“What’re you doing here?” the voice snapped and she bristled.
“What’s it to you?” she snapped.
“Nothing,” his voice took on the smarmy tone that he seemed to keep reserved for her nowadays, “Just thought you’d be spending the last night with your boyfriend. You do realize you’ll be apart for 3 whole weeks?” he mocked.
She narrowed her eyes and glared at the boy smirking in front of her.
“Did she really have a crush on him? This insufferable jerk!” the thoughts in her brain brought a heat to her face that lit up the darkness they were standing in.
“You’re such a jerk!” she snapped.
“And don’t you know it!” the smirk seemed permanently fixed on his face, “I suppose Matty never treats you like this, huh? All hugs and roses…and kisses?” he leered.
“Shut up! What’s wrong with you?”
And just as suddenly, the smirk dropped from his face and he colored.
“Nothing’s wrong with me!” he retorted with unexpected heat and turned away, “Of course, nobody could possibly be as good as your boyfriend…” his petty murmurs did nothing to the confusion rising in her chest.
“What are you? Five? Girls don’t have cooties. Boys aren’t covered in bogies. People have boyfriends,” she explained as if to an extremely dull child, “Get over it! Or get yourself a girlfriend. Of course, that would require at least an ounce of sense, but, you’re probably allergic to even the spelling of SENSE!”
“S-E-N-S-E!” he whirled around and yelled at her.
“Do not shout at me!”
“Do not mock me!”
“Do not talk to me then, you nonsensical nincompoop!”
“I am nonsensical? I’m a nincompoop? Have you ever even talked to your boyfriend? Or are you too busy to do any talking at all?”
Her eyes widened and fists clenched, “What is your problem with Matty?” she hissed.
He flushed. In a sudden rush of breath, he became aware of his surroundings, his proximity to the girl he liked, but, whom he, he was sure, hated more than anything else in the world in that moment. He took a step back as shame roiled in his belly.
“Nothing. I…I’m sorry. I didn’t mean…I just…I’m sorry. Matty’s a great guy. I’m just…sorry!” and he took off into the night.
Laila woke up feeling just as bewildered as she had when she’d gone to bed.
“How could one guy move through so many moods in one night? Heck! In a few minutes of a night!” she wondered as she dressed. Confusion was clouding her head and it was obvious in her haphazard manner of packing and in the worried looks Mary kept throwing her way.
“Lai, you okay?” she asked finally.
Laila didn’t reply. She hadn’t even heard Mary speak.
“Laila!” Mary reached across and threw a pillow at her friend, “Laila!”
“What’s wrong with you today? You’re hardly moving. I know you don’t like going home, but this is the slowest you’ve ever been. I thought you were excited to go home this time with you getting your sister’s room and all. Is everything alright?” Mary peered worriedly at her best friend who was looking at her like a deer caught in headlights. “If you have a problem, you can always come home with me, you know,” she added gently.
“No, no!” Laila finally snapped out of it and shook her head, “Home’s fine. I’m just…thinking.”
“Jay…” the name slipped unbidden from her mouth.
“Jay?” Mary wasn’t sure she heard it right, “That usually doesn’t take this much effort from you!”
“No, of course not,” Laila smiled feebly, “I’m just being stupid.”
“Lai, stupid about what?” Mary pursed her lips and puffed out her cheeks, “I no understand nothing!”
Laila laughed, “Nothing to understand, Mary-kins!”
Mary only gave her look of deep suspicion and turned away, “One day, when you’ll want to talk to me about this, I’ll be too busy being Prime Minister and won’t have time for you and then, you’ll regret not confiding in me now!”
Laila laughed, “I just need to talk to that jerk once, that’s it. That should do it,” she zipped up her suitcase.
“Yes, that should do it.”
Jay had no intention of talking to Laila today. In fact, he didn’t even want to see her. More importantly, he didn’t want her to see him. But, things had a way of not going according to plan and this was just one of those days.
He knew that voice. Of course, he knew. For a good part of last year, he had convinced himself that he liked that voice. Not anymore, he thought. But, that didn’t stop the flush he could feel on his neck at the sound of it. Soon, he knew, that flush would’ve worked its way up to his face and he’ll be talking to her in the guise of a freshly ripened tomato. For the umpteenth time, he cursed his parents’ fair-skinned genetics.
He turned warily and tapped his foot to indicate his distaste at the meeting.
“Knock it off! I need to talk to you,” she was already glaring; and within a minute, he tells himself, she’s going to be narrowing her eyes at him. He groaned mentally.
“What about?” he asked, trying not to sound like a petulant child.
She shook her head as she walked towards him, “You really are something,” she murmured, “What happened last night?”
“What do you mean? You were there too, if I wasn’t mistaken. Unless, that was your evil twin! Do you have an evil twin? Though, seeing how evil you naturally are, you’d just be the evil sisters, I suppose!” he smiled toothily.
She gaped at him. “See! This!” she poked him in the chest “This is what I’m talking about! One moment, you look like you’re about to run away from me and the next moment you open your mouth and that diatribe pours out! What did I do to you? Why do you hate me so much?”
“Pfft!” she pinched his lips with her fingers, “Why do you insist on playing with my head like this? The first time we met, you were great! I thought you were the sweetest boy ever! Then, you wake up the next morning and become a jerk! In fact, so many times in the darkness, you’re so nice to me. Then, morning comes and voila! Meet the resident Frankenstein, people! And last night! Last night, you managed the entire gamut within minutes! What a performance, it was too! I bet Freud is turning over in his grave right now wishing he had a front seat entry! STOP TRYING TO LICK MY HAND!”
A sudden silence fell over the corridor as everybody turned to look at the shouting school captain. She didn’t seem to notice however.
“You decide what you want to be, you hear me? Be a jerk or be Mr. Nice Guy. But, do not confuse me by playing around with both as you wish!” she let go of his lips and shoved him back in one swift move and walked away.