The Opposite of Ordinary, Page 2Jessica Sorensen
“Ash, I’m sorry for yelling,” Knox said when he returned to his room a couple of minutes later. “I don’t know what got into me.”
“It’s fine,” I told him, not sure if it really was, yet not knowing what else to say. Plus, I didn’t want to fight anymore. “I’m sure it’s frustrating.”
“Still … I shouldn’t have yelled at you like that.” He cupped my cheek in his palm and held my gaze. “I won’t do it again … I care about you.” He paused. “I think I might even be close to being in love with you.”
I smiled, my stomach somersaulting. He’s close to being in love with me?
Underneath the excitement, worry pulsated through me. Am I supposed to say it back? Could I?
I wasn’t sure. And thank my lucky stars Knox never gave me a chance to answer as he sealed his lips to mine, picking things up where we had left off before the fight.
I wish I could say that he stopped pressuring me into having sex after that. If anything, he became more persistent, up until last weekend. On the other hand, we didn’t spend any time together then, either. He didn’t even call me Friday night like he normally did, and I didn’t see him at the party. And now, suddenly he’s looking at Queeny like she’s a piece of candy he wants to nibble on.
Another horrible thought punches me. What if he’s siding with Queeny because he thinks she’ll give him what he wants? Or what if she already has? That revelation makes anger burst through me.
I force myself to calm down and stop overreacting. For all I know, Knox is a coward and doesn’t want to stand up against Queeny, like everyone else in this damn school, including me.
“You got nothing to say to that?” Knox questions, elevating his brows at me.
I open my mouth to say … well, something, but Queeny ambles up and the words die on my tongue.
She places her hand on her jutted hip. “Got something to say to me, Asslynn?”
Back in fifth grade, kids used to call me Asslynn after I got depantsed in the cafeteria. The name haunted me all the way until middle school when I first met Queeny. She was new to Fareland and always wore stylish clothes and carried herself with an air of confidence that I envied. When she started talking to me in class, I latched on to the conversation. Then the conversation when downhill fast. That’s what I thought at first, anyway.
“So, why do people call you Asslynn?” she asked, chewing on the end of her pen.
I shrugged, shame burning my cheeks. “It’s a long story.” Really, it wasn’t, since it took a whole one second of humiliation for that nickname to get created. I didn’t want to tell her that, though, and look weak.
“Do you like it?” she asked, and I shook my head. “Then you should get them to stop.”
“How? Almost the entire school calls me it.”
“Well, for starters, you could call yourself Ash.”
“Then they will probably just call me ass.”
That wicked glint I’d grown to fear gleamed in her eyes. “And whoever does will end up with their own horrible nickname.”
I smiled, but I didn’t believe she could follow through with her threat. How could she when she was new and didn’t have any friends? It turned out I was wrong.
By the end of the school year, everyone was calling me Ash, and Queeny had declared me her best friend. I felt so special she picked me. That was where I made my first mistake, that I viewed her friendship as some sort of gift, and she did more than make it feel that way. It left an imbalance between us and gave Queeny leverage over me.
“Remember how you used to be a loser before you met me?” she constantly reminded me. “God, you’re so lucky I’m your friend.”
Up until about a year ago, I agreed with her. After the Clarissa incident, though, our friendship became based more on fear than gratitude.
“Earth to Asslynn.” Queeny waves her hand in front of my face. “Did you hear what I just said?”
“Yeah.” I shrug, not about to apologize for something I didn’t do. “But I don’t really have anything to say to you, so …”
Surprise flickers in her eyes, but then a malicious grin twists at her lips. “Fine. If you don’t want to apologize for what you did, then I guess I’ll have to make you regret being a backstabbing whore.” Her smile broadens as she glances around the hallway.
I track her gaze and cringe. Everyone is watching us.
She smirks at me, then loops her arm through Knox’s. “Walk me to class, Knox?”
Nodding, he slips his arm around her back so naturally that it’s like he has done it before.
