I laughed. “What makes you think I’m available for the taking?”
He ran his hand against his jaw line. “I don’t, really. Just hopin’.”
“Why me? You have girls throwing themselves at you. Plus, people like you don’t like people like me.”
“People like me?” He leaned in closer to me. “You mean Southern? Because I was totally kidding when I said the South shall rise again earlier in the hallway to that girl. I’m as Northern as one person could get. I think tater tot casserole is outstanding. The Packers are probably one of the best teams in the NFL. Also, cheese is delicious. Gouda, provolone, sharp cheddar—you name it, I’ll eat it, and I’ll love every bite.”
I couldn’t help but laugh. “You’re so weird.”
He didn’t say anything else. He just stared at me, his eyes and lips forming the kindest of smiles. I shifted around in my chair. I was uncomfortable with the way he watched me as if he saw into me. I preferred being the ghost of the school. His lips stretched wider as he placed his forearms on the table and clasped his hands together. His chin rested against his hands.
“For the record,” he spoke softly, “people like me find people like you refreshing.”
I placed my pencil on my table and blinked once. Then I proceeded to stare at my feet the rest of the class period. But the whole time I thought about his chocolate eyes.
* * *
As the final bell of the day rang, Levi insisted on walking me to my locker, even though I told him it was unnecessary. He disagreed, leaving us arguing until we both arrived at the hallway my locker was located in.
“By the way, I didn’t really have a threesome in the locker room,” he joked, but I couldn’t respond.
My breath caught. A group of popular girls and guys, including Simon’s stupid crush, Tori, were surrounding my locker. The closer I stepped, the harder my heart pounded against my chest.
Tori turned to me with a wicked smile on her face and her red lipstick tube in her hand. She stuck it in her purse and puckered up her lips. “It turns out even freaks can be whores.”
When I read the red lipstick words spread across my locker, tears started to form in my eyes, but I pushed them down and swallowed hard. Sadly these jerks were going to be highly disappointed. I wasn’t going to cry in front of them. Screw them.
16 and Preganent
I’d hated a lot of moments in my life. When I was six, I hated that I didn’t get the Barbie doll I wanted for Christmas, and I cried so much that I made myself physically ill for the whole day. When I was eleven I hated that I wasn’t able to go to art camp because I had the chicken pox. When I was fifteen I hated that I was invisible.
But right now was a new level of hate. Right now I just hated me for putting myself in a position to be noticed.
I also hated that the bullies were entertained by my personal struggles, even though they’d spelled pregnant wrong on my locker. They should’ve really thought about being entertained by an English class or something.
I’m the dummy.
Levi stood at a distance, looking at the words spread across my locker. When our eyes locked, all of the playfulness he’d showcased earlier was gone from his stare. All that was left was pity, and embarrassment.
He started in my direction, and I held my hand up, shaking my head back and forth, hurrying down the hallway.
“Aria.” I heard behind me and I snapped around to find Simon staring at me with the most pathetic eyes ever. He opened his mouth to speak but shut it just as quickly.
“You know what’s messed up? Only three people in this school knew about this: Mike, you, and me. I’m pretty sure Mike wouldn’t tell anyone, seeing as how he tries his best to convince people that we aren’t even related, and I know that I didn’t say anything.”
His head lowered, his eyes dancing across the ground. “It was a mistake. Ms. Givens was telling me about Tori in the library, and I might have slipped and told her about…” He couldn’t even finish his sentence.
My heart was breaking.
He was supposed to be my best friend.
“Leave me alone, Simon.” I forced my feet to move from their current location and travel down the hallway to find a way out. My hands aggressively shoved against the girls’ bathroom door, I pushed open a stall, and shut it just as quick. I pushed the lock into place and took a deep breath. My panic was suffocating my heart, breaths fighting each other to be taken in and blown out. My hands rested on my hips as I began to try to steady my breathing.
I coached myself. I promised that no matter what, I’d get through this.
The waves of emotions were strong, but I was strong, too. I had to be stronger than my feelings, stronger than those people. Sometimes there was no other choice. Life had already taken so much from me. I couldn’t allow it to take my strength, too. I smoothed my hands over my shaky body.
A few moments later, I opened the bathroom stall door. My eyes shifted around the space, and I almost had another panic attack when I saw Levi leaning against the sink.
Oh crap, don’t tell me I went in the boys’ bathroom.
This day needed to be deleted from existence. This day was nothing but shit.
I was mortified as I went to wash my hands at the sink farthest from him. He smirked and jerked his head in the direction of the hallway. “Are you okay?”
I ignored him.
“Are you okay?” he asked again.
My head tilted in his direction and even though I knew we were the only ones in the restroom, I double-checked behind me to make sure he was talking to me.