Numero-freaking Five

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January 16

The hallways are filled with talk about Saturday, eyes clinging to me like dead flies on a windshield. I had the whole weekend to ponder over it, but my concern didn't do anything for my anxiety. I was thinking the entire thing will be brushed off come Monday, but it seems it isn't so.

Even in the classrooms, girls snicker.

"I'm glad I'm not her," I hear one of them say, but I can't pinpoint which one it was as they huddle closer and avert their eyes.

"Congratulations, Kelly," a guy I don't know calls as I walk by. I assume he's talking about Saturday, but I don't understand why everyone's obsessing over it, or why it's even such a big deal.

I spot Cason down the hall, laughing carelessly with three of his friends from the football team. Pushing myself through a wall of sophomores whispering about something or another, I make my way over to him. He spots me and his eyes widen, his friends slapping him on the back as they tell him things I can't quite form in my head. He turns to walk away but I call out to him.

"Cason," I stop before him, panting slightly. Why are groups of teenage girls so hard to get through? "What was it that I won? Everyone keeps talking about it and laughing at me... I don't understand."

One of his buddies smacks him on the shoulder with a laugh, towering over the two of us as the other two guys wave. I stare at them, confused, and then turn back to Cason.

"You're on your own, my man," his friend laughs, shrugging his backpack into a different position. "Just remember the rules."

Cason glares at the guy as he walks away, catching up with the other two.

"What rules?"

He exhales. "Just drop it, Kelly," is all he says before he moves to walk away. I grab him by the wrist, the physical contact sending a jolt through my body.

"I can't. Everyone is staring and laughing and I don't even know why."

There's a shift to my right on the other side of the hallway. It only catches my attention because I can hear the chains on his pants as he stands upright and moves closer. Jax.

"It's because you're fat."

Everything inside me clenches and the world around me stills. I could swear there's a hush that falls over the hallway, but I can still feel the pressure of other people's conversations.

My throat is a desert.

Cason's face twists to anger. "You aren't supposed to tell her—"

"You don't have the right to stand up for her," Jax says, his face cool and collected, a glint of some kind of mixed emotion in his blue eyes.

"That isn't what I'm doing. There are rules—"

"High school parties and College parties don't work the same way, even if you try to drag one into the other, Cason." He turns to me. "The party that jerk brought you to was a dogfight, where they try to bring the ugliest girl they can find as a date. The winners were supposed to be announced in secrecy, but everyone voted against that."

Cason grits his teeth as I try to grasp what's happening around me.

I won because I'm fat? Because it makes me ugly?

"Don't act so noble, Jackson," Cason grumbles to Jax. "You were at that party too."

"Didn't participate, but I'm glad you got more than you wanted. How's my girlfriend doing, by the way? Didn't hear from her until first period when she ran in, late."

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