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Pen Your Pride

The bell rang and I sighed. I hated but loved Fridays. I grabbed everything and sprinted to my locker, teachers glaring at me, but too lazy to care that I was fully sprinting in their halls. I got my backpack in less than a minute, and I almost fell down the flight of stairs.

As I stepped into the sunlight, it was too bright, but I didn't care. I let the warmth seep into my skin. I started walking as kids loaded onto buses. I passed all of them and the fifth grade doors. A parade of kids walked onto the sidewalks, and I meandered through them, occasionally saying sorry if I bumped someone. I crossed the busy street to the library and went inside. I sat in a booth because all the other seats were full.

I took out my algebra homework and started working, getting more bored by the minute. As I came across a story problem, I rolled my eyes. It gave me the equation, but I couldn't focus enough to figure out how to do 136 divided by 8. Everyone was being way too loud. I sighed and put my head in my hand.

Suddenly a voice came from behind me.

"17," a guy said. I jumped and held my hand over my heart. He came around front and sat across from me. He laughed when he saw my reaction. I knew I had recognized that voice, that laugh.

Niall. My heart was already pounding already; it didn't need the extra stress.

"What?" I asked, confused. He chuckled and gestured to my paper.

"The answer is 17," he repeated. I looked down and wrote it slowly.

"Thanks," I said quietly.

"Anytime," he smiled back. I continued with my math, but he didn't leave. I looked up at him a few problems later. He was writing something on a piece of paper vigorously. He had written a lot already. I looked away, not wanting him to catch me staring.

I finished in a few more minutes and put my things in my backpack. I got up and started to walk away.

"Hey," he called. I smiled excitedly to myself and turned.

"Yeah?" I asked. In the moment he was trying to muster words, I looked past him. Two girls a grade above me were staring at me in disgust. My heart dropped and I looked down.

They probably hated the fact that I was talking to him. Even though he was only a freshman, like me, a lot of other girls in high school wanted him. Bad. His blonde quiff. His Irish accent. His laugh. I had a crush on him since seventh grade, but he never noticed me. I didn't exist in his perfect eyes.

As I felt less and less relevant to life, he cleared his voice, waving his hand and standing in front of me. I shook my head briefly and he chuckled.

"I asked where you were headed," he asked again. I guess I had been thinking for longer than I thought.

"Oh," I said dumbly. The two girls burst into laughter, pointing at me. I continued anyways. "I was just gonna get some ice cream at Spotted Cow. It's pretty hot outside," I explained quietly. The girls got up and walked our way. I pulled Niall's arm towards to the door, fear creeping up my spine and a rock dropping into my stomach.

"What?" he asked, not budging. The brunette came up next to us.

"Hi, Niall," she said flirtatiously. My heart pounded. Calm down, calm down. You can make a run for it if you just-

"Why are you talking to THAT?" the redhead said, throwing a disgusted look at me. Tears formed in the back of my eyes.

"Excuse me?" Niall asked. "What did you just call her?" he asked in disbelief. Pff. Like it was hard to see.

I touched his hand as he clenched it into a fist.

"Stop," I said softly. "It's fine."

The brunette gasped. "It speaks!" she exclaimed. I felt my throat start to clog up.

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