As they start down the hallway, he casts a glance over his shoulder at me. I keep my expression disinterested, like I don’t give a flying monkey’s butt about what he’s doing, when really, I want to run up and bitch slap him. And Queeny.
“Sorry, Ash, but you shouldn’t have done it,” he has the nerve to say as he walks away with Queeny.
I don’t know what he’s sorry for. For not talking to me first about this? For automatically believing Queeny? For being a coward? Or because he hooked up with Queeny? A theory that looks truer by the second.
Tears threaten to pour out, but I suck them back. I will not cry. I will not give everyone the satisfaction of seeing me cry. The longer I watch the two of them get all cuddly with each other, though, the more my willpower weakens. And everyone is here to witness my demise. All my so-called friends, Knox’s friends, the cheerleaders, the troublemakers, the drama club, Clarissa and all her science nerd friends, with the exception of their ring leader, Maxon Harter.
Well, on a positive note, Ash, at least one person isn’t here to witness your deserving downfall.
Not wanting to break down in front of the whole school, I lift my chin, turn around, and force myself to walk into the bathroom. Then I duck into a stall, sink to the floor, and allow the tears spill out.
Dammit, I don’t know how everything went to shit so fast. How did I go from hanging out at a college party to her accusing me of getting all hot and heavy with Zane, a guy I’ve barely spoken two words to and neither of those two words were at that party? What happened? What made her think I did it? Better yet, who made up the story?
“Maybe, if I figure it out and prove to Queeny that I didn’t do it, then I can get out of this mess.”
Ha! You silly girl. Like it’s going to be that easy, my thoughts laugh at me.
I of all people should know Queeny doesn’t do easy. She’s going to make my life utterly miserable until she gets bored and moves on to her next victim. After being her sidekick for over six years, I may actually deserve what’s coming to me. Maybe I should suffer through the torment and move on from Queeny. Can I do that? Walk away and go back to being Asslynn?
Part of me wants to believe I’m that badass, but when I leave the bathroom, I realize I might not be as strong as I pretend to be.
My old nickname haunts the hallways, and I’m slammed back into painful memories of grade school. Tears flood my vision again. I want to run and hide, but the first bell rings, giving me no choice but to get my butt to class with watery eyes and laughter hitting my back.
The rest of my morning is fan-freakin’-tabulous—insert sarcasm on my part. Not only do I spend the first three classes pretending not to notice my nickname being whispered everywhere, but I’m forced to endure Knox and Queeny walking around with their fingers interlocked like an adorable couple.
The sight makes me want to yack up my breakfast, right in front of them, so they’ll slip in the puddle and fall flat on their backs and into my pukey mess. Sadly, that never happens. Instead, I spend a lot of class time overanalyzing my year-long relationship with Knox and wondering how long Queeny and him have been hooking up.
Was our relationship ever real? Was my friendship with Queeny ever real? Or was I a puppet for whatever game she was, and probably still is, playing? Or is she just dating Knox to get back at me because she thi
nks I hooked up with her crush?
Unanswered questions ping-pong around in my brain, driving me mad. I can’t concentrate on anything, even the English paper I’m supposed to be working on right now.
“Ashlynn, is everything okay?” Mr. Chester asks, appearing in front of my desk.
I jerk my head up from the blank paper I’ve been staring at for who knows how long. “Yeah, I’m fine.” My gaze sweeps the empty classroom. “Where did everyone go?”
He crosses his arms. “To lunch. The bell rang about five minutes ago.”
I glance at the clock and frown. “I guess I got into the writing zone and spaced out.” I collect the blank sheet of paper before he realizes I’m full of crap. “Sorry.”
“You don’t need to apologize for getting into an assignment. It’s something teachers love to hear.” He smiles at me as I get to my feet.
I return his smile, but the movement is strained. Not because I have anything against Mr. Chester—he’s pretty cool as far as teachers go—but in about ten seconds, I’m going to have to go to the cafeteria where Queeny and the rest of my ex-friends, and my ex-boyfriend, will be eating lunch together.
