I can’t believe my eyes.
Did I get a 50 on my Physics test?
How is that possible?
I studied non-stop all week for it.
There it is, looking back at me — a big, red 50%.
I got half of the questions right. I barely did better than a monkey randomly picking letters. We had taken the test at the beginning of the class, and our teacher quickly ran the papers through the scantron machine five minutes before the end of the period. He didn’t have the tests for us to take home, but he showed us our grades as we walked out.
Mr. Tyler seems to shake his head and sigh as I passed by.
I know I’m the only one who sees the disappointment on his face.
Everyone must be thinking it - the new girl can’t cut it here. She’s going to get sent back to her old school in the bad part of the suburbs, the one with the bars on the windows, and graffiti all over the desks.
I walk numbly into the cafeteria because I don’t know where else to go. I’m waiting for the principal to call me into his office and tell me it’s time for me to pack up the contents of my locker and that I’m expelled from Piotr High after only a week.
I get a text from Nick as I wander into the cafeteria.
Jeez, that quiz was annoying. I bet you aced it. You’ve been studying all week. Ready for me to take you out after school to celebrate?
I swallow hard. If I didn’t feel like eating before, I am about to puke now. Nick taking me out to celebrate was the last thing I want to think about. I run out of the cafeteria before anyone could see me crying. I run and run until I’m outside of school. As I cross the sky bridge, I think about cutting my last two classes. Maybe, I’ll tell my mom I’m sick. I’ll say I had a huge, girly, period disaster and I had to leave because I got blood everywhere. Yeah, that us what I’ll say.
As I come down the sky bridge to Chamber street, I hear someone call my name.
“Hey Queens,” he yells at me. “Where are you going?”
I turn around to see Jake sitting on the white concrete ledge. He is rolling the remains of a cigarette between his fingers. I notice that his nails are jagged, and his hair is sticking up in all the wrong places. Did he just wake up from a nap or something? Geesh, he’s such a mess.
“I’m cutting class!” I yell and continue backing away. “I’m going to go to Times Square and catch an afternoon matinee.”
“No way,” Jake says. He grabs his backpack and jumps down from the ledge. He catches up with me easily. “No, tell me where you’re really going.”
“I’m going home. I’m not feeling well.”
“Bullshit, you look fine to me. Why are your eyes red? Let me guess — some dude hurt your feelings.”
“Yeah . . .” I reply, “That’s it. It’s always a dude, isn’t it?”
I roll my eyes and head toward the direction of the subway. Jake chases me down. He is jokingly running backward now, and the other pedestrians are giving him dirty looks.
“You serious about cutting?”
“Bell’s about to ring. Do I look like I’m turning back?”
“Okay, let’s cut then. It’s Friday, where do you wanna go?”
“Somewhere far far away from here,” I mutter back. “Somewhere where we can forget all about this place.”
“I know,” Jake says, with a wicked gleam in his dark eyes. “Let’s go get some sun.”
I frown and glance at the cloudy sky. We would have to go really far to get out from under these rain clouds.
“What do you have in mind?”
“Come on,” Jake holds out his hand to me. “Let’s get on the A train. We can transfer to the D line at Washington Sq. Then it’s a straight shot to Coney Island.”
When we get out of the subway stop at the end of the D line, I feel a little like Pinocchio being led away to Pleasure Island. I don’t see the point of going back to Piotr, ever. I spent every waking minute studying for that Physics quiz. I thought I understood what the questions were asking. I felt pretty good as I handed in my paper. I still can’t believe I got such a low score. Maybe I’m just stupid. Oh great, now I’m not just the chubby girl, I’m the dumb chubby girl.
Jake interrupts my thoughts. He still thinks I’m upset because some boy dumped me. I had turned my phone off on the subway. I wasn’t in the mood to talk to anyone right now, not even Nick. Sigh, if only I had done well on that test, then I could one day belong here at Piotr High. Then I could go back to my life with Nick.
Instead, now I’m in Coney Island with this dude. Jake points out the world-famous Nathan’s hot dogs to me.
“Are you hungry?” He asks and pulls out his wallet. He flashes a twenty at me. “I’m starving. I skipped lunch.”
I shake my head. “No, you go ahead. I’m on a diet.”
That isn’t entirely the truth. I’m just not hungry because I’m so upset.
