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Author's note: I wrote this when I woke up from developing a character with a hard exterior. As a result, towards Chapter Two, I let some of the main character's guard down and let some of her insecurities show. My only hopes are that people enjoy the read and get something out of it if they are in a similar situation. If they are bullied or were bullies, I hope they can relate and act based off of Melonie's control, yet honesty in weakness (eventually). I just want people to know that they aren't alone. I really hope That "Zero" speaks to them.
"Hey brainiac!" some football player called to me. "I bet you passed that science test, didn't you?" He howled with the rest of hid dumb jock friends. "Why don't you just go to college?"
"Come on guys," one of his buddies puts in. "There are some geeks that can't make the cut."
So much for that. Did I ever mention I hate jocks? Well, if I didn't, now you know. My Name is Lila — scratch that— Melonie Furrow. I have a three year-old brother named Cameron. I don't talk much and don't care about my sixteenth birthday. I just don't see what the big deal is. It sucks major time. I'm fifteen years old and already a junior in high school. Everyday, I have to deal with snobs with pom-poms and dunces in numbered jerseys. They call me egghead, dork, geek, poindexter, brainiac, know-it-all. Someone with some sign of a vocabulary called me omniscient. I kind of doubt that they knew what it meant.
I walked away, ignoring the idiotic activity of the primates that have been labeled as 'athletes'. I think they should be labeled as something that fits. They should be called something like numbskulls or schmucks. Seriously, we don't want to confuse them too much.
"Miss Furrow," Mr. Kerminson calls. He's the principle and basketball coach of Davidson High, probably in his early fifties and is pretty cool if you fallow the curriculum. As long as you're passing, he couldn't care less about PDA's by lockers and water fountains. Let me tell you, this would not fly in middle school. At least, not at the middle school I went to. Davidson Jr. High had strict rules against public displays of affection, due to the custodian finding a pregnancy test in someone's locker. Anyway, I'm getting way off topic.
I walked to Mr. Kerminson, curious about what he wanted. He looked very serious. Which is strange, so I assumed I must have done something wrong—which I would just like to point out is very unlikely. "Yes sir?"
"I assume you are aware that our school's best basketball player is flunking English and Mathematics.
I'm actually surprised those are the only classes he's failing.
"I would appreciate it if you were to help him. It'll look great on your college application."
And those are the seven words that will get me to do almost anything. Almost. "Actually sir, I—"
"Hey, coach," Jeremy Watson a.k.a the schools star basketball player says. "How's it going?" He's the best basketball player the schools had since 1967. He's got brown hair, brown eyes, and when he smiled at me, I noticed a dimple on the bottom right corner of his mouth. He's kind of tall. He's attractive too I guess.
"Well, Miss Furrow as just agreed to tutor you in English and Math. Isn't that right?"
I have? I wasn't aware that I had agreed to anything. "Sure thing." I guess.
"This girl is our best student here. With her help, you should be passing your classes in time for the championships. What do you say about that?"
"That sounds good to me," Jeremy answered.
"You win that game, and you can most likely guarantee that scholarship is yours."
I don't get the purpose of sports. I think it's just an excuse for guys to show off for girls in little shirts and short skirts. Those little zombies who dance around like hookers. My used-to-be friend, Lindsey Carr is a cheerleader. When she started high school, she still hadn't forgiven me for leaving her in middle school. Now, she doesn't talk to me. I don't really care. She's one of them now.
Speaking of Lindsey, here she comes down the hallway. She's talking to Victor Garene, the top football player the school's had since 1974. Apparently, athletes are a great asset to the school. O f course I don't see what sports have to do with English and Science. Anyway, Lindsey and Victor had been going out for about three weeks and I've already seen them making out at least eight times today.
Lindsey flips her long blond hair, then kisses Victor on the mouth. (Gross!) "See you after class," she smiles. It's been hard skipping two grades and being ignored by the one person I couldn't wait to see this year. She's spent three days giving me the stink-eye and two months acting like I don't exist. I watched as Victor kissed her back and she walked into remedial Math. Lindsey never was good with numbers.
"Lila?" asks Mr. Kerminson.
That name. I hated it. I look to see both Mr. Kerminson and Jeremy staring at me in confusion. "Yes sir?" I ask, coming back to the present situation of the schools all-star.
"When are you free to start tutoring?"
"Whenever," I shrug. It doesn't really matter. I have all my assignments through the third marking period done already.
"Cool," said Jeremy. "So, I'll swing by your place after school then? Where do you live?"
"Excellent," Mr. Kerminson grined, walking away. "You two have fun."
"Actually," I press, when the principle was gone. "Why don't we just meet somewhere else for right now? With my brother home, you'll never be able to concentrate."
