In August Company

One Year Previous

"Now Angus, what do you see?" Mrs Manson, school counsellor of dubious credentials, no confidentiality agreement at all and terrible trouble with names in general, held up a picture of two silhouettes, one male and the other female, talking. The bespectacled boy on the other side of the table gave no response other than a pained expression, gritting his teeth and shaking his head.

"August," he said finally, his voice exceedingly quiet.

"You see the month of August? I didn't ask when you saw but what."

"No, my name is August. It's a stupid name I know. My parents wanted a girl and already picked out the name Summer. But I wasn't a girl, so they decided to name after a summer month instead. June is a girl's name. July sounded too close to Julie, also a girl's name. So I got stuck with August."

"Okay then, August," Mrs Manson made it clear she didn't think much of the name either, probably thinking his parents were hippies or something. "What do you see?"

"Without my glasses? A blur, which would make this more like Rorschach's Blots."

"With your glasses please, Angus."

"There are two people, a boy and a girl, having a conversation. Not an interesting conversation, just the kind you might have passing someone in the school hallways. Homework, weekend plans. He's only an acquaintance to her, someone she knows from a couple classes, a familiar face. But to him? He's in love with her and can never bring himself to say it. So he just hangs around in her orbit, continuing his unrequited love from a distance. Teleamare. Love from afar. Love from a distance. It is a pure love, untainted by lust or personality conflicts. It is an easy commitment, to love an ideal image, a figure on a pedestal rather than a real, flawed being. He knows one day he will lose her, even though he never had her, and it breaks him. But he cannot put this into words, it is unearthly, ethereal_"

"Angus, you've got problems."

Low self-esteem, obsessed and delusional, she wrote, will probably fall in love with the first girl who looks at him twice. Recommend Esteem Course.

The Present

August had studied at Lawndale High for a full year now and during that time the only useful skill he'd learned was his almost preternatural ability to go completely unnoticed amongst the student body. He didn't need an invisibility cloak, he was just utterly unremarkable. He never did or said anything worthy of note, his one crowning glory being the fact that, like a certain Jane Lane, he seemed to be permanently stuck in the purgatory of Mr O'Neil's Self Esteem class. Fresh faces would arrive, memorise the drivel and leave in short order, leaving August behind. His problem was that he was inherently too honest to lie and get himself out. He insisted on giving honest and bizarre answers to every question on the exit exam. This probably should have concerned some people, and it would have in any normal school, but not Lawndale High.

Ms Li didn't notice anyone unless they were a troublemaker or someone she could exploit to make herself look good and for all Mr O'Neil's ability to recall names and faces, August could have easily spent his entire educational career in there without the man recognising him. August would catch him looking at him sometimes, with a sort of confused frown on his face. So some small voice in the back of his head must whisper something about his familiar features. But that was it. A student spending an entire year in a six-week self-esteem course received no more thought than the occasional niggling thought that he looked somewhat familiar.

August didn't mind, it had become something of a game to him, to see how hard he had to push before someone even remotely acknowledged his existence. Today he was trying standing dead in front of the school doors, forcing anyone who wanted entrance to go around him as he read a battered copy of All Quiet on the Western Front. So far he'd gone unnoticed, probably because no teenager was ever particularly eager to enter school and someone offering them five seconds delay hardly registered. He'd thought the book had been a nice touch, maybe prompting someone to derisively call him a brain, but no, not a whisper. People just seemed to automatically go around him without a word, like an invisible forcefield surrounded him. Excuse me, he thought, just one excuse me and I'll give up.

There was a brief commotion out the front of school, the excited chattering that presumably heralded the arrival of someone attractive and popular. August didn't bother looking up, someone like that was never going to acknowledge him. You didn't need manners when you were popular. No one was ever popular for being polite. Nope, this was another wasted day. Maybe this lunchbreak he should lean on a random person's locker? They'd have to say something to him then. No, he decided, that was too rude. Only a jester like Kevin Thompson would do that. He seemed to think that school lockers existed only as a backrest, he certainly didn't keep any books in his, that was for sure. August was just about to close his book and head back inside when the unthinkable happened. The earth-shatteringly impossible.

