I. Mister Popular
Jessica...that’s my name.
I’m that girl in the back of the class.
Please, exit from the story.
I am just kidding.
“Hallelujah!” I shout, packing up all my stuff.
“Nice to know you enjoy my lesson Jessica, but that was someone’s cell phone ringing,” the bald teacher said, causing the student to laugh at me.
I slid down my desk, resuming my stare into nothingness.
After what seems to be an eternity and mental questioning of who invented school, the bell rang. I shove all my stuff inside my backpack, crumbling the already wrinkle papers.
I am a straight B and C student, so I’m good with life.
I got it all plan out, graduate from high school, somehow pass a moderate college, get a 9-5 job that makes me want to jump off a bridge, find a man who is stupid enough to fall for me, have unappreciative children, and two dogs.
Throwing my backpack over my shoulders, I practically skip towards my damaged grassy chipped paint locker to get ready for lunch. I don’t understand; the school has breakfast and lunch. Why don’t they do brunch?
Brunch is a meal too.
I should start a campaign, something on the line of #givestudentsbrunchbreak.
The students were brushing past one another, gathering into groups inside the tiny germ-filled hallway. I tighten my backpack strap, gazing at the guy shoving his mouth in the school fountain water, basically frenching it.
OceanVille High School is similar to any typical public poorly funded academic institution. There are the geeks, nerds, freaks, plastics, elephants, seals, penguins. I’m serious; we have all of that. There is a zoo ten minutes away from our school.
I shudder at the memories of elephants’ daily dumps.
Reaching the locker I had for the last three years because the school is too lazy to change the student’s locker until we graduate. I twist the lock, putting in the code, which is the most important day of the year, my birthday.
Suddenly, someone grabs my waist, clawing into my flesh. “Boo!” He shouts into my ear.
“Brody!” I punch my older brother, who playfully throws an arm over my neck, pinning me between his sweaty armpit.
“Thompson! Bro! Come on!” one of his jockey friends shouted, hollering him over.
Unlike me, who is a gold medalist in drowning like a rock, Brody is a dolphin with a six-pack. He is the school ace swimmer.
He glances at me, ruffling my unwashed hair. “I’ll see you later?” He smiles, and I nod. Brody jogs towards his friend, giving me a two fingers salute. Even though Brody is slightly popular, he never changes. Some people at school are embarrassed to talk to their siblings who are low in the social pyramid, but not Brody.
Of course, I am not super low, where I am considered an outcast, but I’m not high either. Since I’m the younger sister of Brody Thompson, I’m bumped up to the middle of the ladder. Yay for being average on the social hierarchy!
“Hey Jessica,” Krista, my best friend since the good ole day of diaper pooping, said.
She leans against the sticky lockers, clenching onto her backbreaking books. “Your brother is so hot.” She releases what sounds like a moaning sound causing my eyes to roll.
Krista had been crushing on my brother the day he saved her from a snail. She despises snails with a passion, saying it’s revolting how slimy they are and such.
Once, during a stormy day neons ago, we were leaving the movie theater together after watching Finding Nemo. A snail was crawling towards our direction, causing Krista to shriek. Brody dropped his jacket, covering the snail. Ever since then, she had a crush on him, deeming him, her prince charming.
I never had the heart to tell her that Brody accidentally dropped his jacket because he had butter on his fingers from the popcorn.
"Ew...My brother is no urg." I shudder at her dewy eyes and a silly smile.
I drop my backpack inside my locker, grabbing my lunch money. Brody turned towards us and waved his hand, a smile on his face. Krista smacks my shoulder, trying to catch my attention even though I’m standing beside her.
“He waved at me,” she squeals.
I fight the urge to roll my eyes and nod, knowing she is a hopeless case.
“Do you remember the time when he opened the door for me?”
He opened the door because she rang the doorbell to see me.
“And when he dabbed that tissue on my face when we were watching movies together?”
It’s because she had snot on her cheek due to all her crying during the movie.
“We would be so great together.” She pouts when she sees Brody’s girlfriend, Victoria, come up to kiss him.
I shouldn’t say, girlfriend, more like ice cream of the month. Brody is a great brother, friend, student, but he is a horrible boyfriend. He is one of the school playboys who breaks hearts as if it’s a sport.
To be honest, Krista is beautiful, and a lot of guys have hit on her. She is a gorgeous, perfect dark-skinned girl with these substantial mystical green eyes and a smile that dazzles the room. If only she weren’t so fixated on Brody.
There is a part of me that believes Brody has a thing for Krista, but he is taking a step back since she is my best friend. Honestly, I prefer them not dating since things will get messy if they ever break up, and I will be the one stuck in the middle.
