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Never Felt Better
Okay, how come intelligent people like me always, always get grouped with idiots? I mean, it’s not so much the notion of me (Susan) in a group with a bunch of idiots (almost anyone else) that bothers me. I mean, it’s happened so many times I’m almost starting to get used to it. I don’t mind working with idiots. I really don’t.
It’s just these particular idiots that bother me.
So there I was, minding my own business, walking into the Science room, already kind of mad because Brad knocked into me in the hall (probably on accident, but it made me mad anyways) and all my stuff fell out of my hands and then he kicked it down the hallway.
(Stupid football player ex-boyfriend. I hate him. I hate his friends too. No, it’s stronger than that. I despise his friends, and I loathe him.)
Anyways, so there I was, already mad, red-faced, and probably about to throw my Algebra book at someone.
So, in order to take my burning anger out on something, I threw my books on the table nice and hard. And then I sat down next to this emo guy named Lynk who I don’t really know but want to move away from anyways.
(I know it’s bad to judge people but I’m the one telling the story here, okay?)
Lynk looks up at me from his notebook, where he’s drawing an anime person with a knife (oh, how pleasant), raises one of his eyebrows, and says, “Wow. Somebody’s got anger issues.”
(Ha! He’s the one drawing a knife!)
I cross my arms and hiss, “Do not talk to me.”
He opened his mouth to say something, but Mr. Smith suddenly strolled into the classroom and launched into a lecture.
“Class, today I will be assigning a group project. The project is worth 250 points on your grade.” (I did my best not to hyperventilate. I do NOT work well in a group.) “You will not be choosing your groups, I will…”
At this point Lynk started pulling on a strand of hair that just so happened to still be attached to my head, saying something about the combination of my red hair and my orange turtleneck making me look like a big pumpkin, so I lost focus on Mr. Smith and smacked his hand away.
Lynk whispers, “Oo! Somebody’s got a bad temper…”
Mr. Smith suddenly appeared next to me, tapping his long fingers on my desk. “Since obviously, Miss Susan, you and Lynk are so fond of each other, you will be in a group together.”
I stood up so fast my glasses nearly fell off. “WHAT?! NO!”
Lynk laughed quietly to himself, but it sounded fake and hollow, and the expression on his face was very strange.
Mr. Smith patted me on the shoulder and said, “Sit down, Susan.”
I sat down and sank into my orange turtleneck that evidently made me look like a big fat pumpkin.
“And working with you two will be…” Mr. Smith glanced around the room. “… Brad and-“
“Brad?! Are you kidding me?!” I said, ready to stand up and fight about it. But Lynk got there first.
“BRAD?” Lynk yelled hoarsely, his voice cracking. (Which would have normally made me laugh, but I was too ticked off to laugh.) “No! Heck no! There is no way- do you hear me, NO WAY- I am working with that…”
“Sit. Now.” Mr. Smith stared Lynk down.
Brad walked over, muscular arms crossed. “Yeah, you heard the man. Sit down.”
Lynk glared at him, then stuffed his hands in his pockets and sat down, calling Brad curse words under his breath, just loud enough for me and Brad to hear and just quiet enough so Mr. Smith didn’t catch them.
If I wasn’t so ticked at him for calling me a pumpkin and just breathing, I might have applauded him.
Mr. Smith frowned crossly at Brad. “Stay out of this, Brad. I believe I can handle one stubborn student without your help, thank you.” Then he turned to this tiny short girl I had never noticed before- the type I’d run over in the halls trying to get to my next class. Short and pudgy. She seemed oddly familiar, though…I think her name was… Candy? Chrissie? Whatever it was, it started with a “C”. Mr. Smith said, “Um, can you remind me of your name, please?”
“C” says in a very quiet voice, “It’s Cindy, sir.”
“Cindy! You will join them.”
Her eyes grew very wide. “Oh…”
When she stood up, I realized exactly how tiny she was. She was so small, you could have easily lost her in a crowd of third-graders.
Brad groaned. “Aw, come ON. Am I gonna be the ONLY cool person in this freakin’ group?”
Lynk rolled his light blue eyes. “Shut up, Brad. Nobody cares.”
“You shut up!” Brad yelled.
“How about you both shut up?” I shouted.
