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Even though I tried to make it look like I didn’t care, I did. And I think everyone knew it too. Every time I shrugged off the words, I would be given a sad little smile, like, oh, look at you! Pretending you don’t care. Again.
It wasn’t that I wanted to care. I didn’t want to care. I wanted to be able to sit alone at lunch with only a good book and a nice juicy apple as company. But I cared too much. I cared that people watched me over their friends’ shoulders and I cared that they whispered about me, a little too loudly for comfort. I knew I couldn’t be a friendless freak, no matter how much I wished for that fate.
Is it sad I didn’t want friends?
I didn’t want friends because I knew what they did. I knew that most friends don’t even care about you. They care about the reputation you carry and the drama you could bring to their pathetic, unintelligible lifestyle. Like, when the new girl moved to town, Courtney Lennox only was friends with her because the new girl’s dad was, like, really abusive? I felt bad for the new girl because that’s what everyone built their image of her on! Everyone saw her as innocent and weak, but what if she wasn’t? What if she was really strong, and she had beaten her dad back? Who would know now?
I guess that’s why I should have friends. I mean, I worry about stuff like that too much. Like who cares about the new girl that much? I didn’t know a thing about her except those rumors from Courtney Lennox, and maybe that girl deserved the rumors. Maybe she was a spoiled brat, and made up the stuff about herself. Maybe her dad was really this super nice guy—he could even be a preacher for all I know! Or even a dentist! So why should I worry about her so much?
But I did worry about her—all the time. And it wasn’t just her I worried about. I worried about the lunch lady who had four sons and I knew wasn’t make enough to send them off to college. I worried about my Spanish teacher, who talked about getting married all the time, but didn’t even have a boyfriend. I worried about Christian Dabney because he was always getting concussions from playing hockey and the doctor said if he got one more it could be fatal, but Christian didn’t want to sacrifice his scholarship to the University of Michigan.
In fact, I was in the library that day worrying about Christian. He was sitting across the room from me, face buried in his physics book. I could tell from the lines on his forehead he didn’t understand—he would never understand. That’s why he needed the scholarship so badly and that’s why he couldn’t stop playing hockey. And that’s why I constantly worried that every little thing would hurt Christian, and give him another concussion.
I was trying to study for my A.P. Biology test that was scheduled for the next day. A.P. Bio was easy to me so far, though, and often bored me. And when I am bored, I worry. Right before I left my locker earlier that period I had thought to bring a book with me, but didn’t want to carry it around with me. Unable to stop staring at Christian, I wished I had.
“Hello, Shay,” Monica Barlow chimed, sliding into the seat across from me. She blocked my view of Christian, and my heart started to race. Horrible situations raced through my head: I saw a book falling from the clumsy librarian’s hand onto Christian’s head. I saw the chemistry labs, located right above the library, catching fire and burning a hole in the ceiling so desks slide right from the second floor to the library, all landing on Christian’s head.
“Oh. Monica. Hello,” I replied stiffly. Monica was not my favorite person. She spent too much time clicking her obnoxiously long nails on desks, which drove me mad. Plus, she sometimes knocked her teeth together loud enough for me to hear.
“Shay, I was wondering if you did the trig homework?” Monica asked. I knew that was not why she was there. Part of being Monica meant you had to dance around a subject before you fully addressed it. Part of being Shay was getting right to the point.
“Sure,” I said. “Need help?”
“No. I did it.” What did I tell you? Now just wait and see what happens next. She’ll do exactly what you think you’ll do.
“So, have you been thinking about going to the Homecoming dance this year?” Monica asked. I smiled to myself. It sounded like she was trying to ask me. I quickly let the smile melt away, knowing she would take it as me wanting to go. I shrugged. “Really? You haven’t given it much thought?”
“Of course not, Monica,” I snapped, and relaxed. “Of course not. It’s the second week of school.”
“You act as though it were too early to do anything about it,” Monica said, clicking her nails against the library desk. I tried to ignore it, but I was like ignoring a baby screaming in the same room as you. You had to be deaf not to hear it. “It is never too earlier.”
“All right,” I said, not agreeing, but just saying that I was fine with the fact she had stated her opinion. I was imagining some little foreign woman cutting Monica’s nails off with a chainsaw. And, while she was at it, might as well get those pesky teeth.
“So you have thought about it?”
“No, I have not.”