And there he is, Todd Barrett, the golden hair and light blue eyes guy, the mister popular. Todd wore his large sports jacket covering the plain black shirt underneath along with rip blue jeans. He is the star of our school tennis team during the spring and baseball team during fall.
Since Todd and Brody are captains in a sport, they tend to interact in the same social circle. I saw Todd a few times around my house with a brief greeting: “Hi,” follow with awkward silence, and that’s it.
When we were younger, we had a thing between us, but not anymore. We kissed once during Christmas in fourth grade, but that was it. After our short lip pecking, which resulted in Todd running away, things changed.
We were close until that kiss, then he started getting more distance, and he started being mean to me. He would steal my sparkly pencils, push me down, and call me ugly. Brody caught him when he lifted my skirt and started beating him up, threatening him to stay away from me.
Todd’s eyes met mine, and he adverts it, going back into his inner circle filled with potential Abercrombie model students. My eyes went south, and I wonder if he knows his zipper had been down since the first period.
I tried to tell him a few times during the passing period, but someone always managed to interrupt us. It’s either his friend, Brody or his girlfriend. Megan Miller, the school ballet princess, is Todd Barrett’s girlfriend. They had been together for almost a year with an on and off situation where their status online about their relationship is complicated.
The popular kids squish together and start walking into the cafeteria, probably hanging out at their usual table by the window where their hair can blow against the wind and perfect skin basking under the sunlight.
I’m serious, they all have freakishly perfect skin while I’m here still getting a slap around by puberty. It’s saying - you might be beautiful one day bitch, but not today - so it keeps slapping me with pimples and crooked teeth.
“Are you ready to go?” Krista question.
“I’ll meet you inside. I need to make a quick stop to the girl’s room,” I said, pointing a thumb towards the bathroom.
“Want me to go with you?”
I never understand the concept of girls gathering together to go to the bathroom. It’s a place where people do personal business, not socialized. I do not want to speak with Krista about how attractive my older brother is while I urinate.
I sat on the toilet, trying my best not to imagine all the other butts sitting there. When I finished, I washed my hand and checked myself because I’m a tad vain and walk out. I’m so ready for some possible diarrhea school food.
Hopping down the empty hallways, I stop when I reach Todd’s locker.
I had considered texting him about the zipper thing if I had his number, but I didn’t.
Moving backward toward my locker, which was way on the other side, or maybe a few rows away, I opened it and grabbed my handy dandy notebook. I tore off a piece of paper with style, hearing the ripping sound echoes a tad and started writing.
Dear Mister Popular,
Your zipper has been down since the first period.
Lots of Ugliness,
When we were younger, I would always tease Todd, calling him Mister Popular because all the girls wanted to play with him. I didn’t even know what popular means, just saw it on TV and called him that.
I nod in approval of my atrocious writing skills and slip the neatly folded paper into his locker. I stand there staring at Todd’s locker, wondering if he will remember my nickname for him. The chances are pretty low; after all, I also called him Mister Poopy Pants when he accidentally pooped his pants when he was six.
I smack Todd’s locker twice and walk towards the cafeteria. Struggling to open the heavy doors, my face slap with a chest. “Sorry,” we said at the same time.
I glance up, twinkling my nose to meet with a pair of light blue eyes. We stand there, merely staring at each other, barely a gap between us, and I can hear beating ringing inside my ear.
“Hi.” His voice is low, indicating puberty had done him justice.
I smile, “Hi.”
And there is the awkward silence between us.
After some time of unbearable quietness and intense stare, I nod my head. “Bye,” I quickly threw up a palm.
He nods, “Bye.” He finally returns my smile with a tight one.
I stepped aside, and he did the same. I hurried to the left, and he did it again. Then, a third time and I wish he would stop moving. He chuckles lightly, grazing his fingers across the nape of his neck. “How about this,” he said, grabbing both of my arms and lifting me into the cafeteria as I watched his muscles flex.
“Umm, thanks,” I responded, not knowing what else to say as his rough callus hands still hung beside me.
“What’s going on here?” Brody came up to us with a seemingly forceful smile on his face as his arms crossed around his chest. His tall structure towering over Todd.
Todd isn’t a short guy, but Brody got a few inches over him. To me, they both look the same since I’m down here, and they are way up there.
“Nothing,” we respond at the same time, then glance at each other.
“I’m going to go get lunch,” I mumble, wondering if they hear me over the rambling inside the cafeteria. I rush towards the concession stand, peeking back to see Todd and Brody in a somehow severe discussion.
Brody throws an arm over Todd and points at the door where they quickly exit. I reached the food stand, entirely skipping the salad bar, and went straight for the good stuff. They had pizza that didn’t taste like cardboard today, and I’m grateful to be alive.