Brad glared at me, like, “Die. Just Die.” But Lynk just frowned at me.
Cindy sat down in the desk opposite mine, scooting as far away from Brad as possible, with her nose wrinkled up like she smelled something horrible (which I knew was weird because his cologne is actually very nice- I would know) and I couldn’t help but think that I might like this Cindy person.
Brad turned to her and said, “Boo.”
She squeaked and scooted away a little more.
Eventually, Mr. Smith handed out the sheets and unleashed us on our group members.
I snatched the sheet before anyone could even think about it, and glanced over the directions. Buoyancy. Simple enough.
“Well, god, Su, you gonna let anyone else see it or are you gonna go all berserk-science-geek on us?” Brad asked, raising his eyebrows and crossing his arms.
I swear I heard what can only be described as a growl come from Lynk at this point.
I frowned at Brad. “Shut up, Brad. You’re just mad because you’re too stupid to even attempt to pass this class.”
“If I’m so ‘stupid’, why’d you date me?”
Ouch. My stomach twisted uncomfortably, and my throat tightened up a little. But maybe my turtleneck was just too tight.
I sniffed and jutted out my chin. “I was… immature. I didn’t know you then.”
Brad opened his mouth to say something, but Lynk suddenly came out with:
“Leave her alone, Brad.”
This seemed oddly protective, and took me by surprise.
“What, so now you’re sticking up for her? I’m beginning to remember why I beat your face in last year.” Brad stood up to his full height, towering over Lynk. “Don’t make me pound you again, you little freak.”
Lynk stood up too, but the affect wasn’t the same, considering how he’s only, like, two inches taller than me, which isn’t very tall. “I don’t think you remember our fight correctly, Brad. The blow to your head must have knocked around your brain a lot.”
“What brains?” I muttered.
“It was you who got sent home crying to your mom,” Lynk continued, ignoring me.
“Yeah, crying like a little baby,” I added, smirking. Brad looked angry, and so I continued, fake- pouting. “Aw, did Brad get a boo-boo? Should Mommy kiss it and make it better?” I paused. “Or does your mom even care about you? I mean, nobody else does.”
Brad’s stance stiffened, and a whole new wave of expressions washed over his face, his dark eyes churning with anger. “I oughta slug you. I oughta slug both of you. You’re lucky I don’t hit girls.”
Cindy muttered, “Your friends do.” But I think I was probably the only one so picked it up, because Lynk suddenly said in a very loud voice:
“What are you trying to say, Brad?”
“You heard me. I don’t hit girls.”
“You say that like an insult,” I rolled my eyes and crossed my arms.
Brad smirked like an evil… like something evil that smirks, I guess. And then he said, “Oh, it is, Susan.”
“You sexist pig!”
“Can I help it if I’m sexy, Susan?” he asked, running his fingers through his dark hair.
“Not sexy, Brad. Sexist.”
There was a long pause while Brad tried to use that thing he has instead of a brain. Lynk put up his hood, but you could tell he was still glaring at Brad. Cindy’s eyes flickered from me to Brad to Lynk and back again, her mouth in a perfect little “O”.
Brad finally said, “What’s that?”
I scoffed and rolled my eyes. “Okay, that’s it. There is no way I am working with you.”
Brad crossed his arms. “Well, not everybody’s a dork like you with huge vocabularies.”
“It’s not my fault you’re stupid,” I replied, then leaned forward a little and hissed, “And besides, I’d rather be a dork than a jerk who uses people to get cheerleaders to like him.”
“Well, I’d rather be a jerk than some crazy emo kid who cuts himself.”
Lynk’s blue eyes lit p like blue fire on cookout night at my grandpa’s house. He let out a stream of profanity I can’t write down.
After the last dirty word escaped his lips, Brad said, “Jeez. Do you kiss your girlfriend with that mouth?” he paused. “Oh, right, freaks like you can’t get one.”
If anyone’s a freak here, Brad, it’s you,” I shot back, interrupting Lynk as he started on another curse word.
Mr. Smith stood up. “Class dismissed. These are due on Monday!”
Cindy spoke up suddenly. She had a very young-sounding, bell-like voice. “We can meet at my house on Sunday night.” She handed each of us a sheet of paper with an address written in tediously neat handwriting. “I’d say, um, 7:30.”
