I feel a sharp poke on my shoulder blade. I barely register the oddity of it when it’s followed by a girl’s voice declaring, “Dibs!”
Confused, I turn around to see a girl an inch taller than me and a smaller chest. Her round brown eyes blink as I notice how the wavy-brown hair she has hangs loose. Her skin is so pale even her freckles look almost black instead of dark orange.
“Did you hear what I said?” the girl asks, pulling her too large T-Shirt over her too large cargo shorts. Her hiking boots are unlaced.
I tilt my head back up at her, barely giving myself time to think whether it’s a good idea. “Yeah,” I say, sounding so quiet she has to lean over a little to hear me. “Whatever that means.”
She gives me a wide smile. “It means I call dibs on you!” she exclaims, excited now.
Well, that was helpful.
“Um, okay then.” I slowly turn back to the assignment I was working on beforehand. Although the lunchtime chatter has gotten louder, I don’t hear any footsteps behind me, so I know the girl’s still there.
“I’m Jules,” she says.
“Good for you,” I reply. “I need to get this finished for next period.”
Without warning, Jules leans over my shoulder to read what I have written on my paper. The sudden movement causes me to arch my back. I hate it when people do that.
“Oh, that’s easy,” she says. “Want me to help?”
I’m resisting the urge to shove her away. “No.”
Gritting my teeth, I answer, “Yeah.”
“Okay.” With normal people, this would be their cue to leave me alone. With her, however, Jules would have none of it.
“Do you usually spend your lunch doing your homework?” is her next question. “Or is this a one time thing? Do you even eat lunch at school?”
“Jules,” I interrupt her tirade of questions. “I’d like to be left alone.”
She doesn’t say anything. I fill out an answer and look to my right. Jules looks thoughtful, as if she’s considering the option of either going away and making me happy or staying here and risk getting injuries.
I take self-defense classes for a reason.
“What’s your name?” Jules asks. I try my best not to groan. “You know my name. At least I think you do. You’ve used it a couple of times.”
Putting my pencil down, I cross my arms and lean on the table surface. “How about we play a game?” I suggest. If I have to be forced into having this conversation, I might as well control a part of it. Hopefully, she’d jump all over the idea.
Jules’ eyes lights up. “I like games!”
“Great.” I plaster on a sweet smile, avoiding to look at Jules in the eye. “You have 3 chances to guess my name. If you get it right, I’ll let you sit with me.”
She cocks her head to the side. “And if I get them all wrong?”
Making my smile more arsenic than sweet this time, I answer, “Then you leave and I get to have my peace.”
Jules picks up a strand of her hair and chews on it. “How long do does this game last?”
“I’ll give you until the end of lunch.”
“Deal.” Jules plops herself next to me and crosses one leg over the other. She eyes my ginger hair plaited into 2 thick braids. This is another thing I hate: people staring at me. It doesn’t matter what reason they have to do so. Jules then says her first guess aloud, “Anne!”
I shake my head. “Nope. You have 2 more tries.”
“Dang it.” Furrowing her eyebrows now that she’s thinking deeply, Jules lets several minutes pass. I pick up my pencil and continue my homework.
A couple of people around us stop talking. I really hope it’s because their conversation turned boring and not because they’re watching us now. In case it’s the latter, I keep my head down.
Jules hums as she continues thinking. “I can see you as Nikki,” she says finally.
“Nope.” A hopeful (and real) smile grows on my face as I add, “You have one more chance.”
She doesn’t sound happy. If the amount of time she took for the second guess was long, this is longer. I flip the page over and work on the next set of questions.
Out of all the things that can happen, I certainly haven’t expected someone from the next table to call out, “Hey, Callie! Do you need help on your homework, Callie?”
Damn him to hell.
Jules gets the jerk’s hint. “It’s Callie!” she says. She stands up and asks the guy, “Is that her name?”
I glower as the guy confirms it. Jerk, I’ll find a way to make you miserable, I think in my head. You know, as soon as I know who you are.
“Thank you, random boy!” Satisfied, Jules sits down. My nose wrinkles at the overpowering scent of some perfume she’s wearing. Firewood, maybe? “So, what do you like to do on your free time, Callie?”
The thought fading, I pretend to think as I look at the digital clock on the wall in the Cafeterrible (the oh-so-sweet nickname I’ve heard other students call it). I don’t let myself show my dissatisfaction when I notice the bell doesn’t ring for the next 10 minutes. Head back down again, I settle for, “Reading is good.”
“Really?” Jules responds. She picks up a strand of her hair and starts chewing on it. “I like to go in the woods and use my imagination.”
Explains the woodsy scent.
“Do you like using your imagination?” she asks.
With so many questions she’s firing in my way, I’m not surprised to realize one of my hands is clenched under the table. I am surprised by the fact I’ve forgotten about the medication I left at home. And the second thing I have is my violin, which is in my locker. Why didn’t I have the violin, at least? It may not scare Jules away (unless she doesn’t like violin music), but it’ll keep me comfortable.
To keep myself from freaking out, I focus on the homework, which gives the bonus of not answering Jules’ question. Unfortunately, I learn the hard way Jules doesn’t like being ignored.
“Do you like using your imagination?!” This time she’s shouted it out. “It’s a simple question!” So many people have stopped what they were doing and looked in our direction. Without looking I can hear them whispering and snickering.
My face reddens and I put my head down, hoping to disappear from the humiliating situation I’ve been put in.