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Love Me Never

Page 6

   


“If I tell everyone he sucks at kissing, beautiful and kind girls like yourself won’t fall for his tricks and date him. The power of gossip will smite evil in its lair, where swords cannot reach!”
She shakes her head. “You’re so weird.”
“I’m also super excited to freeze his expression in amber and make a necklace out of it when he realizes what everyone’s saying about him. Revenge is sweet.”
“What did he say to you yesterday that’s made you hate him so much?”
I clear my throat. “Just, you know. He insulted you. Then he insulted me, which is totally not cool because there’s really nothing about me to insult, objectively. If I was less than perfect I would probably be bothered by insults. But I’m not. He still did a vaguely negative thing though, and according to the law doing vaguely negative things is sometimes bad. So I have to pay him back. An eye for an eye and all that.”
She tilts her head, a confused carrot hanging out of her mouth. I clarify.
“Shakespeare said that. The dude traded eyeballs a lot, apparently.”
Avery comes in then, flanked by two other girls I can never remember the name of, but who try and fail to look as waifish and savagely stylish as Avery. Kayla bolts up instantly, grabbing her lunch and stammering.
“S-Sorry. I have to go.”
“Uh, yeah? Sure?”
She jogs over to Avery, hemorrhaging baby carrots across the floor as she goes. The janitor in the corner makes a face that’s only slightly different from his usual ‘I-would-become-a-serial-killer-so-quickly-if-given-the-chance’ face. Kayla apparently doesn’t want Avery knowing she’s hanging out with me, which is fine, because Avery dislikes me and Kayla’s been friends with Avery way before me. So it’s logical for her to pick Avery over me, and I say that with the least amount of bitterness I’ve ever held for a person in my life. It makes honest-to-God perfect sense. I briefly entertain the thought that what Jack said the other night might be true – Kayla really hates what her friends do, and forces herself to go along with it.
I shake my head and laugh into my sandwich, spraying tuna in an elegant pattern across the table. No. Somebody that pretentious and self-absorbed has no idea how to relate to other people. Jack has no idea what Kayla - or anyone - is going through. And that includes me.
I get up and throw my lunch trash away, and head to my next class early. No sense in eating alone in the cafeteria and looking like a friendless moron any more than I already do.
The September day is crisp and chilly, but the sun is warm. East Summit High looks like any other school – white buildings, glass-walled lobbies. There’s a giant quad area made of grass and pine trees and water fountains and benches, and all the buildings are situated around that. There’s a flag in front of the office and a stadium in the back where we lose more than we win. It’s middle America at its finest, and blandest. At least at my old school we had cool banyan trees and the occasional raccoon invasion to spice things up. But here it’s just been nothing - nothing but old memories and trudging through a series of classes and homework assignments alone. Until last night, of course. Now I’m riding high on a twisted sort of false popularity with no real lasting power. It’s slightly awesome.
I’m halfway to Mrs. Gregory’s class when I see him.
Jack Hunter’s talking with Principal Evans – a balding man in a suit that always smells like a mixture of mothballs and old fish. Next to tall, effortless Jack, Evans looks like a little bumbling gnome. Jack’s nose looks fine from here, which pisses me off. I wanted a scab, or at least a little mark of some kind. They can’t see me, but I can hear both of them perfectly.
“ - you shouldn’t let that keep you here, Jack. I know it’s been hard for you, but it’s not a good enough excuse to ruin your future over,” Mr. Evans says. “Do you know how many calls from Princeton and Yale I have to field a day? They want you, Jack. You could go to any Ivy League for free! Don’t ruin that for yourself.”
Jack’s eyes remain cold, but for a second I think I see a flash of hot anger run through them. He tames it quickly, his voice even and purposefully pleasant – the kind of pleasant you reserve for grown-ups you want to get off your back.
“I’m aware of this. Thank you for your input.”
“But you’re not, Jack! That’s just the problem – you’re not. She’ll get better with or without you here –”
Jack spots me over Evans’ shoulder. He smiles at Evans, nothing about the grin sincere, and pats him on the arm.
“I should go. My friend’s waiting for me.”
To my shock, Jack walks over to me, Evans watching from behind him. Jack keeps the creepy not-smile in place.
“Hey. Sorry I couldn’t meet you for lunch,” He says.
“Uh, what?”
Jack leans in, his fingers glancing across my hair. I can smell his cologne on him – nothing strong, but a soft sweet-sweat scent beneath the smell of his sweater. Blue eyes bore into me. His voice gets so low and gravelly he sounds like a beast instead of the cheery person he was a second ago.
“Pretend you’re my friend.”
“Give me one logically sound reason why I’d even think about it.” I hiss back.
“Will Cavanaugh. That’s his name, wasn’t it?”
A bolt of pain ricochets through my chest at his name. Nameless. How the hell did Jack find out?
“Look at that horrible flinching movement. You have a physical reaction to his name. You must be in terrible pain. Pretend to be my friend or I’ll say it again. Louder.”
“You wouldn’t –”
“Wil-”
“I couldn’t find you in the cafeteria!” I say loud enough for Evans to hear, but he can’t see my face. I glare fire into Jack’s eyes as he makes his voice light again.
“Come on. I’ll buy you pizza. My treat.” He slings his arm around my shoulder and leads me away. Every nerve in my body goes on point. A boy’s touching me and I gave him absolutely no permission. I’m ready to punch him out like a WWE special, but for the sake of not hearing Nameless’ name again, I’ll do anything. His ribs are pressing into mine and our steps are in a creepy sort of sync. Jack doesn’t look back once, and neither do I, and once we’re completely around G-Building, Jack lets go and I pull away like I’ve been stabbed with a red-hot poker.
“What the hell was that for?” I snarl.
“I should be the offended one,” Jack says coolly. “You’re spreading rumors about me. Punching me wasn’t enough, you bloodthirsty cow?”
“I enjoy constructing eventual social downfalls,” I say. “And cow’s really the best you can come up with? That’s cute.”
“I hope you realize how accurate it is.”
“Oh, I do. But you might want to get something a little more original. It doesn’t sting at all. I’ve heard that a thousand times before, trust me.”
“I won’t. Trust you. But I will disappoint you - my social standing is fine. I’ve spent years making it, and a few seconds of slander from a jaded little new girl won’t scratch the surface.”
“I’m jaded?” I scoff. “What does that make you? Diamonded?”