Jessica Thompson as That Girl

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XVIII. Three Dollars and Forty-Five Cents

Jessica’s POV:

“You? Sneak a guy in here?”

“Yes,” I responded.

“And he slept over?”

“Yes.”

“Show him to mom then.”

“Fine.” I walk towards the window. “Jax, come out. My mom wants to meet you.”

Silence.

“Oh, Jax. It’s nice to meet you,” mom said.

I glared at her, “He’s here, and I’m going to have sex with him tonight.”

Mom cheeks, puffed. Whether or not I’m lying, she won’t allow it. “No, you’re not!”

“Well, you want me to be rebellious, right? Then, allow the rebellion to begin! I’ll have sex with Jax and have his baby!”

“If you do that! I’m going to ground you!”

“No!”

“Yes! And you’re not allowed to compete in the autumn pageant!”

“No!”

“Yes!” Mom marched towards the door. “I better not find that Jax boy in here!” She slams the door shut.

After a few seconds, she sneaks her head between the cracks. “Thanks, sweetheart, I needed that.”

“No problem, mom.”

She smiles, “You’re not really grounded.”

“I know.”

“Please, don’t become a teenage mother.”

“I know.”

“Goodnight, sweetheart.” She blew me air kisses.

I returned it. “Night, mom.”

After five minutes, Jax leaps back into the window. “You have a very unique relationship with your mom.”

Once in a while, mom would come and bring something unnecessary up. I would fight with her somehow, and she would pretend to ground me or give me a talk. It gives her a chance to feel like she’s parenting and how she’s still paying enough attention to me compared to Brody.

I can tell that my parents feel like they don’t give me enough attention. They attend all of Brody’s competitions and awards. They would often talk or ground him for something he did.

For me, I’m all around average and never get in trouble, so they don’t really know what to do with me. Once in a while, they encourage me to do new stuff.

For example, they encouraged me to take an art class or some athletic program. I end up poking my eye with the brush or broke a leg doing gymnastics. At one point, I tried swimming like Brody, but I swam like a turtle.

Eventually, I gave up attempting to excel, and my parents kind of did the same thing.

I don’t feel any hatred towards them because I know they love me very much. I guess they understand that even if one child excels, it doesn’t mean the other kid will.

But, if I need something, they’re still there. If I want something, they will still get it for me. If I cry for attention, they’ll give it to me.

I folded my arms, “Oh, now you’re here. Where were you when I needed your help?”

“You want me to show myself in front of your mom?”

“Yes! Now, she thinks I have another imaginary friend.”

He sat down on my chair and tilted his head backward. I watch as he spins in circles. “No, thanks. I have enough raging parents breathing behind my neck.”

I flop onto the bed, “Jax tells me.” He stops spinning and looks at me. “Be truthful.” He lifts a brow. “You’ve been stalking me since middle school, right?”

I’ve been thinking for a while now. Particularly, when he talked about the vending machine incident. People talked about me, but I’m not that interested where they remember something that happened in middle school.

Plus, there’s no way Jax talked about me to someone else.

Even if he does, what are the chances that the vending machine incident comes up?

Jax tilts his head and gazes up at the ceiling. I wonder if he’s thinking of an excuse. Now, I wonder what type of explanation he will come up with. “Yeah. I’ve noticed you since middle school.”

I didn’t expect that response. “What?”

“I’ve noticed you since middle school. I was there when your arm got stuck underneath the vending machine.”

“Wait-” I sat upward, pressing my fingers against my temple. I’m trying hard to review all my memories in middle school. Did I know Jax from middle school? No. That’s not possible. Jax’s reputation is notorious. I would’ve remembered him. “I don’t know you.”

“You know me. I’m sitting here...in your room. Why would you let a stranger stay in your bedroom?”

I have asked myself that same question since last week. “I meant I don’t remember you attending my middle school.”

“Because I didn’t.”

“Then, how did you see my arm getting stuck underneath a vending machine?”

“Well-” his gaze cast back towards the ceiling. “I think I was dragged there for something. Then, I managed to escape. I think I got lost, and then I saw you.”

I braided my hair into two ponytails. “Jess! Come on! The game is starting! We need to find a seat with shade!” Krista screams. She blew on the small whistle while jumping around the bathroom.

“You can go,” I said. “I’ll meet you there.” I’ll finish braiding my hair even if it kills me.

“Okay. Bring us drinks if you’re forcing me to find us good seats!”

“But-” She left the bathroom before I could rebuttal. I released a deep breath and attempted to braid my hair again. My fingers refuse to listen to me. One side looks good, so I refuse to allow the other side to look less good. After ten minutes, I had finally completed today’s goal. “You look pretty.” I like to compliment myself once in a while. After I washed my hands, I headed towards the field.

“That girl is Brody’s brother?”

My legs stop moving.

“She’s nothing like him, though.”

They’re in the other corner of the hallway.

“I know. I was surprised when I found out in class. She’s a complete weirdo. She told a teacher she can’t solve the problem because she still had to braid her hair.”

“That’s interesting?”

“Want to know how he responded?”

“What?”

“He just exhaled and called another student.”

“That’s awfully nice.”

“Yeah. Apparently, it was that math teacher too. You know that mental math teacher.”

“The guy who screws up your mentality just by being in his class?”

“Yeah. I heard the reason why Brody’s sister didn’t get in trouble is that she’s special.”

“Special? Like there’s something wrong with her brain?”

“Yeah. My mom told me about her family. When she was younger-”

I turned around. I decided to get the drinks from the vending machine instead. It’s probably cheaper than the ones they are selling at the game. When I stopped a vending machine, I took out the coins.

I’m used to it.

These spiraling rumors around me all because my brother used to go to this school. Brody isn’t a bad brother, but having to live up to his reputation is difficult. People often get disappointed when they meet me.

I slipped the coin inside the slot.

It stinks, but I can’t do anything about it. I confront them about the rumors. Then explain it. They will agree and pity my situation. Then, what? Nothing. The others are still going to talk about me.

It’s a waste of time and energy.

In the state of my absentmindedness, I dropped a coin. I watch as it rolls underneath the vending machine. I look inside my wallet at the amount I need to get the soda.

I released a deep breath, “I should’ve agreed to take the money.” Dad told me to take an extra twenty earlier, but I didn’t take it. I didn’t expect to waste money on random stuff at a sports game.

I squatted down and attempted to reach for the coin. When I realized I couldn’t get it, I laid on my stomach to search for the coin. I can see it. It’s taunting me from underneath the machine.

At that time, I assumed my hand was small enough to fit. But I made a big mistake.

The highlight of the day wasn’t the game. It was a young girl whose arm got stuck because she was trying to reach for a coin.

What people didn’t know was there were three dollars and forty-five cents underneath the machine. The firefighters gave it all to me.

Was it worth getting your arm stuck underneath a vending machine for three dollars and forty-five cents?

Only time will tell.

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