"Excuse me," it was a dull monotone, the voice of one who droned and intoned like a particularly depressed android but this was the nineties, there were no androids in the nineties, she was human. Hands shaking with unsuppressed shock, August lowered his book and just stared at the girl in front of him. Speechless. Say something! He berated himself, anything! But were you supposed to thank someone for saying 'excuse me?' Or was that weird? Was this all a hallucination, did he need to check his prescription? August removed his glasses, pushing them down his nose and looking over them. The girl didn't vanish without them, just became blurry around the edges. He pushed them back on and kept staring. "Gee," said the girl, unimpressed. "I love your thrilling portrayal of Waiting for Godot but forgive me if I don't stay for Act Two." Then like everyone else she just went around him, leaving him stunned on the spot.

August took his glasses off again and shook them experimentally, feeling along the frames for some sort of device that could project an image. Had that been real? He felt his head for any sign of concussion, he pinched himself to check if this was a dream. All his tests were coming back negative but this should be impossible. Someone had just noticed him. This had to be the most important, ground-breaking moment in his life.

"That was beautiful," he whispered, "she was beautiful," there was a painful twinge in his chest. "And I'll probably never see her again. Teleamare." He put his glasses back on and walked mechanically back into the school building, everything around him suddenly brighter, louder, more vibrant. The memory of it, those two words, 'excuse me,' burning his brain like a beacon of hope. It sustained him, more than any meal ever had, more than any breath of air. It was unreal, he felt lighter than air and yet at the same time leadenly heavy. Torn between the jubilation of that one fleeting moment and the agony of knowing it would never happen again.

Mrs Manson had been wrong. It had not taken two looks for him to fall in love with a girl, only one.

Lalalalalalalalalalalalala

August sat in the front row of his history class, another one of those little things that made him so forgettable. Everyone knew that troublemakers either sat at the back or tried to hide somewhere in the middle. Sitting at the front was a sure-fire way to get ignored by a savvy teacher. He was on the far left of the front row, next to him was an empty seat, the only one in the room. He figured it was pretty typical he should end up the only one sitting alone, because as far as his classmates were concerned, he didn't exist. You couldn't sit next to a nobody, that was as bad as sitting next to no one at all. In the social world sometimes it was better to sit alone than with a non-entity, it made you boring by association. His closest neighbour was Andrea, on the other side of the empty seat, and while August radiated a blinding aura of non-identity, she oozed misery and contempt for existence itself. Behind the empty seat in the next row, completing a shape known only as the Lawndale Triangle, was an unrepentant punk rocker who gave off the distinct impression that anyone who sat in front of him would drown in an ocean of spit balls, each emblazoned with 'down with the man.' In the future, urban legends would be told about the Lawndale Triangle, tales that would inspire absolute terror. Scientists would later claim it was the highest concentration of apathy and delusion ever recorded. For now though, it was simply the most boring place on earth. And that was saying something in Lawndale.

August was depressed, more so than a student stuck in history class usually was. He'd just met the girl of his dreams, and he had no idea who she was, or if she was even real. Too much coffee could bring on hallucinations and he'd definitely consumed a lot last night. He'd been studying Alternate Universe Theory, thinking that maybe the reason no one noticed him was because he wasn't supposed to exist here. Maybe this girl was inspired by that? Whatever it was, the thought he'd never see her again, the first student to notice him, had him down. So his posture wasn't exactly ergonomic right now, slumped in defeat. His chair was pushed right back, butting against the desk behind, and he was stretched out over his desk, head buried in his hands. Class hadn't started yet, but that hardly mattered. Mr Demartino didn't know he existed either, or he did but was so used to students ignoring his class he mention anything. The important thing was, August was blocking off easy access to only empty chair in the room.

"Excuse me,"that voice again! August, thinking he must have fallen asleep and dreamed it, ignored it.

