To hang out with or not to hang out with
Okay. I took a few deep breaths. In...out...in...out... I opened my eyes and pasted a sunny smile onto my face. There. Nobody would be able to resist making friends with me now. I walked into the classroom, still smiling, just as the teacher said, "...and please welcome your new classmate, Sierra Jungo. She moved here just a few weeks ago, so please be nice to her and attempt to become her friend." I beamed at everyone until my cheeks hurt, all the while with my gaze slowly roaming over the classroom. Looks like a nerd... Looks like a pervert...Might be okay...Too fat...Acne...and... My smile briefly vanished as I stared at the kid sitting in the fifth row, third from the right. I remembered to smile just in time, and continued down the row, but my brain was still reeling. No. No way.
"Sierra? There's a free desk right...let's see... Ah! Here, fourth row, third from the right. The boy behind you is called Derek Husky"-"I know," I muttered, barely audibly-"and the girl sitting in front of you is Alexa DiBiase. And to your left and right are the twins, Daniel and Victor Appel." Both shot me irresistible smiles as they were mentioned. I managed to return them, but did not move. I did not want to sit in front of Derek. I did not, did not, did NOT want to. Wait. Scratch that.
I could not sit in front of Derek Husky.
"Sierra? Would you please sit down? Class will be starting any minute now..." I shot a look of annoyance at the person the voice was coming from. No mistaking that lazy drawl - I'd recognize it anywhere. I walked to my desk stiffly and sat down with a bang. The teacher turned to the blackboard, and right then, I felt fingers stroke my hair. Ugh. "You've certainly changed," Derek whispered into my ear. "Why, back when I knew you from summer camp, you'd glare at everyone like it was their fault for being alive." "You'd better leave me alone, Derek Husky," I mutter at him out of the corner of my mouth. Knowing him for so long has allowed me to successfully master the ability to speak without moving my lips. "One word to me and you're dead - I mean it." I could almost see his teasing smile as he whispered, "No, I won't be. Because by then, your reputation will be ruined. Say, do you still have my bracelet?" I instinctively pull down my sleeve to hide the fact that I'm not wearing the little braid of interwoven locks - my curly black ones, his stick-straight, long, carrot-orange ones. "Ah. I see you're not." I silently curse. Great. Just what I needed. Suddenly, his hand is tugging my sleeve upward, just to confirm the fact I'm not wearing it. "Yep. Thought not." My sleeve falls as he leans forward and says, right into my ear: "What happened to 'ever-lasting love'?" "Sierra! Derek!" I bolt upright when my name is called. The teacher is looking from me to Derek with a look that's supposed to be disapproving, but he can't hide the glimmer of amusement in his eyes. "I see you're already making friends," he comments. I can't help the blush that rises to my cheeks. The teacher's grey eyes look into my pine-green ones, then towards Dereks, whose eyes I know are icy blue - like cold incarnate, and yet at the same time, they don't give you a chill - they fill you with warmth. "Save chit-chat for after class," the teacher continues drily. "While you're in here, I'd prefer it if you'd actually learn." I can't help but shoot a glare at Derek, who's already innocently looking up and saying, "Chit-chat, sir? Whatever are you talking about?" Just like I knew he would.
Just like he always does.
After school, I dash to the bus that's already pulling away, despite the fact that I know I won't catch up. I'm panting on a bench when a car pulls up to me. I immediately stand up and begin walking away. There's another bus stop about ten minutes walk away - surely I could go there. Because I recognize that car. I've seen it enough times over summer, when I went out on little dates with- Just then, the window rolls down. "Hey, Jungle Sierra," a voice says in a drawl. I didn't even need to hear it to know who it is. "What do you want, dog?" I ask in an ice-cold voice. I can tell that he's shrugging. "Come on. Let's re-live some old summer camp memories." I shake my head. "No way. I've got other friends - I can ask them for rides." He makes a small "tsk"ing sound as I walk away. "You know, just because you broke up with me doesn't mean that it's permanent," he calls to my swiftly retreating back - or at least, I hope that it's swiftly retreating. "You'll come back sooner or later," he says in a voice that clearly shows his grin. "You always do." I don't even argue, because how can I? He's right. I've always come back - until now. Now, I will not come.
I walk up to school with dread in my heart the next day. I know what day today is - September 7. And that means that it's someone's birthday - not me, thank God. But someone else.
As I guessed, he's already at the school, handing out peppermints. Why peppermints, I have no idea. But he's standing at the entrance with what seems like five tons of those darned things in his backpack, giving each passing student one or two with a "It's my birthday!" Usually these gifts are returned with odd looks or, "Really? It is? Congratulations!" And then it's my turn to go through the doors. I push into a crowd of jocks and begin flirting, hoping that it'll be enough to get me through. Not a chance. Because as soon as he spots my tell-tale neon pink backpack - I swear to God, one of these days I'm getting a new one - he pushes through the crowd and calls out, loudly enough to stop traffic, "Sierra!" And of course I have to stop and wait for him, because otherwise, he'd just give me one during class. Better to take the embarrassment now. "Yes?" I ask politely. "Here." He hands me a peppermint. "It's my birthday!" he adds, as though it weren't already obvious. A smile is already on my face as I reach for it and tuck it into my pocket. "Thank you," I say, but I don't mean a word of it. His eyes are scrutinizing my face, and I know that he can tell my smile doesn't quite reach my eyes - but he doesn't mention it. Instead, he just says, "Eat it." I'm momentarily confused. "What?" He nods toward my pocket. "Eat the peppermint. Now." For a moment, I'm tempted to refuse and throw it to the ground to be crushed by the crowd, but I know that if I do that he'll just give me more and more and follow me around, day and night, until I eat it. And he won't stop until I actually eat it, either - he'll stick around for about ten minutes after he's seen it in my mouth so that it'll dissolve. I know because he did it on my birthday. So I just put it in my mouth, chew, show him the white stuff, and swallow. He makes me open my mouth again just to make sure I didn't fake the swallow, but it was genuine. He smiled happily. "Okay - I'm satisfied." Then he goes off humming a tune and offering more peppermints to unsuspecting victims - which makes me wonder if the peppermint is just one part of a bigger, better plan.
It's not until lunchtime that I start to feel woozy, and even then, I dismiss it as a headache. "Didn't get much sleep last night," I say with a wince while talking with my new friends. "This place has a much bigger workload than my older school.
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