I roll over for probably the twentieth time tonight and worry that I’ll bother my sister as my bed creaks. I squeeze my eyes tighter, reminding myself that if I don’t get to sleep soon, I’ll have eye bags at school tomorrow. And I hate it when people tell me I look tired.
Regardless of whatever slight desire I have to preserve my appearance, I continue to think about the look on Kacey’s face when I asked her why Tyler would have a hard time standing up after I was leaning over him. It was like a mixture of surprise, glee, and pity. Even with my eyes screwed shut I can see her face perfectly and it sort of makes me feel sick. I feel like if I throw up the knot in my stomach will go away and I’ll feel better.
I don’t want to see Kacey tomorrow. Or Tyler either, for that matter. They’re both gross. I wonder if Tyler was actually really thinking about me that way. Or, I suppose, my chest that way. Maybe Kacey was just kidding? No, because the way she looked at me, like she felt bad for how naïve I am.
Am I naïve? Now that I think about it, I must be. I never really think about dating, even though pretty much everybody else does I guess. I have crushes or whatever but they’ve always been boys in other classes or guys that are kind of too popular for me. I guess I’ve never really tried to date anyone and it doesn’t seem like anyone wants to date me. I wonder if I should date. I guess it’s supposed to be fun, after all.
I really only have girl friends though, which is probably part of the no one trying to date me problem. I wonder if people think I’m a nerd or shy or something. I’m not really shy, I don’t think, but I don’t really try to make new friends. I’m sort of a nerd, but I’m not like nerdy. I sound smart in English class, I guess, but it’s not like I carry around books or wear cartoon shirts or something. I do have braces though, I think as I self-consciously run my tongue over them. They’re coming off soon though.
How did I even make the friends I have? I think about Renee, who is my best friend. We sat next to each other on the first day of third grade, so however I made friends with her back then wouldn’t really apply now.
I turn over again and think about my most recent friend, Sarah. I had done exactly nothing to begin our friendship. She was new and met Renee and so she sat at our lunch table on the first day of school. The seat next to me was empty and that was all there was too it, pretty much. Though, I think she liked that I didn’t comment on her head scarf because a lot of people said something, even if it was to say it was pretty.
But that doesn’t help me much either. I wonder how I’ve really never gone out of my way to make friends. That seems sort of lazy, now that I think about it. I really have been living in a bubble. A bubble of innocent, nice girls who are really easy to make friends with and don’t really care about boys. Except, most of them do care about boys. Renee has a crush on Matthew Chan and he’s started to stop by our lunch table. I wonder if he’ll sit with us if they start dating. I wonder if I’ll have to move over for him. I picture our lunch table in our head and realize that if Matthew sat with us, I’d probably end up diagonally from Avery, who talks really fast and is kind of annoying. And he’d probably want to sit next to Renee and she sits on the end, so unless we changed up the whole seating order, I wouldn’t be sitting next to her anymore.
I guess she won’t abandon me if we’re not sitting right next to each other though. Maybe I could even be friends with Matthew because she says he’s really nice and smart. I wonder if maybe he could set me up with one of his friends or something. I consider this possibility and I try to remember who his friends are, but I can’t really think of any that I’d want to be set up with. Plus, I don’t even know if I’m good at talking to boys. Sometimes they make me nervous if I’m talking to them about anything other than class.
At this point I feel like my thoughts are very tangentially connected to what I was thinking about before and I can’t remember how I got there and then I don’t recall thinking anything else before my alarm goes off the next morning.
It’s pretty hard to wake up in the morning, but then again it always is. Mallory, my younger sister, steals my blankets to wake me up because my phone alarm has been going off for too long. She wakes up before me but I’m usually ready before her because she gets distracted easily. I have a very streamlined morning routine which involves laying my clothes out a week in advance, packing my lunch and backpack the night before, and taking showers at night.
After I brush and painstakingly floss my teeth (I take my braces upkeep very seriously), I go to put on my Friday outfit. My Friday outfit, which is a v neck shirt and not unlike the one I worn yesterday, I realize as I pull it over my head. I turn to look in the mirror and I remember something that happened three years ago, in sixth grade.
