The next day…
The bell signaling the end of class and the beginning of lunch break rang shrilly above my seat. Anyone who has had any form of education in a public institution knows what that means: stampede.
"Uh!" I scowled as I was jostled against the rest of the student body rushing for the hall, carried away against my will.
My eyebrows jerked upwards as a stray hand planted a firm grasp on my jeans-covered butt. Despite the crush of classmates, I managed to whip around with a fo' shizz pissed look written all across my face. My shoulders slumped as soon as I saw who it was.
"One more wrong move Rendazo," I sneered, looking him up and down, "I'll turn those puny balls of yours into a vag."
But the bastard only smirked and gestured towards his pelvis suggestively.
"Be my guest J-Doll."
"Uh! Why don't you go…nail the quarterback! I heard it's the latest craze in the football team!" I shot over my shoulder, marching out of the classroom and into the swell of students in the hall.
Grunting, jostling and shoving, practically clambering over the terrified A.V. kids, I briefly considered balling up my sweater and shoving it under my t-shirt to make everyone part like the Red Sea like they had back in the day when I was obviously up the spout.
Wrestling my way to my row of lockers, I passed the girl's bathrooms where Soupy de Voort and her trio of nasally-retarded friends (I mean, seriously, am I the only one that can smell something just a little off about that girl?) huddled together. I raised an eyebrow with mild curiosity as I noticed Katrina's nose was buried in a tissue, her friends whispering and looking concerned and her eyes were all red and puffy. And then it hit me as soon she registered my presence. Wham! I, Juno MacGuff, just copped one hell of a Stink Eye. Oh no, that was beyond just an ordinary Stink Eye. That was the mother of all Stink Eyes!
I gave Her Royal Highness Queen of all Stink Eyes a perplexed look.
"Yo, de Voort!" I called over to her, gesturing to her squidged-shut left eye, "Maybe you should go get that checked out!"
She huffed, scowled and somehow managed to find fresh tears in response. Her friends hustled her into the bathroom as I turned away.
Trudging down the now quieter hall, I shook my head with amusement.
"Fine, don't take my advice," I conversed to myself, "Man…"
The combination on my locker clicked open and in a matter of moments, books were in, lunch was out. I slammed my locker shut just as a bouncy voice floated my way.
"Yo, yo, June-to-the-o!"
Three guesses who?
"Digging the homie act, white girl?" I wisecracked as Leah shook free her tumble of curls from her ponytail, slipped on a pair of sunglasses and pouted like a Versace model.
"Well, I was trying to be creative," The cheerleader huffed, jogging up and down, "Biology sure zaps your brain cells, dude! It's a good thing Mr. Kimble has a nice ass."
"If you say 'Mr. Kimble' and 'ass' in the same sentence again, Le, I think I might just bring up the food I haven't even eaten yet." I winced as Leah and I made our way out of the school halls to the fresh air outside, my best friend ripping open a packet of chips.
"So…" She began, her mouth full and chip crumbs spilling everywhere, "Heard the latest?"
"Apart from Mr. Wilkinson practically taking out a restraining order on you…? No."
Leah pouted further, snorting out a little huff of air.
"I mean, seriously, I think everyone just over-reacted. Simon's idea of 'personal trainer' sure as hell is different from my definition! Now everyone thinks I'm some sort of reverse-pedophile or something…"
Just to fill you in on the loop, last week a certain 'incident' went down with Leah and the object of her ardent affections, Mr. Wilkinson (ie. Red-Headed Simon). No news on what actually happened. Even Leah, the best gossip-spreader since the Vartuli twins left to go up-market to some fancy-dancy private school, is keeping tight-lipped on this one. And that's saying something.
But anyway, stop blabbering MacGuff, the point is, word got out and spread about as fast around Dancing Elk as the news that I was knocked up two years ago. Small town, big mouths. Le's now got compulsory 'sessions' with Crazy Cuthbert to figure out her 'complex.' My best friend's stunt has even made it into the Dancing Elk High student vocabulary:
Pulling a Leah: to suck up/flirt with a teacher for good grades/sexual favors/other dubious deals.
"Don't worry Le," I patted her on the shoulder with an attempt at sympathy, "I heard when you get to college that professors dig that kinda thing."
"Really?" She perked up, her eyes suddenly alight. Oh jeez, I bet her mind was having a field day with all the visuals of gray beards and tweed jackets.
"OK, so what's the news?"
"You were going to tell me something…?"
"Oh…right…yeah!" Leah ripped herself from her Yale mind-orgy (ew…beards, musty old books and monocles!), "Well, news is…hmmm…how should I put this…?"
"Spit it out, Le."
"Well, the buzz from the girl's bathrooms in the past hour, and I swear, cubicle gossip never lies, is that your Mr. Postcards-en-Español is no longer 'on' with Miss Twitchy-Eye."
