The next few days were hardly any better. I found my Facebook page so overwhelmed with hateful comments that I just deleted my account, sick of all the harassment. I didn't want to keep torturing myself over what everyone was saying about me.
When lunch came around a few days later, I tried to take my usual seat on the corner, fully intending on ignoring everyone's slander, but I found Lucy in my seat.
"Nikki, Nikki, Nikki," her sing-soft voice purred. "You didn't think you were still welcome here, did you? You know very well that these seats are by invitation only, and there's only so much room here."
I looked at Brittany, hoping for some support, but she looked guiltily away. I should've known better, that Brittany wouldn't put her reputation on the line, not when getting on the Cheer Leading Squad was only one connection away.
"Lucy, dear, you'll have to try harder than that," I told her, giving her my sweetest smile. I knew I was convincing when her own smile faltered a little bit. I turned around and headed for the table on the opposite side of the room. It was probably the least-cool table I could've chosen, but it was the only one with enough empty seats to avoid being talked to further. I kept my head held high, and began to eat in silence.
Only moments after I sat down, Gill tried to apologize for Lucy's behavior and for his own.
"Gill, it would be in your best interests to leave me alone," I told him flatly, an edge of steel in my voice. The memory of being kneed in the groin was a sufficient jogger of his memory, and he left immediately.
I willed my eyes to stay dry, and looked people in the eye, so as to convey that I was not a new target for them. However, much to my disappointment, I saw Sam bring his tray of food towards me.
I looked back at Lucy, and watched as her beady eyes followed Sam. I watched in horror, unable to do anything, as she sized him up, and trying to decide how much of a threat he would be. I saw her look him up and down, studying every feature of his.
He had sandy blond, curly hair and intense, bright blue eyes. He wore khakis and a brown T-shirt with the arms ripped off. He was muscular, almost reminding me of a surfer.
He sat down, and only seconds after, I saw Lucy get up and stalk over here, a steel glint in her eyes. I put on my poker face.
"Hey," Sam said, oblivious to the scene that was about to unfold.
"You really shouldn't have done that. It's officially social suicide to associate yourself with me now. You should brace yourself." I warned, glaring at him just for show.
"You could be nicer to me. I bought you coffee," he reminded me so quietly that only I could hear him.
"Yes, you did." I replied coolly, watching as Lucy neared, my heart beating in my throat. I knew her; she was cold, and vicious.
"I'm Sam," he said louder.
"What are you doing? I know your name," momentarily forgetting the imminent social killing I was about to receive.
"Well, you asked me to pretend as though I'd never met you. So I'm introducing myself."
"Right." I was going to say more but at that moment Lucy reached us.
"Hi, Sam, is it? I'm Lucy." She gave him her most dazzling smile. Though she did not hold out her hand, Sam took it anyway and shook it once.
"It's nice to meet you." Lucy looked taken aback. Manners were lost on her.
"Yeah," she said, scrambling for her obviously well-prepared mini speech. "Anyway, I was wondering if you'd like to join me at my table over there. We've got an open seat, and it's surely more satisfying than sitting," she paused for effect, "here."
"Thanks, but no thanks. I'm actually really comfortable right where I am. But thank you again for the invitation. I'll keep it in mind, should the offer remain on the table." He, in turn, gave her his most dazzling smile. Admittedly, I was pretty dazzled by it myself.
Lucy lost herself, and, with a final glare at me, stalked off back to her seat.
I laughed in earnest. "Thank you for that, Sam."
"For what?" He asked me, as if he didn't understand what I meant.
"For that. It was the most brilliant thing I've seen all month. Absolutely entertaining, the look on her face," I explained.
"I was only being polite," he replied in a mockingly innocent tone. "I don't get why she was so rude at the end of our conversation."
"Lucy isn't used to people being polite and having manners. She thinks the thing she ought to say to a guy is to ask whether or not he sees anything he likes."
"Is she really that desperate?" He asked
"I don't believe 'desperate' is the appropriate word. Lucy will sleep with any pretty face. She thinks of you as a potential threat, and her theory has just been confirmed. You should've seen her eyes following you, and the shock on her face when she saw you were coming to sit with me," I told him matter-of-factly. He truly looked puzzled.
"Don't tell me you can't figure out Lucy in about two seconds. She's just like all the other clones, except she has the potential to rise to the top. She's already unseated me."
"So you admit that you're one of the clones."
"Well, when you put it that way, yeah. I can't really deny it, it's been who I am for the last couple of years."
"I don't think that's true," he said gently. I looked pointedly at him, ready for him to continue. When he didn't, I took a haughty bite out of my pizza.
We sat in silence for the remainder of lunch, ignoring all the stares and confused talk as everyone whispered about why I wasn't sitting in my throne by the stage. I felt sick, but with my mask firmly in place, I was almost able to forget.