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7 - Monday

I walked in to school this morning and Brad Thompson, that guy Audrey’s dating, was getting books out of his locker. I was wearing an old Woody Woodpecker shirt, and he made a crack about it and started laughing. I’m like, what?

He said, “It’s just funny, your cartoon shirt.”

I smiled. “You’re wearing a pink polo, Brad. I wouldn’t talk.”

He shrugged. “I’m comfortable with my sexuality.”

“Well,” I told him. “I’m in tune with my inner child.”

I think I insulted him somehow, but whatever. I didn’t let it phase me.

We had another quiz in first hour. Physics. I wasn’t ready for it. Not really. I did study a little yesterday, but just briefly. Jake said he failed it.

He said he was at Owen Thomas’ party Saturday night. Where was I? Lonely. Far away. Trapped inside the misery I sometimes hold like a crystal ball.

“I was just hanging out, Jake.”

“Too bad. You missed it.”

He’d passed out. Woke up sometime yesterday afternoon.

“Don’t worry,” he said. “There’s another party this Saturday. At Chris Gregor’s.” He was one of Moore’s friends. Basically a party with a bunch of people I had little in common with. And Jake knew this, and I knew already what he was going to say before he even said it. “Alicia will be there.”

He smiled something vicious. He had that look in his eyes like a cartoon wolf in a tux. His eyebrows winked at me.

“I…” I just shrugged, looked away.

“Why do you waste your time pining over a girl you won’t even try to go for, Conman?”

I gave him a dirty look, but he didn’t slow.

“She’s available. Maybe even into you, Connor, but you just sit there. You waiting for her to make the first move…?”

“She’s available for now,” I said. “That doesn’t really mean anything, Jake. They’ve broken up before. They’ll be back together tomorrow. And even if they’re not, it would only be a rebound relationship.”

“What’s with the gloomy Gus attitude?”

I wasn’t answering. I was past answering.

“Just give it a shot, okay? Just be open. For both of our sakes. I’m tired of your silly-ass whining.”

Whatever. I told him I would think about the party. I’d decided to wait and see what happened with Alicia.

“Remember when the French invaded Canada and took over their country, outlawed milk in a bag and gravy on fries?”

I shook my head.

“Of course, you don’t. It never happened. The French refused to fight.”

“You’re comparing my situation with Alicia to a war you just made up?”

“I’m trying to make a point. You don’t gain anything by playing it safe. Risk big, win big. Right? Or lose big. Either way. What’s that crap Ohata’s always saying?”

Mr. Ohata was our English teacher, but he was Japanese. We could call him sensei if we wanted. He was always quoting this old Japanese proverb.

“If you’re going to stand, stand well,” I said. “If you’re going so sit, sit well. Don’t teeter.”

He flashed me a toothy smile. “That’s right. If you’re going to crush, crush well. You gotta make a friggin move. Or move on. You’re teetering. She’s just a girl.”

To say Alicia Roman was just a girl was like saying that dynamite was just a firecracker. Godzilla was just a gecko. A rose by any other name may have still been a rose, but Alicia Roman by any other name was not just a girl. She was…amazing. How did she go to my school? Sit in my class? Breathe my air? Shouldn’t she have a cloud of pure oxygen that just followed her, protected her from infections and maintained her awesome purity? Shouldn’t she? Could I hire one to do just that so others would see her as different, something closer to how I did? Because given Jake’s nonchalant reaction, clearly, I was in the minority.

It didn’t really matter. I had accepted the fact that I would never be with her. I was not the kind of guy who went after someone else’s girl. And she was with Richard Moore. Or Dick Less. That’s what Jake called him. It was pretty clever. Yet…she wasn’t with him anymore, and I couldn’t stop thinking about her. At least, the possibility of her. The unobtainable dream.

I used to dream about her. I really did; I swear it. Besides the dream with the castle – which I’ve had at least since the ninth grade – I’ve dreamt about her. Not lately, but I have. In the dreams, she wore a white summer dress, her long blonde hair framing her face, enhancing her eyes, and hanging about her shoulders with the softness you would expect from angels’ wings. She’s always barefoot. We’re usually in a field with wildflowers everywhere, or sometimes we’re in a forest. Once or twice, there was a beach. There have been a lot of dreams in the four years that I’ve known of her. Did that make me pathetic? I didn’t think I’d ever actually had a conversation with her, but I’d built her a temple in my heart. I had thought it was closed, now I find it’s just been renovated.

I sat in fourth hour, watching her. That was my creative writing, fourth hour. The class with the journal. We were given the last twenty minutes for free writing. And she sat on the other side of the room from me in a pair of faded jeans, a black sleeveless shirt with a laced-up v-neck, and her hair in a pony tail. She wore sandals. Her toenails were candy red, like the shell of an M&M. Her legs were crossed like a lady, her foot bounced. She stared down at her paper, tapped the back end of her pen against it.

I could only think of how gorgeous she was. How stylish. Even from across the room, her skin looked so smooth. I imagined she smelled like perfume and fancy, girly lotions from that place in the mall. And wintermint gum. I imagined she tasted the same.

Jessica, the girl that sat next to her, whispered something across, and Alicia turned to her, smiled with perfect, white teeth. She whispered something back. Then they both turned and looked straight at me.

For a minute, our eyes locked. Then quickly, I turned away. I pretended that it hadn’t happened. I heard a chorus of giggling, felt myself get really warm.

I dared to look up again, saw her watching me. She waved, a few of her fingers at a time. I motioned with my hand, sank lower into my chair and held my breath until the bell rang.

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