“Okay, maybe we can get some Italian ice by the beach,” Jake offers and puts his money away. I feel bad. I can practically hear his stomach growling from here. I didn’t want him to starve himself for me.
“No, go ahead and eat a hot dog. I’ll have a cup of water.”
“Nah, I’ll feel like a shitty tour guide,” Jake says. “We’ll find something for you to eat.”
We walk to the boardwalk from the subway stop. The weather is windy, and it looks like it’s going to rain. There aren’t many people here at two in the afternoon. We continue walking in the direction where the people are coming from. There is an amusement park here with a giant antique Ferris Wheel. The whole place looks more gothic than cheerful. It looks like the kind of theme park where clowns kidnap little children and eat them in the dark recesses of the roller coaster tracks.
“Wanna go in?” Jake asks as we approach the ticket booth with the rusted gates and chipped paint job. I see a bunch of haphazardly placed moons over the ticket counter. It makes me smile despite my dreary mood to see the words “Luna Park,” hanging over the entrance.
“No,” I tell Jake, and then I shrug my Jansport down from the shoulders. “Though I’ll take a selfie here, with the signs. Hold my backpack.”
“What’s so special about them?” Jake grumbles as he holds out my backpack as far as possible from his torso.
It’s as though he’s embarrassed to be holding my girly backpack, or he thinks it is smelly. I don’t care. I snap a photo of the gaudy half-moon Luna signs. Then I take one of my myself half-smiling, red-eyes and all, with my hair in a crazy, salty-sea air blown mess over my head. The second photo was for my private collection, to remember this moment and my connection to my werewolves. I never shared pictures of myself with my followers.
“Nothing. Sometimes, a girl needs to take a selfie.”
Jake grimaces as he peeps over my shoulder at the photos in my camera roll.
“Why do these pictures look nothing like you?”
“I’m using a filter, silly,” I reply with a sigh. “See, it puts makeup on my face even though I don’t have any makeup on.”
“That’ stupid,” Jake replies. “It doesn’t even look like you.”
“What do you know? It looks like a better version of me.”
“I think you look great just the way you are.”
I try to retrieve my backpack, but I notice Jake has gotten over his discomfort at being my beast of burden. Now, he has one of the straps swung over one shoulder like it was perfectly natural for him to be carrying two backpacks, one of which is bright pink.
He gestures to a frozen yogurt stand.
“Want one?” He asks me. I shake my head. No matter how many photography tricks I try, I still look fat in my photos. I’m still not hungry anyway. Why waste the calories on boardwalk food?
Jake rolls his eyes. I guess he’s finally done playing the polite host. He goes and buys himself a one-dollar vanilla cone with a hard chocolate shell.
He holds it out to me and offers me a bite.
I give in because it’s already melting all over his dirty fingers. I don’t want the wind to blow the whole thing over his shirt while waiting for me to take a bite.
I eat the tip of the cone off. That’s the best part of a swirly frozen yogurt cone. It’s where the chocolate shell is crispiest.
Jake is finally satisfied. He has the go-ahead to eat now. I smile as I see Jake scarf down the rest of the cone in two bites. He eats like such a boy with big messy, beast-like mouthfuls.
“Bet you wish you took another bite,” he teases me with his mouth full of soggy chocolate.
I laugh, and I realize he’s right. I wish I had. I’ve never shared food with a boy before. I can’t believe he’s eating an ice cream cone that I already stole a bite from. It’s like he doesn’t even mind I got my saliva all over it.
I suddenly feel sad again. I wonder if my mom is going to pull me out of this school too. Even though I’ve only been here for a week, I am going to miss everyone I’ve met so far.
The tears start gathering in my eyes again. I’m sure Nick’s picnic out in Hudson River Park would have been the most romantic and glamorous thing ever. I wish I could have found out what books Natalie read last summer. I’m sure I would have loved introducing her to my favorite writers too.
Most of all, standing there on the weathered, splintery boardwalk with awful Z100 pop tunes blasting from theme park stereos - I wish I had time to thank Jake for cutting class with me. He’s here with me even though he has no idea why I wanted to cut class. He brought me here to Coney Island just because I randomly wanted to “get away.” No one has ever done something that nice for me before.
I’m happy that I’m not alone.
And that’s when I do something I’ve never done before.
I lean in and kiss Jake squarely on his chocolatey, melted ice cream covered lips.