Greetings! More and more I find myself enjoying the whole editing process. For chapter 8 I substantially rewrote two scenes in order to draw a stronger parallel between Ross’ class project and the yearbook one that he is about to undertake. I also tried to draw out Ana’s headstrong nature a little better. LeRoy’s transformation also becomes much more apparent in this chapter.
Also, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to self-publishing lately. The people at Xlibris have been calling like once every two weeks ever since I made an inquiry last year. I’ll have to do my research and weigh the pros and cons, however. I am also open to comments about this topic 🙂
When I get to the pavilion Wednesday morning, I see LeRoy and Ana at one of the corner tables, wrapped up in each other’s arms. I feel a pang of disappointment, but shrug it off and walk past them. Let her do what she wants.
“Ross!” LeRoy calls to me, and I turn back. He’s grinning at me like he wants a favor. I wish, almost pleadingly, that Ana wouldn’t look at me like I’m the last good person left in this world.
“Yo,” I say, walking over to them. “You guys look like the happy couple.”
Ana’s laugh is short. “We’re still waiting to find out.” She nudges LeRoy, not entirely playful, but he just shrugs sheepishly.
“Thanks bro. You holding up alright?”
“Yeah,” I say, looking around, “trying to.”
Ever since he and Ana got together he’s been sitting over here, on the side of the pavilion most of us track guys avoid. The blonde, popular, top ten in the class, breeding ground: the cliché cliques. This spot is also Jordan’s den, where he sits and makes eye contact with girls he finds attractive, and even luring one or two of them in on occasion. All in all a preppy group.
“Well yeah man,” LeRoy goes on, “I had a favor to ask of you, amigo. Me and Ana have a date at Presentation tonight. And I haven’t been working on my sphere with Jordan lately. So I was wondering if you could maybe pick it up from him after school and work on it tonight.”
“It’s also because Jordan is a slacker,” Ana replies, staring in her pocket mirror as she dabs some powder on her face. “LeRoy really got the short end of the stick.”
Forget your good time, I think. Just because I’m girlfriend-less means I have nothing better to do on Valentine’s Day night than help you do your project?
“I don’t know, man,” I say in doubt. “You know I have the same project to worry about.”
“I know you’re a hard worker,” Ana adds, like it takes a compliment to make me altruistic. “Maybe just this one time, friend?”
“Come on man, I’ll do your homework for you. Just this once, for us. Please?”
I think about it all, feeling like I’m on the end of a leash I didn’t know I was wearing. I didn’t think LeRoy could be this way. He used to be meek, keep to himself and talk about faith and poetry. Now I don’t even recognize him.
The bell rings. Ana sits back, eyes searching.
“Get someone else, man,” I say, turning away, “I have my own work to do.”
And I leave them behind, joining the flow of fresas and band geeks. Happy Valentine’s Day.
Jacob shows up at my side. “Yo, Ross. What’d he say?”
“Just asked me to do him a favor.” Jacob knows about LeRoy’s change, too. I can see it in his eyes.
“I told him off. He’s being an asshole.”
Jacob’s face becomes downcast. “Yeah. I can tell.”
He’s silent as we walk. We both have math. I don’t know what to say to him. LeRoy is his teammate too.
“Think he’ll ever come back?” Jacob asks.
The faintest answer lingers in me. I don’t want to let Jake down, but I say it.
“No. He’s a changed man.”
“No sticks?” Malerie asks me as I sit at our group.
“Nope. I forgot them.” I look past her at Chris as he enters class. He nods in a ‘What happened?’ sort of way, and I shake my head. He gives me an accepting grimace, not registering any surprise. We both know LeRoy’s under her spell.
“So,” Malerie puts her sketchbook underneath her chair, “if I remember correctly, there’s a Wal-Mart off of the expressway, a Target like three blocks from here, and a Dollar Tree on Juniper. Not to mention that you had to pass at least one of those on your way home. I think Mr. Alzheimer’s has a bad excuse here.”
“Jesus Christ,” I snap, shoving my red backpack off my desk, “I said I didn’t remember. I have damn idiots who take up most of my concern, alright?”
