I wasn't going to back out this time.
I was going to suck it up, and just get it over with.
My brother was probably going to freak when he found out, but it'll be fine.
The school bell rang, making me realize my teeth were about to pierce through my bottom lip. I quickly released it, rubbing my lips together to soothe the pain as I gathered my books, while everyone else rushed out to race to the cafeteria.
Crap. I can't do this.
I'm just gonna go to the library instead.
No. I'm doing this.
Eighth grade had the last lunch of the day, which meant I had extra time to talk myself out of this. And back into it again.
It was a constant battle all morning.
On a normal Friday, I'd be rushing along with everyone else. It was pizza day; my favorite.
Honestly though, I rushed to the cafeteria everyday.
I wanted the full thirty minutes I had with Jackson
— without my brother, Elliott.
But as I got closer to the cafeteria doors today, I couldn't figure out if it was butterflies in my stomach, or if I actually had to throw up.
Whatever feeling it was, it got stronger when I walked through and my eyes landed on him, headed to our spot.
There were many more seats than students in our grade, so everyone was able to spread out in their own groups. Our spot was at the end of one of the long tables, a couple seats away from a group of guys that talked about movies too much.
It was like our own little bubble in the loud room — when Jackson wasn't chiming into the movie enthusiasts' conversations, that is.
I stopped a couple steps into the cafeteria and bit the inside of my cheek, trying to decide if I should stand in the growing line for pizza or not.
Jackson dropped his tray on the table, brushing his thick black waves forward as he sat down.
As I watched him, I realized it'd probably be best to get it over with before I changed my mind again, so I took a deep breath and headed toward him.
The butterflies already had my stomach full anyways.
I sat next to him, instead of across the table like I usually did, hoping to get some kind of reaction. But he never looked up from his pizza.
"Everything okay, Jax?" I asked, trying to keep my voice even.
"Mhm," he hummed as he nodded slightly, but he was glaring at his pizza like it offended him.
"They serve the pizza cooked, you know. You don't have to burn it with your eyes," I joked, poking his arm. And he peaked at me with those dark, almost black eyes.
"Shut up," he mumbled before letting out a small laugh, picking up his pizza.
I bit my lip to hold back a proud smile and looked down at my light blue jeans.
His mood always seemed to get a little lighter around me and Elliott; it made me feel special.
"I have something to tell you," I said quickly before I could stop myself.
"Okay," he said after he swallowed, dropping his pizza to open his apple juice.
I took a deep breath, trying to calm my rapid heartbeat.
"I know you're technically Elliott's friend, but I really like hanging out with you," I winced as soon as the words were out.
He tilted his head to look at me again, furrowing his brow, almost looking confused as he sat his drink down.
"I mean like, without Elliott. I, um," I cleared my throat as he looked down at his tray.
But I could see him fighting a smile, and it gave me the courage I needed.
"I like you."
He whipped his head up fully to look at me, and his long messy hair shifted, revealing a nasty bruise forming above his eyebrow, speckled with dried blood.
"Lee," he started softly.
"What happened?" I interrupted him and reached to move his hair — all previous nerves replaced with worry.
Before I could touch him, Jackson grabbed my wrist, making me squeak in surprise.
"Don't," he said blankly, and his soft features quickly hardened.
He still had my wrist in a death grip, but I hardly even noticed.
"Are you okay? Did someone do that to you? What happened?"
"Leave it!" He snapped and shoved my hand toward me, knocking over his apple juice in the process.
All I could do was sit in shock as the juice ran off the table, into my lap.
"Oh my God," Jackson suddenly guffawed, making a few groups close by turn to us. "Brylee, did you just piss your pants?"
I could hear a couple people start snickering as I stared at him in disbelief.
More people started to notice, and the laughter started to grow when I shot out of my seat.
"Forget your diaper today, chubs?" I heard a guy from the table next to us call out, and my heart sunk.
Hanging out with Jackson and Elliott meant I'd been eating more junk food for the past two years.
I'd never thought anything of it — I knew I wasn't skinny, but I didn't think I was too big.
Until Elliott moved to the high school, and the whispers of 'chubby' or 'chubs' started.
I wasn't sure if Jackson knew about them though; no one had ever just blurted it out like that before.
I risked another glance at him to see his reaction, and I could've sworn I saw a hint of something in his eyes, but then he blinked and it was gone.
A smirk slowly formed on his face as he raised an eyebrow at me, as if to say, why are you still here?
The chattering and laughter of my classmates was buzzing in my ears as I quickly made my way to the door, keeping my eyes on the ground.
Once I made it into the hall, a small sob escaped.
I wasn't sure if I was more angry at Jackson or myself.
I'm such an idiot.
There’s no way he could like his best friend's sister.
His best friend's chubby sister.
God, I probably disgust him. What was I thinking?
He's probably in there laughing with them right now.
I walked into the front office with tear stains on my cheeks.
The secretary — I could never remember her name — did a double take from behind her computer when she saw me.
"Oh, sweetie!" she stood up.
"Can I call my mom?" I choked out before she could continue.
"Of course, of course," she said, in an overly sweet tone, motioning me over to the phone on her desk. She kept glancing down at my pants and I knew what she was thinking, but I didn't even have it in me to correct her.
My mom finally picked up when I was starting to lose hope; I could tell she was still half asleep.
"Mom," I croaked. "Can you come get me, please?"
"What's wrong, baby?" she asked in a raspy voice.
"Can you please just come get me?" I begged.
My tone must've gotten through to her, because I heard her start to shuffle on the other end.
"I'll be right there."
My mom was pretty adamant about us staying at school — unless you're running a fever, or it's coming outta both ends.
I guess we can add 'or when the guy you trusted turns you into the new class joke' to the list.
"Is she coming?" Ms. Secretary asked, as if she wasn't listening, continuing after I nodded. "Do you want a towel while you wait?" I nodded again.
I sat down in one of the chairs on the other side of the office, picking at a piece of fuzz attached to the itchy fabric.
Knocking on the window behind me made me jump, but I just continued to stare at the puke green carpet below me.
I heard laughter on the other side of the window, so I sighed and turned to see a group of guys walking away. I think it was the group the guy that called me chubs was with, but I didn't see him, so I wasn't sure.
I whipped back around in my chair and saw Ms. Secretary walking toward me with a folded towel in her hand.
"Don't worry about them, boys are idiots," she smiled. "I probably shouldn't be saying that to a student though, so..."
She put her index finger to her lips, and I smiled sadly when I noticed the tan line on her ring finger.
"They really are."
Right then my mom walked in the door, sweats still wrinkled and twisted from sleep.
The school was right outside of our neighborhood, so it was hardly a drive at all — I would've just walked home if she didn't have to physically be there to check me out.
By one look at me, Mom could tell I wanted to get out before she tried to ask questions. "Are you ready to go?"
I got up without a word and walked toward the door while she signed me out at the desk.
We walked to the car in silence, but as soon as we shut our doors, she turned to me. "What happened?"
"Juice spilled on my pants, and everyone started to say I peed. The whole cafeteria was laughing at me, Mom," I cried — too embarrassed to tell her the whole truth.
She put her hand on my knee and dipped her head down to meet my eyes.
"Do you want to go home, change into something comfy, and then go get waffles?"
"I just want to go home," I sniffled.
I was sick to my stomach, the last thing I could think about was food. Especially waffles.
Junk food is the reason for this in the first place.
I was tired of being chubs.
Something had to change.
I had to change.