"Ugh, my mind is taunting me," he muttered, staying steadfastly buried.

"Excuse me," said the voice again, this time with a hint of annoyance that hadn't been there the first time.

"It's not supposed to sound like…" August abruptly realised he wasn't dreaming and snapped upright so fast he nearly fell out of his chair, flying back from the desk and sliding down his chair until most of his body was draped under his desk and on the floor. There in this reclined position he slowly turned his head to look at the girl. And that's all he did for several long seconds, just stared, open mouthed.

"I was right," she said, "Act Two of Waiting for Godot was just as good as Act One. Inspired, but I have a problem with the casting. Shouldn't there be two crazy old men doing nothing instead of one?"

"Um, I'm the only crazy hobo in Lawndale?" tried August nervously, mentally screaming at the stupidity coming out of his mouth while at the same time glad he'd managed to say anything at all to the most beautiful girl in the world.

"Really? Or are you just saying that because you're a shill for Lawndale Tourism? Whatever, your shopping trolley full of expired cat food is blocking the alley."

"My shopping…? Oh!" Realising she was talking about his chair he managed to defy the laws of gravity and human anatomy by somehow slithering back upwards into his seat by willpower alone, standing up and spinning around in one fluid motion. Then he wrenched his chair back so close to desk that sitting in that position would probably invoke death by suffocation and squeezed into it like this was totally normal. The girl gave him a look of one who has just spotted an escaped mental patient and is mildly considering calling the police. Ultimately apathy won out though, and she decided against it, moving past August and taking the seat beside him without another word. Proximity to her was too much for him, and he felt his face burning up and his breath hitching. This is your chance, his mind screamed, introduce yourself! "August!" he blurted out, practically yelling his name.

"No, it's actually May, might want to recalibrate your time machine Doc Brown," she said, looking as though she was seriously reconsidering calling the police. The school nurse at least. August burned even brighter red and stammered ineffectually for what felt like eternity until he regained coherence.

"Uh, thank you. For the time machine advice," what the hell are you saying? He thought, "August," he repeated, "my name is August."

"Esmeralda," she lied smoothly, not that August noticed, "sorry but visiting hours at the hospital are over now." 'Esmeralda', bored with this conversation, and life in general, turned to face the blackboard, clearly indicating the 'conversation' was over. August stared after her for a moment longer before realising that was creepy and snapping his head to the front too. Esmeralda, he thought, so that was her name. Weird, sure, but he couldn't talk, his was name was August.

Esmeralda, he wrote on a blank page on his notebook, completely lost in his daydreams as class started. So lost he entirely missed the fact that 'Esmeralda' was actually Daria. Emerald. Wearing green. Coincidence? ESMERALDA, Engaging Sarcastic Mesmerising Erudite Riveting Awesome Lady Defying Authority. Was that any good? Note to self, re-read Waiting for Godot. Play where nothing happens, twice. Anagram? There's got to be more to this. RED SALEM? If I don't use all the letters. There's red in her hair, what's that shade called? What's Salem though? Witch trials? Does she practice witchcraft? Maybe that's why she can see me! Note to self, buy book on witchcraft…

Lalalalalalalalalalalalala

"So Kiddo, how was your day?" asked Jake, turning the conversation from Quinn's ever bustling school life to Daria's, which was decisively less so.

"Well, I did see a thrilling performance of Waiting for Godot today in History Class," drawled Daria.

"You got to watch a movie in class!?" wailed Quinn, "that is so unfair!"

"It's a play Quinn," explained Helen, "and Daria was just_"

"I remember that lousy play!" yelled Jake suddenly, "Waiting for Godot, Godot never turned up! The lazy bastard!"

"Jake, what in the hell is wrong with you!?" raged Helen. "Can't you see she was just joking!"

"Oh yeah, but I was the joke back then!" muttered Jake furiously, chunnering away about his miserable childhood. "Got a part for you to play Jake, they said, headline act! In the title even! You can be Godot! I stood in the wings for three miserable hours waiting for my cue to come onstage! And they just laughed!"

