My bad day is getting progressively worse.
“Arden Heart, do you have your book report?” Mr. Larson asks.
I’ve always hated him - both as a man and a teacher - but in this exact moment, I hate him more than I ever thought possible. This is because I know that my book report isn’t in my backpack and he seems to know this, too.
“No,” I mumble.
“Excuse me? I didn’t quite get that,” Mr. Larson says and looks at me straight in the eye. I know he heard me clearly since he moved me from the back of the class to two rows from the front. Even if I’m whispering, he can hear me.
He raises his eyebrows, looking at me with a judgmental and impatient expression. I shake my head slightly, while simultaneously squeezing my right hand into a fist. I can barely resist the urge to roll my eyes.
“I do not have my book report,” I tell him loudly, enunciating every word clearly. “Hear me now?”
To my surprise, this gets a collective laugh from the class. He’s pretty much a dick to everyone, so it was nothing shocking the day I walked into his senior AP literature class and he slammed down on rules. It didn’t take long for me to lose patience with him and now here are, basically in full on verbal combat every time I get in here. The back talk I give him isn’t for entertainment or to be ‘sassy’ or ‘funny’, it genuinely is because I find him that unpleasant.
It’s something about his little comments and constant picking on everyone that really bugs me. It’s the way he gives me looks full of judgement and treats me like a complete jackass troublemaker. He expects literally nothing from me and then complains to my parents that I don’t try hard enough, which gets me into trouble constantly. He’s the reason why English is pretty much intolerable this year.
Levi Jacobs is in there, too, but I try to remind myself not to focus too much on him.
It’s hard to resist admiring him, though. I always find myself turning around looking at him, Golden Boy in all his glory. He’s really not much more than an average teenage boy, but there’s some unexplainable attraction to him. An attraction that admittedly got me into a little bit of a situation over the summer.
“I recommend taking it down a notch before I call A-Plus,” Mr. Larson threatens, his voice completely calm.
A-Plus is the behavioral program my high school has. In my opinion, it does absolutely no good because the kids who go in there misbehave because they don’t want to be in class, and giving them free time in an air-conditioned, wifi-connected room isn’t exactly what I would call punishment, especially if I was one of them. The only thing that makes A-plus totally undesirable for someone like me is the fact that when you go into A-plus, it gets put on your high school record and you have to work ridiculously hard to work it off. I’m really not the kind of person who would want to be put into that kind of situation.
My best friend, Marjorie, is a totally different story. She’s the reigning queen of A-Plus, which is kind of funny since she’s really not a bad kid. She just learned a long time ago she gets better grades when she’s not in a class surrounded by other people, which is part of the reason she’s maintained a cumulative GPA over 4.0. That’s a thing I could only ever dream of achieving.
While I could easily follow in her footsteps, the idea of being sent of class shuts me down completely.
“The notch is already taken down, Mr. Larson,” I say and give him a completely fake smile.
“I would wipe that smile off my face if I was you,” he warned. “Especially since you just lost ten-percent off your final book report grade.”
I refrain from giving out an over dramatic sigh and just look at him.
“No, Mr. Larson, I think I’ll smile, anyway,” I tell him, flatly.
He doesn’t bother replying, he just continues down the alphabetical list.
The mundane daily activities of high school continued from there. Too many notes, too many crowds, not enough talking to my friends. It’s the same thing every almost every weekday for three, going on four years and I’m fully prepared for it to wrap up.
“Hey, bitch,” Marjorie greets me. She is the type of person my mother would call a ‘character’ - she looks and carries herself like a beauty queen, but also has some serious bite to her. We’ll have mild arguments sometimes and even then, she can be pretty intimidating.
“Hey, Marjorie.” I grin because although Marjorie is her name, she prefers to be called MJ. I can’t resist messing with her - we’ve been friends for about three years, so I know exactly how to push her buttons. I love the fact that her name is Marjorie and use it against her as frequently as possible. Her mother expected her to be into beauty pageants like she was, so she gave her a ‘winning southern belle’ name. MJ shot that down from basically the time she could talk, throwing absolute fits any time she was near a pageant dress.
“Ew, stop, you sound like my mother,” MJ groans and runs her hand through her long blonde hair, which I’ve always loved. MJ was born with stunning blonde hair that flows down from her shoulders in a way mine refuses to do. In contrast to MJ, I was born with hair that was stuck somewhere between blonde and brown and it doesn’t look good long. This results in regularly dyeing it brunette and cutting it to shoulder length.
I take in MJ’s outfit for the day and laugh, taking in some of weird collage of bands and protest signs and sacrilegious nonsense. “Nice band t-shirt. Who are they?”
