“I’m fine, really, Kimberly,” Megan said, ignoring the stare and the muttered “of course you are” coming from her best friend as they walked to their lockers. “We just didn’t work out. I don’t think he was right for me, that’s all.”
“I thought he was fun! And you can’t deny he’s handsome,” Kimberly replied, beseechingly. Megan helplessly shrugged. She just couldn’t make herself look forward to being with him. If she was honest to herself, which she generally wasn’t, she had way more fun waving her pompoms than she’d ever had in the passenger seat of Jared’s car.
“Sure, he’s handsome. I really thought I loved him but even you said I should enjoy kissing him, and I– well, I just don’t .” Megan continued before Kimberly could interrupt her. “So I need to be available to meet someone who I do enjoy kissing.” And having conversations with and touching and spending time with and–
“You think he was the problem?” Kimberly said as they reached their lockers.
Megan bristled. “Are you saying you enjoy being licked all over your mouth? I’ve seen romantic movies; that’s not how people are supposed to kiss.” She opened her locker with a little more intensity than strictly necessary and forced herself to calm down. The posters helped.
“There’s no one right way to kiss.” Kimberly started then sighed. “But I guess I know what you mean. I wouldn’t want to be kissed like that either. We’ll just have to find you a new guy.” She looked at Megan with a smile that didn’t quite reach her eyes, and Megan nervously fiddled with her hair. She could hear the whispers around them and hated knowing it was probably about her, about The Breakup.
“You’ll tell me if Prince Charming comes knocking at the door for me, right?” Megan joked despite the tightness in her chest, gathering up her books and swiftly slamming her locker door shut. “Anyway, I should go to class. Catch up later?” She left before Kimberly could say another word.
When she entered her class, she paused in the doorway. Right. This was the class she shared with Jared. The guy she’d broken up with. The guy she’d spent the whole year sitting next to. Everyone already had their unassigned, assigned seats. Whispers once again filled the air as people saw her paused and nudged their friends to see.
Unwilling to put on more of a show, Megan just swiftly sat at a desk in the back, feeling her face burn hot. She rested her head on the desk with a sigh. Megan had always had friends in every class, but she was quickly learning that most of them were actually Jared’s friends. Which was fine. She could deal with that.
“Why is your ass in my seat, princess? Hanging with the meathead players not good enough for you anymore?” A voice drawled from next to her. Her head shot up. Standing there was a girl Megan only knew from the sarcastic comments thrown from the back of classrooms. If her face had been hot earlier, now it was on fire.
“Sorry!” Megan said, already reaching to gather her stuff up. “Didn’t realize anyone sat here, I just–”
“You just broke up with your boyfriend and didn’t want to sit near him.” At Megan’s quizzical look, the girl—she was pretty sure her name started with a ‘G’—continued. “You may not know who I am, but it’s pretty hard to avoid talk about you .”
Megan stood, backpack in hand, shocked at how close the movement brought her to the girl. She had to tilt her head back slightly to make eye contact. “Sorry to bug you, I’ll just–” She gestured vaguely at the front row where a lone girl sat wearing all pink.
“Believe it or not, the seat next to me is empty.” The girl gestured with her chin. Her eyebrow rose. “That is, if you’re not too scared to sit next to little ol’ me?” Despite the cocky air, the girl bit her lip a little as if she were nervous. It was that action that made Megan move to plop her stuff down one desk over.
“Congratulations on your first steps, pompoms.” The girl said snarkily. Megan rolled her eyes and changed course, going to sit in the front of the class. Her life was already hard enough without spending it next to some mean girl.
It felt a little like the proverbial walk of shame, Megan couldn’t help but note as she felt eyes follow her. Logically, she knew that most people didn’t really care about The Breakup, but the people who did manage to care enough about it for the whole school.
“Oh, you’re sitting next to me?” The girl in pink said, blinking behind her glasses. Strangely enough, she had an Australian accent? Or maybe British? New Zealand? Megan couldn’t quite place it.
