“Honestly Rachel, I’m not going with anyone,” I say, pushing open the cafeteria door.
Rachel looks like she can’t believe what she’s hearing. “What do you mean you’re not going with anyone? October Fest is less than a week away! You can’t just show up alone.”
“But I am showing up alone,” I tell her. “Ugh, there’s nowhere to sit.”
The cafeteria is packed with people and I try very hard not to blame Rachel, even though it is her fault. She spent 20 minutes hanging around Michael Lee’s locker, waiting for him to come, hoping that he would ask her to October Fest. Thankfully he did, or else I would’ve broken something of hers.
From the corner of my eye, I see my best friend Cameron sitting at a large table with his group of friends.
“Come on, let’s go sit with Cameron. There’s still room at his table,” I tell Rachel.
She takes one glance at the table and quickly shakes her head. “I kinda wanted to sit with Connie and Tina today…”
“It’s because Michael is over there, isn’t it?” I ask in a slightly amused tone.
Rachel gives me a small smile, her cheeks staining red, before walking off to the other end of the cafeteria. I follow her grudgingly and immediately regret the decision because by the time we reach the table, she has already started talking about October Fest again.
“…and I heard that everyone has a date. I don’t understand why you don’t just ask someone. Loads of guys are dying to go with you,” she says as she puts her tray down.
Connie looks up from her science homework. “What’re you guys talking about?”
“Stella wants to go to October Fest alone,” Rachel explains in a hushed voice. It sounds like she’s talking about something bad and dangerous.
“No way,” Connie says, her jaw almost dropping.
I roll my eyes and stuff a piece of salad into my mouth. “Come on guys, what’s the big deal?”
There’s a small clattering sound because Connie drops her fork. “Big deal? Big deal?”
“It’s okay,” Rachel says to her soothingly. “I can’t believe it either.”
Tina, who was busy texting, finally decides to say something. “Guys, if Stella wants to go alone, then let her go alone –”
I nod approvingly.
“– if she wants to go through the worst humiliation of her life.”
Connie and Rachel giggle and high five Tina. I shoot a glare at Tina who smiles sheepishly and returns to her texting.
“But seriously Stella, this is senior year! You can’t be the girl who didn’t have a date in your last year,” Rachel says.
“I really don’t see the problem Rachel, gosh,” I tell her, turning my attention to my salad.
“Well, of course you don’t,” she replies in a contemptuous tone. “Anyways, Connie, did you pick a dress yet?”
“Not yet. I was kind of hoping that Jacky would ask me first and then we can match…”
Rachel and Connie launch off into a deep conversation about dresses and food and rides. Deciding that that was enough for me, I pick up my tray and head towards Cameron’s table. Rachel and Connie won’t miss me. They don’t even notice that I left.
When I reach Cameron’s table, he shifts over so that I can sit on the bench.
“What brings you over here?” he asks, picking a fry off my tray.
I take a sip of my orange juice before saying, “Rachel and Connie keep talking about October Fest. It’s driving me nuts.”
Michael Lee looks up at the mention of Rachel’s name. “Really…but aren’t girls supposed to be into that stuff?”
“What’s your point?” I ask.
“Well…you’re a girl,” he points out. Cameron and a boy called Kevin bursts out in laughter.
“Gee, thanks for noticing,” I say, throwing a piece of lettuce in his face.
“I’m just saying. How come you’re not talking with them then?” Michael says defensively.
I shrug. “I don’t know. What’s there to talk about? The dance starts at 8, my dress is purple and Rachel’s dad’s driving. End of story.”
Michael raises an eyebrow. “Then what are they talking about?”
“Man, I don’t know!” I say in annoyance. “Boys and stuff? Well, I know Rachel’s talking about boys.”
That gets Michael to shut up and go back to eating his hamburger.