  Then he realized how spoiled he was, thinking about all the bare skin Brigid had to deal with.  The nerdy numbers went through his head again as he smoothed the dead filaments of web away from her pretty, delicate, white neck, then away from her back.  96 percent versus 0.5 percent coverage .  .  .  4 percent versus 99.5 percent exposed .  .  . He quickly cleared his throat and said, “Sorry, but -- ”  He then passed his hand quickly across Brigid’s right butt cheek, sweeping away the last bit of cobweb that had gotten stuck to her skin down there.

 

        “Got it all,” he finally said.  Brigid turned around to see Rod trying to rid his hands of the sticky grayish strings.  He paused for a minute to say to himself: I’ll bet that cobweb momentarily doubled the amount of covering Brigid has on her body.

 

        Finally Rod freed his hands from the web and they watched as it floated to the floor, between their feet.

 

        “Ohhh -- ”  Brigid shook her whole body with relief, glad to be rid of it.  Her breasts bounced back and forth, just like that time, in that burger place during the Foxboro parade, to check her circlets to make sure Debra -- or was it Virginia? -- had put them back on securely.  “Thanks Rod.”

 

        “Glad you’re feeling better,” Rod said.  He was curious.  “What made you so .  .  .  worried? What brought that on?”

 

        Brigid looked up at the ceiling and said, “The PTA or someone had a question about my new uniform.  .  .  so I got called to Ms. McPherson’s office and I showed them .  .  .  It was two parents, Ms. Hernandez, you know her? .  .  .I don’t know the other one .  .  .then I waited outside .  .  .  they didn’t think I heard them, the door was closed .  .  .  but they were complainin’ and sayin’ I was naked.”

 

        She uncrossed her arms and looked down at her breasts.  Then she cupped them and looked at her thread-clad tips of her nipples.

 

        “Those .  .  .  bits .  .  .  are beautiful,” Rod said.  “Your whole .  .  .  um .  .  .  uniform is beautiful.”  He then decided to say it.  “Just like you are beautiful, Bridge.”

 

        She looked at him and he bit his lip.  She then gave him a little peck on the cheek.  “You’re a dear.”  Which with her Boston-white-girl accent came out, “You’re a deah.”

 

        Rod knew what to do next -- he kissed her back, right on that left cheek.

 

        He wanted to embrace her in some way but couldn’t think how.  He decided to be satisfied with the memory of feeling her skin when he brushed the dirt and cobwebs off her.  So he said, “Are we still on for after lunch?”

 

        “What?”

 

        “Remember yesterday, I said I wrote something for clarinet.”

 

        “Sure, let’s eat together so we can get out together.”

 

        This is going good.  .  .  “There should be a couple of practice rooms open then.”  Actually there were only three practice rooms in the band area, next to the Big Instrument room where his trombone was.  There was no sign-up for those rooms; you had to grab was what available.  This could be another time when they could be alone .  .  .

 

        Brigid looked down at his uniform.  She took a few breaths.  She was almost composed now, almost back to her old self.  Then she fingered a couple of the buttons on his jacket.

 

        “Nice uniform,” she said.

 

        “You too.”

 

        He felt it was O.K. for him to step back and look down at her bare lower lips, and the green thread in between.

 

        “How does that .  .  .  bottom .  .  .  stay on?”

 

        “It’s called a ‘wisp’.”

 

        “Bits and wisp.”

 

        They laughed together.  As they both looked down, she parted her legs slightly.  Rod wished he had a magnifying glass, then smiled at the mental image of him looking at her like that.

 

        “You didn’t answer my question, Bridge.”

 

        “What?”

 

        He smiled.  “Don’t be coy.  You know what I mean.  How does your .  .  .  wisp .  .  . stay on?”

 

        Brigid looked to the side, then fingered his buttons again, this time up near his neck.  Then she straightened out the frill of his sleeve, and cleared her throat.  “Well I suppose I can tell you .  .  .  just something girls know .  .  .  and Ms. Kleinfelter of course -- “

 

        RRRRRIINNNNGGG!

 

        They looked at each in surprise -- fourth period!  Both hated being late for class.  Then with relief they said the same thing.  “Gym!”

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