"Gee dad, if only you'd read the script," said Daria, "the sheer volume of those zero lines you had would have overwhelmed you."

"They said I could improvise!" whined Jake, "said I was a great actor!"

"Well dad, I am writing a play about the Hindenburg Disaster. I don't have an airship, but Quinn makes a good airhead."

"Gosh Daria! As if I let my hair air dry after a shower, that's what towels are for!"

"And I thought my glasses were for my myopic eyes, but obviously they're needed to spot people missing the point."

"Oh ha, ha Daria, I know myopic isn't even a colour. I'm not stupid you know!"

"Prosecution rests it's case," droned Daria, "the jury must find the defendant guilty of terminal stupidity."

"The judge," stressed Helen, "moves that if you two don't behave yourself you'll be thrown out of court. Can't we just have a nice, normal dinner conversation?" Utter silence greeted her proposal, which should have been an answer in itself, only Jake decided to confirm it a few moments later.

"Say, kiddo, did Godot turn up in the version you watched?"

"Jake!"

Lalalalalalalalalalalalala

It was time for a fresh intake in Mr O'Neil's self-esteem course, a fresh start with mostly fresh faces. August had experienced the course from start to finish many times, but unlike Jane didn't relish it nearly as much. Every time the course started anew, he swore he'd pay attention this time around, and somehow fix himself. After all, it must be his low self-esteem that was making him so invisible to everyone. He'd seen proof, namely, his brief chat with Esmeralda in History Class. Those few moments he'd been flying high, he could have sworn Mr Demartino actually glanced his way once and the student behind him had shifted in his seat, as though he couldn't see through August as easily as before. But his dreams of becoming a real, solid boy, were dashed before his head could so much as touch the pillow of aspiration. The mysterious Esmeralda was in this class too, and that was just about all August could concentrate on. Oh, he had some other thoughts, namely, what's that buzzing noise coming out of Mr O'Neil's mouth and does it mean anything? And, I'm staring too much aren't I? She's going to notice. He started taking notes again, not to do with anything Mr O'Neil was yammering about, but a stream of consciousness in regards to the girl who had stolen his thoughts.

Writing something…notes? Shouldn't I be doing that? I mean, if she's doing it must be important. It doesn't look like writing though. More like a drawing. Is she an artist? That's bad, I have a straight C average in art. She's whispering something to Jane, definitely an artist then. Note to self, study art history. She called me crazy, start with crazy artists. Aren't all artists crazy though? Possible reason she can see me, insanity… Oh, am I her conscience? A fragment of her mind? No, then why would I be here so long without noticing her. I become more real when she speaks to me. But how do I speak to her? Or get her to speak to me? I need advice…Dad? No, he's useless. Mr O'Neil? It's worth a try.

And it was in this moment that history was forged. August was genuinely the first person in the universe, to ever actively seek Mr O'Neil's advice. Normally he forced it on people who weren't interested in the slightest, his words falling on deaf ears. But no more, August remained in his seat after the course ended, and though he knew this was necessary, his knees shook the whole walk to the ineffectual man's desk. That wasn't even the end of his trial, he stood there, heart pounding, breath bated, waiting to be noticed. He concentrated intensely even closing his eyes, I am real, he thought, I am not invisible.

"Oh dear, are you alright?" it worked! August opened his eyes and saw Mr O'Neil had finally focussed on him, his expression a blend between confusion and concern. August nodded mutely, not trusting his voice at the moment. "I'm so sorry, I know this subject matter can be confronting for some, sensitive, people. Just think of the number thirteen, you're not broken, just unlucky!" he suffixed his platitude with a cheesy grin. August didn't respond, mentally questioning his faculties in seeking this man's help. "Are you sure you're alright?"

"I'm not sure I exist," blurted out August.