Monica sighed angrily, and I knew she was growing impatient. Here it comes—the real reason why she came and sat with me.
“Well, then, why are you staring at Christian like that, Shaylynn?” I stared at her for a second, and knew she had lost her cool. Monica hadn’t called my by my full name since she had deemed herself a good enough friend of mine to reduce it to the shorter version. It humored me, getting her so upset.
“Monica, do you know what is at stake for him to be here and not in a padded room somewhere?” I asked, perfectly serious. I had dug in my brain since I had heard that he could die if he had another concussion and found that his only safe resort was to live in a padded room.
“Are you saying he’s crazy?”
“No. He just can’t risk another concussion. He could die, Monica,” I said. “Don’t you care about the lives of others?”
“Why do you have to stare at him?”
“So I can warn him if anything is falling.”
“Why don’t you just ask him to wear a helmet?” Though I knew she was kidding, it wasn’t a shabby idea.
“Yeah, maybe. That might just work, but only when I can’t be around him,” I agreed, half kidding. She didn’t realize this, though, and stared at me wide-eyed.
She said, “You’re a little crazy, Shay.”
“A little,” I admitted. She nodded, staring at me for a second, and then she got up slowly. She gave me a long look before heading back over to a table with Courtney Lennox and Cassie Dabney, Christian’s sister. I knew she was going to tell them the whole story, and I knew the whole school would think I was crazy by the end of lunch. And though I went back to my A.P. Bio notes without glancing at Monica, Courtney, and Cassie, I cared what they were saying and wished I had chosen a spot a little closer to them so I knew what they were discussing.
Then I started to worry about Monica’s trig grade. She said she did the homework but I knew she didn’t. Each day I sat next to her, I watched her grade just slip away. Before long she’d be failing and I didn’t know if I could take that.
Prior to imagining her death by an overwhelming amount of failed tests, there was a loud bang on the other side of the library. I looked up quickly, and saw Christian staring up at the ceiling. I glanced, too, and saw what he was looking at. The ceiling tile was going to fall on his head.
And before I knew what I was doing—before I could imagine the consequences, most of which would involve aliens and the president—I was leaping over library tables to Christian. People screamed and I distinctly heard Monica snap her teeth. But then everything went silent as I dove over Christian’s head. I tackled the ceiling tile and rolled across the ground.
A bell rang.
Then I opened my eyes. I was sitting at my desk still, and Christian was still struggling through his physics back. I hurriedly looked at the ceiling. But it was fine. It was all fine. Monica just messed with my nerves.
I looked at where Monica had been sitting, but her, Courtney, and Cassie had gotten up. The bell had rung. It was time for trig. Time to sit next to Monica and watch her drown in Fs. Great.
Scurrying out of the library, I noticed that Christian didn’t move. I considered for a moment asking him to put on a helmet so I wouldn’t have to worry about him all through trig, and then I remembered I was kidding when I agreed with Monica. Totally kidding.
So I headed off to trig. I tend to zone in the halls. I mean, it would be one thing if I wanted friends. But I don’t. So, instead of scanning the halls with watchful eyes, I think. And thinking is more beneficial in the end anyway. Right?
I think, though, even if I wanted friends, I would zone in the hall. Gramma says I’m dreamy, and I can’t help by not pay attention. She said she used to be the same way until she got into a car accident when she was thirty-seven and almost killed herself. That, my friends, is why I refuse to drive. I’m too spacey.
So, I was walking to trig, thinking about my grandma and that car accident she got in. She never told me how the person in the other car fared, though I often wondered about it. Did they get hurt? Did they almost die? Is that the real reason she started paying more attention?
What if they did die? Would there be a family missing them, even all these years later? Would there be kids growing up without a mom or dad, and wondering who had killed their parent after all these years?
They should’ve worn a helmet. Everyone should wear a helmet. Driving is so not safe, and wearing a helmet could just help them in the end. I mean, if they were to get in an accident, their head could totally go through the windshield if the air bag didn’t explode, and they could die. But, if they were to wear a helmet, they’d be saved! Problem solved.
And there could even be really cool helmets. Like, some for guys that were all serious. They’d be black, with nothing else on it. And then there’d be helmets for people like Sands Belcott, covered in daisies. There’d even be helmets for little kids, and they’d be painted with Barney and Blue from Blue’s Clues.
