The halls are busy as usual and I squeeze my way between girls that spray too much perfume and guysthat are coming from morning practice smelling like sweat. I crinkle my nose and hold my breath as I get through. I sneeze as I turn the corner and bump into someone.
“Well, bless you, Coconut.”
I roll my eyes and step around him.
“Hey, hey, hey. Where do you think you’re going?” he says playfully, grabbing hold of my arm. I stumble backwards into a locker and he leans over me.
“Away from you,” I say.
“You can’t keep avoiding me, shorty. We have to work on that project some time. You promised today, remember?” He gives me a wink and pushes himself off the lockers.
“I’m not short,” I call after him. When he doesn’t hear me I grunt and roll my eyes and continue on my search for Christian’s new partner. But instead of finding her – because who knows where she hangs out, I only ever see her in class – I spot Mr. Flounce in the teachers’ lounge talking with the principal by the coffee maker. I wait for him, casually looking up and down the halls at everyone that passes by.
Someone aggressively bumps my shoulder and I turn, barely catching the face of my crush, Cole Kim.
“Sorry!” he calls out, but he continues to rush by.
I remember watching him in P.E. last year when it was raining outside and we had gym days. He would play basketball with some of the freshmen and he had this intense amount of focus on his face, almost like every muscle in his body was hurting. His eyebrows would be so close together that it almost looked like a black caterpillar was perched over his eyelids. I wanted to kiss the spot where they touched.
I wish he would have stopped to say more than a lousy “sorry.”
I sit in my seat in English and wait anxiously for Mr. Flounce. It feels like decades, but when he finally walks through the door, I spring up and rush over to him.. He looks at me skeptically, easing himself down into his wooden chair behind his desk. “Yes, Melinda?” he says cautiously.
I give him my most innocent smile. “Hi. I was wondering if I can switch partners for the English project. Christian and I don’t have very good chemistry.”
“Well lucky for you,” he says, “this isn’t chemistry class. It’s English.”
“He and I aren’t getting along at all.”
“Tough beans. Make it work and present me a stunning report on the novel. Now sit down, please.”
“But Mr. Flounce –”
“The only ‘but’ here needs to be yours in your seat.”
I sigh and go to my seat. So much for that. I put my head down on the desk and curse myself for the rest of eternity. Just a few more days and I could be rid of Christian. He won’t have to be at my house, I won’t have to be at his hopefully ever. We wouldn’t have a project to do anymore, so we’d have no reason to talk to each other.
“Trying to get rid of me so soon, Princess?” he says, a cold stone in his voice. I can feel his cold stare on me without even looking at him.