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Sometimes I wondered if he saw tiny birds flying around her like Snow White or something.

“You would be the one to crush on the rudest girl in our class.”

The way his smile spread across his face made me smirk. “She’s not rude, she’s just damaged. Those are my favorite kinds of girls, the flawed ones. It makes it easier for them to put up with my flaws.”

“Is that why I’m your best friend? Because I’m flawed?”

“No. Mainly you’re my best friend because you’re wearing a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle shirt with the faces of the four renaissance artists on it.”

I glanced at my favorite shirt and grinned. “It’s almost embarrassing how cool I am.”

“Almost,” Simon joked before he turned back toward Tori. “She’s so beautiful.”

“You’re too good for her.”

His elbows rested against the cafeteria table and his hands cupped his chin. “She’s the sun, and I’m the pale man craving her light.”

I chuckled. “I’m going to pretend you didn’t just say something so extremely awkward.”

“Imagine our kids…” He released a breath of happiness. “Stunning nerdy blond children with freckles and glasses.” He paused, looked at me, and frowned. “Sorry. Best friend personal foul. No kids talk.”

I wiggled in my seat. “You do know her hair isn’t really blond, right? It’s a bad dye job.”

“Says the auburn girl who was born charcoal black,” Simon cockily replied.

“Touché. But let’s not forget the main issue with the love of your life.” I gestured toward Eric, who was sitting beside Tori. “She’s off the market.”

“For now. Rumor has it that he’s going to break things off with her.”

“And where are these rumors from?”

His cheeks rose up. “I have my sources.”

“Ms. Givens?” I asked. He didn’t reply, but I knew that was his one and only source for school gossip. Ms. Givens was the librarian who spent too much time eavesdropping on the whisperings around the hallways.

“Let’s just say, Eric’s on his way out, and Tori’s going to be heartbroken, and then swoosh! Simon Landon’s in for the rebound.” The excitement in his voice was amusing.

“And then what? You’re going to magically swoop in and comfort her? The guy who can barely make eye contact with the girl, let alone speak to her? How are you gonna manage that one, Romeo?”

He nodded as if I’d made a point he hadn’t yet considered. When the bell rang for our next class, Simon’s fantasy came to a halt as he lifted his lunch tray and placed it back down over and over and over and over again. His lips turned down as he noticed Tori walking out of the lunchroom with Eric’s arm wrapped around her shoulders. The sense of defeat almost washed him away. I took the tray from his tight grip.

“She’s never going to want a freak like me, is she?” he asked, defeated.

“You’re not a freak, Si. Plus, rumor has it those two are breaking up soon. She already dated everyone else in our class, so be ready to swoosh in! You’re next in Tori’s lineup!” My voice was sugared with comfort and lies. He knew what I said wasn’t true, but he still smiled large.


* * *

I’d learned more about the new kid from the gossip of the hallways than from his actual mouth.

“Did you know he’s from the South?”

“Like, Brazil?”

“I hear he speaks French.”

“He’s sooo hot.”

“His mom named him Alabama!”

“He has tattoos on his you-know-what!”

“That accent is fake.”

“He’s already made out with some chick in the locker room!”

“I heard it was a threesome!”

“He’s a word wizard.”

“I saw him first!”

By sixth hour the sophomore, junior, and senior girls were already laying claim on the new guy while the freshmen lurked in the shadows. They surrounded his locker like lovesick puppies, twirling their hair and pushing out their chests. I felt bad for the guy. He didn’t have a chance at remaining mysteriously new with a face like that and a Southern accent like his.

I stood at my locker, glancing over at him and his fanatics. Every now and then he would say something to them, and the girls would turn my way and stare at me.

I’d never been stared at in the past, even with all of my different hair colors, dramatic makeup, and odd outfits. The students at Mayfair Heights high school were determined to keep me invisible, which was completely fine by me.

Until now. Now they were turning my way giggling, and flipping their hair over their shoulders before looking back at the new kid.

Is he mocking me?

Are they all mocking me?

It was amazing how a couple hair flips and sarcastic laughter could make a person want to climb inside of their locker and stay hidden for the next one hundred and seventy-nine days. Or at least until the final bell. I slammed my locker and went on my way in the opposite direction of the group of dicks and divas.

Bunch of assholes.

“Do you know where room one-twelve is?” Deer Boy asked, hurrying over to me.

I arched an eyebrow, a little annoyed with his smug ‘I’m sexy and I know it’ personality. “The swarm of girls attacking you couldn’t help you out?”

“So you noticed.”

“Noticed what?” I asked.

“You noticed them noticing me?”