“Some protest band from like the seventies or something. I don’t know. Nobody knows them, though, so I guess it works out.” She smiles but it quickly turns into a glare when a random guy bumps into her. “I’ll see you on the bus.”
MJ and I take the bus to school because our parents refuse to let us drive to school, no matter how much we ask. I’ve been buttering my parents up a little and I think I’m pleading a good case. I really have my fingers crossed they’ll break at some point.
“Right.” I smile and she turns into her class.
“Arden!” I hear behind me and whip around to see Tom Bugg standing there, all 5′4" of him. “Hey, baby”
“Go away, Tom. Seriously,” I say with a displeased look.
Tom has been ‘in love with me’ since basically first grade, when we met for the first time. He’s completely stuck on the fact that we’re soulmates and will not leave me alone about it. I think he thinks that when I push him away, it’s flirting or something, because he always runs back. In my opinion, Tom spends way too much time reading Nicholas Sparks novels because I don’t know anyone who actually keeps up with a flirting game for this long. If I actually had interest in him, I would’ve done something by now.
The thing about Tom is that he isn’t one of those sweet guys who are all about soul mates and love and shit like that. He’s just saying it for the sex, I’m sure. Even back when we were kids he was a pig. I blame his father, who is the town bachelor and has a tendency to bring new girls around with him constantly. He was in the NFL for one season, but it seems like that’s enough to attract any beautiful bombshell desperate for his seemingly ample amount of cash.
“Chill, chill. I’m just saying hey,” Tom says, defensively. “And you look good today, babe. Really good.”
I look at my plain white v-neck t-shirt and gray soffe shorts, giving him a ‘nice try’ look. It might be fall, but the weather in Dallas, Texas can be unforgiving. I usually live in shorts up until the last possible minute, when I find myself shivering both outside and inside the school building.
“Don’t call me babe.” I try to walk ahead of Tom and even with my extra two inches on him, he catches up.
“I just meant that your body looks damn good today,” Tom tells me and stares shamelessly at my boobs.
“Are you kidding me?” I ask and shake my head.
I hear him say ‘bitch’ under his breath before disappearing down the hall. I take a deep breath and shake my head, trying to keep myself calm before I freaked on someone random for no reason.
I mean, my day has definitely not been good. Especially since I woke up late this morning and had nothing cute or clean to wear. During the winter, I pride myself in not caring about my appearance, but during the beginning of the year, I would like to at least give everyone the idea that I’m not a slob and I actually can take care of myself. School’s only been in session for a few weeks and I’m literally counting the days before I can stop trying so hard to look cute, especially when it’s for nobody in particular.
Levi is pretty much the only person I’d ever worry about looking cute for, but I know that’s pretty much done for.
It took me an extra ten minutes to finally dig out shorts from sophomore year that thankfully still fit - barely, but close enough - and a suitable shirt. From there, I realized we hadn’t picked up any extra cereal so my fifteen year old brother finished the bit we had left. This left me with nothing to eat, so it’s been a long, hungry morning.
It’s just been one of those days. But all I can hope is that good things start coming after all of this, or else senior year is starting off on the wrong foot.
I push open the doors leading to the main staircase and my eyes land on Levi, who seems to be everywhere I am all the time. Or maybe I just draw myself towards him.
Levi is the single most attractive guy at this school. His bone-structure alone is enough to melt millions of girls’ hearts. He basically already has, since he’s been to the state championships three years and is going for a fourth. It gets televised nationally and everything. This means girls all over the United States get to see Levi Jacobs and fangirl over his endless and honest charm.
Part of his charm falls on the fact that he is so good at football. It’s a pretty big deal here and we take a lot of pride in our high school and college teams. There’s an obvious pressure on the boys to be the best at what they do and there’s no chance to play for fun anymore, really. Parents pray that if they end up with a son, he’ll be built for football and I guess Levi’s parents lucked out.
Even I get swept up in all of the excitement sometimes. I’m really not much of a football fan, but it’s hard to resist when everyone is so involved.
I look at Levi - really look at him for the first time since this summer. In the words of Tom Bugg, he looks really good today. But he always looks good, with his dark hair and super blue eyes and broad shoulders. It’s difficult for me not to want him.
First thing I know is that I’m looking - or probably staring - at him, and the next thing I know my flip flop slides against the linoleum floor, sending me flailing over the edge of the step.
I try to grip onto anything I can, which semi-conveniently but also horrifically, is Levi.
Except instead of me grabbing him for dear life, he ends up down the stairs. All twenty school steps. By the time he reaches the bottom, he slams onto the ground with the kind of thud that makes my stomach drop.
I just pushed Levi Jacobs down the stairs and the only thing I can think is ‘I’m definitely not getting that car now.’