I stopped in my tracks, my eyebrows raised to new heights. A bemused smile crept across my mouth like a Chesire Cat grin.
"Yup!" Leah sang, "Kaput! Completely dead as a Dodo!"
"Well this is interesting news indeed." I observed drily, picking up the pace with a twinkle in my eye.
Three steps later I noticed Leah hovering, that sneaky grin pulling at her cheerleader's smile like the time she dared me to go out the back of the school with her to smoke her Dad's stolen cigarettes. Let it be known that I, Juno MacGuff, am never one to back down on a challenge.
"What?" I asked, giving her a stare.
"So…?" She prompted, that smile growing wider.
"What?" I repeated, this time genuinely confused.
Leah rolled her eyes as if I were a hopeless case.
"Well, Bleek's back on the market, Juno…"
It was time for me to roll my eyes.
"Oh c'mon Le, just because Paulie's no longer playing tonsil hockey with Lady Soupalicious doesn't mean I'm going to jump him right away!"
Leah arched a skeptical eyebrow.
"Give me some credit here!" I exclaimed, waving about my arms, "I'm not some…hormone-crazed teenager!"
Leah snorted with disbelief.
"Besides," I huffed, folding my arms, "I'd have to wait for him to stop smelling like Bren's three day old minestrone to even contemplate going near him."
Sure enough, I found him.
The athletics track was emptying as the afternoon sun hung lower towards the horizon. The football team dribbled off the field with faint whoops and the coach shouting something about a good training session. School had ended an hour ago yet I still don't know what I was doing hanging around the place.
Perched high upon the bleachers, his back to me, I scuffed my Converse on the grass and thrust my hands into my pockets, swaggering over his way. He didn't notice me, his skinny arms propped up on his bare knobbly knees (still in the golden shorts of his track outfit), his chin cupped, staring out to a nothingness that I can never get my head around.
I coughed, stepping onto the bleachers. His startled brown eyes blinked, his quivering lower lip sucked inwards and he stared at me as if he didn't recognize me. Then he relaxed, uncertainty playing across his features.
"Hey…" His brow crinkled, unsure of what I was doing here.
"Hey." I replied casually, rocking back and forwards from where I stood.
There was a moment of silence.
"Mind if I cramp your style?" I nodded towards where he was seated.
Bleeker didn't respond, merely shifted along his seat, the sound of Tic-Tacs rattling in his pocket. It was enough of an invitation. Scaling to the top of the bleachers with great strides, I plonked myself besides his wiry frame and let out a sigh.
There was another silence, but this time it wasn't awkward. More like understanding, you know?
Bleeker cleared his throat.
"So…so…I guess you heard…" He began hesitantly, his eyes darting all over the place.
"Yeah…" I exhaled slowly, "You could say something like that."
He let out a small, pathetic laugh.
"I guess you could say I royally screwed up."
"Sounds like it."
"I'm the laughingstock of the school."
"Have you always been this brutally honest?"
I stopped and blinked.
"Yeah," I shrugged and gave him a sneaky smile, "I guess I have."
"So…" I cleared my throat to avoid another awkward silence, "What went down?"
Bleeker huffed meekly.
"I didn't go down…" His cheeks turned a little pink. He started to stutter, "On her…you know."
"Ah…" I raised my eyebrows, pretending to be unfazed.
"We didn't even get past second base."
OK, too much information, Paulie.
"Well," I slapped his shoulder in a pretence of male camaraderie, "At least you've got the memories."
Bleeker did what he did best: looking bewildered.
"What…what do you mean?"
"Well…" I remarked flippantly, "I didn't exactly want anyone stealing my thunder, did I now? We used to hit a home run every time. We had a good thing going!"
I suddenly shut my mouth as I realized just what I had said. Nice one Juno MacGuff! You just put your foot in it…again! A flickering of emotions overwhelmed Paulie's face, each as unreadable as the next. I breathed a small sigh of relief as his lips curled into a small smile.
"Yeah…" He spoke softly, thoughtfully and almost regretfully, "We did."
We both sighed simultaneously as we watched the sunset wash over the empty athletics track.
"Its good to have you back, Bleek." I finally admitted, very quietly.
Bleeker exhaled softly through his nose.
"Yeah." He, with his quivering voice, affirmed me.
And there, in the silence, I felt his pinkie finger touch mine. Such a little touch, and I responded. Slowly, ever so slowly, we curled our pinkie fingers together, linking them as we sat on the bleachers, not staring at each other, but at the sunset.
Yeah, it was good to have him back.
Author's Note: And I bet its good to have me back as well! Yep, no marathon disappearances this time, I actually did update! Huzzah! I'm sure a lot of people were waiting for that chapter...so do what you do best and cartwheel down to the button below!
Only a few more chapters left of this baby and I'm going to try my best to get them to you as quickly as possible, but excuse me if I don't due to creative drain. Thanks for your ridiculously amazing reviews, it still makes me smile every time!