P.S. I Like You(2)By: Kasie West
“You don’t have to apologize for him. He’s not your boyfriend anymore. Anyway, I don’t want you to feel sorry for me.”
“Well, I do. It’s stupid and childish. I think people say it out of habit now versus really thinking about what they’re saying.”
I wasn’t sure I agreed with that, but decided to drop it. “Mr. Ortega banned my notebook from class.”
Isabel laughed. “Uh-oh. How are you going to live without one of your limbs?”
“I don’t know, and in Chemistry of all classes. How can anyone be expected to listen in there?”
“I like Chemistry.”
“Let me rephrase that. How can any normal person be expected to listen in there?”
“Are you calling yourself normal?”
I bowed my head, conceding her the win.
We both stopped as we reached the fork in the sidewalk just past the B building. The pinkish rock landscape that lined the pathway looked especially dusty today. I lifted my red-sneaker-clad foot and toed a few rocks off the sidewalk.
The landscape was good for water conservation, but up close, Arizona scenery did little to inspire me. I had to observe it from a distance to find notebook-worthy lines. The thought reminded me to look up. The beige buildings and crowds of students weren’t much better than the rocks.
“So, fake Mexican food for lunch today?” I asked Isabel as Lauren, Sasha, and their group of friends walked around us.
Isabel bit her lip, her expression suddenly worried. “Gabriel wants to meet me off campus today for our two-month anniversary. Is that okay? I can tell him no.”
“Right, your two-month anniversary. That’s today? I left your gift at home.”
Isabel rolled her eyes. “What did you get me? A homemade book about why guys should never be trusted?”
I put my hand on my chest and gasped. “That doesn’t sound like something I’d do at all. And the title was How You Know He’s A Selfish Pig. But whatever.”
“But I’d never give you a book like that for Gabriel,” I added, nudging Isabel. “I really like Gabriel. You know that, right?” Gabriel was sweet and treated Isabel well. It was her last boyfriend—Cade Jennings, king of stupid chants—who inspired imaginary books.
I realized Isabel was staring at me, still worried. “Of course you can go to lunch with Gabriel,” I said. “Don’t worry about me. Have fun.”
“You could come with us if … ”
I was tempted to make her finish that sentence. To accept her invitation just to be funny, but I put her out of her misery. “No. I don’t want to go on your anniversary lunch. Please. I have a book to write … Two-Month Anniversaries Are The Start Of Forever. Chapter One: At sixty days, you’ll know it’s real if he whisks you away from the drudgery of high school and takes you to Taco Bell.”
“We’re not going to Taco Bell.”
“Uh-oh. Only one chapter in and it’s not looking good for you.”
Isabel’s dark eyes glinted. “Joke all you want, but I think it’s romantic.”
I grabbed her hand and squeezed. “I know. It’s adorable.”
“You’ll be okay here?” She pointed across the commons. “Maybe you could hang out with Lauren and Sasha?”
I shrugged. The idea didn’t thrill me. I sat next to Lauren in Chemistry and sometimes we’d talk. Like when she’d ask what the homework assignment was or for me to scoot my backpack off of her binder. And Sasha hadn’t said even that much to me.
I looked down at my outfit. Today I was wearing an oversized button-down that I had found at a thrift store. I’d cut the sleeves to make it more like a kimono and tied a brown vintage belt at the waist. On my feet were beat-up red high-top sneakers. My look was quirky, not trendy, and I would stand out in a group like Lauren’s where they were all perfectly put together in their slim-fitting jeans and tank tops.
I held up my notebook and nodded at Isabel. “It’s okay. This will be my chance to work on a new song. You know I don’t get any alone time at home.”
Isabel nodded. Then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw him. And I froze.