"Depersonalisation?" Mr O'Neil chuckled nervously, "Oh my, that's not really an issue for low self-esteem class. See, one really needs to exist in order to have some esteem. Theoretically I mean, I know you exist. I'm not crazy," he laughed again, still nervously. "At least I don't think so."

"There's a girl that makes me feel real," carried on August, in for a penny, in for a pound. "But I don't know how to talk to her. We've only spoken twice and I come off looking like an idiot every time."

"Ah, matters of the heart!" said Mr O'Neil, brightening immediately, "young love, just like in the stories," he frowned and looked August again. "I can't help the feeling I know you from somewhere? Have we spoken before?"

"Not really. There was this one time I wrote an essay about how I'm a ghost and nobody knows I exist. You gave me an A but told me to see you after class. I stood there for five minutes but you didn't notice me."

"Oh dear, that doesn't sound good at all," Mr O'Neil wrung his hands in a sort of nervous tic. "I wouldn't do that would I? Helping young people is my passion. Listen, what is this girl's name?"

"Esmeralda," answered August, seeing no point in hiding it, even someone as incompetent as Mr O'Neil would know better than to violate his privacy.

"I don't believe I've heard that name," he frowned, tapping his chin, "That's good though right? You can bond about no one noticing you. Now let me see, do you know any French?"

"Sacre Bleu? Bonjour?"

"That won't do at all," he said, wincing at August's butchery of the language, "here take this," he dug a pocket English/French Dictionary out of his pocket and passed it to August. The boy stared at it blankly for a moment, trying to figure out what sort of man just carried one of these around. That was weird, even for a teacher in Language Arts. Seeing his expression Mr O'Neil laughed nervously again. "Don't you ever feel like bursting into French? Like English wasn't good enough to describe how you were feeling?"

"Sometimes, but I didn't think switching to another language and starting from scratch would help."

"If you say so, but learn a few sentences in French. It's the language of love, that'll help."

"Really?" It was that easy? Maybe this hadn't been such a bad idea after all, Mr O'Neil had a point, people were bound to notice him if he started babbling in a foreign tongue. Being Bilingual would automatically make him more solid.

"Of course! Oh, and poetry! Express yourself in written verse, speak in rhyme if you have to. That'll get the message across. Are you any good at poetry?"

"Well I'm a teenager, so I automatically get a degree in angst, will that help?"

"Yes! Good! Good! Channel that, let your emotions flow through you. Poetry and French, Esmeralda will notice you in no time!"

"Thank you Mr O'Neil, I feel better already," babbled August, backing away, clutching the dictionary. "See you later!" Again history was made, Mr O'Neil actually made someone feel something other than apathy and despair. August felt hopeful. Shakespeare had been a poet and people knew him centuries later, if there was a sure-fire way to get noticed it was poetry. He'd start in English, then in French when he got good enough.

"What a nice young man," mused Mr O'Neil, "what was his name again?"

Lalalalalalalalalalalalala

It was now or never. Armed with a few hours of looking up French words and repeating them in the mirror and bolstered by the knowledge that an adult had suggested this approach, he was ready. He was waiting in the hallway, only pausing from his muttered French to peer into the intersection, anticipating Daria's approach. Finally she appeared, walking beside Jane Lane, a fact that nearly caused August to turn back. He hadn't been expecting an audience. His mind whipped back in forth between engaging or aborting until at the last minute he did an awkward amalgamation of both, stumbling out of his hiding place right in front of them, but saying nothing. Just staring awkwardly.

"So the rumours of a secret third act were true," observed Daria dryly, having decided that Lawndale was an inherently silly place and things like this were bound to keep happening.

"Bonjour!" yelled August, volume overcompensating for a lack of courage. "Bonjour," he repeated, slightly quieter this time. "Bonjour jeune femme. Puis-je vous demander comment se passe votre journée?"

"Oh, I see," was all Daria said after a moment of awkward silence, "the translator on your TARDIS is broken. Sue the dealer."

"I think he's taunting us," joked Jane, "damn Timelords, leave humans alone!"

