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Well, hell. I liked her spunk.

“What’s a quote by Marcus?” I asked. Abigail’s face looked up at me, and she gave me a tiny smile.

“‘The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane,’” she quoted.

She stared into my eyes as if she were trying to say to me, “I know your secret.” I shifted around and gave her a tiny grin. “What made you quote that one?”

“Don’t know.” She pushed herself up from the table and picked up her tray. “Just did. Gotta go, time doesn’t wait for anyone, ya know.”

She started off, but before leaving, she turned toward Simon. “I like your sweater, Simon. Maroon makes your eyes pop.” Her cheeks blushed over and she was off, dashing to her next adventure.

“In the South, did you guys not believe in social suicide? Because seriously…you’re pushing us all into the land of misfit toys,” Simon argued, giving me a hard stare.

“I think she likes you,” I said to the panicked redhead.

He opened his mouth to holler my way, but he shut it fast. His thoughts seemed to be racing through his head, his facial expressions showing his confusion about what I’d said. With haste, he pushed himself up from the table. “I’m going to get lunch.”

Aria sat across from me, narrowing her eyes in my direction. “What’s your deal? What was that all about?”

I didn’t answer her, because I wasn’t exactly sure myself.

* * *

“Two words for you, dude. Social. Suicide.” Connor was lecturing me in the locker room as we changed for sixth hour gym class. “You can’t keep eating lunch with those freaks if we are ever going to get invited to the best parties.”

How did I end up having so many classes with this guy? I’d already been invited to the ‘best parties’, I just hadn’t found a reason to ever go. I’d rather sit at home and be ignored by the father who didn’t want me.

“I’m telling you, if we are going to get the kittens to meow our way, we need to avoid certain taboo things. That includes Awkward Abigail. She’s the worst thing a person could be seen with.”

“She’s not a thing, Connor. She’s a person,” I said, pulling my gym shirt over my head.

“I’m just saying, man. I get that it’s probably that Southern hospitality thing, but pull back a little.”

Simon walked into the locker room and opened his locker. He never really talked in gym class, but I could tell it was his least favorite thing, seeing as how half of the guys picked on him and he was always chosen last for teams.

Connor started talking some more bullshit in a sickening manner, but I was becoming pretty good at tuning him out. I would’ve been better off sitting in the front of Mr. Jones’ math class being spat on.

During class we played field hockey out on the soccer field. Mr. Jenson was the fattest gym teacher at Mayfair Heights, and he made sure to always belittle the students who weren’t the best at sports. Luckily I wasn’t too bad, but the way he spoke down to some of the others was disgusting. I wondered if he and Connor were related.

“Alabama,” Mr. Jenson called out to me. The nickname had stuck more than I’d wanted it to. “You’re captain. Jason, you’re captain, too.”

“Hell yeah!” Connor said, walking out toward my team as if I’d picked him.

“I pick Simon,” I said, making Connor freeze.

“What?” he and Simon said simultaneously.

“I said Simon. You’re up.”

Everyone around us started laughing as if I was kidding, but the small smile that appeared on Simon’s face when his name wasn’t called last was worth it, even if we did get our asses handed to us that day.

15 Aria

October came sweeping in with wet weather, cloudy skies, and a growing belly. I was fifteen weeks pregnant and starting to look the part, too.

For Sunday dinner, Mike invited James and Nadine in an attempt to avoid Dad storming off and rolling his eyes at me with disappointment. Mom made Grace’s favorite meal: chicken parmesan and green beans.

In the past whenever James and Nadine came over, Nadine would always end up in my room while the guys played video games. She and I would talk about my artwork and her dancing. Now it was extremely odd to have them both sitting a few inches away from me.

I did my best to not look across the table at James, but I could feel his stare on me.

This is so awkward.

Why would he think it was okay to show up to my family’s house for dinner? Why did he think it was okay to bring his girlfriend with him? Why did I feel more alone than ever before whenever he held her hand?

“So, I got into Duke,” James said, passing around the bowl of garlic bread. “I’m officially going to be a Blue Devil come next fall.”

Dad beamed like it was his own son’s success. “No way. Full ride?”

James nodded. He’d be playing football at Duke, and I was sure Nadine was already worrying about the long distance relationship, seeing as how she was going to a community college about an hour away from Mayfair Heights. Even so, she smiled as if she was as proud as Dad.

Even if James hadn’t gotten a football scholarship, I was positive he would’ve received one for some other reason. He was the top of his class, landing the spot as class valedictorian. He and Mike were pretty evenly matched when it came to playing football—Mike may have been better than James, actually, but when it came to book smarts, they were nowhere close to being on the same field.