Numero-freaking Ten

56 9 15
                                                  

The snickers seem to echo around me.

Screw Jax and screw everyone else.

Or, at least that's what I wish I could say.

Instead, I keep my head down, avoiding all eye contact, and hoping I don't crash into anyone—which is difficult because I feel like I take up the entire hallway.

"Frick—watch it, Dog Queen," I hear as someone bumps into me. I look up to see Jessica Haizer fixing her over-the-shoulder backpack as she pulls at the hem of her skirt, trying to stay out of sight of the teachers.

I watch her walk away, gritting my teeth.

"Real creative," I shout down the hall at her, but she doesn't pay any mind to me, giggling with her friend as they walk toward the exit. Grunting, I move my backpack and move forward, feeling a tug on my keychain.

"Kel!"

Carla comes up from behind me, beaming. She looks different without braces, but it's a good different. She looks a lot less like a ferret with railroad tracks on her teeth, and more like a normal ferret. It's a really good improvement.

"Soooo where were you for lunch? Are you avoiding me for some reason?" She wiggles her eyebrows. "Or were you with that Jax guy?"

I make a face. "Yeah, no. He got mad at me because I tried to help him with his wishy-washy relationship with Jessica."

"Jessica Haizer?" Cayla drops her jaw. "How in the world did you snag him as a friend?"

"He's not my friend," I reassure. "He yelled at me and then walked off like a moody teenager."

Cayla giggles. "Aren't we all moody teenagers though?" When I give her a disapproving look, her magnified eyes widen. "What? You and I have had fights like that, too where one of us storms off. We would always make up later though." She grins, dramatically moving her hand across our field of vision like she's on stage quoting Shakespeare. "If it's meant to be, he'll come back."

I shake my head and push her arm away as she laughs to herself, sounding insane. 

"You've lost it, Cayla." I sigh for dramatic effect, trying to push away the negativities of today. Cayla's at least one person who likes me for who I am, and doesn't judge me on my body size. "It's not like that. And I don't think he'll come back, anyway. He's the one that forced this friendship, so I think he'll come around to realizing that I didn't want to be his friend in the first place and he'll leave me alone."

Cayla scrunches her nose at me and then moves her glasses down her nose to peer at me over her glasses, squinting.

"I don't believe that you want that," she says.

"What are you doing?" I frown at her, trying to keep from laughing at the way her eyes seem even tinier after seeing them enlarged by the glasses. "You can't even see  me over those things."

"Just trying to size you up," she shrugs. "You kinda seem a bit lighter with him around. I mean, you tend to push him away and keep him at arms-length or whatever, but, you know, it's only been a few days, right? You don't really know each other so I think you might be judging too quickly."

I frown, Jax's nickname rocking my mind.

"What, have you been stalking us or something?"

She shrugs. "I have nothing else to do in my spare time between classes. You two are the only drama I get. The rest of my friends fight over math equations and stuff. I'm not interested in all that."

I purse my lips. "So you've been stalking us."

"Guilty as charged," she grins innocently. "Just—try and be open-minded about him. If he wants to be your friend, maybe you should actually try and be his friend."

I scoff lightly. "Yeah, until we really do become friends and then have a falling-out."

Carla rolls her eyes. "Yeah, as if that matters. Look, if someone's in your life, they're there for a reason. If they leave, that's fine. He hasn't hurt you yet, so I think you should try."

"And why is that?"

She gives a big smile that tells me she's up to no good. "Because the ship's already sailed."

"Ship?"

She waves at me quickly and darts out the open door before it shuts, walking quickly to her bus—too quickly for me to keep up.

"Carla!" I call after her, grunting as she disappears into the crowd.

Pressure on the back of my neck tells me people are staring at me. Clearing my throat, I tighten the straps on my backpack.

The busses are lined up in the parking lot and I try to get on as fast as I can without eavesdropping, wishing I brought my headphones with me. I make a mental note to bring them tomorrow.

Slipping into the first seat on the bus, I immediately duck my head and press it up against the back of the flat part in front of me, wishing I was deaf. And blind so I didn't have to look in the mirror.

I press my palm against my forehead, forcing my emotions down. Breathing steadily, I regain control of myself and close my eyes, really, really wanting to take a nap, when there's a jostling beside me, the person gently pushing me over a few inches.

I snap up to give them a piece of my mind when I stop short.

Jax sets his backpack beneath the seat and turns to me, his eyes wide and his face looking troubled.

"Jax?" I ask, guilt and frustration bubbling up within my gut.

"Yeah," he says.

"If you're gonna tell me off again—"

"I'm not." He turns to me as the amount of people on the bus grows, the volume increasing a few decibels. "I wanted to say I'm sorry about what I said earlier. I know you were just trying to help. Jessica is just a sensitive subject for me. I'm sorry about that."

I grit my teeth and shake my head, rearranging myself and giving him more room in the seat.

"Whatever. We aren't even friends—you know that right? You just kind of forced yourself into my life."

He makes a pouty face. "I thought we were friends."

Scoffing, I shake my head. "Nope. You can't force a friendship. Besides, guys and girls 'can't be friends', according to everyone, ever."

"Well everyone, ever is wrong," Jax comments. "I hope you don't truly believe that."

I scrunch my nose. "Not in the least bit." I follow up with a self-deprecating snort. "Besides, no guy has ever looked at me and wanted to be more than friends, so—"

"Yeah, right," Jax counters with a laugh. "I seriously doubt that."

I give him a bemused look, biting the inside of my cheek as I debate with myself about asking him what I'm wanting to ask him.

I ask him anyway.

"And you say that because...?"

Jax gives a slow, sly smile as the flow of people getting on the bus slows.

"You should see yourself through my eyes, Judy."

With that, he grabs his bag from under the seat and gives me a nod and a smile that seems to pull me from the confusion he's somehow hit me with

It's super effective.

He's out the bus door before the bus shuts its doors and he turns around to wave at me through the window.

"What in the world?" I whisper to the glass as we begin moving away, his blue eyes sparkling in the sunlight and his face filled with the obvious thrill of messing with me.

He'd better not be messing with me or I'll kill him.

If Carla doesn't get to him first.

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