Unearthly Page 19

“Anyone?” asks Mr. Phibbs, crestfallen. Here he’s gone through all the trouble to have the shirt made, and none of his fine Honors English students can identify a passage from a book they just studied.

Screw it. I raise my hand.

“Miss Gardner,” says Mr. Phibbs, brightening.

“Yeah, it’s Frankenstein, right? The irony in the quote is that Dr. Frankenstein says it moments before he tries to strangle the monster he created. So much for dignity, I guess.”

“Yes, it is quite ironic,” chuckles Mr. Phibbs. He marks down my ten extra points. I try to look excited by this.

Wendy slips a piece of paper onto my desk. I take a moment to unfold it discreetly.

Smarty-pants, it reads. Guess who’s not here today? She’s drawn a smiley face in the margins. I survey the classroom again. Then I realize that nobody’s trying to glare a hole in the back of my head.

Kay isn’t here.

I smile. It’s going to be a beautiful day.

“I brought the brochure for the veterinary internship that I was telling you about,” Wendy tells me as the bell rings for lunch. She follows me as I dart into the hallway, hurry down the stairs, and book it for my locker. She has to jog to keep up.

“Whoa, are you starving, or what?” she laughs as I fumble with my locker combination. “They’re serving the meatball sub today. That and the baked potato bar are the best things on the menu all year.”

“What?” I’m distracted, scanning the sea of passing faces for a set of familiar green eyes.

“Anyway, the internship is in Montana. It’s amazing, really.”

There. There’s Christian, standing at his locker. No Kay anywhere in sight. He puts on his jacket—black fleece!—and picks up his keys. A jolt of quivery excitement shoots straight to my stomach.

“I’m going out for lunch today,” I say quickly, grabbing my parka.

Wendy’s mouth shapes into a little O of surprise. “You drove?”

“Yeah. Jeffrey roped me into driving him for the next few weeks.”

“Cool,” she says. “We could go to Bubba’s. Tucker used to work there, so they always give me a discount. That’s good eating, trust me. Let me get my coat.”

Christian’s leaving. I don’t have a lot of time.

“Actually, Wen, I have a doctor’s appointment,” I say unsteadily, hoping she won’t ask me which doctor.

“Oh,” she says. I can tell that she’s not sure if she believes me.

“Yeah, and I don’t want to be late.” He’s almost to the door. I shut my locker and turn toward Wendy, trying not to gaze directly into her eyes. I’m a terrible liar. But there’s no time for guilt now. This has to do with my purpose, after all. “I’ll see you after school, okay? I’ve got to go.”

Then I practically sprint for the exit.

I follow Christian’s silver Avalanche out of the parking lot, keeping a couple of cars between us so I don’t appear to be tailing him. He drives to a Pizza Hut a few blocks from school. He climbs down from the cab with a guy I faintly recognize from my English class.

I plan my approach. I’ll pretend like I just stumbled into them.

“Oh hey,” I murmur to myself in the rearview mirror, feigning surprise. “You guys come here, too? Mind if I sit with you?”

And then he’ll look up at me with those swimmable green eyes and say “yeah” in that slightly husky voice, and he’ll scoot to make room for me at the table, and the chair will still be warm from the heat of his body. And I’ll somehow untie my tongue and say something amazingly witty. And he’ll finally see who I really am.

It’s not a foolproof plan, but it’s the best I can do on such short notice.

The place is packed. I locate Christian at the back, squeezed into a round booth with five other people. There’s definitely no room for me, and no way I can casually wander by without making my intentions pathetically obvious. Foiled again.

I find a tiny table in the front corner across from the arcade. I choose the chair facing away from Christian and his pals so they can’t see my face, although I’m sure they’ll recognize my wild orange hair if they give me more than a cursory glance. I need to come up with a new plan.

As I wait for someone to come take my order, Christian and the other two guys at his table jump up and run to the arcade like little boys out for recess. I suddenly have a clear view of them as they gather around a pinball machine, Christian in the center putting his quarters in. I watch him lean into the machine as he plays, his strong eyebrows pushed together in concentration, his hands flicking rapidly against the sides. He’s wearing a long-sleeved navy tee that says, WHAT’S YOUR SIGN? in white letters; then there’s a white stripe across the chest with a black diamond symbol, a blue square, and a green circle. I have no idea what it means.

“Oh, man.” The other guys grunt like a bunch of sympathetic cavemen as Christian apparently lets the ball slip past the paddles, not just once, but twice, three times. Pinball is clearly not his forte.

“Dude, what’s with you today?” says the guy from my English class, Shawn, I think his name is, the one with the unhealthy obsession with his snowboard. “You’re off your game, man. Where are the lightning-fast reflexes?”

Christian doesn’t answer for a minute—he’s still playing. Then he groans and turns away from the machine.

“Hey, I’ve got a lot on my plate right now,” he says.

“Yeah, like making chicken soup for poor widdle Kay,” teases the other guy.

Christian shakes his head. “You mock, but women love soup. More than flowers. Trust me.”

I try to summon the courage to go talk to him. In California it was a well-known fact that I could play a mean game of pinball. I’ll be that cool chick who rocks at video games. That’s loads better than showing up at his table like a lost puppy. It’s my chance.

“Hey,” says Shawn as I’m standing up to go over there. “Isn’t that Bozo?”

Who?

“What?” says Christian. “Who’s Bozo?”

“You know, the new girl. The one from Cali.”

What’s sad is that it actually takes a minute for me to understand that he’s talking about me. Sometimes it sucks to have supernaturally good hearing.

“She’s totally staring at you, dude,” says Shawn.

Quickly I look away, the name settling into the pit of my stomach like wet cement. Bozo. As in, the clown. As in, I may never show my face (or my hair) in public again for the rest of my life.

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