We all nodded, a little stunned.
Cindy waved bye, then bounced off and disappeared into the crowd of highschoolers.
Oh my God. I really messed up this time. I mean, I feel so stupid right now, which is saying something because it’s very rare that someone as smart as me would feel stupid.
I mean, if Lynk and Cindy kill me, I will completely not be mad at them.
Today I went over to Cindy’s house because, well, you know. Buoyancy project. 250 points.
(Oh, god. It was 250 points. I am so dead.)
Cindy’s house was huge. It had a pool out back, 2 balconies, and a big flat area on the roof that had a rose garden on it. Huge trees rose dramatically in front of it, swings hanging from them.
I jumped out of the car and nearly flew to the front door, then realized I’d left my bag of stuff, and had to run back and get it.
The double doors were both swung open. A marble staircase climbed gracefully to the second floor. A glorious chandelier hung from the ceiling. Everything was perfect and clean and so… so, like, millionaire-like.
Then Cindy’s mom flounced in and I realized why Cindy had looked so familiar before. Her mom was a famous model I had seen on TV the other day. Cynthia Brooks, right? Something like that.
Her beautiful, perfect face lit up when she saw me, and I thought she might leap right out of her high-heeled expensive-looking leather boots. Her bell-like voice rang, “Oh! Cindy has visitors!”
I heard a voice from the kitchen, but it wasn’t Cindy’s. It was nasally, snobby, and… very rude.
A girl came in, decked out from her crimped blond head to her designer heels in gold. She looked like Cindy, only older, taller, and skinnier… and more like she’d just smelled something horrible.
She wrinkled her nose at my perfectly presentable green turtleneck. “What’s this?” She looked at her nails. “One of Cindy’s loooo-ser friends?” she then turned toward the marble staircase and yelled, “Hey, fatso, you got a delivery and I think it’s called Loser.”
Cindy came down the stairs in grey sweats, her wispy brown hair pulled back in a messy ponytail. When she reached the landing, she froze, and her eyes flickered from me to her sister then back to me again.
“Mom,” she said. “Mom, you said Claire would leave.”
Claire mocked her in a high-pitched voice, then called her fat and announced that she was going to a party. So the snobby pain-in-the-you-know-what left.
That’s how I ended up sitting in the kitchen, watching Cindy wash dishes.
After a long silence, Cindy finally slowly mumbled, “You’re early.”
I nodded. “Yes, my mom is a little too obsessed with being punctual. We’re always, like, 30 minutes early. That’s what I get for having a rocket scientist for a mom. Whenever I tell her how annoying and rude it is, she just tells me some story about what would have happened if the people at NASA were late.”
Cindy let out a weak laugh. “Maybe next time I’ll tell you to come 30 minutes later than actually needed.”
We laughed a bit, but in the awkward silence that followed, the air hung heavy with the words neither of us had the guts to say:
If there is a next time.
Cindy’s mom asked her to go get the mail, but her hands were wet so I volunteered.
(They’re rich. Don’t they have people for that?)
When I went out to get the mail, a broken-down, crappy-looking truck rattled over and parked in front of the house.
Brad and his dad were in that rusty old truck, looking angry, his father yelling.
When Brad opened the door to get out of the truck, I caught the words:
“Ever since your mom died, you have been the worst, most hateful-“
Brad slammed the door and I thought the whole truck might fall apart, but it rattled away.
I watched Brad stomp up to the house.
How could someone talk like that to their own child? And his mom died. Oh. That totally explains his reaction on Friday when I said that thing about his mom not loving him. Suddenly I was very grateful for my own house, my crazy rocket-scientist mother, and my little brother.
I was so reflective in that moment, so sucked into my own thoughts. I was like the Buddha or something.
Of course, usually people do not throw acorns at the Buddha when they are being reflective and crap.
So, an acorn hit me square on the face.
Lynk sat down on one of the swings, smirking at me, holding up another acorn. “Come here or I’ll throw another. Besides, standing there with your hand in the mailbox staring into space will make people think you’re crazy.”
I blushed a little, and then said, “Wait, when did you get here?”
“My mom dropped me off.”
“I didn’t notice.”
“You don’t notice a lot of stuff, Susan.”