"I… I mean, Moi, oh I give up," August fled down the hallways without another word.

"It's really that easy to get rid of aliens?" mused Jane, "Ridley Scott has a lot answer for. Do you know how long Alien was?"

"No," admitted Daria, "I was too busy memorising Quinn's reaction to the chest burster. Do you know that guy?"

"Ask Brittany, she's in French club. He seems like her type."

"Severely brain damaged?"

"You read me so well."

Lalalalalalalalalalalalala

French had been a bust. Well babbling in poorly pronounced poorly worded pseudo French had been a bust, but that was a moot point. The language of love had turned into a language of flagrant confusion and blatant stupidity. For French to be effective, August had decided, it had to A, sound impressive or B, be spoken to someone who understood the language. He'd been off on both counts. It wasn't necessary to totally give up on the language, but he'd need more preparation. On the bright side, his meagre grasp of French had made him marginally more real. If his burning embarrassment had been anything to go by, people had noticed both his bizarre outburst and his sudden flight from the scene. He had to capitalise on this though, French would take time, poetry he could do now. Now being yet another session of Mr O'Neil's Self-Esteem course. He figured writing poetry was better than staring at 'Esmeralda' the whole time anyway.

Poetry, he wrote at the top of blank page, and then underlined it three times, more as a stalling gesture than anything else. Do I have to use her name somewhere or can I just write it at the top? And rhyme, poems don't have to rhyme but does she know that? Will she think it's bad if doesn't rhyme? No, rhyming poems look childish, whenever I see a poem that doesn't rhyme I think it's an advanced technique. Besides, nothing rhymes with Esmeralda, which makes it perfect I guess. Let's see, depression, angst, all that's attractive right? And something about souls, souls are important. Let's see: All souls ground up in the harvest, harvest a reference to school system? Parents plant us and the education system harvests and refines us for jobs (profit) Good, relevant. They weep and they plead. Possibly substitute plead for bleed? Plead could be a reference to trying to get out detention for non-completion of homework. But bleed could be as in blood, sweat and tears, AKA hard work AKA Gym class. Until the pain of their existence, existential crisis, very relevant to teenage life, depression too. Deprives them of basic subsistence? I don't know, food is important. And why'd I end with a rhyme? The first two lines didn't rhyme.

August continued in this vein for the entirety of today's 'lesson' scribbling away line after line, discarding or altering them to his liking. He thought you had to quote poetry to be real, but even just writing it when you weren't supposed to be was having an effect. Jane, for the first time in her life, had noticed August, recognising him from the earlier French debacle. In that way that people who never pay attention in class always look for others in the same boat to validate themselves, she'd spotted him again. Mr O'Neil could never inspire the kind of fervour August was writing with, so his work was clearly unrelated. She entertained herself with a quick sketch of the boy's head and torso wearing a beret and a straitjacket and slid it over to Daria. She striped the straitjacket like a mime's costume and added two baguette shaped legs. It lacked Jane's artistry but got the point across, August was a crazed French mime. At least he was making an impression.

Lalalalalalalalalalalalala

Mr O'Neil was one of those rare people who actually cared about litter in schools. He always said school was a microcosm of the world at large and you wouldn't litter the world would you? Leaving paper on the floor of the classroom was just as bad as letting a turtle choke on plastic in his mind. So when he spotted the discarded drawing on the floor, he immediately picked it up. Amazingly he recognised August as the subject of the picture and immediately developed a nervous twitch.

"Oh dear, maybe French wasn't such a good idea after all. I hope I haven't done irreparable damage to that boy's self-esteem. I'd never forgive myself. He might have to repeat the course! What was his name again? March?"

Lalalalalalalalalalalalala

"So kiddo, how's the old self-esteem coming along?" asked Jake, making an effort at this parenting thing during dinner.

"Getting better, a Timelord burst out of a warp in the space-time continuum and serenaded me in French. That's always good for my esteem."

"Puhlease Daria," scoffed Quinn, "as if a lord would take any notice of you."

