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"JO POLNIACZEK IS A DYKE!"
The words, written in dark black ink, seemed even larger than they were. Jo rubbed at the letters of her last name. Polniaczek. It did not say, for instance, Jo Abbot, whose full first name was Josephine, where Jo's was really Joanna. Whoever had written these words had wanted it to be very clear exactly who she meant. Incredibly, she (for it had to be a girl, this was the girls restroom at a girl's school) had even spelled her last name correctly.
Jo tried to remember the last time she had used this particular stall. It must have been a couple weeks ago. How long had these words been on this stall door. How many of the girls at Eastland had read these words? How many of them believed in them. Jo licked her finger and tried to rub the last word out but it didn't even smudge.
She finished her business in the stall and dashed her hands briefly under the tap, not even pausing long enough to dry them before hurriedly exiting the restroom. She turned left and jogged to the art room, thankful for the fact that the rest of the students were in their classes right now. The art room was luckily empty so she was able to slip right inside where she found the drawer with all the permanent markers.
Frustratingly, most of the markers had lost their caps and dried out, which was just typical. Jo felt her throat constrict as she tried marker after marker on the back of her hand, looking for one that would leave more than a faint skid mark. Finally, way in the back of the drawer, she found a packet of new markers. She opened it and stuck one up the sleeve of her shirt before dashing back to the restroom and bursting through the door.
Jo felt her stomach drop to somewhere around her toes when she realized that the stall was now occupied. Somebody was in there right now, and unless they were really distracted, they would be reading the words written on the stall door. There was no way in hell that Jo would be able to face whoever walked out, not without decking the girl if she had any sort of expression at all on her face. She backed hurriedly out of the restroom and into the hallway, hesitating in the empty open space. Finally, she ducked behind a corner and peeked around it, waiting for whoever was in there to finish up so that she could cover up the words before even more damage was done.
She didn't have to wait long. She watched the door open as a foot, then a skirt, and then a whole girl emerged from it. Jo cursed softly as she recognized the girl's full blond hair. This was the worst thing that could have happened.
Blair closed the door to the restroom behind her, and then leaned against it. She was shaking. Jo couldn't see her face, but she knew exactly what look was probably on it right now, having felt the heat of that glare many times before. Blair took a deep breath, then strode off down the hallway, thankfully turning left and not right, which would have taken her directly past Jo. As soon as she was gone, Jo slipped into the restroom. She locked herself into the stall and started methodically covering the damning words with a rectangle of pure black.
As she scribbled, she thought about what Blair must be thinking right now. She probably hated her even more now than she usually did. Jo felt physically ill at the thought of being confronted by her. She didn't want to hear what Blair would say and she did not want to see the disgust that would be in her eyes.
Jo made up her mind. As soon as she had finished coloring this in, she would gather her stuff from the room she shared with the other girls. She was sure she could be on her way home in the Bronx before Blair got out of class.
Jo heard the restroom door open as somebody came in. The girl approached her stall and made a frustrated sound, which Jo ignored; there were other stalls in the room she could use. She heard the clacking of the girl's shoes on the floor as she walked restlessly too and fro. She ignored that too. Finally, when the girl sighed in annoyance, Jo could take it no longer.
"This ain't the only crapper in the craphouse you know," she growled.
Jo stopped scribbling when as she recognized the voice of the girl. What was Blair doing back in here?
"Is that you? Of course it is; no other girl at Eastland uses such uncouth language."
"Blair, what are you doing here? Go away."
"This isn't your personal restroom Jo. I have just as much right to be here as you." Blair's voice lost its habitual snottiness as she hesitated; then asked quietly, "What are you doing in there?"
"What do you think?" Jo said bitterly. She unhitched the door and let it swing open, remaining seated on top of the toilet lid which she had shut to give herself a place to sit.
Blair glanced at the door. Jo had started covering up the letters from left to right, and the only three left were the the last three, "YKE!"
"Oh, Jo, I'm so sorry you had to see that," Blair said.
"You're sorry I saw it? Why? Did you write it?"
"Of course not Jo! I simply cannot believe that somebody would say such a disgusting thing about you."
Jo felt her stomach lurch. She had known Blair would think it was disgusting.
"You can't believe it? People have been saying stuff like that about me for years, Blair."
"They are stupid. Just because you're a bit uncouth, and ride a motorcycle, and have the fashion sense of a monkey doesn't mean you are one of...those women."
"Is that what you really think, Blair?" Jo didn't know why she had asked that; it was like she wanted Blair to get a clue. The last thing she wanted was for Blair to get a clue.
"Yes, of course! You're a bit of a tomboy, Jo. That's all. But that's perfectly okay; I can fix that or my name is not Blair Warner." With that suitably self satisfied remark, Blair uncapped the permanent marker that Jo had not noticed was clutched in her hand and started filling in the rest of the letters.
"You came back to cover it up."
"Of course Jo, I would never just let a friend of mine be slandered like that. If I knew who had written this, I'd... well, they would be sorry."
Incredibly, Jo felt a full fledged smile come to her face as she looked at the girl she sometimes called a friend, the one who did not hate her, but instead was filled with righteous fury on her behalf. Blair finished scribbling out the slur and glanced at Jo. There was a look of surprise on her face when she saw Jo's expression, but then her mouth stretched into a matching smile.
Blair looked at her warmly until Jo felt her blush start to overwhelm her face and she had to turn away. Blair took Jo's marker from her unresisting fingers and tossed it along with her own in a trashcan. Then she grabbed Jo's hand with her own to pull her up off the toilet seat. Jo made sure to drop her hand before they left the restroom. There was no reason to make the Eastland girls get ideas about Blair too just because she was being a good friend.
All the things that Blair had pointed out did not make Jo one of 'those women,' as Blair had so euphemistically put it. But the way Jo's heart beat had tripped over itself as she looked into Blair's eyes was not just because she was 'a bit of a tomboy,' and the way her hand had tingled when Blair held it wasn't because Blair had better fashion sense than she did.
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