“Yeah. If that’s okay with you, that is?” Megan said with a shy smile. At the girl’s nod, she sat and made herself comfortable. “I’m Megan, by the way.”
“I know, actually.” She said with a laugh as she reached up to adjust her glasses. “I’m Hilary.”
There was a beat of awkward silence before Megan opened her mouth, unable to stop herself. “Who’s that girl in the back again? The one in the black shirt?”
“Oh, that’s just Graham. I wouldn’t worry about her too much.” Her voice dropped down to a whisper. “Mrs. Mary thinks she’s a spoiled brat, but you didn’t hear it from me.” Megan looked over to where the teacher in question sat at her desk, adjusting her false lashes in a tiny mirror. Honestly, as much as Megan respected Mrs. Mary’s teaching skills, she really wasn’t known for being nice to her students.
“She’s so pretty, isn’t she?” Hilary said, leaning her head on her hand dreamily.
“Who? Graham?” Megan looked back at the girl and made direct eye contact. Graham gave a snarky little wave in response, and Megan’s eyes shot back toward the whiteboard at the front of the room. Awkward.
“What?” Hilary seemed to be shocked out of a reverie. “Oh, yeah, sure. Graham.” The girl's eyes darted around nervously. So not Graham then.
Right after the bell rang, Jared and his posse waltzed into the classroom without a care in the world.
“Late again, boys.” Mrs. Mary said with a lighthearted laugh. She was always lenient with the football boys in a way that secretly made Megan uncomfortable.
“Sorry, Mary, you know us. We were just talking to our coach.” Jared’s friend smiled charmingly. For once, Megan’s ex wasn’t at the head of the group. He looked tired and upset in a way that made her shift around in her seat guiltily. Maybe Kimberly was right? Jared hadn’t even really done anything wrong—other than being a bad kisser, that is.
“Maybe if your coach had graduated from high school, he’d understand the importance of actually showing up to classes.” Graham drawled. When Megan glanced back at her, she raised an eyebrow and examined her fingernails.
“Hey, we showed up! We were nearly on time and everything,” Jared piped up, irritation coloring his voice.
“Don’t think we don’t notice you skip, like, once a week, idiots.” Graham glared at Megan’s ex spitefully.
“Aren’t you supposed to be a rebellious punk? Why are you even here?” Jared’s friend hatefully spat at her as the group pulled their desks to form a cluster. Mrs. Mary said nothing.
“Believe it or not, I’d actually hate to graduate with a 3rd-grade reading level like you guys. If you dumbasses even manage to get out of here.”
“Graham!” Mrs. Mary finally chimed in. “I’ll have you know that my son Rock never graduated, and he’s doing wonderfully, so stop picking on these poor boys.”
Graham rolled her eyes but rocked back in her seat.
“Now, I don’t want to hear any more outbursts from you.” Mrs. Mary stood. “Anyway, as we all know, one of the best parts of high school is, of course, friendship which is why we’ll be doing a copious amount of group work in this class.” Eyes locked throughout the room as everyone immediately looked at their friends. Megan just looked down awkwardly. “I need everyone to find a partner.”
Megan looked at Hilary hopefully, but as she opened her mouth, Mrs. Mary’s voice rang out once more. “Hilary?” The girl in question looked to the teacher with an easy smile on her face. “Since there’s an uneven amount of students, I thought you might want to help me with some special projects?” Hilary nodded without hesitation and stood to join Mrs. Mary at her desk.
Everyone around Megan had finished clambering to team up, and she looked around nervously before awkwardly raising her hand.
“Um, Mrs. Mary?”
“Yes, Megan? What is it?”
“I, uh, I don’t have a partner.” She tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear and once again ignored her shaking hands.
Mrs. Mary gave Megan a Look—one that said if she were less professional she’d be rolling her eyes—and called out, “Who else doesn’t have a partner?”
Megan’s heart dropped as she saw a ring laden hand rise half-heartedly into the air.
“I don’t.” That increasingly familiar drawl seemed to fill the room despite her mild tone.