That could actually be quite the industry. It’d be the next generation of hats. Stylish while safe. Cautious while comfy. Protective while pretty.
Then I walked into trig. I try to focus in trig. Not that it’s hard, but Mrs. Kahn has this thing about calling on random people. She doesn’t do the whole raising your hand thing. She just randomly (so she says. Right. Random. That’s why I’m always called on the moment I drift away from trig and towards a land where numbers were only used to count candy and sine meant “sign here to get your brand new, free TV!”, Mrs. Kahn would ask me what the tangent of two over the square of three was) selects people to answer her seemingly pointless questions.
And it doesn’t help I sit by Monica. Not only does she click her nails and clap together her teeth, but she also talks. Nonstop. She finds it her priority, over swimming out of a sea of failing grades and actually learning something, to find out my life story. She is always asking me questions about why I did this and why I did that. She asks me where I got that cute top and how I could stand eating lunch everyday in the library. She even once asked me if she could come over to my house to see what my life was like there.
While Monica is not my favorite person, I do feel for her sometimes. Like last year when her boyfriend, Chet Polinsky, broke up with her because he had been seeing some girl from another school. She had truly, sincerely liked him, and he had broken her heart. Back then, she was in my English class. Every day I would watch her cautiously, just in case something would happen. In her case, unlike Christian and “the-sky-is-falling-syndrome,” I watched for obsessive flirting. Because I knew she would end up in a back alley somewhere (okay, so Oakley has no back alleys. It doesn’t even have alleys. But still), dead and alone. Or maybe alive and half-dead, which would probably be worse.
When I slid into my seat, Monica was already there. She glanced at me, tapping her long nails against her desk. We sat in the back of the room, and full foot from any set of desks. At first, this made me feel like I was trapped with Monica, but I had gradually lessened the space between the desks in front of us since the first day of school, and was planning to be up close and personally with Michael Harvest’s afro by sometime in October. Monica had yet to notice.
“Hi, Shay,” Monica said, adding a teeth clap to the end of my name. I cringed, and nodded my reply. I had learned not to encourage Monica too much or she would bombard me with questions.
“What are you thinking about?” Monica asked me. I shot her a glance. Why did she have to know my every thought? Was it her life mission to learn every piece of information about me? Maybe she was writing a book about me. The Story of Shaylynn Barnes: How I Sat Next To Her In Trig. Or maybe she was the president of the Shaylynn Says club. She would write down my every word and would later report it to her other followers at the club meeting. She would come in, standing before a podium in large auditorium, and announce, “Shay says she likes dogs!” The crowd would burst into cheers. Some might even mob the stage if I said anything truly profound.
“Shay? What are you thinking about?”
“Bacon,” I said. “I’m hungry.”
“Oh.” Monica looked disappointed. I knew she was hoping I was thinking about something dramatic, like maybe this secret boyfriend I’ve known since the first grade and have been dating since the seventh. Or maybe that my mom was a raving lunatic and kept live squirrels in the basement, and every day I would come home from school and squeeze bits of berries and nuts through the smalls holes in the bars of the cages as the squirrels grabbed the bars with their little human-like hands and shook them, shrieking, “Free me!”
A bell chimed overhead and Mrs. Kahn hurried to the front and center stage—meaning right by the overhead, her normal position of command. She would stand there, looking innocent as she slowly inched the paper down, revealing notes. We knew, however, behind those blank gray eyes, she was conniving, living to embarrass us.
“Boys and girls,” Mrs. Kahn said, clapping her hands once. She always calls us that. Boys and girls, that is. Like we are first graders. We even have a couple senior guys in our class, and with Dan Deville supporting a full beard I would hardly consider him a boy. And that baby is thick. Sometimes, if I stare at it too much, I see bits of food coming alive and taking over his face. “Time to begin.”
But then, the door opened. And I didn’t know what to expect. No one is ever late to Mrs. Kahn’s class. I told you—she may look innocent but I swear she is the spawn of the devil. Her insides are made of coal and darkness. Maybe even a bit of death. There is no sugar, spice, or anything nice in there, though. None at all.
Monica clamped her teeth together so loud Michael Harvest actually turned around to look at her. But she wasn’t paying the least bit of attention. She was staring at the door, like most people in the class. Because there was a boy there.
