Read The Fall of Butterflies - Andrea Portes

PART I

ONE

Bet you’d never thought you’d be sitting at the freak table. It’s okay. You get used to it. Trust me.

But there are some responsibilities here, so let’s get things straight.

Let’s go around the table, shall we? Clockwise it goes . . . Peanut Allergy Boy, Headgear Girl, OCD, and me. You’re probably wondering about the names. Look. I’m not gonna sugarcoat it. There’s a reason I’m not telling you. We’ll get to that. I mean, geez. Why are you rushing me?

You may have to take care of these people when I’m gone, okay? Like Headgear Girl is pretty low maintenance. And, honestly, Peanut Allergy Boy is, too. Other than the fact you have to make sure there are no nuts anywhere near him, even pine nuts, seriously. If he eats nuts he’ll blow up like a puffer fish and you’ll have to stab him in the thigh with his EpiPen or he’ll die. That’s not an exaggeration. He will literally die. Don’t worry. No pressure. I’ll show you how to do it before I go.

Really, OCD is the one you have to watch out for. It’s just that if you don’t get the salt and pepper, ketchup, and mustard condiment dispensers all in a row, like exactly in a row, parallel to the table edge and centered in the middle of the table, well, he kind of starts flailing all over the place and then crying and shaking and yelling that we’re all gonna die. It’s okay, though. He’s on medication. Small detail, sometimes he forgets to take said medication and then all of a sudden the condiments’ positioning will lead to the end of the world, so it’s best just to put them there in the first place. Why risk it?

You can imagine all this freakiness in one place might lead to a certain amount of asses getting kicked. Never have you imagined more correctly. It’s okay, though. I usually take the brunt of it. That’s sort of what I’m here for. It’s also, kind of, why I’m here in the first place. I used to just be a normal high school–hating teenager somewhere in the middle of the public school experiment. In a kind of purgatory. A safe space.

But I sort of lost my mind in tenth grade and decided to defend Peanut Allergy Boy after the zillionth time he had “Penis Allergy” stuck to his back on a sign. It was really that he tried to defend himself. That was not allowed by the jocks, who clearly took a kind of red-faced glee in throwing him into the nearest trash can and rolling him down the hall between fourth and fifth periods.

Look. I don’t know what came over me. But whatever it was, it went like a whirl. The first part of the whirl was me yelling at them and calling them idiot Neanderthals with the IQ of maybe a concrete block. The second part of the whirl was them putting me into a trash can and rolling me down the same said hallway between fourth and fifth periods. And the third part of the whirl was me at the freak table from there to forevermore. It’s okay. Wanna know a secret?

I like it here.

This is the place for me.

Yeah. The freak table. Holler.

At least here I don’t have to dumb myself down or pretend to care about football or talk about the pros and cons of hairspray. Here, it’s perfectly acceptable for me to stare into the abyss for an entire hour, and nobody bothers me. All I have to do is make sure the table is sans peanuts, the condiments are in a row, and there’s nothing too stringy that gets stuck in headgear. Easy, right?

I would’ve stayed here happily. I really would have. For, like, ever.

Right now OCD and Peanut Allergy are waxing poetic about next year. About what’s gonna happen when I get back from the East Coast, calling it Le Snooty Coast, and how I’ll eat lobster rolls and say “Pahk the cah in the Hahvahd yahd” and get molested by a Kennedy. Headgear Girl thinks I should invest in a lot of navy blazers and maybe even invent a fake family crest.

And I don’t have the heart to tell them the truth. I don’t have the heart to tell them I won’t be back. I don’t have the heart to tell them I have a two-point plan. But I’ll tell you, okay? As long as you keep it a secret. You