I wake up with a grin on my face that stays on my lips even while I brush my teeth.
My mom stares at me with a puzzled smile when I snatch a piece of bacon off her plate and kiss her forehead, humming a tune under my breath.
“Well, someone’s really happy today.“, she comments taking a piece of toast from the dish.
I smile even wider and blush for good measure.
Before she can ask me any question, I’m out of the house, making my way to the garage.
Keeping my eyes averted from the house next door, lest I look overeager to meet Roman, I jump in the truck and turn the heat up. The Minnesota weather in January is like a blast of frigid air at all times.
When I reach school, I make my way to my first class. It’s one of the few that I have in common with Roman and I wonder if he’ll say hi to me when he gets in.
The professor who teaches us History is really cranky in the mornings, so I take a seat in the back of the class, hoping to be able to sketch in peace while he drones on and on about the events that happened years and years ago.
It isn’t like I hate the subject or anything, but Mr. Peppin’s monotonous voice can get really annoying and I’m not looking forward to having my eyelids droop every two seconds.
A few students have entered the class and I see Louise is one of them. She sees me at the back and starts to wave, but then she spots Gavin at the door and she melts into a puddle right before my eyes.
Yuck, is that how I look around Roman?
I shake my head to clear my thoughts and begin doodling on the page of my notebook. I’m drawing a particularly happy ice cream cone with cherries when I hear the scrape of the chair next to me.
I look up into Roman’s smiling face as he sites down carefully in the seat.
I smile brightly, “Hey.”
I’m still smiling like a puppy that has been petted when I hear a snicker in the front. Delilah sits there, with her face toward mine and her back to the white board.
At the sound a few of the students look back at where I’m seated and spot Roman. A collective raising of eyebrows occur.
The captain of the debate team and one of the smartest guys in this wretched place is sitting right at the back with a nobody. Obviously, they’d talk.
I’m trying to bolster my meager self esteem when I see Clare, the brunette with Roman yesterday, come inside the classroom.
I want to shout in indignation.
To my horror, she sees Roman at the back and makes her way toward his seat. I totally hate her when I see her give Roman a saccharine smile and then sit down in the seat next to him, on the opposite side.
What hurts me and pisses me off at the same time is that Roman gives her his entire attention when she begins speaking something about the debate they are participating it. I feel completely ignored even though it’s probably silly.
Taking the cue, I return to my book, feeling the ridiculous sting of tears in my eyes when I see Delilah smirk in the front and then continue flirting with Freddie who sits pressed up to her.
What the hell was I expecting? That since we had hung out together he was mine?
Stupid, stupid heart.
I don’t glance at Roman throughout class, keeping my face tilted to the side so that I’m not forced to see the animated conversation that Clare keeps pulling him into.
When the bell rings, I’m already pushing away from my seat, intensely aware of Roman’s gaze on me as I hurry out, keeping my head down.
I’m inside the hallway in seconds.
Breathing out in relief, I go over to my locker and stash a few of the books I don’t need for the rest of the day. Then I head over to my next class.
Astronomy goes well, mainly because I don’t know anyone on a first name basis here and in turn they don’t pay any attention to me. I love it.
The hours drag by and it’s finally lunchtime.
In the cafeteria, I stand in line, my bag on my shoulder. The lunchlady heaps the food into my plate in turn and when I’m finished, I look around the place for a vacant seat.
Then suddenly, the hair on the back of my neck prickles and the next second I feel something hurled at my shoulder.
I’ve worn a plain blue t-shirt and I wince when I feel the sticky liquid run down my arm. It’s a meatball with gravy. I turn around to the sound of laughing voices and spot Freddie guffawing behind his huge ugly hand while Delilah giggles hysterically.
I feel my cheeks burn with embarrassment but I keep my expression neutral. A mask over the rage that is beginning to simmer inside me.
I can feel the eyes of everyone in the cafeteria riveted on me and it makes me want to turn around and run away.
But something makes me want to refuse to be the coward. Why should I accept such treatment from mere assholes and bullies who try to make themselves feel good by putting others down?
I still remember how Delilah had stuck out her foot in class on the first day of school in eight grade. I had ended up being sprawled out in front of the entire classroom, my skirt hiked up my thighs. The boys had laughed and stared and I had spent the night in my room, crying for not being able to make Delilah pay for that.
In tenth grade, she stuffed my locker with shit and manure and I had to wait for three hours in the principal’s office trying to convince her that it hadn’t been me and that I wasn’t trying to get a new locker just for the heck of it. The woman had been crazy, thinking that every student was nothing but just a pain in the ass.
With a calmness that I didn’t know I could fake, I walk up to Delilah’s table and place my tray there.
“Look who’s here,“, she drawls. “Golden boy’s girlfriend.”
Then she snickers, “Or more like his side hoe.”
Without a word, I pick up the juice pack and slip it into my pocket, along with the tissues. Then I pick the tray and hurl the entire thing onto Delilah’s front, watching with satisfaction as food covers her hair, face and that expensive designer blouse.
The shriek of disbelief that follows makes me want to jump in triumph. There’s a collective gasp around the table but no one moves.
“There. Now you can eat it all and lick yourself if you’re still hungry.“, I say scathingly.
I turn around to walk away but then look over my shoulder and point in Freddie’s direction.
“Or you could have him lick it all off of you.”
Delilah’s jumps up, gasping and sputtering, “You bitch! I’ll make you pay for this!”
She picks up a slice of pizza from Freddie’s plate and goes to hurl it at me.
“Stop right there, you little brat!“, the lunchlady’s voice bellows at her even as she stares disapprovingly as I pass by.
But thankfully, she doesn’t stop me.
My knees are weak with fear and outrage at my own actions. But there’s no time for regret. I take out the tissues I had retained and wipe off the food remnants and stains.
When I’m out of the cafeteria, I hurry up, deciding to skip classes for the rest of the day.
I’m almost at my truck when I hear rapid footsteps behind me and I whirl around, thinking it’s one of Delilah’s henchmen trying to shove food down my t-shirt.
My heart skips a beat when I see that it’s Roman.
“Hey-“, he sounds a bit out of breath. “Are you alright?”
I hate the concerned look in his eyes. I could almost believe that he cares.
“I’m fine.“, I say curtly.
I turn to climb into the truck but he holds the door, keeping it shut.
“Isabel, wait, I need to explain something-”
He was dating Clare?!
I cut him off, “There’s nothing to explain, Roman. You are free to make your own choices. What does it matter if I understand it or not?”
His blue eyes look troubled.
“It matters. You need to know that I’m not-”
“I need to go home.“, I say softly, my throat beginning to hurt.
He moves away when I wrench open the door of the truck and hop in.
I don’t look back at all and it makes me feel worse inside.