By lunchtime I wasn’t mad at Mandy anymore for making sure that I fell into Patrick’s arms. Partly there were more pressing matters for me to focus on, but mainly she was still my ride home, and there was no way I was walking. As I have told my mother a hundred times before – being allergic to exercise was an actual medical condition!
My relatively good mood was also helped by the fact that my first day of school wasn’t nearly as bad as what I thought it would have been. All in all it was very much the same as the previous year. Nothing much had changed apart from new teachers that I didn’t know and one or two new kids. The rest was pretty much all the same and as a bonus we weren’t do much work just yet. It was more about just getting everyone together and meeting our teachers.
“Did you see Mrs. Hamburgh? Oh my gosh! I never even knew that a woman’s leg hair could reach that length,” Mandy giggled as we made our way through teenagers pushing each other into lockers on the way to the cafeteria.
“Why were you even looking at her legs? Into girls now?” I asked as if I wasn’t looking at the exact same thing while we were having class. I mean – I am all for being free and not shaving if you don’t want to, but damn! That woman’s hair has a life of its own.
“Fuck! I could not look anywhere else. On the up side, she seemed friendly. Maybe algebra won’t be as bad as I thought it would be this year,” Mandy said still giggling behind me.
“Because of the hair on her legs?” I asked.
“Yep! I will always be in a happy mood after seeing those,” Mandy exclaimed.
“Just try and behave yourself a little bit better this year. We don’t want a repeat of last year,” I scolded Mandy, stopping in my tracks and turning to look at her so that she could see my frown.
“He was hot okay…” Mandy said, a slight blush moving up her cheeks.
“He was also 20 years older than you and married.”
“It’s not like I meant for it to go that far,” Mandy mumbled as she diverted her stare at the floor.
As if he could hear that we were speaking of him the devil himself appeared with his flashing smile and tight ass jeans, walking out of his classroom looking like he just had a photo shoot for the cover of Rolling Stones magazine.
“Don’t look now, but Mister Duncan is coming our way,” I whispered to Mandy, hoping that my warning would be enough to keep her under control.
A few months ago Mandy was almost expelled and asked to move to another school because of the biggest gossip incident that had happened at the school in years. Charles Duncan was the sexiest, sex-on-a-stick music teacher that the school had ever seen. He might have been in his 30’s but he looked not that much older than us. Mandy used to joke around that he looked just like Ian Sommerhalder in Vampire Diaries. I argued that he looked much more like Brian in Queer as Folk.
Every student in the school perved after him. Well, maybe not all of the jocks, but even the straight ones could not deny that he looked like a rock and roll god. Which was also the reason why Mandy decided that she needed a piece of that. So, without playing an instrument, or being able to hold a note for longer than 0.02 seconds, she decided to become a part of his class.
Long story short – she got obsessed with him and believed that every time he told her that she could not sing to save her life, he was in actual fact flirting with her. Which is sooo not true, considering that we could all see he wanted to puke every time she opened her mouth. So Mandy decided to start writing messages on his car with red lipstick to show him her love. She even went as far as writing him a song and serenading him at his house, with his wife trying to chase Mandy away with a broom. Her obsession only stopped after she started seeing a shrink whose advice she ignored, and off course the idea of being expelled and having to live out the rest of her days as a student at a school not nearly as nice as the one we are at.
“Is he looking at me?” Mandy whispered to me. I could barely hear what she was saying, but it looked like she wanted to sink into the ground.
“Nope. I think you are finally invisible – your biggest fear,” I answered as I turned around and started walking towards the lunch room. I have had it with Mandy and her obsessive nature. Now it was time for some tater tots.
“Hey! Don’t leave me here!” Mandy screamed after me and within a second she was caught up with me. I could feel her pulling me back by the arm.
“It’s not like you’ve never had a crush before! You drove halfway across town just to bump into Rick this morning,” she said softly in my ear as we entered the cafeteria.
“No Mandy. You drove there so that you could have the chance to play matchmaker between Rick and me. A boy who would never be interested in me, just like Duncan with you,” I answer. I don’t even care if I am being mean now. It’s just one of those things. And I feel like I deserve to be just a little bit mean after everything I have been through over the holiday.
“Okay… Sure, so I want to see you in love. But Rick is nothing like Duncan. He is our age and I saw the way he looked at you this morning. He is totally into you,” she whispers as we get closer and closer to the table where Rick is sitting.
“It would never work between us,” I answer as I get in line for some tatter tots.
