I’ve known shy kids before, and Caroline was definitely shy, but the thing that really got my attention about her was that Caroline never ate lunch.
It took me a few days to notice, because she always went through the lunch line and filled her tray with pizza and milk, and she’d sit with us and open the milk and tear a few pieces off the pizza, but she never ate a thing. At the end of lunch, she would just dump everything in the trash can next to the tray return and head back to class.
I didn’t want to make her feel weird, so I didn’t say anything about it, until one day we were waiting to get picked up from tennis practice, and she had this look on her face that was so sad. I wanted to help her, so I said, “Hey, what’s wrong?”
“Nothing,” she replied. “I’m just really hungry.”
“Well, no wonder,” I said. “You never eat your lunch.”
And she looked at me with wide eyes, then looked away. She was quiet until my mom pulled up, and just as I was scrambling to my feet she said, “How’d you know?”
I shrugged and said, “I notice things. And I’m a little worried about you is all.” Then I walked to the car.
Caroline avoided me for a few days after that. She sat at a different lunch table and everything. And I kind of forgot about it until one day I walked into English class and there was a folded up note on my desk. My name was written on the outside in purple sparkly pen and right away I knew it was from Caroline.
I carefully unfolded the note and started to read:
Sorry about the other day. I was surprised when you said you noticed I don’t eat much. Thanks for caring about me. Do you want to come to my house on Saturday?
It was such a sweet note and I knew she didn’t have any friends, so I decided why not go to her house on Saturday?
Saturday came and I rode my bike over to the apartments where Caroline lived. I knocked on the door and her brother Willis opened it, but only a little.
“Hey, is Caroline here?” I asked.
“Sure,” he said. “Just wait here.” And he closed the door.
A few minutes later, Caroline opened it again and invited me in. Her apartment looked nice enough. The sofa was a little too big for the room and Willis’ action figures were strewn around on the carpet. But it was homey.
Caroline took me by the hand and led me to her room, which was done up in pink ruffles. I’ve never seen anything like it. It was the kind of room a Disney princess would have. I thought maybe we were a little old for that, but Caroline was really proud of it, so I smiled and told her how nice it was.
“Thanks for coming,” she said. “I wanted to show you something.”
She walked over to her dresser and opened the top drawer. She reached in and took out a syringe. There was no needle on it or anything – just a rubber tube that was about five inches long with a clamp pinching it off in the middle.
I watched as Caroline took the plunger out of the syringe and filled it with this beige goop from a bowl on her desk.
“What’s that stuff?” I asked.
“Lunch,” she replied. I must have stared because she said, “I have a problem.”
“I can’t eat like other people.”
“Oh,” I said. I didn’t know what else to say. But I kept watching as she pulled up her shirt a little. Her skin was dark underneath, and scaly, and there was a small opening in her side. She stuck the end of the rubber tube into the opening, then she unclamped it and pressed on the plunger, a little bit at a time, until all the beige stuff was gone.
“I have to go slow,” she said. “Or else it squirts all over.”
“This is how you have to eat?” I asked.
Caroline nodded, then pulled the tube free and put it back in her dresser drawer.
“Why?” I asked.
“Because I’m not from around here,” Caroline replied.
About Prompt-A-Day: The rules are simple. Every day, I generate a prompt using Story Shack’s awesome writing prompt generator. Then I set a timer for one hour. At the end of the hour, I post what I’ve got. Sometimes it’s decent. Sometimes it sucks. Sometimes I fail at the prompt. Sometimes I do okay. I do not edit, unless I find a typo, because I can’t help fixing those. Feel free to join in and post a link to your writing in the comments.