It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to learn the Macarena, Tabitha thought, stroking her temples with two long pink rubber spatulas; she had bought them earlier that day on clearance at Target and was feeling rather like a rocket scientist herself.
Gavin, on the other hand, was far from it. His feet fumbled across the linoleum as though they were connected to a convulsing elephant rather than a freshman. Nonetheless, he shot a smile to Tabitha, the same shade of white as his skin that never saw the sun. Parts of his expression were lost under flat bangs that desperately needed trimming.
There was a sharp knock at the door, then three more in the club’s secret pattern. Hesitant, Tabitha made her way over to the entryway and, using a spatula, lifted the piece of tissue paper that covered the window.
On the other side of the glass stood a girl Tabitha didn’t recognize. The girl’s dark hair fell in ropes across her face; her blue tee-shirt had an Enterprise pin printed over the breast. She waved her hand, keeping it close to her body, in a stiff greeting. Tabitha rolled her eyes, opening the door just a crack.
“Password?” Tabitha asked in a flat tone.
“Oh right. Duh.” The other girl lifted her hair from her forehead to expose a jagged lightning scar. “I carved it into my forehead when I was eleven. My birthday had just passed, and my letter was nowhere to be seen, and, you know, desperate times call for desperate measures.” The girl giggled. “My name is Hannah, by the way.”
Tabitha sighed, looking dejectedly at the toes of her Converse, then jerked her thumb backwards. “Welcome to the club.”
With a look of awe across her face, Hannah strolled past Tabitha into the band room. Most of the instruments were in shadow; only a single ceiling light was on at this hour, casting a pale yellow across a handful of students who sat in a corner. They discussed something in hushed voices, not because it was a secret but because it felt like a secret that way.
“Guys, this is Hannah.” Tabitha muttered, shuffling across the room behind the other girl.
“Hi, Hannah,” the rest of the group chimed back, rising to absorb Hannah with smiles and handshakes. Beaming, she began a recount of the story of the lightning scar.
“It seems like she fits right in.” It was Gavin’s voice in Tabitha’s ear. She jolted as his breath tickled her skin.
“Good grief, Gavin, stop doing that!” she scolded through her teeth. “You know it scares me.”
He continued as though she hadn’t said anything. “She seems nice. Maybe you should try, oh, I don’t know. Being nice to her.”
“Gavin!” she whined, even though he had a point. “I’m fine.”
“Come on, Tabitha,” Gavin sighed. “You and I both know that you need more friends.”
The corner of Tabitha’s mouth turned up, and she swatted Gavin playfully with a spatula. “Gavin. I’m plenty nice. I even let her in the door without question.”
“You’re not even nice to me all of the time,” he retaliated, “and I’m the best friend you’ve got.”
“Don’t remind me,” she joked.
“You’re doing it again!” he said, although the words were distorted by laughter. “Come on, let’s make some friends.” He wrapped his fingers around her wrist and tugged her over to the crowd. Reluctant, she shifted her feet along to stay next to him.
“Hannah brought cupcakes!” There was an excited chatter all around as the new girl, the life of the party, pulled the pastry in question from her messenger bag. Tabitha noticed with a rue smile that, because the box had been positioned sideways, many of the cupcakes were pushed up against the clear plastic, smearing blue frosting.
“I got the blue ones because they reminded me of the TARDIS,” Hannah announced, pouring enthusiasm out her eyeballs. “It seemed appropriate.”
There was a murmur of agreement as everyone rushed to grab some sugar. By the time Tabitha and Gavin made their way over, all of the pristine cupcakes had been taken, and the only ones remaining were missing patches of frosting. Tabitha looked down at the selection with dismay, then lunged at the blue coating the lid of the box, scooping up chunks with a spatula.
“Thanks for bringing the cupcakes, Hannah,” Gavin said warmly, partly because he was innately friendly and partly because he was trying to cover for his companion. “We don’t usually have snacks. It’s nice, for a change.”
“Oh yeah, of course,” Hannah beamed, eyeing Tabitha. She turned her attention to the other girl. “Are you going to have a cupcake?” she asked.
Tabitha shook her head. “Only the icky ones are left.”
Hannah smiled broadly, a gleam in her eye. “That’s what other people say about us, isn’t it? I mean, we’re just the icky ones. The rejects.” She motioned out to the group. “But we’re still okay. Just because we’re not the prettiest bunch doesn’t mean we’re no good to eat.”
“You haven’t been here very long,” Tabitha replied meekly, a knot forming in the lowest pits of her stomach. “How do you know about that?”
Hannah shrugged. “I haven’t been here, in the secret society, very long, but I’ve been here all my life.” Her smile weakened. “I knew this was a place where I could belong. That’s why I came.”
Tabitha couldn’t help but grin as the knot untied itself and dissolved. She took the spatula that she hadn’t already licked clean of frosting and presented it to Hannah in a pink blur. “Take it,” she said.
“So you can eat the frosting off the lid,” Tabitha explained. After some deliberation, she continued, “But also because you’re a rocket scientist.”
Hannah blushed deeply, then covered her warm cheeks with her hands. “People don’t say nice things to me that often,” she murmured.
“They don’t say nice things to me, either,” Tabitha replied.
Gavin cleared his throat.
“Well, people other than Gavin don’t say nice things to me very often,” she corrected herself. “You really do fit in here.”
Gavin cleared his throat again. “Now, what were we doing before Hannah showed up?”
“Teaching everyone how to do the Macarena,” Tabitha answered.
“Okay, I know I just literally walked into a Secret Society of Weird Kids,” Hannah interrupted, “But, seriously, who doesn’t know the Macarena?”
“You’d be surprised,” Tabitha answered.
Gavin shrugged his shoulders as if to say, “Whatcha gonna do?”