The boy was tall, but not tall like Christian Dabney and nothing compared to Dan Deville. He was skinny, too, with long arms and legs. He was long shaggy hair, and you could hardly see his eyes around it. He was wearing torn jeans, but at least they were securely fastened around his waist unlike so many boys who just assumed girls like to see their entire butt. We don’t, by the way.
Monica took in air, sharp and long. I looked at her, and she gave me a wide smile. “Can you say cute, Shay?”
“Cute,” I replied.
She was staring at the boy still, though. And so was almost every girl in the class. Most of the boys had turned back to Mrs. Kahn, indifferent and more than a little apathetic. New kids were nothing to them, especially if they looked as normal as this one did.
The boy stood in the door for a moment before swinging it shut, slamming it hard against the frame. He didn’t glance at it, even though it sounded like it was going to fall off. Instead he looked around the room, scanning.
I tried to imagine what it would be like to see through his eyes. And all that hair! I would probably have shaved my head if it got in my eyes as much as his did. I pulled my ponytail over my face, pretending the tips were bangs. My eyes wouldn’t stop blinking, irritated by the tingle sensation the wispy tips left in my eyes. I dropped my pony and itched my eyes. I guess it was an acquired taste—er, feeling.
“May I help you?” Mrs. Kahn asked, like she was actually asking. Not like she was hinting he should leave. I glanced at her. Even she was subdued by this boy! Who was he, and how did he have this effect on everyone?
“Uh. Sure. Are you T. Kahn?” he asked. Monica swooned. I’m not even kidding. Michael Harvest sent her another look, and gave me a confused look when he noticed I wasn’t staring at the new boy. I shrugged back.
“Yes, sir,” Mrs. Kahn said. Again, Michael looked at me. The rest of the boys were looking around, too, confused.
“Uh. Okay. I’m Dexter. Angleotty. Dexter Angleotty,” he said. “I’m new.”
“Oh, that’s nice,” Mrs. Kahn said like it actually was. She glanced around the room, looking for an open seat. The only open seat was one next to Whitney Zelenik, who had the regrettable fate of being stuck at the end of the alphabet and, thus, by herself.
Whitney glanced around, and she noticed she was the only one sitting by herself. Her eyes lit up, knowing her fate. And all the girls sighed, knowing the new boy’s fate. Whitney was pretty, and she could have him tied around her finger in no time at all. She flipped her honey blonde hair over her shoulder, ready.
“Hmm, why don’t we have you sit with…” Mrs. Kahn trailed off as she saw Whitney. She shook her head, and said, “Let’s switch things up a bit. Let’s have Michael come sit with Whitney and how about Monica sit with Randy so that Dex can sit with Shaylynn.”
Hearing my name, I looked up. Dexter’s eyes floated around the room. He was looking for me. I looked at the ground. I hoped if he never saw me Monica wouldn’t have to move and I would never have to sit with Dex. He would forever be searching for his desk, spending period after period asking people if they knew Shaylynn. It would be quite the adventure.
And just as I was thinking that this might just work, Mrs. Kahn said, “Shaylynn. Raise your hand, please, dear.”
Monica hadn’t moved yet. She glanced at me, elbowing me in the side. “Shay. Wake up. Mrs. Kahn is talking to you. The least you can do after she’s giving you that boy is listen to her. You are so lucky, Shay.”
She stood up, and motioned for Dexter to come over. Since we sat right in the back, he didn’t have far to go. He tripped (he seriously couldn’t walk) over to Monica’s desk as she slid into the seat next to Randy. He smiled at her and she clapped her teeth together. He shuddered. He felt it too.
Dexter fell into the seat next to me, clumsily and heavily. He had only a single sheet of paper with him, and it was his schedule. I didn’t look at it. I didn’t want to know his schedule. If I did, I would have to talk to him. Avoiding contact was key.
Mrs. Kahn started to talk again, pressing the big button on the overhead. She asked me to turn off the lights, but I didn’t move. Monica sighed and did it for me. Mrs. Kahn inched her paper down a bit and started notes, slowly going through what sine, cosine, and tangent meant.
And for some reason, I started to think about helmets again. Probably because of Dexter’s overabundance of hair. He couldn’t fit that shaggy mane under any normal helmet. He would have to get an extra roomy helmet, and probably something with some sort of headband that would pull back the hair from in front of his eyes so he could drive properly.
