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Tomorrow will be different. Tomorrow they won’t talk about it. I don’t need to take that kind of shit.
For now I’ll just focus on getting my leg up in my fouette. Perhaps I’ll work on my left triple pirouette. Maybe left fouettes? I really should nail them down before applications are due…
Damn pointe shoes, at least tomorrow I have tap, those shoes tend to hurt less.
Every day, I walk to school with my good buddy from down the street.
“I told you to stop calling me that.”
“Whatever, you love it.”
Mason, or Corn, is one of my best friends along with Jacyn “Jay” and Axel. We all started calling him Corn around 7th grade social studies class when our teacher said the Aztecs called corn “maiz”. Mason, maiz, corn, simple.
We fell into an awkward silence. Usually we talk our whole way to school, but I had a lot on my mind. I was trying so hard not to look upset, but I was clearly not doing the best job because Mason asked, “So how are things going?”
A little startled, I replied, “Oh you know…”
“I don’t really. I know it’s hard to believe, but sometimes I care when you look down. Today is one of those days.”
I giggled, although it really wasn’t appropriate for the time being. He’s such an ass. “I don’t know. I probably shouldn’t even be back in school yet, but my parents said I need to go to school if I’m back at dance.”
“I mean it’s better than a ton of homework,” I said, smiling in one corner, obviously trying to change the subject. Play with backpack straps and hoodie pocket, you’re in for an awkward walk.
It was quiet the rest of the way to school.
The cafeteria is open in the morning so that’s where we usually hang out before class. My friends don’t seem to know that chairs exist either because they never really sit on them; they kinda just sprawl out on the table.
“Hi Vallie!” Jacyn is so oblivious sometimes, but I’m kinda grateful for it. It’s not that she doesn’t know, but it’s that she doesn’t really get facial queues.
“Hey. What’s up, nerds?”
Axel chirped right in, “Nothing much, geek!” A classic Axel response.
I could see Corn looking at them as if he was trying to speak to them telepathically. We’re all sort of linked that way anyway though for the amount of time we spend together, so I could read him.
The rest of the gang seemed to understand too, and I appreciate Mason for the subtle hint to them, but I don’t want to draw attention.
Low and behold we have Ponytail, Chewing Gum, and their leader, Rhinestone; or rather Beth, Branette, and Brittany.
“Hey, look at the purple people eater!”
“Yeah whatever, Rhinestone.”
That little number from Brittany was referring to the purple streaks in my hair I’ve upheld since Jr High. It was during my preteen years that I was given the name “purple people eater,” around the time we deemed Mason Corn.
“Shut up, Valerie. Who do you think--”
“No you shut up, Branette. She’s not taking your shit today!”
Chewing Gum scoffed, smacked, and flipped her hair to follow Brittany away, Beth close behind. Sheep, sheep, shepherd. After the three bitchateers walked away, I punched Axel in the arm.
“Ow. You’re welcome.”
Jacyn came over later that day to finish up our history project and study for the test. My dog Joji ran flamboyantly into my room and plopped himself on Jay’s lap before I got a chance to shut the door, borderline breaking the weight boundaries for the office chair.
“Oh I love your little corgi!” Jacyn said, all giddy.
“Yeah, he sure is a looker, ain’t he?” I replied, sort of sarcastically.
I didn’t call her on it, but I noticed a pause in Jay’s speech, like she was trying to figure out how to format her next sentence. She was petting Joji, but looking at him blankly, drifting in a sea of deliberation as if she were thinking, ‘I’m gonna ask her…’ working up courage. I knew I couldn’t stop her from bringing it u--
“So I want to talk to you.”
“About?” I asked, like I didn’t know. I kinda jumped, I was a little startled even out of my own thoughts, I totally had just been staring at her.
“You know, Vallie. Are you doing alright?”
“No, Jacyn, I can’t say that I am,” I love her for trying but I didn’t want to get into it right then. Besides that, she had only come over to work on the project so I didn’t want to get too off track, considering tomorrow would be the last day to turn it in and I already had enough work that was going to be turned in late.
“So then how--”
“What?” I could feel myself start to shake, all too fast even. ‘How does it feel that everyone knows?’ ‘How does it feel that most of the school is just shitting on you about it?’ ‘How does it feel that he’s gone?’
“How are you doing?”
“I don’t know, Jay. How do you think I’m doing?”
“I mean I can’t imagine you’re doing well, I just want you to know you can talk to me.”
“I’m not gonna do that, no offense,” yeah laugh it off Val, that’ll help your mental state.
“C’mon, it’s okay. Look I know this isn’t somethi--”
“So we left off on chapter 3?”
“Yes or no?” I looked at her and hoped that the tears in my eyes were enough for her to shut her mouth. I couldn’t take it anymore. She nodded.
“Today we’re going to warm up and teach the new combo to those who missed last week for about 10 minutes, and then we’re gonna run through the dance over and over for the rest of class. You can mark your arms after the first time through, but I want it full-out during the last run.”