“Why not? And why the hell are we standing in line with the commoners?” Mandy says pulling up her nose.
Mandy loves telling herself that she’s royalty or some olden day socialite, but I know better. Even when she says stuff like this she never means it. I mean, look at us. She has got a rich daddy, sure, but I don’t have a cent to my name and she still loves me.
“Because he is one of the rich boys remember. And I am one of the washed out commoners that you’re talking about,” I answer.
“Oh honey,” Mandy says putting her hand on my shoulder. “I didn’t mean it like that. I just meant…”
I cut her off: “I know. I’m just a bit sensitive at the moment.”
“What can I get you?” the lunch lady asks.
“Tots,” I answer, ignoring the hand on my shoulder.
“That’s three dollars,” she answers.
I pull out the five dollar bill my mom gave to me this morning and suddenly I can feel my breakfast pushing up into my throat. This money could buy dinner. Or at the very least lunch for me, her, and my sister.
“It’s okay,” I say pushing the bill back into my pocket. “I’m not hungry anymore.”
I turn around and walk away with Mandy hot on my heels. I know she wants to catch up with me, which is wildly difficult to do in the high heels she is wearing and the slippery tiles of the cafeteria.
I try running from her. I need to be alone at the moment and even though I know it would be impossible to lose Mandy in this school, the little bit of a head start would still give me a few moments with my thoughts.
Just as I am about to turn and run-walk out of the cafeteria I collide with someone and start slipping on the floor. Stretching my hand out, getting ready to fall, the person grabs me under my arms from the front and steadies me.
“You’re making a bit of a habit of falling for me today,” Rick says with a smile, steadying me against him so that I don’t fall backwards.
“I fell,” I say, sounding just as stupid as I did this morning.
“Yeah, and I caught you,” he says with a little chuckle. “Tell you what… Maybe we should sit down sometime. Maybe that way I can keep you from falling over me and we can have a decent conversation.”
He winks at me and then he turns around and walks away toward his table at the other end of the room.
“What just happened? What did he say?” Mandy whispers in my ear as she grabs me by the elbow and escort me out of the cafeteria and out to some fresh air.
“He said we should sit down and have a conversation some time,” I say, still wondering what he really meant by everything. Was he flirting somehow?
“See! I told you! He’s totally into you!” Mandy screams a little bit and I try my best to get her to be quiet before every cheerleader in school finds out I have a crush on sexy Patrick who they all wants but can’t have because he bats for the other team.
“He’s not. Now shut the hell up,” I hiss at her. “And even if he was into me, there is no way I could date him. What? Will I be inviting him over to Aunt Barbara’s house?”
“Yeah, why not?” she says as we walk toward the bleachers.
“You don’t get it do you?” I ask.
“Get what?” Mandy answers. “I don’t see a problem with you staying with your aunt. Lots of people has been hit by the recession and are staying with family. There’s nothing wrong with it and if Rich-Rick has a problem with that, then he is an asshole and you deserve better.”
Mandy is trying to be so sweet, but she has no idea what it is actually all about. She doesn’t know that we don’t have an actual room at my aunt’s house, and that we are just camping in her living room on a mattress until something even worse happens.
“She’s kicking us out,” I say as I stop walking and just sit down on the grass where I am.
“What do you mean Cory?” Mandy says as she sits down next to me.
“I heard her tell my mother that she wants us out. We are a financial burden. And my mom doesn’t have the money to get us our own place yet,” I say. I feel like crying but I don’t exactly want to cry in front of everyone at school. There’s this unspoken rule that whatever embarrassing happens to you on the first school day will become what you are known for, for the rest of the year.
“But she won’t really do that right? I mean, family sticks together,” she says, putting her hand on my leg, trying so hard to show her support.
“I don’t know any more Mandy. I also thought that my dad would never let us down this way, and look at where we are sitting now. Even if we don’t end up on the street… Let’s be honest. My mom doesn’t really have a proper education like my dad had. We will probably never even be middle class again. I want to leave school and get a job. That way at least Chloe might have a shot at life when it comes to her going to college someday,” I say. It is getting so much harder to keep from not crying. It feels like my life is over before it has even begun.
“Everything is going to be okay Cory. You will see. Everything always works out in the end,” Mandy says after a while of silence. I know she is trying her best but sometimes it is better not to say anything at all.
“This isn’t Hollywood and happy endings only happen in movies,” I reply staring at the door where Rick walks past without a care in the world, just like I used to do as well.