"You have a brother? How old is he?"
"Three," I groan.
"Hey, my sister's three. Maybe they can occupy each other while we study. I'm sure it won't be a problem."
"I don't know…"
"It's no big deal. Plus, I really need this and I don't want the others to find out."
Why would I care what the others think about him? At least he'll pass a test this way, before he gives up. "Because I'm tutoring you?" I question.
"Because you're younger than me."
"Oh. Well, I still don't think you should come over—"
"Fine, I understand. Meet me at my place. I live three blocks away at 408H Broadway."
"Okay," he says. "Well, I'll meet you here and we can walk to my place."
What other reasons do I have to hang out with him? He obviously thinks he can get any girl he wants. Well, whatever he throws at me, I'll throw right back.
"Hey!" Jeremy called. "Are you ready to go?"
"Yeah, I guess," I shrugged. My mom knew I was tutoring, I didn't have a social life, so I was ready.
"Hey Jeremy!" Rick Innssonn called from his convertible. It didn't take me long to notice that Lindsey and Victor were in the back seat. She's such a tramp now.
"You're hanging out with her?" she asked, throwing daggers at me with her cold, icy blue eyes.
"Umm…" Jeremy hesitated. My guess is, he didn't want to be made fun of, but he actually wanted to spare my feelings too. What kind of popular person is considerate? I had to help him. Even though it's against what I feel, he doesn't appear to be a total lowlife.
"Sorry," I said. "I didn't mean to bump into you. I won't do it again." I started to walk off, as I overheard him decline a ride home. I heard Rick's car, before I was hit in the butt with an open water bottle as the convertible came up from behind me. After that they cruised by, laughing their obnoxiously loud cackles, I stared openmouthed at the bottle only Lindsey could've thrown. I didn't need a mirror to see what my backside looked like. I could feel it on my pants. "Great. Wicked little shrew."
"Are you okay?" Jeremy asked, coming to my side. "Wow." Noticing my predicament, he tried to stifle a laugh.
"It's not funny," I growled.
"Sorry. Here," he smiled. Taking of his sweatshirt, he wrapped it around my waist himself. "Thanks for helping me out back there, by the way. I owe you one."
"I think you just repaid me," I laughed. "At least I don't have to walk around looking like I peed my pants now."
"Yeah." He started to laugh to as we walked to his house.
"Who's this?" Jeremy's mother asked, smiling, when we walked into the apartment. There was no doubt in my mind that she was his mother. She looked just like him, minus the dimple.
"This is Lila," Jeremy introduced and I tried not to cringe at the name I had come tho hate. "She's here to help me with school."
"It's nice to meet you," she beamed at me.
"It's nice to meet you too, ma'am," I smiled back.
"This one's got manners," she noted. "You've just shown up every girl he's brought here."
"Mom," Jeremy groaned.
"Well, the kitchen's right over there." She pointed behind her. I saw a little girl with her mother's looks minus the eyes—she had green eyes— who I assumed was Jeremy's sister. She looked up at me from her coloring book and began to wave frantically.
"Are you Remy's girlfriend?" she questioned, still waving.
"Come on, Cattie," Mrs. Watson called. "Your brother's got homework to do. And you've got a dentist appointment."
"Fine." The small girl frowned and followed her mother, who wrapped her in a sweater, took her hand, and walked out the door.
If I'd known we were going to be alone, I would have suffered through Cameron's taunting. I looked around the room and noticed there were pictures around of Jeremy and his sister with their mom. Christmas photos, Thanksgiving, Fourth of July and all the other big holidays. There was only one picture with the three of them and a man with black hair and green eyes. I assumed he was Jeremy's dad.
"What do you want to start with?"
"What?" I asked, turning to Jeremy, who was sitting at the wooden dining room table, taking out his homework. "Oh, math I guess."
"Great, I need help with that the most. Aren't you going to take out your homework too?"
"I finished everything already." I pulled out my binder anyway.
"How'd you finish all of the work already?"
"It's easy when you're not going to parties and stuff. Surprisingly, you can get a lot done."
"It's good to have fun too, though. If you spend all your time in assignments, you'll go insane from boredom."
"Do you want my help or not?"
"I need your help. Sorry, I didn't mean to be rude. I'm actually trying to be your friend," he blushed.
"Why would you want to be friends with me? You're friends with everyone who hates me, especially Lindsey."
"Are you kidding? I can't stand Lindsey. I'm just being supportive of Victor. You guys used to be friends, didn't you?"
"Yeah… Can we just get to your homework?"
"Sure," he said. "So, for 1,-3 I go to the first quadrant, right?"
