I spun around to face them and held my hand to my heart. “And steal all of your business?” I took the time to enjoy their dumbstruck looks before I twisted on my heel and headed to class.
As I disappeared around the corner, the echo of expletives from her and her crew brought a smile to my face. I’d been called a bitch before, and it didn’t hurt the way being called a slut did. Being a bitch could be a survival technique. They get respect. There was no honor in people thinking you were a slut.
Jared must not have received much of a punishment for being in the girls’ locker room, since he was at school every day. He didn’t look at me or otherwise acknowledge me even though we shared a class together. I had transferred out of a Computer class in the afternoons, having already exceeded the senior syllabus in France, and transferred into Themes in Film and Literature without knowing he was in that class, too. The elective was supposed to be a cruise course, lots of movies and reading.
“Tate, do you have an extra pen I could borrow?” Ben Jamison asked when we sat down in Themes. He, thankfully, had continued to be friendly and respectful in French, despite the current talk, and I was relieved with the distraction from Jared in this class.
“Um…” I reached in my messenger bag, searching. “I think so. Here we go.” Ben awarded me with a brilliant smile that accentuated his dark blonde hair and green eyes. Our fingers touched, and I pulled away quickly, dropping the pen before he’d grasped it.
I don’t know why I’d pulled away, but I felt Jared’s eyes wash over the back of my head.
“No, I got it!” He stopped me as I bent over to grab it. “Don’t let me walk off with it at the end of class, though.”
“Keep it.” I waved my hand in the air. “I’m stocked. I mostly use pencils, anyway. With all of my Science and Math classes, it’s a necessity. Especially with me…lots of erasing.” I was trying at humility, but it came out as verbal diarrhea instead.
“Oh yeah, that’s right. I forgot you were into that stuff.” He probably didn’t forget. He almost certainly had no idea. My nostrils flared with the reminder of all the damage Jared had done. He was the reason more boys hadn’t taken an interest in me.
“I’m trying to get into Columbia, pre-med. What about you?” I inquired. I hoped I didn’t sound like I was bragging, but I didn’t feel self-conscious with Ben. His family owned a newspaper, and his grandfather was a judge. He’d probably be applying to Ivy League schools, too.
“I’m applying to a few places. I have no head for Math or Science, though. It’ll be Business for me.”
“Well, I hope you like some Math. Business goes with Economics, you know?” I pointed out. His eyes widened, and I realized he didn’t know.
“Uh, yeah.” He looked confused, but recovered quickly. “Absolutely. As long as it’s not too much.” He smiled nervously as I registered a snicker coming from behind me.
“So…” I tried to change the subject, “you’re on the Homecoming Committee, right?”
“Yeah. You coming?” Ben looked excited.
“We’ll see. Have you booked a band, or is there a D.J.?” Band. Band. Band.
“A band would be nice, but they tend to play one genre of music, so it’s hard to please everyone. We’ll have a D.J. I think that’s what everyone decided. He’ll keep the party going with a good mix: pop, country…” He cast a smile as he trailed off, while I struggled to keep a happy face.
“Oh… pop and country? Can’t go wrong there.” I mentally cringed as I registered another snicker behind me, this time louder. Without the sense to let it go like the last time, I glanced back to Jared, whose eyes were downcast as he fiddled on his phone. But I saw his lips turned up and knew his pent-up amusement was provoked by my conversation with Ben.
Jared knew I hated country music and had little tolerance for pop. As did he.
“So, you like pop and country?” I redirected my attention to Ben. Please say “no.” Please say “no.”
Ugh, that’s worse.
Math and Science? Negative. Musical tastes? Negative. Ok, last ditch effort to find something in common with the guy I would be sitting next to in two classes this semester. The teacher was going to be in soon.
“You know, I heard we get to watch The Sixth Sense in here this semester. Have you seen it?” My phone beeped with a text notification, but I silenced it and stuck it in my bag.
“Oh, yeah. A long time ago, though. I didn’t get it. I’m not a big fan of those thriller-mystery type movies. I like comedies. Maybe she’ll let us watch Borat.” He wiggled his eyebrows teasingly.
“Hey, Jamison?” Jared piped up from behind us, his inflection overly polite. “If you like Bruce Willis, Unbreakable is a good one. You should give it a shot…you know, if you’re looking to change your mind about thrillers that is.”
My desk had suddenly become the most interesting view. I refused to turn around and face Jared. Words failed me when I realized that he’d remembered.
Ben turned in his seat and responded, “Yeah, I’ll remember that. Thanks.” He turned back around and flashed me a smile.
Jared was bold. He wanted me to know he remembered that Bruce Willis was my favorite actor. We had watched Die Hard one day when my father was gone, because Dad wouldn’t let me see it due to all of the swearing. Jared had a lot of knowledge about me, and I resented that. He didn’t have the right to claim any part of me.