The greeting came out of the dark behind me. I choked on air and dropped my tongs into the developer tray. After picking those out, I looked over my shoulder. Lena Zarake smiled at me in the dark room’s red light.
“So pep squad is going with a serial killer theme this year.” In my defense, between the lighting and her uniform she looked like something out of a pulp slasher flick. That and Lena had managed to sneak into the photography rooms after hours, which was my thing.
“That would be better than Under the Sea.” The freshman hoisted herself onto the edge of a sink and started peering over the mostly empty workstation. I let my print sit in the tray, the image over-developing into indistinguishable silhouettes. Hopefully she wouldn’t look too closely at the photos drying above us.
“They already have the decorations.” Lena explained with a shrug. Hands on her bare knees she leaned a forward. “So this is photography club?”
Photography club was a lie I told my mom so she wouldn’t get suspicious when I came home after dark. This was a somewhat illegal after school job, and my little sister’s shot at college. “Its very exclusive.”
Lena rolled her eyes. “Whatever, I don’t need to know. Look, I’m having a party Saturday, you should come.”
She attempted her smile again, teeth stained red like everything else in the dark room. Maybe it was the devilish quality to the light, or maybe it was the fact that Lena Zarake didn’t like me, but it was hard to keep from suspecting something. “Uh huh. Your brother know about said party?”
“My brother is too busy with his photography club to notice what I do. A bunch of people from the prep academy are coming too.” Lena’s smile grew more impish. “What do you say?”
My frown was the result of being bullied by a freshman more than an aversion to a houseparty or its affluent attendees. Lena was popular, so it was bound to be packed. Prep students meant the thing would be funded and fueled by consequence-free privilege. I ignored the twinge beneath my breastbone at the prospect of hearing about it second hand for months afterward.
“And you’re inviting me now, and here, with no one around. Worried about your reputation?” I hoped the question sounded wry, instead of achingly bitter.
Lena sighed and hopped off the sink counter. “Its not my reputation. Like you’d ever accept if I invited you in front of anyone. It would ruin this malcontent thing.” She gestured at me with open fingers, as if pointing to an aura around me. “Whatever, you’re invited, come if you want, or don’t.”
She was good, I’d snuck into the campus darkroom first and I felt dismissed. “Maybe, things have been busy.”
“With photography club, I know.” Lena left with one more red grin and a wave.
I shook my head, maybe it would pay to ask Fen just how much his sister knew about our extra-curriculars.