Then he lifted his hat up a little, like he was looking at something else and then touched my hat with one long finger and said, “I like the hat.”
I smiled girlishly, like I was getting a complement from a celebrity rock star. My mind was blank of things to say so I just looked at the small part of his face I could see. Then he inclined his head to the side, as if listening to something.
“I’ve got to go. I’ll see you later.” he smiled one more amazing smile, rubbed my cheek again and then left me standing there alone. A minute later, Louis showed up at his locker and looked at me confusedly.
“Kota, are you okay? You look a little…off.” Louis waited for me to respond, but when I didn’t, he gently took hold of my shoulders and turned me to face him.
“Kota?” he asked. He waved a hand in front of my face and, like coming out of a trance, I blinked a few times and shook my head.
“Uh — Yeah?” I said, putting a hand on my locker to steady myself.
“What’s wrong with you?” he asked.
“I don’t know, but I’m fine now. Thanks.” I smiled at him and he returned it happily.
I smiled when I walked in the Biology room and smelled the disgusting formaldehyde. I saw Dale sitting at our lab table and walked over.
“You ready for this?” I asked, grinning at him teasingly.
“Yep. Are you?” he asked, giving me an examining look.
“Ready as I’ll ever be.” I said and sat down and waited for class to begin.
“What’s with the hat?” he asked, glancing up at me from his notebook.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” I asked, because he didn’t sound approving.
“Are you his groupie now or what?” he accused.
“No I am not and you need to stop being like that. Just because I have a hat like his doesn’t mean anything.” I said defiantly. He gave me an angry and doubtful look.
“Then what does it mean Kota?” he asked me, anger still fresh in his eyes. I stood there for a minute, suddenly unsure of myself. I didn’t know what to say to derail his assumptions about me and Connelly. “That’s what I thought.” he answered for me and then turned back to his work. I sat down then, dejected, and watched him for a minute. I knew he was only worrying about me, like the big brother he’d always been to me.
“Look Dale, I don’t know what it means, but whatever it is I don’t want it to come between us. Just because I like Connelly doesn’t mean you have to accept him immediately into our group.” I said and he stopped writing.
“I don’t like him.” he said, still looking at his paper, but inclining his head in my direction.
“I know, but just don’t talk bad about him in front of me. Okay?” I said. He looked at me now and I smiled pleadingly.
“Okay.” he smiled back and I relaxed back to normal. The teacher walked in then and started walking down the room, handing out dead frogs in trays.
“You have the instructions in your folders. You may begin.” she said and went back to her desk to grade papers.
“Who wants to cut the dead frog first?” I asked. Dale just looked at it, going a little pale.
“I’m the man. I’ll do it.” he said, like being the man made him have to be the one to do it.
“It doesn’t have any blood, you know.” I said, peering at him curiously. He glanced at me, a little color coming back into his face and then, a little more courageously, cut the frog from throat to privates. When Dale saw that I was really telling the truth he dove in, figuratively speaking of course. We had a good time, familiarizing ourselves with the frogs’ insides and writing it down in our papers.
“So, we’re okay right?” he asked, looking at me.
“Yeah, we’re fine.” I said and he smiled. We each put an arm around each other and went on to lunch.
“Aw, my hands still stink from that frog dissection.” I said, scrunching my face up in disgust and holding my hands away from me.
“Yeah, mine too. I washed them twelve times in the bathroom after class from this morning, but they still reek. That formaldehyde stuff is strong.” said Louis, wrinkling his nose too.
“I’m telling you.” agreed Dale and everyone nodded. Then, all at the same time, we took a deep breath and held it while we took a bite of our food. And when we swallowed we looked at each other and started laughing.
“That was so weird.” I said, giggling.
“Yeah.” chuckled Sue. Then, when it wasn’t funny anymore, we all did the same thing again, this time without laughing.
“So Louis, where do you work?” I asked, genuinely curious as I looked at him.
“Well, I’m currently unemployed at the moment.” he said, grinning as he speared his potatoes with his spork.
“Looking for any type of work in particular?” I asked.
“The paying type.” he clarified, glancing up at me from his food. I nodded and smiled, looking down at my food.
“How’s yours treating you? Do they pay well?” he asked.
“Well, it’s tips but it’s not bad. I mean I’m not living off of them, but it’s good for just some pocket money, you know?” I said and glanced up at Louis. He nodded and smiled a small smile I didn’t know the meaning of, but let it go. I had come up with the idea that if I just kept letting go of his flirty attempts, he would give up and go after someone else. Now to see if it would work. We ate the rest of our food in an oddly un-awkward silence and when the bell rang, we all emptied our trays and went our separate ways.
English Lit. was a much better class ever since Connelly had made his peace with me. Now, he and Ivan waved to me when I walked in the room and I smiled back. I went to my seat on the other side of the classroom from them and Connelly watched me all the way. He smiled at me when I sat and after I had returned the smile, he turned his attention back to his work. I stared at him for a second longer and then looked at the blackboard and saw that we were having another test.
Man, we have a lot of tests here. I thought and wrote down the assignments. Then when the teacher walked in, he handed us our papers and went to his desk. I was able to concentrate very well now that I had resolved the Connelly and Louis dilemma. I was able to think clearly and got through the test while still in good spirits. After I was done, I got out my romance novel by Jane Austen, this one called Emma, and read the rest of the class away.
Math was the same issue, tests, and I did the same in there too. It seemed that the only highlights of my school days were the classes I had with Connelly, Dale, and Louis, them all being interesting every time, whether it be good or bad. Then, when the bell rang, I put up my book, grabbed my things and just when I was about to get up and leave, I noticed that Mira was walking to the door. I watched her, despite the fact that it hurt me badly and noticed that right before she went out the door, her eyes flashed over to mine. I stood rooted to the spot, looking at where she had disappeared.