Goddamnit, why did she add on last week? Mia told me that like nobody was even there!
“So after the paradiddles, we do a pull switch to free your left foot, falap ball change, and your arms kinda like brush off your shoulders for that, shuffle step turn to the left, separated pull back twice on the right, and then you hold until it’s your turn in the ripple, which you already know.”
“Thanks, Mia. I think I’ve got it.”
“10 minutes is up, I’m hitting play!”
“Oh! Sorry. Can you repeat the question, Mr. Boxshire?”
“Why wouldn’t we just simplify from here?”
“Oh, you can’t, you need to multiply the numerator and denominator by the denominator’s conjugate because you can’t have roots on the bottom.”
“And after that?”
“What? What do you mean? Um, add like-terms on the bottom and there you go…”
Now back to my nap.
AAGH! Woah, that’s a new record. *Yawn*. Homeroom, then history. Ugh, I should probably study during homeroom.
“So as I was saying Mr. Boxshire, I don’t think it’s okay to let Valarie sleep during class and blah blah, blah BLAH blah blah, blah.” Brittany over here acting like the teachers care. I accidentally let out a small, evil chuckle in her direction and had to make up a blank face when she snapped back to look at me. She wasn’t happy, but that was her problem.
As soon as I walked into the hall, I smirked, the best I could do to conceal my obvious joy at her anger. She’s just jealous that the teacher doesn’t care if I sleep because I do the work, get 99s and 100s on tests, and correctly answer questions on the board, even if it takes me a minute.
“What did you get, Val?”
“Hang on, I haven’t looked yet,” Jacyn looked eager to share her score with me, so I checked mine while we were walking down the hall, “Um… I got a 98 out of 100.”
“Why, what did you get?” I asked, smiling.
“Scof! Only a mere 97? I’m greatly disappointed! How dare you? You are such a disgrace!”
“Har har. I know it’s a good grade, but I wanted to get higher than you!”
“Well ya can’t, I’m just too good,” I said, turning in front of her, walking backwards, and somehow accidentally into the three bitchateers. Seriously? Like how do they all have the same next class and can walk to it together?
“What the hell, Valarie!”
"Ya’know, just keeping you on your toes!” Nice response, ass-wipe.
“Oh I see, then you crashed into me on purpose.”
I hate that smile.
“What are you talking about, Brittany? She obviously didn’t mean for you to swing around the corner like that.”
“For your information, Jacyn, firstly, I didn’t swing around the corner very abruptly, and secondly, she for sure bumped into me on purpose.”
“No I didn’t, Brittany, I was just kidding. Gosh, can’t you take a joke?” Smile that fake smile, you hate her guts but do it anyway.
“Not unless there is one.”
“Why are you being so adamant about this, I seriously didn’t see you, man.”
“No I didn’t!” I was starting to get mad, like what the fuck?
“Bullshit! I know you bumped into me on purpose because you just wanted some human contact after your certain lack thereof.”
“What did you just say to me?”
“You heard me, people eater.”
“I’m sorry, who do you think you are?”
“Hey, I mean I’m not wrong, am I? Unless--”
“Unless you made it up.”
She waited for me to respond to that. She looked at me as if she expected me to be all like, ‘Yeah, ya’know, I thought it’d be funny, but ya got me! Hilarious, right? Like totally fetch! Funny joke, huh?’
“Are you even allowed to talk to me like that? What is WRONG with you?”
“Nothing. I was just thinking--”
“Well stop doing that, you haven’t gotten anywhere from it and you aren’t going to.” I’m shaking again. The space around me and Brittany has widened, circled by students. Jay isn’t even next to me anymore, likely she decided she’d get outta here before things got too heated. How did this escalate so quickly? All I did was bump into Britt--
“You know what Valarie?”
I closed my eyes, clenched my hands into fists, dug my nails in deep, and stopped breathing. Don’t answer, it’s not worth it.
“It’s your own fucking fault that your brother killed himself.”
She was on the opposite side of the room, rightfully. She got up with her parents, not even a glance in my direction, and she took her turn. Her parents took her home after.
“Valarie Janes, are your parents here yet?
“Do we need to call them again?”
“No, it’s just that they both work about an hour away. I texted my aunt, she’s on her way.”
Hey vallie what happened?!
I’m not letting you get away with not telling me!
Jay told me you and Brit got into it
Are you ok?
Why arent you answering me?!
Im getting nervous!
You cant possibly still be in the office!
“What’s the story we’re gonna tell your parents,” she giggled.
“I don’t know,” I wasn’t particularly amused at the time being, “Personally, I’d tell them that I had gotten a migraine and couldn’t function properly at school. That way, they won’t bug me when they get home.”
“Alright hun, this is you,” and then she looked at me with that look. That look that says, ‘I needa take care of you, don’t I?’ Ya’know, not like a total burden, but a bit of one.
“I’m gonna park and come in.”
There it is, “I mean you don’t have to, I can--”
“No it’s fine.”
“No really… I’m fine.”
“No, you’re not.”