There were rumors being whispered along the hallways about Christian, other people sayingthat he has been expelled from school, but those rumors are crushed when I see him in English class, in my seat. Christian is sitting in my seat, the same seat I have been sitting in all year. I approach Mr. Flounce with stern grace, standing at the head of his mahogany desk until he notices me.
“Hi, Ms. Alder. How are you today?” he says, pushing his glasses up his fat nose.
“I’m fine,” I say hurriedly, not wanting to engage in small talk. “Why is Christian in my seat?”
“I moved everyone’s seats around. I thought it’d be nice for a change of setting for the project I will be assigning today.”
I let out a sigh. “Where do I sit?”
Mr. Flounce pulls out a clipboard from underneath a pile of papers and scans the seating chart, scratching his fat bald head. “It seems I forgot to place you. Sorry about that.” He looks around the room. “You’ll just have to sit next to Christian.”
“That’s not much of a difference,” I mumble, cursing him from within. Why do I have to sit next to Christian? He freaks me out. I’m sure if I accidentally breathe on him he will knock my lights out.
I slide into the seat next to him, careful to keep my distance. I glance at him and start going through my backpack as if there is something in there that I need.
“You can sit all the way in your seat like a normal human being. I won’t bite you, I promise.”
His voice startles me and my backpack falls off the desk. He scoffs and suppresses a mocking laugh as I pick it up. I sit up straight and ignore him for the rest of the class period. I can feel him looking at me, probably picturing the many ways he can bash my face in. When he’s not looking at me, I give him a few once-over’s and see that his face is still scratched up from the fight. His lip and his eyebrow is still split but are healing fairly well. The bruise under his eye is a faint yellow now. He just looks so appalling I can’t stand to look at him. I can’t even stand to sit next to him.
“Okay everyone, before the class ends I want to assign you your projects,” Mr. Flounce announces. There is a chorus of groans circulating the room. Mr. Flounce digs through a desk drawer and pulls from it a thick stack of papers. “I will assign each pair a character from our reading of The Things They Carried. You and your partner will do a character examination and do a presentation of how they handle their time in Vietnam.
Presentations will start the Monday after next, which means you have two weeks to complete this project. That is a lot of time for a project that could be done in two days, so I expect excellence. Are there any questions?”
This girl Betty raises her hand. “Do we get to choose our partners?”
“No,” Mr. Flounce says, smiling. It’s quite frightening, actually. “I have chosen your partners for you.” Another round of groans fill the room. “Your partner is your new desk mate, so make sure you get acquainted. Try to be nice. If you hate each other, that’s not my problem.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” I say under my breath as I shove things into my backpack.
“Trust me, I’m not thrilled either, Princess,” Christian growls. “I’d rather have a chimp as a partner.”
“Don’t call me Princess,” I retort.
“What would you rather have me call you? Coconut? Nerd? Take your pick.”
“I have a name you know.”
“That’s nice,” he says, leaning back in his seat. “I think I’ll stick to Princess.”
“Oh, go eff yourself, Christian.”
“That would’ve sound so much tougher if you would have actually said ‘fuck.’”
“I don’t curse,” I say, slinging my backpack over my shoulder.
“God, you’re such a goodie-two shoes. Live a little.”
“When and where are we meeting for this project?” I ask, ready to leave.
“Your house tomorrow. Mine is no good.”
“Why not?” I ask, slightly curious.
“The devil inhabits it,” he says with a smirk.
“You mean you?”
“Cute,” he says sarcastically, and walks out of class.
I only have to deal with him for two weeks and then not speak to him ever again, even if we still end up being desk mates. I just have to plaster on a fake smile, pretend like I tolerate him, and get a good grade on this project.
My mom greets me as soon as I enter the house and offers me a sandwich she has already made. I take it and go up to my room, closing the door behind me. I lay on my bed and grab my laptop, propping it in my lap. I don’t start on my homework right away; there isn’t that much so I will have enough time to work on it later, and I need Christian for the English project. Why did Mr. Flounce have to put me with him? I should ask him if I can switch partners with someone. I’m sure someone will be willing. There’s a girl in class that I used to sit with – Anne? Amy? Amelia? something like that – that goggled at the back of his head all the time. I’m sure she’d want to have him as a partner instead of Betty. I’d rather have ditzy Betty than a delinquent. Tomorrow I’ll find Anne or Amy or whatever her name is and ask her if she wants to partner with Christian instead.
If I keep Christian as a partner, I’m sure he’ll never show his face around my block, let alone do work on his own. He wouldn’t have the audacity to do his own research. He’s the kind of student that copies your notes five minutes before class starts so he doesn’t look like a dummy. If he think he has me fooled, he can think again; he’s not copying any notes of mine, and I’m not going to be doing the entire project on my own.
I scroll through Facebook, checking my friends’ messages and IM’s and status updates. Kelsey posted a picture of her and her dad standing under a canopy, a pink flower lei strung around her father’s neck. Kelsey’s blond hair falls over her shoulders, hand on her hip, smile whiter than the stars when looked at from a distance. I miss her so much. She’d understand my dilemma more than anyone. Above her photograph of her and her dad the caption says Main attractions here in Cape Cod! ♥
The globe on my home page lights up with a new notification. I open it and there’s a friend request from the infamous Christian Bay. I scoff and roll my eyes, wondering why he would want to be friends with me on a social network. I deny his request and smile to myself, giving myself a mental pat on the back.
And then the IM chat box pops up with the following:
Christian Bay: Jesus Christ, Princess. I am just trying to be friendly and honestly I feel so attacked right now.
I roll my eyes again and ignore the chat. I don’t feel like talking to him at all.
Christian Bay: C’mon Princess don’t be stuck up.
Me: Stop calling me Princess.
Christian Bay: Well finally.
Me: What do you want, Christian?
Christian Bay: I’m just trying to be friendly, Coconut. Don’t be rude.
Me: What’s with you and the nicknames? I have a name.
Christian Bay: Yeah I know. Melinda. I like Coconut better.
Me: What happened to Princess?
Christian Bay: That too.
Will you accept my request now?
Me: Why do you want me to?
Christian Bay: We have a project to do. We need to stay in touch.
Me: We don’t need to do anything. Once the project is over you can kiss my butt and be on your merry way with…whatever it is you do.
Christian Bay: Just accept the request, Princess.