DENIAL

By SANDEFUR

"I'm not crazy."

Easy Girardi, you actually mumbled that out loud. Nervously, I glanced down the cafeteria serving line and was relieved to see a certain African-American worker was not there today. And what if she was? That didn't mean anything. A few days ago we had a brief conversation about tartar sauce. As for the rest…that was just my overactive imagination. The same thing goes for my talk with the cute guy in the corduroy jacket. He was real, I have to concede that. After all, the two girls I was trying to make friends with saw me talking to him.

But our conversation, that was a case of an isolated breakdown which is now over! Who knows what we really talked about—maybe he flirted with me—but he definitely wasn't…God. That was impossible, and besides, I would never see him again. My 'friends' swore he didn't go to Arcadia High, and I clearly remember him trying to get me to walk away from the school. Probably he was a pick-up artist who was just more persistent than most.

I paid for my lunch and looked around the cafeteria for someone to sit with. Over three weeks in this stupid school and I still hadn't made any progress in penetrating the cliquish nature of the place. Gossip ruled the school, and it was vital not to become an object of that gossip. Like, a girl named Liddy was fighting with her boyfriend again, Brianna somebody put on a lot of weight over the summer, and a guy named Ramsey was in his third fight this month. Really, why do people care about this stuff? My two new 'friends' did, but they weren't here today. They opted to attend Mr. Dingle's mid-day grief counseling session in the multi-purpose room (which was strewn with flowers, balloons and lame ass teddy bears.) Their attendance came as a bit of a surprise. After this morning's school wide minute of silence, I asked about Lindsay Mitchell. They both shrugged.

"She was a junior, kind of pretty but she didn't date much."

"There was nothing special about her—just another face in the crowd."

I sat at an empty table in the center of the room and suppressed a shudder. That could so easily be me they were talking about. I have to make more of an effort to fit in. Maybe join a club or two. Or even better, get a boyfriend! (Assuming Dad ever lets me wear make-up. This morning I wasn't wearing any, and he told me to wear less.) I glanced over to where my brother was sitting with an assortment of science geeks and A-V nerds. No doubt all of those guys were available… I'd sooner die.

And of course, I almost had. Saturday, momentarily lost in my God delusion, I sweet talked my way into a job at Skylight Books. Upon leaving, a man tried to force me into his crappy car, but somehow I managed to break free. In Monday's newspaper, that man's face was on the front page, charged with two local murders—including Lindsay Mitchell.

Shocking…and yet, it all made sense. This was why I broke from reality. That lunatic must have been stalking me for days, and he must have been the perv who was watching me get dressed. On a subconscious level, I must have been aware of the danger all along, and that stress, plus all the stress I was under due to the move was more than I could handle. The result? God.

Okay, the key to retaining my sanity was to de-stress my life. That's why I didn't tell Dad that this killer also tried to get me in his car. 'Police Chief's Daughter Nearly A Victim Too' was a headline guaranteed to make my life hell. The stress of keeping this secret, especially the God part, was preferable to the truth. But I'd have to be careful not to let the stress level get too high again.

Let's see… School? I suppose I could try a little harder. The lectures from Mom and the visits to Chadwick's office were getting old. Job? I guess I should keep it. I could always use the extra money, and besides, it had a positive effect on Kevin. "Shaming me back into the world" was how he put it. Tomorrow he was even going for his handicap controls driving test. That was huge. Definitely keep the job. That left my social life…

So what was wrong with me? I might not have been a femme fatale (as we say in French), but back in Chicago guys flirted with me all of the time. Here, it's like I'm invisible. Not a single guy in this school has paid the slightest attention to me. Well, except for that weirdo in French class. I glanced over to the sole occupant of a table by the window. Sure enough, he was staring at me. What is this, my week for stalkers? Forget it creep, I'd sooner date…that lesbian in the leather jacket than you.

I sighed and shook my head. Okay, I have problems, but they're manageable as long as I don't let the stress get to me. That God hallucination must remain an isolated incident. It seemed so real, and that was the scary part. An isolated incident I could handle, but any more and I could end up on a psychiatrist's couch, or maybe even in some camp for troubled teens…

"I'm not crazy."

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