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The Bad Ones
Stylo Fantome



“Ms. Travers, I know we're not even half done with this year, but I think it's crucial we develop a plan for next year. You'll be a senior, and frankly, I'm worried,” Ms. Poulter, the guidance counselor at Fuller High School, said with a sigh.

Dulcie Travers nodded, but didn't look at the other woman. She kept looking out the window. There was a huge maple tree just outside and the leaves had all begun to change. It looked like the tree was on fire, with the fronds rustling in the wind likes sparks in the sky.

I wish I could take my camera out.

“Ms. Travers!”

“Yes,” Dulcie responded quickly, finally looking across the desk. “Yes, I'm listening.”

“Now, I see here that at the conclusion of this year, you'll only have two credits in math. What kind of math will you be taking next year?” the counselor asked.

“No math next year.”


“I only need two math credits to graduate. So once I'm done with this year, I'm good,” Dulcie explained. She felt like this was something the guidance counselor should've known on her own.

“Well, yes, two is all you need to graduate, but many colleges require three credits. Possibly more! Now, I'm going to sign you up to take -” Ms. Poulter began prattling away as she clicked away on her keyboard.

“No,” Dulcie interrupted her.

“Pardon me?”

“No. I don't want anymore math classes.”

“But Ms. Travers! If you want to get into college -”

I'm gonna lose this amazing light if I don't shut her up, and I have to get a picture of that tree.

“This is stupid,” Dulcie snorted, and she picked up her bag as she stood up. “Let's be real. I'm not going to college.”

“Your grades are perfectly acceptable, you could apply -” Ms. Poulter was practically sputtering.

“My grades are 'perfectly' average – who's gonna pay my tuition, huh? I'm not getting a scholarship, and no school is just gonna let me in based on my GPA. I'm like you, I'm like my family, I'm like everyone else in this town. Stuck here. One more math class won't change that; I know it, and you know it. So how about I get out of here, and you can use the rest of our scheduled hour to look up cat videos on the internet,” Dulcie suggested.

There was silence for a moment. She began to think the counselor would argue with her. But Dulcie was right, and Ms. Poulter knew it. Unless a student's grades were astronomically good, or he could throw a perfect spiral straight to its target, he was stuck in Fuller, West Virginia. Basically like purgatory, adjacent.

“It's your future. If you can't be bothered to care about it, then I simply don't have time to help you.”

It was a dismissal, and Dulcie didn't hesitate. She muttered a hasty “thank you”, then bolted out the door.

She threw the strap of her bag over her head before she began digging around inside it. Normally, she was okay with using her phone's camera, but for really spectacular shots, she pulled out her precious. The ridiculously expensive digital camera she'd bought herself for Christmas.

School wasn't over for another two hours, she should've gone straight back to class. Or hidden in the library. She supposed she could've cut and just left for the rest of the day, but she didn't really have the means – she didn't have a car, and no one was around to give her a ride. Dulcie usually avoided trouble, she liked to fly below the radar as much as possible. But she couldn't resist getting a picture. Just a couple snaps, then she'd go back to class. No one would even know.

A couple snaps turned into about fifty pictures. She got the tree from almost every angle. She even laid down at one point and took a shot straight up. That's when the magic happened. Just before she pressed the shutter, a leaf fell loose from its branch. It spiraled slowly towards her, and she got pictures of it every inch of the way down, all the way up until it landed on her lens.

Dulcie smiled as she slowly sat up, plucking the leaf away from her camera. She twirled it around in her fingers, then on a whim, she took a textbook out from her bag and pressed the dry leaf between the pages. A memento of a stolen moment and a beautiful picture. Then she put it away and climbed to her feet.

She was staring at the screen of her camera, not paying attention to what was going on around her. She was heading back to the front doors of the school and was vaguely aware of someone yelling in the distance, but figured it was some luckier students, escaping in their car for an early day.

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