The day before the worst day of my life was pretty normal except for an unusual encounter with a cute guy, something that seemed like no big deal at the time.
During Lunch B, I was sitting on the lawn near the portico with Madison and Josiah. We always preferred to eat outside when the weather didn’t suck, because the cafeteria was such a scene. Also, like usual, Madison and Josiah were having a heated discussion.
For the most part, I was done with high school. Not that it had always been shitty, but I was over the constant drama, the gossip, and the many small minds. Madison and Josiah were the only two things I still cared about at The Wall. They were my best friends, and I knew I’d miss them when we graduated in June. We were moving on to different colleges, so I was trying my best to appreciate the eight months we had left.
Not that Madison and Josiah always made it easy.
“Are you shitting me? Game of Thrones is totally better than American Gods!” Madison insisted.
Josiah looked doubtful. “The books or the TV series?”
“The books, Nerdy McNerd-a-lot! But I think the answer you’re looking for is ‘both.’”
Josiah turned to me. “This bitch is crazy. TV series only: American Gods is way better than Game of Thrones. Am I right?”
I bit into my tuna sandwich and thought about it while I chewed. It wasn’t the first time I’d been enlisted to cast a deciding vote in one of their arguments. Josiah and Madison were both passionate and unafraid to fight for their opinions. Which was cool except when I got stuck in the middle.
“Hmmm. Jason Momoa versus Salim and The Jinn….” I clutched my chest with my free hand. “Don’t make me pick. You’re tearing me apaaaaart!”
Josiah laughed, but Madison squirmed uncomfortably. “Dammit! I forgot about Salim-Jinn. Maybe you have a point.” She considered it, rolling an apple in her hand. “Crap. Game of Thrones does have shit LGBT representation. They’re all weasels and cowards.”
Josiah held up his palm, and I high-fived it.
Madison glowered and stuck a SunChip in her mouth. “The Game of Thrones books are better,” she mumbled around the crunch.
Even though they teased each other, Madison and Josiah were solid. The three of us had been best friends since our freshman year. Madison had unbelievably gorgeous bright red hair down to her waist. It was thick and naturally frizzy. Her skin was fish-belly white, and she’d only recently been freed from the braces she’d worn for years. She called herself “fat,” but she was just naturally big—tall, big breasts, big calves, big everything. Her parents were huge too. She wore funky clothes that might have been goth, except they were colorful, like the bright-green peasant blouse she had on that day with a long, black, ruffled skirt. Her black Doc Marten boots sported neon-green laces.
Josiah was short and skinny. His mom was black, his dad white, and Josiah had light brown skin, hazel eyes, and a black fro that turned into the most awesome teeny-tiny twist curls in humidity. He also had the longest fingers I’d ever seen. Like, they were freakishly long. I kept telling him he should take up guitar or piano, but Josiah claimed he’d inherited his nerdy white dad’s complete lack of rhythm. His passion was writing.
Our three-way alliance had initially been one of mutual defense. Madison had been called “Fatty Patty” because of her size and her Irish red hair. Josiah had been small and femme, so he’d been picked on. A lot. I hadn’t come out until sophomore year, but even as a freshman, I’d known I was gay. It pissed me the hell off when people called Josiah “fag” and “cocksucker.” I’d befriended them both the first month of high school, and I’d never regretted it for a moment.
“So convince me to read the books,” Josiah told Madison. “They’re so massive that one would eat up, like, two weeks of my reading time. Why should I bother?”
Madison’s face lit up. “Okay, first of all….”
She launched into a dissertation on the George R.R. Martin books. I tuned her out because I never had time for pleasure reading anymore. My mind wandered to the Spanish essay I had to finish.
The glass doors at the end of D-Wing swung open, and four guys walked out. Jake, Cameron, Brian, and Gordo were all football players, and they hung around together like a pack—a pack of very athletic jackals. Brian glanced over at us, and for a second our gazes met.
I looked away. Brian was the Tigers’ quarterback and arguably the hottest guy at The Wall. I would not be caught staring at him like a fool. Nope. I had my dignity. And my standards. Looks weren’t everything. In fact, in my experience, the better looking guys were, the more they were empty-headed or empty-hearted. It was practically a natural law.
Josiah nudged Madison’s leg, and she spotted them. Her George R.R. Martin dialogue cut off midsentence. We were silent as the guys walked past under the portico.
A weird thought occurred to me. It was like we were mimicking the behavior of a school of fish that went still when sharks swam by. It wasn’t that the football players were likely to bother us. We were seniors now, and a certain gravitas came with that—like, if you’d survived that long, you were due some respect. Plus, if they tried it, I’d rip them a new one. Most people at The Wall knew by now that I had a temper and a big mouth. Madison was no slouch when it came to savage repartees either. But Cameron and Gordo had picked on Josiah in the past, in seriously fucked-up ways—like head-in-the-toilet-bowl level of douchery. He avoided them like the plague.
Josiah stared down at the noodle bowl on his lap and picked at it with his fork.
Today, the sharks ignored us and kept walking.
That’s when it happened. Brian was goofing around with a football, tossing it up and catching it. He lost control of the ball, and it came flying right at us.