“Maybe so, but I’m always right. We’ve got to go inside. Cindy will think we ditched her.”
Lynk sighed. “You’re such a goody-goody, Susan.”
“I get that a lot.”
I dragged him up to the house
(I completely forgot to get the mail. Oh well.)
Cindy and Brad were in the beautiful basement drinking Cokes.
We actually got along pretty well for a while, but I think Cindy must’ve put something in our sodas.
So there we were, not totally tearing each other apart. Our chart and diorama were almost done. It was 10:30.
We ate like 7 pieces of gourmet cheesecake each, and by the end we had a bunch of crumpled Coca-Cola cans sitting around us. We had such a good time, talking and watching TV sometimes and listening to Lynk’s IPod. I felt like I’d known them all my life.
It was almost… fun.
Ugh. Did I really just write that? I need to hit myself now.
Throughout the whole thing, Lynk didn’t do any work (he did draw a lot, though), but he called himself the “moral support” and sat there and patted my back and congratulated me. This, for some reason I don’t really understand, made me blush like crazy.
So, yeah, I guess I was doing most of the work when suddenly Brad goes:
“What’s up with that? That looks weird.”
“What? Excuse me?” I said.
I hate to be corrected by people who aren’t really working, because they have no right to correct me. Especially Brad, of all people.
“That. See that? That looks weird. And your handwriting sucks. And that’s spelled wrong.” He pointed to my chart. “And that just looks stupid.”
I bristled. “Oh, shut up. Not like you’ve been doing anything.”
“I have too! And it’s not my fault you’re bossy!”
“I’m not bossy! You’re just stupid!”
“You’re so freaking stuck-up and you think you’re way better than everyone else, but you’re not, Susan! You’re just a nerdy snob, and you wonder why you never have any friends! Nobody likes you!”
Ouch. I have to admit, that hurt, really, really bad.
Probably just because it was totally true, and I knew it.
So I got really mad, and before I could think of something witty and bitingly sarcastic words started spilling out of me, months of bottled-up aggression over the breakup between me and Brad, how he used me, all of that just exploded.
“Oh, so nobody likes me? Ha! You think everyone likes you just because you’re a stupid jock, but they’ll only like you until you stop winning, Brad! Then nobody will like you, and maybe someone other than me will see that you’re just a stupid, brainless, boorish idiot who USES innocent girls so he can make his cheerleader ex-girlfriend jealous and then just leaves all the sudden and acts like a complete jerk and says the girl is ugly and you dated her on a dare even though she REALLY LIKED YOU! You could have stayed with me, but you didn’t! And, you know what? I’m glad! Maybe you should just leave! Maybe it would be better for everyone! Including me!”
“You don’t know what you’re talking about, Susan!” he frowned. “Everyone loves me!”
Then I did something really, really stupid. Beyond stupid.
“Didn’t sound like it outside!” I yelled. “If everyone loves you, why does your dad hate you, Brad? Or is ‘everyone’ just the people you assume like you? Because maybe you need to rethink your version of ‘everyone’.”
He was tensed up and I knew I had only one more button to push. All my common sense was saying to stop now, but the intense headache of blind anger blared over all of that, and I did something I really should not have done.
I looked up into Brad’s troubled, churning dark eyes and said simply:
“Is your mom part of everyone too? I bet she wouldn’t be if she really knew you.”
Brad suddenly exploded.
“That’s IT!” he yelled, his voice hoarse. “I’m not taking your crap anymore!”
Then he picked up the diorama and threw it at the wall and it burst.
Clay and cardboard flew everywhere as Brad dashed up the spiral staircase.
The diorama lay crumpled on the floor, destroyed beyond repair.
Wow. Um, that’s all I can say. Wow.
We couldn’t repair the diorama, so when I went into the science room I was literally shaking. All. Over.
I sat next to Lynk, who was calmly doodling a really cool-looking Anime-ish girl with really long red hair that was all blowing around her face, big rectangular glasses, wearing a turtleneck, looking very sarcastic.
“Hey,” I said.
He jumped, and the notebook slid off his desk. He left it on the floor. “Uh… hey! Didn’t see you there.”
It got very quiet.