Immediately I wince and look around, checking to make sure no one caught my outburst. But the tardy bell already rang, and the rest of the class is preoccupied with their shapes.
“Okay, okay,” Malerie says, dropping her sly grin for a concerned look. “Didn’t mean to push your buttons so much.”
I check myself and inhale. “Yeah, well, whatever. It probably makes you feel better. After all, you’re the only one who’s ever moved, right?
Malerie stares at me, and then speaks slowly. “It’s not personal. What I said on Monday. I’m sorry.”
I wave her away. “Forget it. You have a right to bitch and moan.”
Mal then does something that even I can tell is uncharacteristic. She holds out her hand, which I shake, and introduces herself. “Malerie Knighten. There, like I should have done.”
“Ross Chappell, . Former track star in the making.”
“Former,” she says, tilting her head in curiosity, “why’s that? Does it have to do with the idiots taking up your time?”
“Ha,” I say, “I thought you were gonna play the lone wolf type until you moved back home.”
“That was the plan. Except now returning doesn’t look likely.” Malerie sighs. “Turns out mom got a good job as a nurse at this elementary school. Dad says he knows that he can get a decent job driving trucks for some company. Mom’s happy, dad’s happy, so I don’t think we’re ever going back to Goliad.” She sputters her lips and dips her chin, crestfallen.
“Bummer,” I say, then I remember the storm. “What about your house? I mean, back in Goliad.”
“Still standing,” she raises her head and smiles. “Two busted windows, and our backyard is fenceless now, but we still have a home.” Her eyes shine a little. “We’ll probably sell it. I’m sure it’ll make a great home for another family.”
Feeling a little warmth well up inside my chest, I ask, “You gonna be okay?”
“Yeah, yeah.” She grabs her shoulders and looks down. “Don’t get soft on me. I have a reputation to maintain.”
“Oh what? Pissed-off, self-absorbed artistic new girl? Please.”
“Hey, keep quiet.” Malerie laughs a little, an impeccable mile-wide smile crossing her face for the first time since she came to this class. “You’ll blow my disguise.”
“No need to be incognito. People tend to mind their own business at Bishop Lynn.” I pull out her drawings. “Unless you’re this gifted.”
“You kept them?” She asks, mouth agape. Immediately she grabs the papers, looks over her work with a critical eye, then looks up at me expectantly. I shrug. “Really amazing. Ah-may-zing.”
“I get it,” she says, giggling. “Thanks.”
“You should really become a cartoonist,” I suggest, “or an artist.”
“Nah,” Malerie says, pulling out some water colors and still eyeing a part of her drawing I can tell she wants to improve. “People can be too critical. Plus, I dropped art last semester.”
“Why? I mean, isn’t it easy work?”
“Mmm, yeah. But I hated all the assignments, and I started blowing off the homework.” She shrugs, then smiles. “I found my calling, though: making t-shirts.”
I blink. “Seriously? How?”
Malerie laughs. “Well, I don’t make them, but I draw the designs.” She holds up her arms, showing me the front of her shirt. The background is all a vibrant plant green, with a golden-yellow circle in the center that fades in some parts and glows fully on others. In the middle of the circle is a small tan-colored cup with three curvy white strokes rising above it as steam. Finally, below the cup is a vertical line of wavy lettering. Japanese, I think.
“Holy crap,” I say, gaping. “That’s beautiful.”
“Thanks,” Malerie smiles, her gaze fond. “Couldn’t have done it without Bill, my buddy. He’s the guy who works at the production factory and helped me get a few made, and at a good price too.”
“What’s it say?” I point at the pretty lettering.
“‘Drink Life’,” She says. “It’s an ‘Onsen,’ or basically a Japanese slogan. Sounds stupid, I know, but I like it.”
“No way,” I say emphatically, “it’s like a wise proverb. It’s pretty cool.”
“Thanks. You’re like the first person I’ve met that gets ‘Drink Life.’” We both laugh a little. I feel more at ease, with the whole LeRoy and Ana business far in the back of my mind. Even with him sitting just two rows over.
