Gina and the New Girl: Part Three
The day after Kaitlyn’s painting, I met up with my group of friends in the hall after my math class, on the way to lunch.
“Where’s Kaite?” Smiley asked, looking around. “Lyk, I saw her in class but I don’t see her now. Have u seen her, Lani?”
Lani didn’t even say anything about Smiley’s chatspeak. She shot her slitted eyes my way. “No,” she muttered coldly, keeping her eyes on me and not even glancing at our Shoyru friend.
“Smiley,” I said. “Really. Why would you want to hang out with her? She’s shown her true colors, and it’s not pretty.”
“Funny,” Lani said. “I was thinking the same about you, Gina.”
“Uhm.” Smiley squirmed uneasily. “L8r.”
He flew out from between us and soared another route to the cafeteria. He didn’t seem to care about the hall monitors yelling at him to walk, not fly.
“Lani,” I persisted after Smiley was gone. “Did you even see how she was bragging? She totally thinks she’s better than us now. Did you wonder why she hasn’t caught up to us yet? She’s above us now, Lani. Kaitlyn’s the only painted pet in this Neoschool. I bet our classmates are just throwing themselves at her feet, the stuck-up popular...”
“Stop.” Lani put up a paw and I stopped speaking. “Just stop it, Gina. You’re the one I’m disgusted with, not Kaite. She hasn’t caught up to us because she doesn’t want to face you after what you said to her yesterday. She was being happy about getting her dream color - wouldn’t we all if we were painted? Think about it, Gina. Our ultimate goals are to get paint brushes. You are just jealous of Kaitlyn for her good fortune, and instead of being happy for her you’re making assumptions. Kaite is not a stuck-up, popular painted pet in the least. So get over it, Gina, and go apologize to Kaitlyn when you’re ready.”
I did a double-take. Lani was criticizing ME? I didn’t do anything! It was Kaitlyn who went and got painted!
“I’m out of here,” Lani said, sighing as she quickened her pace a little. “What Smiley said - erm, L-8-r.”
Kaite getting painted and Lani using chatspeak? How much more wrong could the week get? And to think it was only Wednesday.
My sister Aeriel wouldn’t talk to me either, but she paid more attention to me than Lani did in the next few days. Alright, it wasn’t the type of attention I wanted; she only stuck her tongue out at me with her eyes squeezed shut. My ever-working-in-Faerieland owner, Patricia, was a little suspicious of Aeriel’s ignoring me deliberately, but being her busy self, she soon forgot about it as she rushed to the Employment Agency. Smiley said two words to me at each class, at lunch, and when he saw me after school - “*shifty eyes*”. Well, I guess it could’ve been worse.
I didn’t see the error of my ways for a while, until the five-foot distance everyone I knew kept from me began to turn my anger to shame. After about two and a half weeks (that’s thirteen school days and four weekend days, which I spent without friends) the ignoring began to wear on me until I felt it hard to walk down the hall without looking at my feet the whole time. But what could I do? Apologizing to Kaitlyn... for some reason I thought the idea seemed embarrassing. Like, admitting defeat or surrendering, even though I was dead sure by now it was the right thing to do. What could I say? I felt like Kaite would see me as lower than her, like my apology would be about equal to a dirt pie now that she was special.
But I decided to risk it. One morning, I stared down at my French Toast, overflowing with artificial but g-o-o-d maple syrup. It was the first homemade breakfast I’d had in a really, REALLY long time. Patricia had come home the night before, all chipper and skippy instead of exhausted like she usually was. She’d announced that after working at the Faerieland Employment Agency since I was like, six, for a pretty sorry enough-to-buy-food-and-toys salary, she’d decided to stop working there. Patricia said that she’d try to take on games instead, and spend more time with her “two gorgeous, loving pets whom she couldn’t live without”. So that morning she made slightly-burnt French Toast for Aeriel and me. My sister was pretty ecstatic about Patricia’s news, and she was as bouncy that morning as she’d been that day months ago I’d met Kaite.
Well, darn. I’d been trying not to think about Kaite before I apologized. Though compared to my years of Peanut Crunch cereal every morning, slightly burnt French Toast was a gourmet food, I felt so sick to my stomach I couldn’t swallow a bite. I just snuck some to Aeriel’s petpet, Clyde, who more than willingly ate it for me. I threw the bagged lunch Patricia had made for me into my backpack and waited for Aeriel to be ready. We got to Neoschool at 8:04, a few minutes late already for class. I remembered that I’d gotten to school at the exact same time on Kaitlyn’s first day. Ugh, I thought, I have to stop remembering these things. I was making myself feel worse.
I snuck into class, accepted the scowl from my history teacher, and settled behind my desk.
Tap, tap. The pet behind me tapped my shoulder. I accepted the note without looking back. Deja-vu to the utmost extreme!