“Look, I know that when we get an F- because we will- I know it’s all my fault. I’ll take the blame if need be,” I said, looking at my feet, and noticing Lynk’s notebook was still open to that page with the anime girl. She looked familiar. Who did I know who had long, red hair and rectangular glasses?
(Can you believe how stupid I am?)
“No, we all take the blame,” Cindy said, sitting across from me.
“Besides, it’s about time someone went off on him,” Lynk added. “And so what? We fail. No big deal.”
I gasped. “What?! This IS a big deal, Lynk!”
I almost shook him by the shoulders and screamed hysterically, but Mr. Smith came in, so I calmed down a little.
I looked around the room. I leaned toward Lynk. “Hey, have you seen Brad?”
Lynk shook his head. “No sign of the little-“
“Does everyone have their projects?” Mr. Smith asked, interrupting Lynk.
The other groups nodded, and handed their projects over to him, but me, Cindy, and Lynk just sat there.
“No project?” Mr. Smith asked. “I am very disappointed in you, Susan.” (Like I was the only person in the group. Psh.) He picked up his clipboard and wrote something down. “That’s an F, then…”
“Ohhh… why did I say those stupid things?” I moaned, leaning on Lynk a little.
“I don’t know. Maybe because they’re all true,” he replied, even though technically speaking it was a rhetorical question.
Tears welled up in my eyes, but I forced them back. I do not cry. Ever.
Okay, this was a special occasion.
For once I let the tears roll down my cheeks.
“I got an F! I’ve never gotten an F, Lynk! This is catastrophic! This is… horrible!” I babbled.
“Susan, it’s not that bad.” He calmly kept doodling in his notebook.
“How can you be so CALM?!” I yelled hysterically.
Then Mr. Smith sent me up to the nurse because I had some sort of insane emotional panic attack. So now I’m here, thinking about how my life is going downhill and I will never make it into Harvard. And then I’ll live in a cardboard box. Sounds great.
(This room smells like cat barf. Why would they want sick people to stay in a room that smells like cat barf?)
Oh, I have a visitor.
Ten minutes later...
OH MY GOSH.
OH MY GOSH!
Guess who it was?
Yeah, you heard me. Brad.
When he came in, I nearly died of shock. Then I remembered I was mad at him, and so I crossed my arms and said, “Hello, Brad.”
Brad sat down on the chair in front of me. “Hey. Uh. I just wanted to say that… uh… well, I … I mean, you were, uh, right about me and stuff. And that, like, um, I’m, uh… sorry and stuff, for, like, uh, ruining the project and… and… uh, what I did to you and stuff.”
(Okay, he DID say the word “stuff” about three times, and the word “uh” about seven. But he’s not very intelligent. It’s how he talks.)
“Uh, okay…” I said, waiting for the catch, but it never came. So I asked, “How’d you find me?”
“Lynk and Cindy told me. Well, Cindy did. Uh, Lynk wanted me to give you this.”
He handed me a note, but I just stuffed it into my pocket.
“I’m sorry, Brad,” I said.
“Naw, I deserved it.”
There was a long silence.
Brad stood up. “Well, I thought I might as well come and apologize and stuff. So… um… truce?”
He held out his big hand.
I shook hands with him. “Truce.”
Then Brad left.
I pulled out the note.
And it said:
I guess you were right about the whole you’re-always-right thing. But just because you’re kind of a nerd (sorry, it’s true) doesn’t mean you have to go out with trash (put nicely) like Brad.
And if you wanted to know, what you said WASN’T stupid. It was righteousness, man. Woman. Girl. Susan. Whatever.
So, anyways, I guess my point is… would you be my girlfriend?
P.S. I’m so calm because I know you’ll worry enough for the both of us. If you were still wondering.
I stared at the note, and read it over again. And then I read it again and again and again. And again. His girlfriend. He wants me to be his girlfriend.
I flipped the page over, and there on the other side, was the anime chick he’d been drawing, the pretty one with the big green eyes and long red hair and rectangular glasses. That’s when it hit me. That’s supposed to be me. That was me.
I flipped it back over to the other side.
I wrote at the very bottom of the page in very big letters:
And, even though I have an F, the room I am sitting in smells like cat barf, and my science teacher probably thinks I am emotionally unstable and completely insane…
I have never felt better.