"No, the fourth. The first quadrant's positive and positive up, the second negative across and positive up, the third is negative across and down, and the fourth is positive and negative down. Here, let me show you." I took his pencil and drew a coordinate plane. I labeled them from right to left I, II, III, IV. I wrote in the number line and showed him what I meant.
"Why can't Mr Hubble explain it like that? So, that means, -3,5 goes in the second quadrant, right."
"Right," I said, handing his pencil so he could fill in answers. After, about a hour, we moved onto English.
"I don't get this reciprocal and reflexive stuff," Jeremy groaned.
"Well, a reciprocal pronoun is where you have a plural. You use words like, one another."
"Like, they hugged one another."
"Yeah, that's a good example. Then, reflexive pronouns refers to putting emphasis on something. You could say, themselves, himself, myself. Stuff like that."
"I get it."
"That's good. It's not that hard once you get the hang of it." I looked at my wristwatch. "Oh, crud! I've gotta get home, I told my mom I'd babysit Cameron."
"Is that your brother's name?"
"Yeah," I said, stuffing my binder back into my messenger bag.
"Here, I'll walk you home."
"No, that's fine."
"It's no big deal. It's how my mom raised me. C'mon," he said, already at the door."
"Are you sure?"
"Yeah. You know, not all of us are jerks," he grinned. "I see how you look at us in the halls. I know you roll your brown eyes when we walk in the hallways."
I couldn't decide what shocked me the most. That he knew what I thought of them, or that he noticed me at all. "I didn't think it was that obvious," I said.
"It's not. I can just tell you sort of resent us. I know people make fun of you."
"Do you?" I asked, as he closed the door behind us.
"Yeah. And if anybody gives you a hard time, just tell me. You're pretty cool."
"What do you mean?"
"Hey, if you can do math and keep a promise, that's pretty cool," he said, slowing his stride to match mine.
"What do you mean keep a promise?"
"I mean, you're helping me, babysitting and working at the mall on weekends."
"Those aren't promises. They're responsibilities. And how'd you know I work at the mall?"
"I've seen you working at Barnes and Noble before."
"You've been to the bookstore?"
"Of course I have. Where else would I get my sketchpads? Athletes like to read too," he added.
"Yeah, but most of them are magazines. But I'm not one to talk. I prefer comics. I'm such a nerd."
"Are you kidding? Comics are the best."
"Are you serious? I thought you guys read Playboy and crap like that."
"Hey, some of us are decent. Plus my mom would kill me if I did. She doesn't go for that pervert stuff."
I let out a small laugh. "I figured most guys would still read stuff like that."
"Generalizations," he smiled. "There's always one about how guys are pervs."
"Maybe that's because there are only a few who aren't," I said. We turned the corner and passed a small diner.
"So, where's your house?"
"About another block."
"So, you don't live that far from me?"
"No, I guess not."
"So, maybe you'd like to hang out sometime…"
"You know. Just hanging out."
"Oh. Sure. That's be nice." Totally weird actually, I thought. "You're mom looks just like you," I said. "She's beautiful."
"Yeah. She's the best."
"And you little sister's adorable. My brother's… Well, you get the idea."
"You should see Cattie when no one's around," Jeremy said. "She's psycho."
"I doubt that." We turned another corner. "Cameron's not allowed to have sugar. He acts like a maniac when he has it."
"It must be a toddler thing." Jeremy followed me to my door and took a piece off that had been covering the peephole. "It's got your name on it," he said, handing the paper to me.
"Thanks." I took the note and read it. Even though I didn't need to.
I'll be home late tonight. Call for pizza to eat. Pick Cameron up from sitter.
"I'll be back," I said, walking across the street.
"Where are you going?" Jeremy asked, following me.
"I have to pick Cameron up." I knocked on the door.
"Hello," Mrs. Sol (aka the babysitter) said, answering the door. "Let me get Cameron."
"Yeah," I said, filling out the sign-out sheet.
"Melonie!" a blonde-haired, blue-eyed boy said, running to me and jumping in my arm.
"Cameron? What are you doing here?"
"Meanie," he said, sticking out his tongue.
"You love me anyway," I said. "Bye," I said to Mrs. Sol.
"Take care," she smiled.
"We having pizza tonight?" Cameron asked as I carried him into the house.
"Yeah, we're having pizza."
"With everything on it?"
"Except for anchovies," I said.
"Today we made— Who are you?" he asked Jeremy.
"I'm a friend of your sister's."
"Are you her boyfriend?"
"No," Jeremy laughed. "I just met her."
"Good, 'cause I'll kick your butt." He smiled mischievously. "You know… Melonie has a butterfly on her—"
"Cameron!" I said, opening the door. "Say anymore and you're going to be eating broccoli for dinner."