God, what I would give to go to a school that didn’t have a closed campus lunch policy. Then again, I don’t have a car, so yeah, I’d pretty much still be stuck here no matter what alternative universe I lived in.
Procrastinating my inevitable social demise, I take my sweet time gathering my books, notebook, and pen.
“Are you sure everything’s okay?” Mr. Chester asks as he watches me lift my books in slow motion.
“Yeah, I’m just thinking about the assignment.” A partial lie. I am in no way, shape, or form thinking about the assignment. In my defense, I usually am, so technically, I’m only lying today. “I really wish I could just finish it now while I have all these ideas sloshing around in my head.”
“If you want, you can eat lunch in here and work on it,” he offers. “Being a writer myself, I know how hard it is to walk away when you get in the zone.”
“You’re a writer?” I pretend to be surprised. He’s been my English and Science teacher since freshman year—I go to a very small school—and he always introduces himself as Mr. Chester, a clever teacher with awesome writing skills up his sleeve, and if we’re lucky, he’ll teach us how to be cool like him. Then he adds a laugh to let us all know he’s being silly. I don’t really think he is.
“I’ve dabbled in some poetry and short stories,” he admits proudly. “I’ve always wanted to write a novel, but I’ve never had the time.” A wistful smile rises on his face. “Maybe one day, though.”
I smile for real and open my mouth to tell him that’d be cool, when the intercom clicks on, startling both of us and yanking him out of whatever daydream he had entered.
The secretary’s voice crackles through the speaker, announcing that homecoming tickets go on sale today. And just like that, I suddenly understand why half the people in the school hate school dances as I’m reminded I no longer have a boyfriend to take me.
I frown, sinking into a pity party as I lollygag for the door.
“Ashlynn?” Mr. Chester calls out after me.
I turn around. “Yeah?”
“I have to run to the office really quick to turn in some tests.” He goes to his desk, opens the top drawer, and pulls out a file. “But like I said, you’re welcome to stay in here and work on your paper while you eat lunch. I know there’s a no food outside of the cafeteria policy, but as long as you don’t get caught, I won’t say anything.” He offers me another smile as he passes me, stepping into the hallway.
I dither in the doorway, unsure of what to do. On the one hand, I don’t want to be a coward and let Queeny believe I am one. But I might lose my shit if she comes after me. And I can’t do that unless I want to encourage her to come at me more.
I bounce back and forth for about twenty seconds before plopping my ass back in my seat, telling myself that I’ll be braver tomorrow.
I consider hitting up the vending machines for some snacks, but when I raid my bag for some cash, I only scrounge up seventy-five cents. So, I dig out a stick of gum, grab my blank piece of paper and a pen, and attempt to hit this alleged writing zone.
Ten minutes later, I’ve finished an elaborate doodle—an unflattering drawing of Queeny—and have taken out my tarot cards. The first card I flip over is the fool, which is supposed to mean a new beginning. It also represents innocence and naivety.
I glare at the card. “Thanks for telling me what I already know …” I trail off as I feel the presence of someone moving up behind me.
I start to turn when hot breath tickles my skin.
“Either you really hate someone or you totally suck at art,” a guy whispers right in my ear, and I mean, lips grazing.
Thinking Queeny sent a guy in to mess with my mind, I whirl around, ready to jab his eye out with my pen. But I cease the attack as I come face-to-face with bloodshot eyes and a dopey smile that belongs to Clove Capperson, the known stoner of our school who hangs with Maxon Harter and his science nerd friends. And I guess Clarissa, too.
Clove slants back with his hands raised in front of him. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you.” He sweeps his mopey brown hair away from his forehead and smiles at me. “Maxon keeps telling me I have issues with personal space. I wish I could stop, but”—he shrugs—“what’re you gonna do?”
“You could always stop kissing people’s ears when you whisper in them,” I suggest.
