Chapter 2: In a Sumo-Wrestling Ring with Rice on my Head – Metaphorically, Of Course
Two and a half long hours later, I pay for my lunch and sit at my usual table. I look at what I’d bought: an apple, a slice of pizza, and a can of Dr. Pepper. Not feeling hungry, I crack open the soda and take a long drink. I sigh.
The day started out alright. But after first period, Brent wasn’t in any of my classes, and neither were Nicole and Ada. But guess who was in every single one?
Ugh. I’ve said “go die in a hole” so many times today that I think the next person who talks to me might get that reaction out of habit. Damn Owen Whitaker. He needs to go die in a hole.
I push away my tray and slam my head against the hard wood table. I groan. My eyes water in pain. I hadn’t realized that would hurt so badly.
“Oh my god, Riley! Just the girl I want to see,” a sickly sweet voice says. I look up to see Gina Beckley, of all people, standing above me. She sits down and smiles. I can see the evil green fire in her eyes.
“What’s up, Gina?” I ask, resigning myself to an annoying conversation. Haven’t I had enough of those for today? I ask whoever’s up there. Gina glares at me.
“Why is it, Welsch,” she says through gritted teeth, “That every time I like a guy, you try to take him from me?”
My cerulean eyes widen. “Uh, what?” I ask, confused. I know she thinks I want Whitaker, but what on earth…?
“Let me say this straight, so your little brain comprehends,” she growls.
I’ve had a terrible day, so I can’t help but retort, “Funny, coming from the girl who has to ask my best friend to write her English essays so she passes and stays on her little pom-pom-flailing groupie squad.”
She blinks, surprised at my viciousness. Then she recovers, running a hand through her perfect hair nervously. “Whatever. That’s a nasty rumor.”
“That my best friend told me because I saw the paper that said ‘Gina Beckley’ at the top,” I interrupt. “Want me to prove it? You ask her to write B- papers so it doesn’t seem obvious. Whatever lack of drama you’re having, go blame it on someone who’s actually a slut. I’ll give you a hint; look for someone who wears clothes like you.” I knew I’d regret making an enemy of Gina later, but right now I just wanted to talk to someone who wouldn’t be cliché. Stupid, slutty, ass-shaking, Gucci-carrying Gina Beckley did not fall under that category.
“I’m ignoring your rude comments to me, because you’re obviously having a bad day.” Her eyes rake over my hair, which I’m sure looks like I stuck it under the automatic hand dryer. “This is about Brent. Keep away from him. He’s mine.” With that ultimately confusing statement, Gina gets up and literally sashays over to her table and sits directly on Whitaker’s lap.
I stare, dumbfounded. Brent? Why does she want him? She’s got the jerk.
When Gina attacks Whitaker’s mouth with her own, I start and whip my head around to my food again. I stare at the meal. How could she expect me to back off of a guy who might actually like me? Especially when she already has a boyfriend? I groan.
You know what? Too bad, Beckley. Brent’s a good guy. He doesn’t deserve to be used because you have some loopy need for drama.
Just as I decide this, I look up to see – finally – a friendly face. A worried face. Nicole’s face. “Aw, Riles, you look like you were put in a sumo wrestling ring with a bowl of rice duct-taped to your head,” she says.
I laugh so hard I cry. “Oh god, Nic, that’s the least hilarious, least cliché thing I’ve heard all day. Thank you so much,” I say gratefully. I reach over and hug her as she sits down with her tray. I feel my stomach grumble. “Hey, I’m hungry!” I pick up my pizza and begin eating.
Nic’s staring at me, obviously worried for my mental health. Her wavy auburn hair is down today. She’s tanner than usual, thanks to her recent mission trip to Guatemala, though she’s still paler than me. The tan makes her light green eyes stand out more. “What happened to you, you poor thing?” she asks. Her accent from spending five years in Ireland still hasn’t gone away completely, even though she’s been in South Carolina since we started high school.
“Well see, when the day started, I’d thought I’d hit rock bottom, so I figured it could only go up from there,” I explain. “But since the universe just can’t stand letting Riley be right, it like there’s rock bottom, then there’s this giant layer of Whitaker and Beckley crap, and then there’s me.”
“Aw, poow, poow Wiley,” a humorous voice teases from behind me. I turn and see Dan and Ada standing there. I smile. They sit.
“Where’s Val today, Dan?” I ask curiously. Those two lovebirds are inseparable.
Dan frowns. “She’s sick. She hasn’t been feeling well recently. Her parents think it’s mono, so she’s got a doctor’s appointment today. I tried to stay with her, but she wouldn’t let me. She doesn’t want me to get sick, she says.” He drops his head onto his hand and sighs.
Ada grins like a mass murderer who just found her next victim. “Who’s going to ask me about my day?” she sings, flicking her hair over her shoulder. I see a couple of the jocks glance at her, practically slobbering.
I roll my blue eyes and say, “I’ll bite. What has happened to make you more chipper than a chipmunk?” She grins at my sarcasm and bats her eyelashes at one of the jocks. He winks back. His name is Kirk Jackson, I remember. He’s kind of a man-whore.
“Kirk asked me out,” Ada gushes. I can tell there’s more to the story, though, so I give her a look. She continues, “See, he’s trying to make Izzy Pocket jealous, and I told him I’d help him.”
“Why?” Nic suddenly jumps in. “He’s so… icky.”
Ada smirks. “Yes, but he’s Owen’s biggest competition for quarterback.”
Everyone’s eyes flitter to me. I roll my eyes again. Dan explains it unnecessarily. “So if this doesn’t make him pay attention to you, he’s definitely hooked on Riley.” I sigh.
For some reason, because Owen isn’t weak to Ada like every other stereotypical jock in our school, they think he must be in love with someone. But it couldn’t possibly be his girlfriend of over a year. So apparently I’m the next choice. Me! The cliché-hating, Owen-despising, uncoordinated, failure at sports with nothing in common with Whitaker is the next choice. How could that possibly be right? I just do my best to ignore them when they go on these tirades.
Nic claps her hands and declares, “So it’s settled. We’ll all spread the rumor about the date, and if it doesn’t get a reaction, plan get-Owen-and-Riley-together commences!” Ada and Dan nod, smirking. I just shake my head and leave for my first class of the afternoon. I sigh in relief as I realize Yearbook is next. Thank. God.
The rest of school passes relatively quietly. I don’t even bother arguing with Whitaker anymore, I just nod or shake my head when he talks to me. So, three finally rolls around and I escape to my locker.
Of course, my locker refuses to open. I try the combination at least a dozen times before a snicker from my right makes me look up. Whitaker’s laughing at me. Fantastic. Exactly the face I want to see now.
But instead of making a snide remark, he simply offers to help. He asks my combination, which I reluctantly tell him. And, obviously, it opens for him the very first time he attempts it. The word wow escapes my lips in the flattest, most annoyed tone I can muster. He grins and tells me it’s his ‘magic touch.’ Stuffing the necessary books in my bag, I simply reply, “Bet Gina really likes it when you show other girls your ‘magic touch,’ doesn’t she?” and stalk off.
“Nice one, Wry Ri!” he calls. I just wave vaguely and pull out my car keys. I unlock and enter my Acura MDX. Twisting the key in the ignition, I sigh and drop my shoulders in relief. The day is over. My entire body feels weak and limp. That’s when I realize my head is killing me, and I’m freezing. I know this feeling.
“A fever?!” I shout at no one in particular. “You’ve got to be kidding me!” I groan and make my way home, shaking.