"No!" Cameron cried, running into the house when I put him down.
"Why does he call you Melonie?" Jeremy asked.
"That's what I go by," I shrugged. "You can come in if you want."
"Sure," he smiled. "Can I use your phone? I should tell my mom I'm here."
"Go ahead. It's by the couch." I went to see where Cameron had gone. I found him in my room going through my closet. "What are you doing?" I asked.
"Nothing…" Cameron innocently batted his eyes.
"Hey," Jeremy said, coming to stand next to me. "My mom said it was cool. What is he doing?"
"I have no idea."
"You want a soda?"
"Yeah. Do you have any orange soda?"
"I think so."
"I could order the pizza for you if you want."
"Are you sure?"
"Yeah, it's no problem."
"Only if you're sure."
"Thanks," I said. I watched as he walked to the phone again.
"Ya know," Cameron said, "if you're going to kiss him, you don't want to wait for mommy to get home."
"Shut up," I whispered. "Just for that I get your mushrooms when the pizza gets here."
"That's not fair!" He walked out of the closet with a bra in his hands. "How do you put this thing on?"
"Oh wow," Jeremy said, walking up next to me. "I thought it was bad when Cattie put my… Never mind. The pizza should be here in thirty minutes, Lila." He scratched behind his ear. "I can pay if you want."
"No, that's okay. My mom leaves money anyway." I tried not to laugh as he avoided looking at the item in my brother's hands. "Cameron, put that away."
"Fine. You're no fun."
"Hey, I'll tell mom what you did to the cat."
"What did he do to the cat?" Jeremy asked, his eyes following as Cameron ran down the hall.
"He put him in the toilet." I shook my head in amazement as I recalled the incident.
"Wow. I feel bad for him." Looking at the fur-ball curled on the couch, he smiled a little. "Are you sure you don't want me to pay for the pizza."
"I'm sure," I laughed. "You wanna watch something?"
"Anything but sports."
"I thought athletes lived for sports."
"Yeah, but you don't."
"Oh. I don't mind," I lied. "I don't care what you watch. As long as it's appropriate for Cameron."
"Nah, I'm in the mood for a crime show. Is CSI: Miami on?"
I let out a small laugh. "I recorded it."
"Oh, yeah," he said, bobbing his head.
The doorbell rang. "Did the delivery guy speed here?" I turned on the t.v. and walked to the door. "Can you get the money off the counter?" I asked Jeremy.
"Yeah. It's on the counter right?"
"On the freezer door," I corrected, opening the door.
But, it wasn't the delivery guy on the other side of the door. It was my ex-bestfriend.
"You lost?" I asked.
"No," Lindsey said, walking in. "Thought I saw a friend of mine come in here."
"I'm not your friend."
"Oh, I know. I meant Jeremy."
"Why would Jeremy Watson be at my house?"
"You know, I asked myself the same thing. Then I had a funny thought. 'Maybe she thinks this will make her popular'." She glared at me, hands on her hips.
"You think I want to end up acting like a tramp?" I spat. "Like you?"
"You're just jealous." She flipped er red hair over her shoulder.
"Yeah, I'm so jealous of a self-centered, egocentric, brat who is secretly hated by everyone she hangs out with."
"My friends adore me."
"They put up with you," I countered. "Look. Cameron shouldn't be hearing any of this. If you came to pick a fight, you might as well get out of my house."
"It is your house. You're mom's rarely here, so I understand your motherly role around this place." She sneered at me, walking to the door. "Hasn't been the same since your old man left huh? Imagine. If you hadn't told your mom about—"
"Get out!" I shouted.
I saw her face fall. She knew that was a low blow. Even for her.
"Don't call me that."
"Right. I forgot. I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said that. I don't know why I did. I didn't mean it."
"Get out," I said one last time. "Now." I slammed the door in her face and turned to see Jeremy waiting in the kitchen.
"Are you okay?" he asked.
"Yeah." I avoided his eyes. "That wasn't the pizza."
"I know. She's a real pain isn't she?" He censored himself, seeing Cameron walk into the room. "Are you sure you're okay?"
My heart weighed a thousand tons. I could feel tears in my eyes. They burned. My glasses were fogging up. The room was still and quiet. Through my brimming eyes, I could see my brother looking at me with a worried and confused expression.
"Is Melonie okay?" He asked Jeremy.
"Can you guys give a minute?" I asked.
"Sure," Jeremy said.
I went into my room. I reached under my bed for a pair of sissors and reached for the family photo on my desk. I took it out of the frame and cut my father's head out. I ripped the cut-out as many times as I could.
That bad feeling I always got when mom was away was reaching for the brink. It was the year that everything changed...