Halfway through first period, Sophie noticed the bugs on her coffee thermos.
They were small, could have been dust or pollen except that they moved like a tiny army. She pushed the mug away to the edge of her desk, mortified and hoping no one would notice.
Sophie felt like she could feel the bugs on her lip. Had she taken a sip of the coffee yet? Had the tiny bugs been crawling on her first cup? She wiped her face, trying hard not to seem alarmed. There were already creeping whispers going through the high school about her, whispers that made her stomach turn, rumors that were the truth.
The bugs were crawling, multiplying like they were coming out from the threading underneath the lid, moving more towards the place where her mouth would have otherwise gone. They grew before her eyes, emerged as though they were being born from the warm interior of the thermos.
Sophie’s face went hot at this thought. After all, being born wasn’t something the bugs could help. They were so small. Would it be right to wash them away in the scalding dishwasher? Should she maybe let them live out their existence, colonize the mug somewhere far off in the woods, where she could leave the mug and return to school like nothing had happened. Or maybe she should race out of class before anyone would see, throw the maggot-infested coffee in a dumpster, never to be thought of again.
The mug was at the edge of her desk when it tipped, crashed onto the linoleum with a sound that jolted every other student from their first-period slump. Eyes were on her, followed her as they had for weeks. Months after the coffee spilled, Sophie wouldn’t remember the way coffee soaked her knees, wouldn’t remember how she scrambled not to clean the spill but to recover the thermos rolling across the classroom floor.
What she would remember were the whispers, armies of words that had followed her already for weeks, about how pregnancy makes you clumsy, about how she should transfer to the continuation school before she began to disrupt class.
Long after Sophie had left the classroom, escorted to the vice principal’s office for a phone home, embarrassing pamphlets slid unceremoniously across the broad desk about her options; a small worm, soaked in coffee, would survive the journey from the janitor’s mop to the dirt outside and search for more coffee grounds.