Note: this chapter's from Zoe's point of view.
I turned away from Ryker. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Fawn Elliot smiling at him.
I liked Fawn—at least what I know about her, which isn’t that much. But we did a science project together, so I’ve talked to her.
She seems nice. Well, she doesn’t talk much, but she has a handful of friends who she wouldn’t dream of leaving. She’s kept some of them since kindergarten.
I glanced back at Ryker to see if he had noticed Fawn smiling at him. He was staring at her with a curious expression on his face, like he had never noticed something about her before.
“Ryker?” Ms. Jenkins asked.
Ryker looked up at her.
“Can you come up here and do this problem?” Ms. Jenkins asked, tapping the whiteboard.
Ryker stared at the board. It was clear he had no idea how to do the problem.
“Can you come up and do the problem, Ryker?” Ms. Jenkins repeated.
Ryker winced. He hates being up in front of people. He slouched lower in his seat, like he was trying to disappear.
Suddenly Fawn’s hand shot into the air. She waved it around a couple of times.
“Just a minute, Fawn,” Ms. Jenkins said.
Fawn waved her hand a couple more times. Her face was slightly red. It was obvious that she didn’t like calling this much attention to herself.
So why is she? I wondered.
“Just a minute, Fawn,” Ms. Jenkins repeated. “Let Ryker do the problem first.”
“I ain’t doing it,” Ryker muttered under his breath.
“The answer is seventy-three point eight,” Fawn called out. Her face was completely red now.
“Thank you Fawn, but I would have preferred for Ryker to answer it,” Ms. Jenkins said.
“Sorry,” Fawn said. She didn’t look too sorry, though. Just a little embarrassed.
Ryker just looked relived.
I caught Ryker in the hall that afternoon. “Why do you think she did that?” I asked.
“You know…call out the answer and all.”
“Maybe she wanted to,” Ryker answered.
“She didn’t look like it.”
Ryker sighed. “Okay, well, why do you think she did?”
“Maybe she likes you,” I suggested.
He rolled his eyes. “Right.”
“She’s sort of like you,” I said. “She has those piercings on her eyebrows and lip, and she doesn’t talk much.”
Ryker nodded. “Guess that proves she doesn’t like me.”
“How?” I asked incredulously.
“Opposites attract,” he responded, walking off down the hall.
“That’s with gender, not personality!” I shouted after him.
“It’s not always with gender!”
“Yes it is!”
“Not for Quin!”
I was opening my mouth to respond when someone tapped me on the shoulder. I turned. Tonia was standing there.
“What did he say about Quin?” Tonia asked.
“Nothing,” I said quickly.
“Opposite gender attracts, just not with Quin? What’s that supposed to mean?” Tonia asked. Then her eyes widened excitedly. “Oh, god, is he gay?”
I was getting ready to say that I wasn’t sure what people found so damn horrible about gays, but Tonia was already skipping off down the hall, her wavy blond hair streaming out behind her, and leaving me to hope she wouldn’t tell anyone her theory.
Of course it was just Quin’s luck that she did, as we found out at lunch. When Quin plopped down in his seat and thumped his head down on the table, we knew something was wrong.
“What?” Ash asked.
“Nothing.” Of course Quin said it was nothing. He never asks for help. I think he thinks it’s being selfish.
Some girl came up behind Quin. Her name’s Sasha, I think.
“Are you really gay?” she asked him.
Ryker spoke up. “Whether he is or not is none of your business, Sasha,” he said angrily.
Sasha flipped her hair over her shoulder. “Fine. I was just wondering.” She stormed back to her table.
We looked at Quin. “How did that get out?” Lisa asked. Quin shrugged.
We saw Fawn heading over to us. Quin moaned and started to get up. “I’m using the bathroom,” he said.
Ryker grabbed his arm. “Quin, you can’t escape to the bathroom every time something bad happens. Now, do you really have to pee or are you just trying to get away?”
Quin sighed and sat back down. Fawn came over to us.
“Um…hi. Can I sit here?” she asked.
Ryker nodded immediately and scooted over. She sat down and glanced shyly at him. “Mia isn’t here, Lucy has to stay in Mr. Mark’s classroom, and Ammine’s ditching us for Herbert.” She glanced over at where her friend, Ammine, sat giggling with a tall redhead boy. “So I didn’t really have anyone to sit with.” She glanced at Ryker again.
“You can sit here whenever you want,” Lisa said. Then she glanced at the rest of us. “If that’s okay with you guys.”
We all nodded. Lisa smiled and took a bite of mashed potato. She swallowed and made a face.
“What?” Ash asked.
“Why’s it grainy?” Lisa said.
“Why’s what grainy?”
“The mashed potatoes. They’re all grainy!”
I took a bite of mashed potatoes. “Ew, gross, they are grainy!”
Everyone started trying little spoonfuls of mashed potato and agreeing vehemently with us, laughing hard. Right after Ash managed to get potato in his hair and right before Lisa tried to wash it out with chocolate milk, I happened to glance over at Ryker.
He and Fawn weren’t tasting the mashed potatoes. They didn’t really look like they were doing anything, actually. Every once in a while, one of them would say something, and then the other one would nod or shake their head or say something back.
Then Fawn reached over and brushed a strand of his hair behind his ear.
I smiled and ate another bite of potato.