Jocks can be Knights, Too
Turns out I was correct about Mr. Morrison. A simple conversation between first and second period and he’s fine with Liam and I working together on the project. I head to class extremely content, the emotion increasing tenfold when I spy Miss King stalking about in a long-sleeved shirt and grandmotherish skirt.
The euphoria lasts the entire day, causing me to grin stupidly as I grab books from my locker. Everyone is buzzing about Miss King’s bizarre dress code and the boys seem mightily unhappy with the sudden turn.
I close my locker, turning and nearly colliding with a body as I fumble with clipping the clasp to my bag.
“She did it.” Peter steadies me with his hands on my upper arms, his warm brown eyes shining with admiration. “I can’t believe she actually did it.”
Since I’m the one to whom he’s speaking, the ‘she’ Peter’s referring to has to be Miss King. I draw myself to my full height, only a few inches below Peter’s forehead. “Of course she did. She had no choice. It was either this or get fired.”
“But still,” Peter shakes his head. “It’s surreal to see her actually following your orders.”
“Yeah, it is,” I admit, the strong tug of surprise coming to memory at my first glimpse of everyone’s hottest teacher in schoolmarm attire.
“You’re like some superhero,” Peter shakes me slightly, his hands still gripping my arms. “Wanna come over?”
“I can’t,” I say, disappointed at turning down his offer. “I’m going over to Liam’s.”
Peter’s expression turns knowing. “Making your move, huh?”
I lift my chin. “Just planting the seed.”
Peter ruffles my hair. “Just remember plants take time to grow. If you water or feed them too fast they can die.”
“Thanks ‘oh wise one’.” I say, patting down my hair and softening my words with a grin.
He returns the smile. “Just sayin’.” And with a shrug and another knowing look he’s gone.
Liam and I agreed to meet in the west parking lot, so I hurry there after my conversation with Peter. His words ring in my head, bringing to mind images of plants slowly dying due to over-watering. I can’t exactly be mad at him for it, though. He’s only watching out for my well-being.
“Well, look who it is.”
That voice brings me up short.
Slowly, I glance up and meet the icy eyes of Melissa Embrandt. Bully extraordinaire.
“Out for a walk, nerd?”
I curse my stupidity at not being more aware of my surroundings. Melissa and her minions have surrounded me, their plastic looks covering me at all sides. In the distance, I can barely see the back of Liam’s Corolla parked only a short ways away, my savior amid this crowd of thieves.
The blonde is still eyeing me coolly. I give a deep sigh and say dully, “Hello, Melissa.”
Melissa taps a perfectly manicured nail against her pert chin. “I feel like you should address me as ‘your majesty’.”
“I feel like I shouldn’t.”
Melissa’s crystal eyes flash and her crones all take an intimidating step forward, further shrinking their circle around me. Do they practice these in-sync movements or something?
“You’re not in any position to disobey orders, nerd.”
“Really you’re not in any position to be making them. Is it weird for you to be vertical rather than horizontal? Does the football team even recognize you?” My heart thuds but I stand my ground, my face expressionless. It always goes this way. Melissa fires insults at me and I throw them right back. The only thing she has over me is numbers, which is actually a pretty big thing to have. It’s not as if I can recruit Peter to help me take down the entire cheer squad.
“You’re going to regret the day you were born, nerd.” Melissa says, her voice full of menace. Taking deliberate steps that her crones immediately follow, she approaches me until we’re nose-to-nose.
“Like how your mom does?” I ask, my nose filling with her cherry-scented lip gloss.
Melissa’s nostrils flare and she shrieks, “Take her to the dumpster, girls!”
Before I can count to three, I’m hoisted into the air by the surprisingly strong pep crones. As one, they move towards the rancid-smelling dumpster. Old food and spoiled waste form a nearly-palpable mist around the rectangular garbage can, and I realize with a sinking feeling in my stomach that garbage day is tomorrow. Meaning the dumpster is going to be extra-full. Oh goody.
As Melissa’s minions prepare to throw me to my doom, I cast one last desperate look around the parking lot. Liam’s Corolla is still parked idly by and various students mingle around us, all deliberately ignoring me. Melissa rules the school and everyone knows it.
“Put her down, Melissa.” The soft voice carries farther than it should, snapping heads in our direction and causing a hush to fall across the loitering students.
Liam steps closer, his liquid silver eyes fastened on me.
“Liam!” Melissa coos, shimmying up to the football star and tossing her long blonde hair over her shoulder.
“I said put her down,” Liam repeats, his tone leaving no room for argument.
Melissa casts desperate glances between Liam and I. Finally she nods once and says resignedly, “Put her down, girls.” Saving face in front of Liam is better than humiliating me. She can always do the latter some other time.
None-too-gently, I’m deposited to the ground. I waver, trying to catch my balance.
Liam breaks away from Melissa’s fingers as they curl around his bicep. He cuts through the cheer squad and grabs me before I fall to the asphalt. “Are you okay?” he asks quietly, scanning my body for injuries.
I dust myself off and try to keep what little dignity I have left. “I’m fine.”
He doesn’t appear convinced but nods despite this. “Come on.” He grasps my hand and tugs me away from the cluster of plastic pep squaders. Before we’ve even made a few feet of headway he turns around, my hand still firmly pressed in his. “This isn’t over, Melissa,” he warns, pointing a finger at her.
The blonde’s expression is blank but her eyes hold fire as she watches us walk, hand-in-hand, to Liam’s car.