“Claretta…” I whisper.
“Claire,” she corrects. I find myself even more embarrassed than before, if that’s possible. She smiles again, and I swear she’s doing this to me on purpose.
She averts her eyes from mine, and stares down at something on my arm. She’s got an apologetic look on her face. I look down at my arm and notice the quite nasty burn on it for the first time. Now that I know it exists, it starts to sting.
“Sorry,” she says, “leather is beautiful, but has the potential to be quite painful. I didn’t think it would be that bad, though.”
At first I don’t know what she’s talking about, but then I notice her fidgeting with her gloves. Leather gloves. Oh.
“You did this?” It’s the first full sentence I’m able to say, and I wish I could take it back. Blaming a girl for your injuries is not a way to win her over.
She nods slowly, and I take this in. So, to get the facts straight. Fact A: Somehow, I avoid a potentially fatal blow from Forky. Fact B: Someone must have saved me, but I don’t know who could stand up to the green-eyed bully, or who would want to. Fact C: A beautiful, amazing girl whom I’ve never met before burns me with her leather gloves without me noticing. It’s not hard to put the facts together, but I find them hard to believe.
“How?” I ask. I’m almost afraid to know the answer.
She looks away and stares out the window. I swear I see a flash of anger, but I must have imagined it.
“He was going to hit you. Hard. I could hear the sound of your jaw cracking in my head. You had already hit the ground once, and smashed your head off the cement. You were very dazed. I doubt you even really knew what was happening. When no one else stepped forward to help you, I took the initiative. I only meant to pull you out of the way, but I guess I gripped you too hard. You fell back and hit the cement again. This time, though, it knocked you out. Oops. I should probably apologize for that too.”
She looks at me for a second, then returns her gaze to the window. I don’t even time to speak before she continues.
“He started shouting at me, telling me to mind my own business. I didn’t really want to be involved in any trouble on my first day, but if there’s one thing I hate, it’s bullies. So there you where, lying on the ground in what must have been an awful lot of pain, with the whole school watching, and I punched him right between the eyes.”
I can only gap at her. She punched Forky? She actually punched Forky? Nobody punches Forky. It’s a death sentence in itself. The last time someone did, they ended up in the hospital for three months, and that was just from a minor tap on the shoulder.
“You did what?” I shout. How could it be? Forky doesn’t know the meaning of mercy. He doesn’t go easy on anybody, even a girl. The only way she could still be alive is if… she’s stronger than him.
She smiles a genuine smile, and I can tell this isn’t the first time she’s done something like this.
“I punched him. He had it coming. I must say, The students seemed quite surprised. I don’t think they’ve ever seen someone receive two black eyes and a bloody nose in one blow. Plus, I think I might have knocked a few brain cells loose, but it’s not like he was using them, so no harm done.”
I’m speechless. She may look like an angel, have the voice of an angel, but she certainly isn’t one. I can’t imagine anyone crazy enough to take on Forky, but lo and behold, she’s done it. I wish I could have seen it.
“What happened next?” I ask eagerly. I want to know how she made it out alive. She giggles again, like my childishness is amusing. I love her giggle.
“The Principal and a few of the teachers came out of the school, and began ranting about how fighting is not allowed on school grounds. I’m pretty sure they’d been standing by the door before the fight even started, though.”
Of course they were, dirty bastards.
“Did you get in trouble?” Stupid question, I know.
“No.” This surprises me. “They blamed everything on Lucifer. He got sent to the office for getting into a fight with a new student. They said it was sending ‘the wrong message about the school’s excellent learning environment’. Even the other students sided against him. It's unfortunate how people are willing to change their tune just to help themselves."
“Welcome to high school,” I say sarcastically.
She smiles wryly.
“So, was Forky expelled?” I ask hopefully.
She raises her eyebrow at my nickname for him, but doesn’t comment. “No, ‘Forky’ wasn’t expelled. He just has to serve detention for the next month and go to anger management classes every Thursday.”
I laugh. It’s really not that funny, but to me, this is the most hilarious thing I’ve heard in my entire life.
“Finally!” I spit out. Expulsion would’ve been nice, but any punishment at all is better than nothing. “He’s gotten away with it for far too long.”
Claire nods, then rises from her seat. She collects her bag off the floor.
“Wait, where are you going?” I ask. I don’t want her to leave yet.
“The bell’s about to ring,” she says .
“How do you know-”I’m cut off by a loud ringing that reverberates through the walls, probably signaling the end of lunch. She stands near the door, and turns to look at me.
“It was nice meeting you William. We should spend some time together in the future.” Then she’s gone, as if she hadn’t been there in the first place.
I fall back onto the bed and sigh. I hope nobody comes in, cause they would see a goofy expression on my face and think I had attained serious brain damage.
She wants to hang out. What does that mean? Does she want to hang out as friends, or as something else? The thought of having her as my girlfriend sends my heart into overdrive. Claire as my girlfriend. Beautiful, smart, strong, kind Claire. There is a chance, and a good one at that, that she only meant to hang out as friends. And yet, in my mind, I begin to plan where I should take her on our first date.