“Hey,” Dexter said, glancing at me. I glanced back, and started to wonder what kind of design he would have on his helmet. Looking at him, I imagined maybe a skateboard or something. Or even a controller for an X-Box. “Have paper?”
I nodded, and ripped a piece out of my notebook. It sounded like a thousand soldiers were invading Mrs. Kahn’s classroom, and she shot daggers at me before relaxing. It was me.
I handed the paper to Dexter and he pulled a pencil from his pocket. It was a Hello Kitty pencil. I stared at it. Hello Kitty? I thought. What’s with this kid?
Mrs. Kahn was trying to explain some sort of triangle, which was supposed to solve the mysteries of trig once and for all, but I couldn’t listen. I could hardly pay attention. At least I wasn’t thinking about helmets anymore.
“So,” Dexter said. “What’s this class like?”
“Trig,” I said. He laughed under his breath. He thought I was kidding. Monica whipped around, shooting me a look. Probably wondering what he was laughing at. She knew I wasn’t funny. I didn’t make jokes.
She slowly turned back around and Dexter turned to me. “What’s with her?” He whispered it, but still, it was Mrs. Kahn’s class. Everyone else was quiet. Mrs. Kahn heard the whisper and inspected the room, looking for the perpetrator.
“She has long nails,” I told him once Mrs. Kahn looked away. To me, that explained it all. Anyone who insists on having nails like daggers had to have something wrong with them, but by having the nails everyone knew to stay clear of you. It was like a sign. “Do not come near—may scratch.”
Dex laughed again, and I felt myself flush. I suddenly realized he was laughing at me, and not with me. He probably thought I was crazy. And though I shrugged, going back to scribbling notes from Mrs. Kahn, I couldn’t help but wonder what he was thinking. What kind of crazy he thought I was. I wonder if he would be friends with Courtney Lennox and they would talk about how crazy I was. Then I reminded myself I didn’t care. I didn’t want to sit next to him and I didn’t want to talk to him. I had enough people to worry about that I didn’t need one more.
And he didn’t try to talk to me the rest of the period, confirming the fact he thought I was crazy. He probably thought that if I talked to him, my crazy would wear off on him or something. It was like in the early days when they locked up crazy people and no one could see or visit them. I didn’t want to be locked up. I didn’t want to be shocked all the time so I could be normal. How horrible is that? Being shocked until your normal! It was like a martyr and how they always got killed for their faith. But crazy people had nothing they could do about it. It wasn’t like they choose to be crazy like Jews chose to be Jewish. Who would choose crazy over normal?
Finally Mrs. Kahn took off the paper on the overhead, and the notes were over. I looked at my notebook, and found I had only written down half the notes. Again. Which meant I would spend at least an hour tonight learning the section I could’ve learned in class if I didn’t drift off so badly. Oh, well.
I started to gather my stuff, as did everyone else. I noticed that Whitney Zelenik was glaring at me. I hoped that Mrs. Kahn didn’t ruin the indifference between us by putting Dexter by me. I’d rather sit by Monica and her long nails any day.
“Hey,” Dexter said as I stood up. I glanced at him. He was waving the paper I had given him around in the air. “Thanks for the paper.”
He still had his schedule in his hand. I avoided it, looking at everything else. Even the A.P. Calc notes on the back of the board, which were foreign to me. If I even glanced at the schedule, he’d ask—
“Can you help me?”
“I meant with my schedule,” he said, smiling again. What did he find so funny? He must think I’m insane. “I’m supposed to go to my social studies class, but it has some weird room number. With letters.”
Oh, no. He was in my next period class too. Of course! There was only one class of A.P. United States History because people thought it was way too hard. Mr. Banks was a tough teacher. But if they didn’t take it, they ended up in Southeast Asia or Current Events, both of which had sounded horrible to me, but now sounded much better since they didn’t involve Dexter Angleotty.
I sighed. “Yeah. I know where that is.”
“I’m going there now, actually,” I said, sighing again. He didn’t seem to notice my excessive sighing, or if he did, he probably just ran it off as me being crazy. Of course.
The bell rang, and we started to walk out of the class. The halls were already growing crowded and Dexter grabbed onto my backpack. I gave him a dirty glare he didn’t notice because he was checking out the halls.
Suddenly someone called my name. Dexter, who probably didn’t know my name, didn’t stop, though I did. He ran right into, dropping his schedule on the ground. Scurrying away to find it, I searched for the caller. Then I saw her. Monica. With Cassie Dabney.