Halfway through class, Chris manages to smuggle us some extra sticks once Jordan leaves to go use the bathroom. I thank him as Malerie fishes in her backpack for some scissors. She slides her water colors and drawing to the corner of her desk and looks at me.
“So, do you want to tell me what got you here?”
“Parents,” I reply, reaching over and grabbing the scissors. “But it was the family. My grandma – mom’s mom – had to move down here after grandpa died. She couldn’t be in their house alone, so we brought her here and moved in right after, in 2004. But she died a couple of years ago.” I shake my head. “Not a happy story.”
“More working,” Mr. Harrison advises the class, not looking up, “less talking. These shapes take time, and you don’t have much to begin with.”
“Shove a shape up your ass, old man,” Malerie growls under her breath. I cover my mouth with the back of my hand to muffle my laugh.
“Anyway,” she looks back at me, her eyes softening, “I meant the whole idiot-who-tried-to-screw-you-over thing. But I’m sorry about your grandparents.”
“Oh, yeah.” Embarrassment warms my face. “Well, now you know. I had to move, too. But my friend. Ha. I don’t know if I can even call him that anymore.” I grab another stick and chop it in half. “LeRoy’s real different. Acts like a one-track-minded asshole now, after he got together with my ex.”
Malerie tilts her head so that she’s looking around me and at the back of LeRoy’s head, raising her eyebrows questioningly. When I nod, she mouths, “What a backstabber!”
I agree. Oh, do I agree.
“Doesn’t he know how to respect teammates? I mean, dating a teammate’s ex is off-limits. Even I understand that.”
“Guess not.” I look down at my lap. “She seems to be okay with it, though. I guess she thinks she owes him. They used to date back in junior high. I was just a phase for her.”
“God. I don’t understand some girls,” Malerie grumbles, and I realize that it’s just as easy to tell someone about my problems as it is to hold them in and let them fester.
“Alright. Well, what’s next for you?”
Blinking, I look out the window as Jordan comes back in from the restroom and flashes me a knowing grin. I ignore him, scanning that figurative horizon that is my future.
“Move on. Not date until college, probably. It’s better this way, just worrying about my grades and track. I just need more time to convince myself that that’s true.”
Malerie leans back, pressing two sticks together and letting the glue harden until they are one cohesive unit. Smiling in a discreet way, she holds them out to me and says, “Maybe I can help.”
“I heard about Ana,” Kristina whispers to me right as the bell rings. “Sorry that had to happen.”
“It’s alright,” I say, furrowing my eyebrows. Apparently today is apologize-to-Ross-for-things- that-aren’t-your-fault day. That should be a national holiday, like, every week.
To my left, Chris is watching Dmitri Gonzalez as turns back, messing with some rubber bands. He stretches them and unfolds a crazy pattern of triangles, which makes both me and Chris gawk.
“Hey, Chris,” I call, grinning as he nods my way. “You ready for this weekend?”
“Psh,” he says, folding his arms. “It’s just Roma, dude.”
“True,” I say. “But your ass got lazy over the break, so it might not be as easy, bro.”
He just smiles and slouches. Chris is a good runner, dedicated and unyielding. Our team has a solid foundation based on our endurance guys, and he’s one of them.
“Amazingly enough,” Mrs. Greenly says, walking up to the front and turning on the overhead, “this is the only class that I don’t have students from Goliad in.”
“Thank God,” Kristina says in a low voice, “I have seven of them in my biology class.” I just snicker. She never has been much of a people person.
“Now today we’re going begin our practice for the AP exam in May,” Greenly says almost joyfully, sliding an outline of the English AP exam onto the overhead. A few kids groan. The AP test is our window of opportunity for showing our college admissions that we’re more than just the norm, and it’s in less than three months.
“We’re only going to review brief excerpts from past tests,” Greenly says, giving us a teasingly patronizing look. “We need to build up your syntax skills and vocabulary throughout this semester. So we’ll review on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and then do some practice questions on most other days. I won’t overwhelm you all.”
Grins of skepticism go all around, and Mrs. Greenly smiles as everyone, including me, says, “Yeah, sure.” Or something along those lines.
“Alright then. Let’s begin.”