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1. New Kid
The first time I saw him, I was with my friends in the cafeteria. He was ordering lunch. Pizza, his favorite.
I wasn't too fond of school food, but it looked a lot better than what I, and the girls at my table were eating -- nothing. Each day I grew hungrier and more desperate that I almost gave into it and bought food. But none of the petite girls wanted to do it with me, and I didn't want to look like an outcast. Heaven forbid I actually ate something.
Not that I was fat. No, I wouldn't call myself fat. But I didn't have that super skinny, twig figure that most people longed for. I was built normally. At sixteen, I had a C-cup and a size six waist. It was unlike the others, who wore a size three and still insisted they needed to lose weight. But apparently, most of them thought I was pretty enough to sit with them.
For now. They didn't say that, but that's what it felt like. Like they would be so quick to replace me if the opportunity presented itself. Or if I did something wrong.
"Look, new kid!" My friend, Michelle Leighton, had a thing for new kids. If they were cute -- in her eyes -- then she would date them and let them in the popular crowd. If not, she'd avoid them and let them fall to the average crowd.
I thought this new kid was actually kind of cute, but in a little kid sort of way. He had short, wavy, brown hair that went lighter when caught by the bright sunlight beaming in through the window. His eyes were a mixture of blue and . . . green? I wasn't sure. Maybe there was a hint of purple in there, too. I had never seen eyes this color before. A guy beside him -- his friend, I guessed -- whispered something in his ear. When he smiled, I noticed it was crooked, but beautiful and white. I forced myself to look down. He had on simple black jeans, loose and baggy, and a blue T-shirt.
"Becca?" Michelle knocked me out of my reverie. "Did you hear me?"
I sighed. "What?"
"I said, do you think I should date him?" she asked.
I didn't really care for her method of dating. Personally, I liked to know the guy a little before dating them -- call me crazy. I wanted to like them for their personality, not just their looks.
"Do what you want, M. "
She shrugged. "Maybe I will."
"Will what?" Cal Cross was your stereotypical jock. He looked like -- and was -- an MVP football player. I didn't particularly like him, but word had it, he liked me. In a way. I, however, refused to believe that he wanted anything to do with me. He didn't make it easy.
He threw his tray down next to me and slid his legs under the table. Then, he tossed one arm around my neck and pulled me in for a second before letting me go. Thank God he didn't have PE yet. The pig sweat like one.
"Oh, nothing." Michelle lied. She gave me that look that everyone else tended to give me when Cal sat beside me. The look that said, And you're not going out with him because . . . ?
The bell finally rang, and I was glad to be saved from the awkwardness that went on when I sat with Cal and Michelle together.
All three of us had a different fifth period. Michelle was headed to Life Management, Cal to PE, and I to World History, which wasn't a bad class if you could get past the smell Mrs. Talcott gave off and emanated throughout the classroom.
As I entered room forty-six, I saw someone standing at the front of the room. I always felt bad for new students in this class. Mrs. Talcott made them give an introduction about themselves in front of everyone.
I had to take a closer look to recognize who it was. It was the new kid I had been staring at for the majority of my lunch.
As the second bell -- which indicated everyone must be seated or they were marked tardy -- began to ring, Mrs Talcott made her way to him.
When the noise ended, she spoke. "Everyone, this is Seth Carson. He will be in this class for only a short time due to his illness." She didn't even struggle to find the word, just blurted it out without a second thought. "Seth is mentally ill and will be placed in a class for people of his kind."
It sounded more like she was talking about a pack of wild animals than a human being. His kind? What was wrong with some people? I hoped Seth wouldn't quite be able to grasp the teacher's unkind words. I don't think she meant it that way, but that's how it sounded.
She turned to him and put her hand on his shoulder. "Seth, could you go take a seat next to Rebecca, please?"
I hated my full name, but I gave up trying to tell that to my teachers. I assumed they just didn't care. They had too many students to worry about what they wanted to be called. They just stuck to the roll chart.
All Seth did was nod.
I couldn't help but notice when he took the seat next to me that he didn't look different. He didn't look mentally ill. He looked normal. Very normal.
He had this sort of warmth radiating off of him. It was like you couldn't help but feel happy when he was around you. It made me want to get to know him.
"Hi, Seth. I'm Becca."
"I am Seth." His speech was slowed some, and he stretched out his vowels more than necessary. He held out his hand and I shook it.
I smiled warmly, hoping that I could give off the same aura. "I know. It's nice to meet you."
"Nice to meet you, too."
I didn't want this short conversation to come to an end. I loved his voice. Beyond his "accent," you could hear something more. It was a sweet, kind sound. "So, how old are you?"
"I am sixteen years old." The formality of his words was nice to hear, especially when you go to high school and all you hear are yos, whaddups, and the n-word tossed around everywhere.
"Really? Me too!" It wasn't until I heard the high-pitched sound of my voice did I realize I was talking to him like he was younger than I was. Like he was a child. I immediately felt terrible and hoped he hadn't noticed very much.
The end of the period came quickly. Too quickly. I had spent every minute talking to Seth, asking him question after question, and supplying answers about myself occasionally. His birthday was the eleventh of October. In his spare time, he liked riding his bike and learning guitar with his older brother. The guitar led to many more questions. I was relieved that he never once looked annoyed.
Sixth period PE was terrible as always. I never liked PE. Plus, I had a new reason to hate it: Seth wasn't in it.
I was gathering the books I needed to take home when Michelle approached me. "Hey, guess what?"
"Huh?" I wasn't all that interested. I had other things -- other people -- on my mind.
"I heard that new kid is retarded! Good thing I didn't ask him out, right?" She laughed.
The nerve of some people.
Michelle was the closest friend I had here, and for the most part, she was nice. But when she said things like that, I literally wanted to slap her in the face. I angrily sighed and walked away. It wasn't worth it. She just wouldn't understand anyway.
"What's wrong with you?"
I spun around. "You! You are what's wrong! Seth is not retarded! If anyone is retarded, it's you!" I snapped.
"Whoa, where is this coming from? I didn't know you were like that."
Quite frankly, neither did I.
"All defensive and standing up for people. I thought you were just a bitch like the rest of us!"
Every once in a while, I might've talked about people behind their back, but only to vent. Not to be mean. Obviously, Michelle had no idea what the word bitch meant. It was probably the only insulting word she knew -- people called her that often.
"You know what, Michelle? Just forget it. I'll see you tomorrow." I slammed my locker and walked away from her, toward the school gates.