I giggled along with them. Thank god for mates. I couldn’t think how different my life would have been had I taken ‘needlework’ – Gennifer’s domain and my second choice of creative subject – instead of art. It guaranteed me someone to sit with at lunch on Friday. Small mercies.
“Hey,” Elaina nudged, “what’s that whole ‘option three’ thing about? I never seem to hear the end of it – in both ways of speaking, if you get what I mean.”
“Yeah, I tend to shut them up before they reach the punch-line –”
“I tend to shut them up,” added Bree.
“– It’s way too old a joke.”
“But what do they mean?”
“Seriously, ‘Len?” Bree exclaimed.
I sighed. Here we go again. “It’s simply an observation that I’m the last one to be picked for anything. You know, not even picked second; three’s a crowd; never gonna be in a couple.”
Whilst Elaina raised her eyebrows in sad understanding, Bree pretty much bristled.
“Right,” she said, stretching out the vowel. “That’s exactly what they mean.”
I choked on some of the potato-mess I had been shovelling into my mouth. “You doubt me?”
“No, I just doubt your informant. Who is it that you got your information from?”
“What? No one. I’m suggesting these things myself. What are you on about, Bree?”
She exhaled like there was some piece of her lunch stuck in her throat. That would not be surprising. “Ah. This may come as a surprise to you, Mel, but you’re not always right.”
“What is it?” I asked, filling my voice with a warning tone.
Bree chuckled; I knew she had noticed my annoyance. “I’m just saying. There’s another meaning you may not have picked up. A bit of classroom slang to go along with the gossip.”
I raised my eyebrows, yet, I gestured for her to continue. Interesting…
“The ‘options’ of girls at this school fall into three categories, not just of dateability, but also of the way they look at dating. There’s option one: the girl who gets the guy she wants. Straight and simple. Literally if you want to take it that way. Palviati falls into that category, even if we wish she didn’t. Option two is the girl who has her guy for a while, until he finds himself a gorgeous option one and dumps her. And then there’s you, option three – also known as blatantly obvious unrequited love.”
We all sat in silence as we digested this cruel information and our meals at the same time. I wasn’t sure from what the bitter taste in my mouth was.
“Options? That’s a stupid turn of phrase,” snapped Elaina, an ‘option two’ by several accounts.
The whole idea did sound a bit constrained. “Why aren’t there any options for the guys?” I cried.
“‘Cause the guys don’t care. Have you seen them? Boys don’t, like, conform into three groups, simple as that. Dean alone would get his own ‘type’ for dating. Oh, yeah, of course you’d know that.”
“I’m just saying get your head out of the sand, Mel. Your never gonna date him. Face it.”
I slammed down the fork I had managed to grip for so long. “I am facing it!”
“Err, no you’re not.” Bree dug into her pudding, as if to say she was leaving the conversation at that. I crossed my arms on the tabletop, but she ignored me, happy to find herself in the midst of the cake-dessert-thing that had landed on our plates along with the other junk. I wondered if there was an ‘option’ for girls who weren’t interested in dating guys.
Probably not. The school didn’t think like that.
“I hate to admit that she’s right, but…she is,” murmured Elaina. “The amount of times you’ve said you’ll date Dean, and the amount of times he’s never even looked at you… It’s not gonna happen. Get over it, Mel.”
I groaned inwardly. I didn’t need this lecture. Not after Gennifer and her band this lunchtime. Wasn’t it enough to let me eat in total solitude?
“That’s it. I know what I’m considered like behind the corners of this school. Just leave off it all, Bree. Come on, let’s go.” The stuffed lunch wasn’t going to get any colder.
“Hey, I haven’t finished my –” she began, before Elaina pulled Bree out of her seat and the three of us marched away.
We grabbed our trays and pushed off into the surge of multi-faceted students, a pool of so many different people all heading in the same direction: nowhere. At least I had a little bit more time in my free period before I had to return to the mundane of the scientific.