I’m dreading English class the moment I park my car in the school parking lot. I’m gripping my usual coffee cup in hand and staring at the front doors. I barely slept last night. My mind kept replaying the conversation I had with Kaleb Nixon. I kept seeing his face as Olivia Connors basically staked her claim on him. I don’t know why it’s bothering me so much.
My phone buzzes to life in my cup holder. I check the message and an involuntarily smile crosses my lips. It’s Bash. He’s asking if he can meet me for lunch today. I answer with a quick yes, hoping Bash can get my mind off Kaleb.
When I make it into English, Adam is waiting for me. He instantly says hello and starts talking about his project with his partner. I’m barely listening. My nerves are getting the best of me. I grip my project paper in my hands, mentally going over my lines. I hated public speaking.
Mr. Hammons walks into the classroom a few minutes later. He gives everyone a small smile before placing his things on his desk. He writes “Presentations” on the white board. My eyes snap to the clock, there’s only a minute left before the bell rings and Kaleb is still not here. I roll my eyes. It’s typical of him. Kaleb’s never here anyway. What made me think he would show up to presentation day?
The bell rings. Mr. Hammons looks around the room and starts taking roll. He passes my name and gets to Kaleb’s. “Nixon.” Mr. Hammons says out loud without looking up from his clip board. “Kale?”
“Here.” Kaleb strolls into the room just then. For the first time since I’ve met him, he’s not wearing his leather jacket. His hair, that’s usually styled in a careless way, looks like he just rolled out of bed. There’s dark bags under his eyes that look like he hasn’t slept in days.
“Just in time, Kale.” Mr. Hammons sighs.
Kaleb nods and then makes his way to his desk with his head down. He doesn’t even look at me as he sinks into his seat. He puts his head to his desk and closes his eyes. I can’t peel my eyes away from him. I suddenly want to ask him what’s wrong.
“Alright, kids, you know what today is. So, who wants to volunteer to go first?” Mr. Hammons leans back in his seat and his eyes cross the room. No one raises their hands. “Come on, someone volunteer before I pick random groups to go.”
A moment later two people in the front stand to their feet. The girl is small and looks more nervous than I feel. Her partner is a boy that towers over her and gives everyone sitting a charming smile. They quickly burst into their poem, the boy louder than the girl. After they finish up, several more groups volunteer to go. Adam and his partner finish as well. I look to Kale, who looks like he’s asleep.
After everyone that wants to volunteer goes, Mr. Hammons starts calling the remaining groups. When there’s only three groups left, Kaleb and I are called. Kaleb’s head snaps up from his desk. He rubs a hand over his face and stands up.
“Are you prepared for this?” I ask in a low voice as we both make it to the front of the class.
“Worry about yourself, dork.” He snaps to me, his eyes focused on the wall.
I’m too appalled to speak. We face the crowd and I explain what poem we had. Kaleb starts the first line and I do mine. To my surprise, we both know our lines and it passes quickly. When we’re done, the class claps and Mr. Hammons tells us good job. Kaleb doesn’t even wait before he takes his seat again and rests his head back on the desk.
When the end of class comes, I try to catch Kaleb before he leaves but he’s the first time one out of the room. He’s basically running out the door, not giving me a chance to talk to him. I groan as I make my way to my next class. Adam doesn’t walk me like he usually does. I catch him walking with the girl from the bowling alley instead.
When lunch comes, I’m so relieved to get a break from school. I drive to the pizzeria in town. Bash is waiting for me there. He smiles at and my mood instantly lifts. He opens my car door for me and helps me out. I hug him and give him a small peck on the cheek.
He grabs my hand in his tightly, “You look happy to see me.”
“I am.” I smile.
“Well, I’m happy to see you, too.” He opens the door for me and we step into the crowded restaurant. “How was your presentation this morning?”
“It was good. I think we did really well on it.” I answered as we waited to be seated.
“Really? Kale knew his lines?” Bash asked curiously.
“He did, surprisingly.” I answered.
“Well, good. I was scared that he’d ruin your chances at a good grade.”
“I was too, but he was really helpful.”