"There's a lord at Lawndale High?" asked Jake, "Damnit! The British are coming!"

"Whoa there, don't want to put Paul Revere out of a job do you dad?" joked Daria, you could always count on dinner time conversation dissolving into this kind of lunacy.

"Paul Revere was in consulting?"

"Wait a minute," said Quinn, "I remember now, that wasn't a lord talking in French. That was just a loser. His hair was terrible. He just burst out of the hallway and started yelling at Daria in French."

"Daria, you didn't tell me a weirdo hassled you in school today," said Helen, frowning in concern.

"Oh he's harmless," said Daria, "trust me, he's only killed ten people tops."

"What!? There's some British serial killing weirdo hassling you at school Daria!?" demanded Jake, "I'll kill him!"

"Jake! Will you get a hold of yourself!? Daria was joking! There's no British serial killer at Lawndale High," said Helen.

"Yeah dad, he was totally French, not British."

"Daria!"

Lalalalalalalalalalalalala

School Assembly, better than class or worse? The debate had raged on for time immemorial and was currently battling inside August. See, usually class would win hands down for him, because it meant the absence of Ms Li and her overly dramatic pronunciation of the school's name. Class you could safely ignore, or as August had been doing lately, daydream about Esmeralda. Assembly not so much, you had to pay attention when Ms Li spoke, people who didn't listen tended to fall afoul of unpleasant surprises. Once, just once, August had ignored her during assembly and had arrived at school the next day the student body had been hit with blanket drug testing and there were huge queues for every bathroom. Something that would have been nice to know before he left home. From then on, August always paid attention in assembly and had never thought anything would change that.

It might have been true if 'Esmeralda' had been anonymously lost in the crowd so as not to distract him. But, because the universe was spiteful, she was in full view, seated on the auditorium stage beside Jane. If Esmeralda was going to be speaking during assembly, it had just shot miles ahead of class in the race of which he'd prefer. But dragging that euphoria down was the grim knowledge that he couldn't focus both on Ms Li and Esmeralda. He kept drifting in and out of reality, back and forth between the two without catching much of Ms Li's rantings and ravings. He knew this had bitten him in the ass when he tuned back in to Ms Li just in time to hear 'DNA.' Great, and he just knew he'd faint if they noticed him for once and took his blood, that'd be just his luck.

Mr O'Neil took the stage and August's first instinct was to zone back out again and stare at Esmeralda when she wouldn't notice but just in time, he remembered the man was talking about the esteem class. Esmeralda was in the esteem class, that was a reason to listen if nothing else. He sat through some inane reference to cars and was just getting his hopes up when it happened. Those terrible words left O'Neil's mouth. 'Daria Morgendorffer.' Not Esmeralda. Not even close. A week he'd been obsessed with this girl and hadn't even had the right name. The entire basis of their relationship had been a lie. Did she even say 'Excuse me?' Maybe she'd seen a flying insect and said Bumble bee?

"Kill me," muttered August, "just freaking kill me." He slumped forward and fell out of his seat, hitting the back of Kevin's chair as he did so with a muffled thump. Kevin vaguely roused himself from his stupor to look behind him, seeing only the empty chair.

"Brit babe, this auditorium is haunted! A ghost just tried to headbutt me!"

"Ew! It must be an unpopular ghost, only a brain would use their head. We should move Kevvy, unpopular dead people are ruining our spot." August thumped his head against the chair again, curled up in the foetal position.

"The dead brain's scaring me babe!"

Lalalalalalalalalalalalala

August later admitted that his brain would one day be on speaking terms with his heart again, but that would be a cold day in hell. His random infatuation had made him willingly listen to Mr O'Neil advice and follow it, babble in pseudo-French, write terrible poetry, flunk self-esteem class again and for what? So a girl with a fake name might notice him? No, August was an idiot, though to be perfectly honest, this was Lawndale High, so he was in August company on that front.

Lalalalalalalalalalalalala