*shifty eyes* ~S
The note banished all my doubts. I did not want to live like this anymore. I had, had, HAD to apologize to Kaitlyn today at lunch! One more lunch by myself and I thought I’d explode. I realized that there was an empty desk where Kaitlyn should be. Oh, wonderful. She couldn’t be sick on the day I worked up my courage to apologize!
After history, on the way to math, I noticed an unusual amount of giggling and murmuring throughout the halls. Nobody pointed or glanced at me, so I knew I wasn’t the subject of their gossip, at least, but who was? I decided it was not worth getting worked up about, since nothing ever happened at our school and even something like a change in the cafeteria’s weekly menu seemed tremendous. Probably the teacher’s lounge got repainted a new shade of beige. Ooh, just call the magazines!
“Have you heard?!” a diva-girl from my class rushed up to me, breathless. Glitter from her hairspray floated to the ground, and I sneezed at her perfume. She ignored it.
“No,” I answered, rubbing my nose. “Did the lunch ladies change hairnet brands?”
The Uni snorted. “Be serious, Gina. This is the biggest thing to ever come to C.M. Breadmaster Neoschool! Bigger than a new kid, bigger than a new teacher, bigger than the cafeteria serving thin crust pizza on Wednesdays instead of thick!”
“So, what is it, then?” I asked, impatiently tapping my foot and letting my eyes wander down the hall. Still no Kaitlyn. I checked my watch. “Never mind, I have to get to class. See ya.”
I headed off to my math class, walking quickly so I wouldn’t be late. I arrived just as my math teacher was taking a breath to begin talking. I took my seat. Was that Kaite just a few desks away? It was a Ruki, and she sat at Kaitlyn’s desk, but she was so bundled up with an ankle-length blue overcoat, scarf, and woolen hat pulled down to her eyes that I couldn’t tell if it was really her. She rushed out pretty fast; as soon as the teacher said, “Dismissed,” she was up and away. I looked around for her in the main hall as I headed for the cafeteria, but she must’ve taken a different route.
“Oh well,” I thought. “She can cut through some classrooms, but all the routes join up at the end. She’ll be coming from a different hall to this one soon enough.”
I continued walking; my classmates, and pretty much all who were present for my outrage at Kaite, were diligent in their five-foot distance from me. I wanted to scream, “Stop it already! I’m going to apologize! It’s okay, you can knock it off now!” But would it really be okay? What if Kaitlyn didn’t accept my apology! The thought scared me. If that happened... I would’ve used all my courage, won a mental battle, apologized to Kaite, and still the student body would ignore me, saying Kaite had a good reason to not re-accept me as a friend.
My worrisome thoughts were interrupted by a hush in the halls. I turned to a jointing corridor, where pets had stopped their business in their lockers and turned to stare at the pet and whisper excitedly, obnoxiously, to their peers. There she was again, the Ruki swimming in her mysterious outfit. How could she breathe, I wondered. I gulped, squeezed my eyes shut for a moment, took a deep, depths-of-the-ocean breath, let it out, and opened my eyes readily. I could do this.
“Kaitlyn!” I said, much more loudly than I had intended. Oops. Blunder #1. “Erm, um, sorry, uh...” No, no! Don’t stumble! T-A-L-K spells talk!
“Kaitlyn,” I began again, as calm as I could be at the Critically Clammy Stage. “I just wanted you to know that I was just paintbrush of your jealous, and I guess I kind of wanted to be too, painted, yeah. Um, so, I don’t hope you forgive me - I mean you don’t have to say you're sorry, I mean YOU DON’T HAVE TO FORGIVE ME and uh, yeah, erm... painted.”
A few giggles arose from the crowd at my stumbling. Blunder #2. No, wait, maybe #3, #1 was probably deciding I could do this in the first place.
“Gina...” Kaite croaked almost inaudibly. She nodded towards me to follow her away from the crowd and into another deserted classroom. Nobody could see through the distorted window, so they all sighed and slunk off to the cafeteria.
“Kaite,” I said, looking down at my feet. “I really--”
Kaite was peeking out the cracked-open classroom door to see if anyone was watching. Without looking at me, she held out a hand for me to stop talking. She peered around the hallway. How she could see a thing with the overcoat collar sticking straight up and the hat practically swallowing her face, I had no clue.
As she turned back, she closed the door. But the edge of her ridiculously long coat caught under it, and because the hat and collar covered all but two slits for eyes, she didn’t see until she went to walk my way. I cried out, but she heard me too late, and she tripped. The cheap coat came ripping off, her hat went flying, and her scarf hung only loosely around her neck. I took in air like a thirsty desert wanderer would water. What was wrong with me? I was delusional - or I had to be, because what I saw didn’t make an ounce of sense...
To be continued...