P.S. I Like You(8)

By: Kasie West

That’s when Cade, who had been sitting on the bleachers, shouted for everyone to hear, “It’s like she possesses a force of energy that sucks the ball straight into her. A black hole. A Magnet. Lily Abbott, the Magnet.”

He’d said that last part in a movie announcer voice. Like he had transformed me into some sort of clumsy superhero. Then all through the gym, everyone copied him. Using that same voice, and laughing.

They’d laughed and laughed, and the laughter had stuck in my ears just as the nickname “Magnet” had apparently stuck in everyone’s heads.

And now that kind of laughter was happening again, in the hall, and it was directed at Cade’s latest victim.

I cleared my throat and said, “Oh look, a game to see who is more thick-headed—Cade or his bat.” I nodded to the side, trying to tell the kid to leave now that I’d distracted Cade.

Cade’s smile doubled in width as he took me in, from the top of my hair—its waves feeling crazier under his scrutiny than normal—to my Docs with mismatched shoelaces. “Oh look, it’s the monitor of fun. Is there too much of it happening here, Lily?”

“I only see one person having fun.”

He glanced around at the hall crammed full of students. “Then you’re not looking hard enough.” He lowered his voice. “I get it. It’s hard to see anyone beyond me, right?”

If I showed how annoyed I was, he’d just be winning. “I’m just here to rescue another soul from your arrogance,” I said through gritted teeth.

Although maybe I wasn’t rescuing anyone at all. The kid hadn’t moved. I’d given him a wide opening to leave and he still stood there. In fact, he opened his mouth and said, “What if you put the ball on the bat first and then put the bat on my head.”

Cade patted him on the back. “Good call. Where’d the bat go?”

I sighed. There had been no need for an intervention. The kid liked abuse, apparently. I resumed my walk.

“Next time, come by earlier. We wouldn’t want things to get out of hand,” Cade called, to more laughter.

Anger surged up my chest and I whirled around. “Have you ever heard of alliteration? You should try it.” It was a lame comeback. An inside argument that he wouldn’t get, but it was the only thing that came out. The kids around him laughed harder. I turned and it took everything in me to walk away at a normal speed.

“I’m going to enter a songwriting competition,” I said.

Isabel’s hand paused while reaching for her pajamas.

It was Friday night and we were at her house about to watch a scary movie. I had held in this announcement since I’d read about the contest the day before, turning it over in my mind. Now I’d said it out loud. That meant I’d have to follow through. I would follow through.

“You are?” Her voice held more than a little skepticism.

I threw myself back onto her queen-size bed and stared at the poster of Einstein pinned to her ceiling. I wondered, like I always did, how she could sleep with him staring down at her like that. I always had a hard time.

But I still loved sleeping over at Isabel’s. She was an only child, so her house was like an oasis of calm for me. We would eat dinner with her parents—tonight it was delicious homemade tamales with rice and beans—and then we’d come upstairs to hang out in her giant room, with its own pullout sofa, TV, and tiny refrigerator for stashing Diet Cokes and ice cream.

“You don’t think I can?” I asked her now, frowning.

“It’s not that, Lil. I’m sure your songs are great,” Isabel replied, pulling her pajamas out of her dresser drawer. “I’d be able to tell you for sure if you would actually share one with me—you know, your best friend in the whole world.”

I groaned. “I know. I’m sorry. I don’t have one finished yet.”

“That’s what you always say. How are you going to enter a contest when you won’t even share a song with me?”

I covered my face with my hands. “I don’t know.”

She sat next to me on the bed. “I’m sorry. I know you can do it, Lil. You just need to believe in yourself.”

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