The world is somebody else’s oyster, and I’m riding in the back seat.
And holy crap, is it awesome.
For fictional teen characters, there’s always a coming of age moment. An enviable rush of energy that accompanies the realization of autonomy. But in real life, that kind of thing doesn’t happen. It certainly didn’t happen when I kissed Gracie.
But I was wrong. Not about Gracie. About the moment.
Because when Jeff and Gil pulled up to my house—MY HOUSE—to drive me to school, all I could think was, “Yes. YES! Here it is. It is happening.”
Now, in the backseat, I feel like I’m propelling the car. No bus. No mom. Just me and two other dudes, driving to school. Not because that’s where the car is going. Because that’s where we’re making the car go.
It’s 7:18 a.m. And it is my moment.
“Chick was HOT, YO!” says Jeff. “So how far did your fingers get before RuPaul Atkins crashed your party?”
“Just kissed,” I say. Whatever points my night with Gracie have scored me, I’m not going to exaggerate it. That’s something my dad would do.
“IN THE BUTT!” Gil says.
“That doesn’t even make sen-sen-sense,” I say.
“Love doesn’t make sense,” Jeff says, and me and Gil both look at him.
Could my former bully possibly understand one iota about love? I roll down my window while Gotye blasts harder than Gotye was ever meant to blast. The morning air feels wet. Free. Maybe anything’s possible.
When we pull into the parking lot and get out, I notice people noticing me. Noticing. Me. Not Albert. Not the kid with the stutter. Me.
And one of those people is Anna Ingram, crouched by the entrance to the building. She’s fussing with her worn-in brown loafers, but her eyes catch mine. For a moment.
But a moment is all it takes.
“Hey, Anna,” I say. “I like your, uh…” I point to the red scarf in her hair. I’ve never complimented a girl in my whole life. But today is a day of firsts.
She gets up.
“Oh, thanks,” she says and touches it. “My mom says a lady never wears red, so I try to wear a little bit every day.”
“What about a gentleman?” Braden. Out of nowhere. Anna looks more surprised than me to see him.
He smiles at her. “A gentleman always carries a lady’s bag,” he says, and takes her backpack.
“Thanks,” she says, “But the point is, I’m not—“
And they’re gone. Probably planning the limo ride to the Turnabout Dance.
Sometimes, I hate Dear Albert.
Dear Albert may have set the tone for the day—math makeout jokes—but he only solved ONE person's problem. The real me is here, at his first Student Council Meeting. Ready to make real change.
“You guys, we are in CRISIS MODE over the theme for Turnabout,” says Fannie Tilgot, Student Council President, and captain of the color guard. For a popular person, she’s low on the totem pole. For nerds, she’s nearly untouchable. Not that I care about that stuff.
“I thought we settled on Under the Stars?” says Renee Rodriguez. Renee may be loud and ridiculous, but it’s nice to see a familiar face here.
Fannie grabs a piece of chalk and draws the number 86 on the board.
“That’s the percentage of students who say they'd rather barf on themselves than have this be our Turnabout theme,” she says, and looks at us accusingly.
“But what percentage actually voted in that stupid newspaper pole?” says some guy I can’t remember the name of.
Fannie slowly draws a new number on the board. 91.
“It’s because of Dear Albert,” Renee says. "Oh, I just came up with a geometry joke. Who wants to see my—"
“—Point is,” Fannie continues, “We need a new theme by the EOD announcements.”
Fannie looks at me.
“End Of Day.”
Girl is a mind reader.
“What about An Epic Fairytale?” a girl suggests.
“Nasty,” says a guy. “How about The Great Depression. Then we can all just wear potato sacks and call it a day.”
The room erupts in chatter. Finally, Fannie tells everyone to shut up.
"How bout you, Sam? You've been quiet so far. Have any ideas?" Fannie asks.
Great. Put on the spot. About the theme for a dance I'm not even going to. I rub what's left of the scar on my forehead.
"HARRY POTTER!" shouts Renee. "Like Sam's scar! Everyone knows about what happened to Sam. It'll be like turning the bullying problem on its head. Owning it. With a dance!"
Not exactly what I had in mind when I wanted to make change. But Fannie's face lights up, and I can tell it's going to go through.
The Harry Potter dance. Inspired by a true bullying story. Starring the cutest couple in school: Braden and Anna.
"You can have shotgun," Jeff says to me as we make the way to his car after school. "That'll teach Gil to be late."
"Uh," I say.
Gil comes running out of the door.
"Sam wants shotty," Jeff says, and we all take our seats.
Jeff pulls out of the lot, and I see Anna, alone, by the school doors.
"Pull back in," I say.
"You need to learn to stop bringing your books home," says Gil.
"Yeah, just leave it," Jeff says.
"No, it's it's it's it's Anna," I say. I'm sweating like a football player, so I roll down my window.
"The ladies man strikes again," Jeff says, and pulls back in. He rounds the car up to Anna.
"Need a ride?" I ask. Great, I'm offering a ride in a car that isn't even mine. But Jeff doesn't protest.
Anna peers in the car and shoots me a quizzical look. Oh right, she missed the part where Jeff started being inexplicably nice to me. I should probably tell her he's a cool guy. ...If I only believed it myself.
"Sort of," she says. "I was supposed to go dress shopping with my friend, but she got in a fight with her boyfriend and I think they ditched me."
Jeff sighs, bored.
Do I tell her to get in the car? Do I tell her that her friend is a jerk? Do I—
"Hop in. I'll take you dress shopping," my mouth says, unbeknownst to my brain.
"Really?" she says. "Won't you be bored?"
Anna, I'd watch you clip your toenails.
"I'll survive," I say.
Anna grins, shrugs, and gets in the car.
"Jeff, can you drop us off at the mall?" I ask.
"No," says Anna. "The thrift store."
"Thrift store it is," Jeff says. Gil gives Anna a fist bump.
And we're off.
Sometimes, a moment is all it takes.
Special thanks to aVivaciousSlytherin for this week's amazing question!
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