Chapter 21

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Monday, October 6th

When I walked into school this morning, I had a plan. 'I' meaning Josh and I. We knew someone would be giving Bailey crap about her breakup, and we had a plan- a plan that would make a point.

But now, sitting in the cafeteria, waiting for the cue of bullying, I'm not so sure. I give Josh a nervous glance. He smiles reassuringly and nods.

Our cue comes. As Bailey walks across the cafeteria to buy a pop from the vending machine, the poplars stop her. She pushes past them and buys her pop, but they follow her back to our table.

When they get close, Josh nods and I stand up, facing the girls, their fancy clothes, and fake nails.

I gulp and start out.

"You, with your words like knives/And swords and weapons that you use against me/You have knocked me off my feet again/Got me feeling like I'm nothing/You, with your voice like nails on a chalkboard/Calling me out when I'm wounded/You picking on the weaker man-" I gulp at the end, my stomach shaking from nervousness. It sounded weak in the beginning without the music to back me up, and I bite my lip in concern.

Josh smiles encouragingly and picks up where I left off, his strong tenor rising above the clamor of the cafeteria.

"You can take me down with just one single blow/But you don't know, what you don't know..."

Then we join together, our voices mixing perfectly, just the way we practiced, me going one whole octave higher than him. A wonderfully perfect harmony. I smile at him.

"Someday I'll be living in a big ol' city/And all you're ever gonna be is mean/Someday I'll be big enough so you can't hit me/And all you're ever gonna be is mean/Why you gotta be so mean?"

I belt out again, my voice alone. I direct my words at the six mean girls standing there, agape.

"You, with your switching sides/And your wildfire lies and your humiliation/You have pointed out my flaws again/As if I don't already see them/I walk with my head down/Trying to block you out 'cause I'll never impress you/I just wanna feel okay again."

"All you are is mean/ And a liar, and pathetic, and alone in life/And mean, and mean, and mean, and mean." Josh sings, and all I can do is stare. Why he's never sung to me is an unanswered question, but you can bet I'll get an answer soon.

"But someday I'll be living in a big ol' city/And all you're ever gonna be is mean, yeah/Someday I'll be big enough so you can't hit me/And all you're ever gonna be is mean/Why you gotta be so?.."

"Someday I'll be living in a big ol' city-" I sing.

"(Why you gotta be so?..)" Josh echoes, layering his voice briefly with mine.

"And all you're ever gonna be is mean-"

"(Why you gotta be so?..)"

"Someday I'll be big enough so you can't hit me-"

"(Why you gotta be so?..)"

"And all you're ever gonna be is mean."

"Why you gotta be so mean?" We finish together, and I realize that everyone is starting at us, and any noise that might be in here isn't.

Bailey looks like if she doesn't narrows her eyes soon, her eyeballs might fall right out, and that would be quite a shame. Just when I realize I don't know what to do, Josh wraps an arm around my shoulders and takes a step forward.

"Why you gotta be so mean?" He says plainly, and Jaya May's mouth falls further open.

"Close your mouth." I blurt. "You don't want to catch flies, bless your nonexistent heart."

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