The late January sky was melting from slate grey to black as Heather sat on the steps outside the school. Martha was supposed to meet her there so they could ride home together, but she was half an hour late. It was getting cold and she knew her face was turning red in the wind. Her eyes watered as she watched the cars drift away from the parking lot with their lights on.

Finally, at around 5:20 a girl from her Biology class walked out of the school and started to walk past, then turned around. "Hey, she's in ASD, I thought you knew." A quick stare and then she was gone, tugging backpack and flute case under her arms.

That night around 8 Martha called her.

H-What happened, nobody told me...
M-It's no big deal...two days of ASD. It's not the death penalty.
H-but...what for?
M-PDA, I guess.
M-public display of affection, making out...kissing, sheesh...nobody told you, really? Wow, people are really something...
H-when did didn't I get it too?
M-I lied.
M-They brought me in the office & I told them it was a different girl-C.S-that goth chick from Chemistry. She's in trouble all the time, so they believed me. She just winked at me-she thinks ASD is cool 'cause she hates her folks-she would rather be at school. She has a rep and you don't. Nobody would believe it was you unless they saw it-and no teacher saw us.
H-I can't believe you did that for me..
M-hey, you would do it for me, right? (snickers) No, seriously, its no biggie. Caught up on some stuff...
H-I miss you, terribly now.
M-well, I'm grounded and stuff, so I won't be going out until Saturday. My folks were a little ticked off.
H-I feel so crappy, I really do.
M-I know you do, but it was worth it-you know I don't care what people think, why should you?

Long pause. Heather could hear a voice in the background-a parent urging the end of the call.
M-gotta go...'K?
H-yes, ok..I love you Martha. Thank you. I don't know what else to say.
M-yes...well, I have to go-bye

The phone clicked and it reminded Heather of the sound of a door closing. She felt an odd chill across her shoulders as she hung up the phone. Outside- snow had started to fall covering her yard with little patches of sugarwhite.

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