A girl I was friendly with from school invited me and Renee and a bunch of other girls to her pool party. And I felt really self-conscious about my tankini because I knew that they weren’t really cool, so I asked Renee if I could borrow one of her bikinis. I sort of knew that it’d be tight on me but I thought it’d be okay because I don’t look much bigger than Renee and I’m a little shorter, so I thought it’d be fine. Bikinis don’t really work that way, I found out. I remember the exact way that the fabric dug into my skin when I tried to pretend it might still fit and the difference between the way it looked on me and on her. I ended up wearing my tankini, which was fine because another girl had one too. I sort of forgot about the whole thing and I eventually bought my own bikini that I liked to wear. I don’t really remember how much I cared about it. It doesn’t seem like a big deal, I guess because nobody has ever said anything to me about being chubby. I’m a healthy weight, anyway, but I guess it’d be a bigger deal if the girls had made fun of me or something.
I smile at myself in the mirror, pulling my lips up to show my braces.
“Mia!” My dad calls. I look away. I grab my backpack off my desk and grab Mallory’s off the floor. I open my bedroom door and then turn around. I grab a jacket and turn back around, hurrying a little bit more than necessary into the kitchen.
“Would you mind making breakfast for Mattias?
I nod as I put Mallory’s backpack next to where she’s eating at the kitchen table. My mom kisses me on the head and thanks me before she leaves for work. I make him some Nutella toast and cut an apple. It takes us fifteen more minutes but Matty still eats in the car. I let Mallory sit in the front with Dad because I want Matty to read to me while we’re driving. He’s only four so he doesn’t really know how to read, he mostly just memorizes the short books. He’s getting better at the alphabet really fast though.
When we get to school, I sort of don’t feel like getting out of the car. I give Matty a big hug before I get out.
I go to my locker and then homeroom, which is the biology classroom. I’m earlier than most of the buses because I get dropped off first out of my siblings, so I only see a few people on the way there. My teacher isn’t even in the classroom yet and that feels like a relief. I set my backpack down and sit quietly for a little bit. After a minute, I decide to pull my book out of my bag. I usually save it for study hall, but this book is really good and I stopped reading at a cliff hanger. I guess I kind of get wrapped up in it because I barely notice that the class is nearly full until Jes sits down next to me. I’m sort of startled but I pretend I wasn’t. I slide my book back into my backpack and I look at her. Before she even says hi, two thoughts slam into my head. The first is this: Jes’s hijab almost certainly means that she isn’t planning on having sex before marriage. The second: I have not really been a good friend to Jes.
If she were to ask me how my weekend was or something, all I’d say is “It was good” and it was honestly unlikely that I’d ask her how hers was unless I just wanted to be polite. Thus, we weren’t friends, as I’d assumed, but something more like good acquaintances. I always thought she was cool but I’ve never really told her anything personal about myself and I’d never asked her anything personal. And I realize the reason why I don’t have more friends is that you do actually try to have friends.
And so when Jes says “Hi” and does not tell me I look tired I say “Hi” back and then she asks me what book I’m reading. I tell her I’m reading A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray and then I ask her if she wants to come over tomorrow. Renee and I have a sort of standing routine where she comes over on Saturday and stays until five or sleeps over. This started when we were in elementary school and Renee’s mom worked on Saturdays and she’d have to pay a nanny to watch Renee all day. My mom offered to have Renee over because she said that I was lonely during the day because Mom had to keep a closer eye on Mallory. And this habit never broke and I’d never invited anyone else over because sometimes we had to take Mallory or Matty to the park or something. But I don’t think Jes would mind. And I really don’t think Renee will mind either that I invited someone else without telling her, but if she does, I’ll convince her anyway because the smile Jes gives me is like a 1000 watts.
I tell her that Renee and I usually just watch movies and stuff like that and that she can sleep over if she wants. She says she has to ask her parents but she says she really wants to go. And I really want her to come, and I give her a wide smile.
And even though I have the class with Tyler and Kacey next period, I don’t really feel worried about it anymore. Mostly because I’ll be okay even if Matthew Chan steals my spot at lunch because I’ll still have someone to talk to and even if Tyler likes me or likes to look at me, it doesn’t really affect me at all because it’s my choice if I want a boyfriend. And I don’t want one right now.