Chapter 2 - Make Friends Not Enemies
ON THE SUBWAY, I told Nick my name was Corrine, but that isn’t the whole truth. At seventeen, I am as much WilderLuna15 as much as I am Corrine. For the past two years, my existence has been split between two people - Corrine, the boring, average high school student by day, and WilderLuna15, the witty, fearless, sexy author by night.
Corrine is scared of speaking too loudly, of dressing in bright colors lest she attracts too much attention, of being the first one to speak up to suggest what movie to see. WilderLuna15 spends her nights weaving bold, hostile worlds. Her characters lead lush, romantic lives, and she is never indecisive. Wilder always knows how the story is going to end.
Corrine doesn’t know it is all going to end; she doesn’t even know how this day is going to go.
As I walk the three blocks from the subway station to school that morning - I am freaking terrified. My first class is AP economics, but Nick isn’t in it. He must have his class during another period. Darn! It’s not like I’m crushing on him. I barely know anything about the guy!
It’s just that a familiar face would be beyond nice right about now.
A group of girls following a graceful, leggy, blonde girl takes up most of the seats at the front of the class. They are still boisterously swapping cell phones to look through each other’s camera rolls when the teacher, Mr. Shane, walks in. He doesn’t yell at them. Instead, he smiles and puts his hands on his hips.
“If it isn’t Ruth Brooks! I almost didn’t recognize you with that tan.”
“Just got back from the Hamptons yesterday, Mr. Shane,” she says without looking up from her cell phone. She sits casually, spaying her legs out in a V. She lounges back in the little classroom chair as though it is an imaginary beach chair. Ruth is nothing like the overly made-up drama queens at my old high school.
She has a flawless body that is the equivalent of being born riding a Porsche. Yet, her naturally blond hair is messy and haphazardly cut. She hasn’t learned to hide her sharp and substantial chin under locks of soft hair. She moves her knobby, thin limbs like a newborn deer just learning to walk for the first time. Everyone looking at her could tell she has the making of a Fifth Avenue bombshell, everyone except her.
As Mr. Shane continues to make small talk with the bubbly girls at the front of the class, I see the girl sitting in front of me secretly reading the book review section of Buzzfeed on her iPad. She is a petite girl wearing faded sweats. She looks nerdy with her big, magnifying glass-sized, librarian glasses, so I feel like we could be friends.
“Are you thinking about reading that one? It’s really good,” I offer, and gesture toward the cover of The Sun is Also A Star. I had read that book last summer in preparation for going to school in the city. I hope she doesn’t ask me about it. I am so nervous about initiating a conversation I barely remember my own name.
“I don’t always read books during the school years,” she tells me, giving me a wary glance over her black-rimmed glasses. “Not enough spare time.”
“Yeah,” I say with my agreeable nod. “I don’t read books either. Books are stupid. I-I mean unless it’s for school. I’m not a nerd. Only nerds do that.”
“Your name is Sophie, right?” The girl asks as she puts a pen to her lip thoughtfully. I notice that she has a trace of peach fuzz on her upper lip. Back at my old high school, the Queen Bee would have teased her mercilessly for not being perfectly plucked and made up. “Did we have Drafting together last year?”
“No,” I say, shaking my head. “I’m new here. I just transferred in this year.”
“Oh,” the girl says with a laugh as though she is relieved that she didn’t call me by the wrong name. “Cool, you really look like Sophie.”
“I’m Corrine, but people call me Cori.”
“I’m Na-talie,” she says, carefully enunciating every syllable as though she’s afraid I will mispronounce such a common name. “Natalie Len, not Lang, please don’t pronounce it that way, or I’ll scream.”
“Okay,” I replied, nodding at her strangely detailed instructions. Great! So, she’s weird, just like me! We’re getting off to a great start. “Who’s the tall blonde chick? Is she the head cheerleader here?”
“No, that’s just good old, pimple-face, loud-mouth Brooks. She’s a show-off. Her dad is like a congressman or something. She’s only here so that he can tell the newspapers that his daughter goes to public school. The teachers are all scared of her. Everyone knows she’s a straight shooter into any Ivy League she wants to get into.”
“Oh, is she mean?” I ask. I remember at my old school - the popular girls loved to block off the door at the front of the class so they can whisper mean comments to people as they walked by. They used to make fun of my clothes because I didn’t wear enough logos. Back then, I would have sold my soul for a Calvin Klein sweatshirt so that I could go to school in peace. But now, as I study Ruth Brooks’ tanned svelte body and her spotlessly white tennis skirt, I don’t see a single logo anywhere.
For some reason, that scares me more than ever. It is like the popular girls in this school speak a language I don’t understand at all. How would you know who is the Queen Bee if she doesn’t even wear a Donna Karen dress shirt that she pretends to have swiped from her non-existent boyfriend?
“She’s not mean,” Natalie whispers back as Mr. Shane starts to write equations on the board. “She’s super cliquey though. Only hangs out with the preppy girls. She doesn’t want anything to do with people like us. She probably doesn’t even know we’re alive.”
“Oh good,” I whisper back in relief. I just want the rest of the world to leave me alone so that I can live inside my head. As Mr. Shane delivers his introductory lecture about the difference between macro and microeconomics, I’m busy drawing pictures of wolves in the margins of my notebook. I bet Ava, the heroine in my story, didn’t need to learn about GDP and Game Theory. Ava just has to unleash her inner wolf, and then she can run wild and free in the forest. She wouldn’t let some subway groper sweat all over her for three stops on the 1 Train. I wish I had clawed that idiot to pieces that back in the subway—being human sucks.
I run out of the classroom right as the bell rang. I need all of the four minutes we have available between periods to find my next class. As I head out the doorway, I immediately bump into someone I temporarily forgot all about. Nicholas Driscoll fills my vision again in all his drool-worthy glory. I can’t believe it. Somehow, being here under these cheap fluorescent lights, he looks even more handsome than before. He had been a little sweaty back in the packed subway, but now he is just perfect. He’s totally in his element right now, elbowing his friends who are wearing letterman jackets. Does Nick play a sport, I wonder. Oh my God, am I falling for a jock?
Nick’s gray t-shirt has a small rip at the neckline. Why hadn’t I noticed that before? Oh, it was because we were both sitting down. Now that we are standing face to face, I realize he is quite a bit taller than me, the details of his shirt collar are much more obvious. I notice this detail because I see the beginnings of stunning pec muscles peering out at me from under the rip. No, they’re not body-builder size, steroid-fueled pecs because those are gross. They’re just golden, smooth, and hard - like one of those white-marble Borghese statues we learned about in Art Appreciation back in my other school.
Okay, those words should have come from my mouth. But instead, like always, someone beat me to the punch. Ruth shoves me aside and approaches Nicholas, my Nick. He is supposed to be my subway savior! Ruth has her arms around his neck now.
“So, lunch fifth period? At the hole-in-the-wall pizza store?” Ruth asks him. No, she practically breathes those words into his neck.
“Yeah, sure,” Nick replies before he sees me standing nearby. He smiles at me and nods. I don’t know if it’s a friendly nod or a don’t-tell-my-real-girlfriend-about-our-fake-relationship nod, but I am not going to stand there to find out. I turn around and run away.
And, there goes my love interest and my only cool friend here at Piotr High.