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The girl traced the fake wood grain on her desk and smiled a little to herself, trying to look approachable. The sun hit the desk at an interesting angle because of the bookcase Mr. Myriakos had placed in front of the window. She admired the play of the lights over her fingers and smiled a little harder. She suspected she looked artistic and muse-like, so she held the pose for a few seconds longer. A subtle glance told her the people around her were careful not to pay attention. She knew she looked intimidating sometimes. Her unadorned expression was the glare of somebody whose time was not worth wasting.
Realizing the hunched position of her body could not be doing flattering things to her figure, Jenny sat up straighter rolling her shoulders back. Now it was she who was careful not to glance around. She sniffed and rolled her shoulders again, this time sending a disapproving look at her desk. Stupid teenage boys with their uncontrollable hormones.
She glanced up again but, of course, they had looked away by now. She did notice that Mr. Myriakos had entered the room and was customarily rooting through his bag. Jenny also noticed Chris and Kate talking about the party they had attended on Saturday night. Jenny was sure to look disapproving but listened in. Because of the fact she lived right on the town’s borders, Jenny did not get the opportunity to attend many parties. And of course, because of her serious and honest attitude, she was intimidating and only had a small group of close friends. Mr. Myriakos had found his planner and put his glasses on.
Samuel Acker?, he said, not bothering to look up.
Jenny groaned for the benefit of her neighbors and slid down in her seat. Mr. Myriakos sometimes had the habit of making sure that Mrs. Fouraker had been correct when taking attendance. This would not be a problem, but Mr. Myriakos thought that given names should be appreciated. Jenny’s in particular. She groaned again and sank down, waiting for the inevitable.
Jenny shook her chestnut hair back from her face. The fans were sending sultry hot air around the room, which made her hair stick to her neck and press close to her cheeks. The May air outside was not much better, and the pollen made her nose run.
Jenny was careful about her appearance, trying hard to cover the acne scars with cover up that could never completely match her exceptionally fair skin tone and to play up her full lips and carefully draw attention to her gray eyes that sometimes turned blue with gold centers. She blinked slowly, trying to make her eyes look soft and unfocused like she had seen Grace Kelly do in that movie with Bing Crosby.
Jenny blushed and sank down a little further, chuckling under her breath
I’m here, she said.
Nobody had laughed today, but Jenny bet they were just holding it in. Jenny always pretended to laugh a little at her name too and to insist on being called Jenny instead of Guinevere. She liked the name though. Jenny loved being likened to the tragic heroine of The Tales of King Arthur. She had read all the books about it and even learned to put her hair up in those complicated regal ways they always had in the movies. Jenny bet that some people liked her name too but were too shy to admit it. When her mother talked about naming her, she told her about how Guinevere was loved and admired by everyone even in spite of her wrongdoings and failings. Her mother had said that everyone would love Jenny like that too.
Jenny smiled at the recollection and shook back her hair again. She looked up to smile across the table at Graham, the guy she had chosen to like this year. He did not look up but was scratching something in his desk with the tip of a pen. Jenny sighed and looked down at her own desk again. It was already May and all he had done was pass by her and give her blank looks when he looked at her at all. He was new this year, but she had fallen in love with his smile and the funny jokes he told his friends before English class. Too bad they did not have the same friends.
In this train of thought, Jenny remembered something her friend Morgan had told her when she was bemoaning her fate with Graham at a sleepover. In the darkness, Morgan had given her a funny look and whispered, “So, you’ve really thought hard about this, haven’t you?” At the time, Jenny had accepted it was part of Morgan’s wry sense of humor and laughed. Why now had it been recalled?
Jenny furrowed her brow. Well, of course she had thought hard about it. Who does not think hard about the person he or she loves? Graham was the focus of her thoughts and she was miserable because she knew she was not the center of his. Of course, he felt guilty though. Jenny could see it when he glanced over at her. For example, when he had asked her what time it was the day before, she had heard a sort of strong pity in his voice. She muttered the time at him and refused to look at him, refused to give him the satisfaction of thinking he had comforted her.
When she looked up, he had been in the same position as before he had asked, staring at Myriakos declined a noun on the board.
Jenny looked closer, staring at him directly and still he did not look at her. For some reason, Jenny’s heart began to pound uncomfortably in her chest and heat rose to her cheeks. She looked around her slowly and carefully. Her peers did not look back. But it was not the attentive look she was expecting, but just bored idleness. Nobody seemed to be listening to the lesson on grammar and nobody was looking at her. Despite the flush Jenny felt in her cheeks, the people right next to her did not seem care.
The thought made it hard to breathe, as if she were surrounded by mirrors. The painful discomfort was now making her stomach hurt. Two seats down from her, a girl shook back her blonde hair and began to gather it into a ponytail. Trying to keep her breathing under control, Jenny faced forward in her seat again, staring at her darkened desk. She looked at the window, shaken for some undefinable reason, to see a cloud had passed over the sun. Her eyes prickled a little and Jenny turned back to her desk.
Out of the corner of her eye, Jenny could see Graham glance at her in a very controlled manner. When she spun her head to look at him, he was already looking away.
But, certainly his eyes looked more troubled? Jenny sighed, feeling forlorn and comforted.
- Jenny, is there a problem? Mr. Myriakos asked.
- No, not at all. Jenny said, doing her best to put on a brave smile despite of her tragic life.
- Then I’m sure you wouldn’t mind reading page forty-two.
Jenny blushed prettily and opened her book to the page. The light on her desk had reappeared. It had grown stronger and prettier, glittering through her graceful fingers.