First love, friendship, and...robots?
Melissa Thompson likes Dean Anders. Dean Anders...doesn't know she exists. According to school gossip, Melissa an 'option three'. In fact, that's all she's ever been: not even picked second in sports, but third.
Mel's just gotta get used to it: if she can't date Dean, then she might as well stay single for the rest of her life.
But then Mel meets the crazy engineer's daughter, Taz, who suggests there might be a third option to sort her situation...
He had carrot-coloured hair and baby blue eyes. He would have been perfect, were it not for the brownish birthmark just peeking out from under his cheek. But that's how I liked him. Rugged, handsome. Imperfect.
His name was Dean Anders. I rolled the syllables around on my tongue. Dean. A short, stubbly name. I almost let my eyes cloud over with the thought of it.
"Hey, Dean," called a voice from somewhere outside of my thoughts, “you gonna be playing at lunch?"
"Race you! Last one out of the room is a weakling!"
I jolted out of my reverie. Any longer at my desk and even Miss Lyncon would be calling me teacher's pet. The bell had gone a minute ago; implicit teen policy stated I was meant to be in lunch already. I scooped my books off the table and into my bag, standing unsteadily as the satchel-strap hooked itself around a corner of the square table. Great. I yanked it away. Only to have a chest collide with my arm.
Dean blinked down at me. My heart fluttered over two of its beats. "Oh, watch it...Thompson, was it?"
I sighed. He never remembered my name. "Yeah. Mel Thompson."
He hurried off into the corridor, from where I heard the jeers of his mates again. They all played soccer – wasn’t that always the case? The hunk with the jock-style mates.
I hurried away into the lunch hall alone. I had got used to expecting nobody to wait for me on Wednesdays. A crowded room, filled with the strength of yesterday’s leftover odour, awaited me.
Lunch consisted of the regulation one slice, two sausages and something resembling mashed potato. One slice and thin parsnip slices for vegetarians like me. Having received my slosh, I slammed my tray down onto a hard table near the back of the room, twisting myself onto one of the benches. This was no fun, passing each day with Dean’s face turned away from me.
I stabbed a parsnip slice and sniffed it. It stunk of the room, of bodies pressed en masse. Putting my fork down, I twisted to scour the room. Maybe if Dean was alone –
"Oh, Mel, you sad, sad twist of nature….”
It was not the tone of her voice that made me whip around and scowl; it was that I could almost smell the floral haze of hairspray that kept her locks off-white. It was chokingly intoxicating.
“Genny Palviati,” I said, forcing on a tight smile as she thrust her tray down opposite mine.
“Yeah. How’re you doin’, option three?”
Just shut up already! “I’m alright.”
“Aren’t you curious?” she sneered. “Don’t you want to know where your precious nickname came from? Hmm?”
“I know…” I grumbled. It wasn't the first time this week they had brought up the number joke. Or last week. Or possibly last month…. Coming to think of it, I was surprised that Gennifer hadn't come up with some new material by now.
The girl stretched her fingers out towards me, stopping only when she was sure that she had seen me tense. They were too close, those sharpened pink talons.
“What’s that, Mel? No retort?”
“She’s too stupefied by her thoughts of Dean to think of any stupid reply in her stupid, little mind,” minced one of Gennifer’s cohorts. The giggled in acrylic high pitch as they batted each other with manicured paws. I didn’t see how that counted as being friendly.
I gently sliced one of my parsnips. They probably didn’t see that insulting me straight out was really the least affective thing to do. I rolled my eyes, cursing that I couldn’t be more dramatic when they were around.
That would just get me taunted further.
I swallowed the next lump of food. It went down as roughly as a piece of sandpaper whilst I thought of ways to remove Gennifer’s group from my sight. They’d be back, but I was in no hurry to convince them to stay.
“Oy, Palviati, don’t you have a boyfriend to crawl over, or something?” The voice was hard and brash, but, thankfully, on my side. Bree Thomas had marched over to raise her eyebrows when she couldn’t places large hands on her hips – they were too busy balancing a vibrant-coloured tray of similarly mismatched lunch-foods.
Gennifer shot me one final, mocking glare and retreated, the permanent pout on her lips definitely a little more sour.
“Are you okay, Mel?” Bree asked.
I watched the curvaceous girl and her stick-thin, straw-haired friend touch down opposite me.
“Thank god. I thought you guys weren’t going to turn up,” I said.
“Yeah? Since when have you ever heard of me bailing out on lunch?” Bree declared with a laugh.
“She means you, really,” added Elaina.