He rubs his jaw thoughtfully. “Nice suggestion. I might consider doing that if you do one thing for me.”
I don’t know Clove very well, haven’t since grade school, so I’m reluctant to answer. As he continues to stare at me expectantly, though, I cave.
“Okay, what’s the one thing?”
His grin lights up his whole face. “Lower the vampire stake.”
He wraps his hand around my wrist, his fingertips tickling my skin. I practically jolt, surprised by his forward, flirty move.
“Look, I’m flattered, but I don’t really think of you that way …” I bite my damn tongue as he lowers my hand down and tugs the pen from my fingers.
“I was just trying to stop you from aiming this at me like you were about to stake a vamp.” He bites down on his lip, fighting back a laugh. “I know the pasty skin, dark clothes, and charmingly good looks make me look like a vampire, but I promise I’m just a normal dude with slightly above average good looks.”
Embarrassment pours over me like a bucket of pig’s blood.
Please, can this day just end now?
“Sorry,” I mutter, turning around in my seat where I will remain quiet until lunch time ends, because clearly, I can’t be trusted with socializing today.
“Hey, it’s okay.” Clove dashes around to the front of my desk. “It happens to the best of us.”
His dopey smile is magnified, and the florescent lighting highlights the redness in his eyes. Either he’s been crying or he’s stoned. I’m going to hope for the latter. Then maybe he won’t remember this conversation.
“Does it?” I question quietly, staring down at my tarot cards. Yes, Ash, a fool indeed.
He nods, stuffing his hands into the pockets of his black jeans. “The other day, I was at this party, and this smokin’ hot girl came up and grabbed my ass. And I was like, ‘whoa, whoa, whoa, look, you’re super-hot, but I usually need at least a one-minute conversation, maybe thirty seconds depending on what mood I’m in, with someone before I let them fondle my ass.’ And then she told me she was just trying to pickpocket me.” His lips pull up into a goofy smile. “Man, did I feel stupid.”
I study him, unsure if he’s being serious or not. “Are you for real?”
He gives me an intense look. “Is anyone for real?”
Since I still can’t tell for sure if he’s kidding, I wrestle back my laughter, but I end up letting out a very loud and unattractive pig snort.
my hand across my mouth. Good God, let’s just add more embarrassment to my day.
Clove chuckles. “Now that was attractive.”
I lower my hand from my mouth and breeze over the moment. “Did a girl really try to pickpocket you?”
His lips part, but the words never leave his lips as Clarissa, Kinslee, and Huntley walk into the room, carrying a few beakers and a torch. Clove and the three of them make up eighty percent of the mad scientist freak squad, a name Queeny gave them after they caught her bangs on fire during a presentation for science. The nickname wasn’t meant to be nice, but I think they like it. Maybe because they worship science.
I never told Queeny they were a fan of her nickname; otherwise, she’d come up with a worse one. And Maxon and his friends aren’t that bad. For science geeks, anyway.
“Hey, Clove, did you bring my …?” Huntley, a scrawny guy with short brown hair, who always wears clothes that look two sizes too big, turns into a human statue as he spots Clove standing in front of my desk.
I totally get his confusion. Up until five minutes ago, Clove and I haven’t spoken since grade school before I became BFFs with his nemesis.
Clarissa and Kinslee stop to gawk at us, too. Well, Clarissa stares curiously, while Kinslee glares daggers at me, like I’m the BFF of Satan.
“Did I bring what?” Clove asks, sounding as casual as can be, as if everything about this scene is perfectly normal.
Huntley glances at Clarissa, and she shrugs before hurrying toward the table in the far back corner of the room. Kinslee flips her braid off her shoulder, fires a dirty look at me, and then follows after Clarissa.
The room grows quiet and makes me super aware of Huntley’s gawking and Kinslee’s death glare burning a hole through the back of my head. I consider leaving, but decide I’d rather be living in Awkward Land than face Queen Bitchton right now.
“It’s so weird you’re talking to her,” Huntley whispers. “And that she’s even in here.”