I looked for Dexter, hoping I had lost him. I didn’t. He was practically crawling across the ground after the gold sheet of paper. I find myself imagining a helmet on him again. He needed one. What if someone kicked him in the head? Plus, a helmet with a headband would pull back those annoying bangs so he could actually see the paper.
“Shay!” Monica said, appearing from the crowd. Cassie shoved someone out of the way, before appearing next to her. Both were smiling wickedly, and I knew they were up to something. “What’s up?”
“The ceiling.” Why would she ask? It’s so logical.
Monica managed a grimace. Dexter suddenly appeared over my shoulder again, and he was waving around his schedule excitedly. I shot him a look before returning my gaze to Monica.
“Whatcha thinking about?” Monica asked me.
“Helmets,” I told her truthfully. “People should wear them more often.”
“Like your boyfriend Christian?” Monica asked. Cassie looked mad upon hearing this, but I knew Monica was just trying to pretend that I was unavailable, thus making herself the next best thing to Dexter. Not that I was the best thing. Far from it. I was just there, and she had to make sure I wasn’t.
“He should wear a helmet,” I agreed, not bothering to dispute the fact she called Christian my boyfriend. I didn’t care. At least, I pretended not to. The less I seemed to care the less other people cared. Maybe one day they’d leave me alone.
“Oh, hello,” Cassie said, shoving Monica slightly as she pretended to just happen to see Dexter. “Are you Shaylynn’s cousin?”
“Uh. No?” He said, confused. He didn’t know who Shaylynn was, and he didn’t know why Cassie would assume he was my cousin. I sighed. This new boy would be taken over by people like Country Lennox and Dan Deville in no time at all. So innocent.
“You look like Shaylynn,” Cassie said, stumped. She looked at her nails, pretending she was bored rather than speechless.
“I have to go,” I told them. I turned around and started to walk away. I heard footsteps behind me and knew that Dexter was following me. It was like he was stalking me, to tell you the truth. Like, if I were to turn around, I’d see him. Always.
“Do we look alike?” Dexter asked.
“What? You and me?”
“Not at all.”
“Really?” I snapped. “You’re going to ask me that question? Do you really not know the answer? Like, at all?”
“Okay,” he said, like he had asked the question and I had answered it. I glanced at him, and again imagined what it would like to be him. Like, to have no ears at all. Just make things up. You’d watch people’s lips move and you wouldn’t be able to hear a thing. What a strange world that’d be.
We arrived at Mr. Banks’s classroom and I stopped before going in. A.P. US History had a very, very small class. Ten students, to be precise. And the moment Dex walked through the door, all six girls would turn and probably swoon, judging from my trig class’s performance earlier.
“What are we waiting for?” Dex asked, bending a bit and whispering in my ear.
“Death,” I said.
Dex laughed again. I shoot him a look. Why did he always think I was kidding?
“They say to face death,” I said slowly; dramatically. “They say—stare it right in the eye. Don’t blink. Just stare. And that’s what we are going to do. Don’t blink. Just stare.”
“Right.” Dex grew very serious, nodding a few times. “No blinking. Stare.”
“As I’ll ever be,” Dex said, and I wondered if he was serious. Probably not. Probably just playing along so he could make fun of me later with Dan Deville and Courtney Lennox. He’ll say, “That girl is crazy. She told me that our US class would lead to death! Ha ha, don’t blink, just stare!”
I nodded and together we walked into the room. And I had to stop dead in my tracks. Mr. Banks was standing in the front of our closet classroom, wearing a bright pink helmet.
“What if,” Mr. Banks said, pointing at me and Dex, “JFK had worn a helmet that November day in 1963?”
I stared. I would never have dreamed Mr. Banks would pick a pink helmet. Maybe a black one with basketballs on it. But not a straight-up pink helmet.
Chrissie Jeffrey, the know-it-all who constantly asked me what was wrong, answered for us. “Then the media would be making fun of him for his poor choice in wardrobe instead of mourning his death.”
“Nah,” Dex said. “I think they’d be congratulating him on starting the newest trend. See, I hear that helmets are the newest fad in public safety.” He looked at me, and smiled.
Maybe it was good he wasn't wearing a helmet with a headband. That way, he couldn't see me smiling shyly back.