Tommy sits alone at the small table by the door. I sneak a glance at him. Our eyes lock. The Eye Lock says, We are both outsiders. We are outsiders for different reasons.
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Tommy sits alone at the small table by the door. I sneak a glance at him. Our eyes lock. The Eye Lock says, We are both outsiders. We are outsiders for different reasons. I look back down at my lunch.
Tommy and I have acknowledged that we are both rejects. You have to show a special card that everyone would see. The free-lunch cards are orange. The normal cards are blue.
Back when I had friends, I might have gone up to get a pack of cookies or something. Which would draw even more attention to the fact that I sit alone. My shoulders clench. Warner Talbot is pointing at my sandwich.
I try to avoid sitting near him. My face burns. Their sandwiches are fat with meat and cheese and lettuce and tomato. I bet those cold cuts are the expensive ones from the deli section at the gourmet grocery store. I bet their sandwiches have two kinds of cheese.
I try to imagine what it feels like to bite into a sandwich packed with all those things. Crunching through the lettuce. The juicy tomato bursting with flavor. The soft succulence of the meat and cheese. Rich-kid sandwiches must taste incredible. I try to hide my sad sandwich under the table. That just makes them laugh harder. Making fun of me apparently never gets old for Warner Talbot. All I could find in the refrigerator that day was mayonnaise, mustard, and the end slice of some bread.
So I made a mayonnaise and mustard sandwich. Well, half a sandwich—I had to fold the slice of bread over. And somehow, Warner was right there laughing at me. It was like his radar for unfortunate people went ballistic when it detected me, all flashing red lights and wailing sirens. They know I can hear them. My last class is precalc. The anticipation of freedom in forty-six minutes almost makes me like math. I dart to my desk in the second row.
But I had to move up this year. Some of the things teachers were writing on the board were starting to look blurry.
These two rowdy boys who sit in the back bust in right as the bell rings. Everyone dresses the same around here. Everything is The Same. All of the big suburban houses are practically identical, with their saccharine front yards and indistinguishable driveways and uninspired architectural designs. People in this town hate anything different. No one is allowed to diverge from conformity.
Original thoughts, interests, and style choices are strictly prohibited. And if you disobey these rules? There are consequences. My town is like thousands of other American towns. Welcome to suburban wasteland. The city is an hour away. Which might as well be twenty hours away without a car. If I had a car, I could escape this hateful town whenever I wanted. Newer, bigger houses have gone up all around this one. I cannot wait to leave this place and never look back. Or in another city even farther away.
Except Sherae. She hates how cookie-cutter everything is around here, too. Every day is a countdown to graduation. The calendar on my wall has a countdown to the end of the year. I did the same thing last year. Next year will be the last one. I want to help make the world a better place when I am far away from here. Things will get better after this. They have to.
[PDF] Keep Holding On Book by Susane Colasanti Free Download (224 pages)
We just got a new stack of submissions that need to be edited by next Monday. Could you work fifth period every day this week? Simon Bruckner has totally saved me from cafeteria hell. I knew I should have left fifteen minutes earlier, but it was impossible. My lips just did not want to leave his lips. Instead of going straight to Spanish after study hall, I had to go see Mr. Then he gave me a late pass for Spanish.
Keep holding on
Even their names are cute together. Julian and Jolene. Jolene and Julian. Maybe he used to like me, but I pushed him away. Losing the genetic lottery sucks. My hair? I call it Fancycuts.