The hostess finally sat us. We looked over our menus, discussing what we were getting. When the waitress came, we ordered a pizza to split. Bash started talking about some class at school, but my focus was on all the Arden Prep students scattered about.
That’s when I noticed Olivia Connors sitting across the restaurant with a group of her friends. I groaned and sunk lower in my seat. I really hoped she didn’t notice me. But, fate wasn’t that kid. Her eyes met mine a moment later. She smirked and got up from her seat. She strutted towards us. I could hear her high heels clicking as she walked towards us. Bash noticed as well and focused on her. I didn’t even have a moment to explain to Bash who she was.
“Well, well, well. Hello there, Greer.” Olivia said, gripping the table with a perfectly manicured hand. Her made up eyes settled on Bash. “Is this your brother?”
Bash laughs and snaps his focus to mine for a moment. He answers before I can, “No, I’m her boyfriend.”
My heart quickens at the word he just called himself. I can’t tell if it’s a good feeling or not. I don’t protest though.
She laughs, “Oh, really?”
Bash nods, “My name’s Bash.”
“Do you go to public school? I haven’t seen you around.” She doesn’t look happy.
“No, I’m in college.” Bash tells her.
Her frustration level grows. She looks from me to Bash and then back again, “You obviously don’t get out much. Where are my manners, I’m Olivia Connors.”
I can’t believe she has the audacity. My jaw drops open.
Olivia sticks out her hand for Bash to shake. He takes it hesitantly. “I’m throwing a party this weekend. You should come. I’ll show you how to have a good time.” She reaches out and strokes his bicep.
“Excuse me?” He balks, pulling away from her grasp.
“Well, with a girlfriend like Greer, I doubt you know what real fun is.” She laughs. I can’t believe they’re having this conversation. I can’t believe she’s acting like I’m not sitting right here.
“You really have some nerve, don’t you, Olivia?” I snap.
“What?” She asks sweetly.
“First Kaleb and now Bash? You have no limits, do you?” I cross my arms over my chest.
“I just don’t think you’re treating Bash the way he deserves.” She states.
“You have no idea how I’m treating him. Our relationship is none of your business.”
She laughs, “Well, the offer still stands, Bash.”
“I don’t think so, Olivia, but thanks. I’m perfectly happy.” He tells her.
“I’m sure you are, sweetie.” She stares at us a moment longer before she steps back. “See you around, Greer.”
We watch her walk away, swinging her hips wildly as she does. I groan and roll my eyes. “I can’t stand her!”
Bash laughs, “I can’t believe she did that.”
“She thinks she’s better than everyone else!”
He studies me a moment, “What did you mean by the Kaleb thing?”
He shrugs, “You just mentioned him and I was wondering what you were talking about.”
I clear my throat and looked away from him. I hated talking about Kaleb with Bash. It made something tighten in my chest that I didn’t know how to explain. “Oh, nothing, she just rubbed him in my face the other day.”
“What do you mean?” He studied me.
I hesitate for a moment before answering, “I was at the diner with Adam when she made it quite clear that Kaleb was hers. She went out of her way to make sure I knew it.”
“Why do you care?”
My eyes snap to his, “What? I don’t.”
“Yeah, you do.” He says sadly with a sigh. “Sometimes I feel like Kale is always getting in the way.”
“Yeah, me to.” I say to him.
“The thing is, you let him get in the way, Greer.”
“What are you talking about? No, I don’t! I can’t stand him!” I protest.
“You can say that all you want, but you’re lying. I see the way you guys look at each other. I tried to ignore it, but I don’t think I can anymore, Greer.” He says to me. A moment later the waitress brings our pizza. Neither of us says anything.
I want nothing more than to defend myself. I want to yell at him that he’s wrong. The thing is, there’s apart of me that believes him. Tears prick in my eyes. I don’t want anything to do with Kaleb, I don’t know how many times I’ve said that. It seems like life had other plans though. It didn’t matter how many times I pushed Kaleb away, he always came back. I don’t know how much longer I can fight against him.
I don’t know where that leaves Bash and me anymore.