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Don't Let it Fool You
The loud, annoying class bell rings. Some exchange student hits me with their Lacoste backpack and I jump up from my nap. I lift up slowly and find the periodic table peeled on to my left cheek. I wipe away my drool and turn to the left to pick up my book bag.
“Mr. Andrews,” I hear from above.
“Oh, Hi Ms. Engle.”
“Second time you fell asleep in my class sir. Third time, and that’s a lunch detention.”
“It won’t happen again,” I say nervously.
I picked up my things and bolted out of the classroom. I sprinted down to the big, red doors that led to the cafeteria. I entered to the smell of week old tuna and hard, dry bread with a hint of grape juice. I cut past annoyed, angry faces and made my way to the front of the line. Cecilia, the lunch lady, was there to greet me.
“Johnny, you’re always cuttin’ this line. You jerk”
“Looking lovely as usual Cece.” I turned my tray around and accidentally hit Jay Petranski with it. It gets me annoyed, but I ignore it and resume.Jay Petranski was the biggest nerd in school and has had a crush on my girlfriend since who- knows- when. I certainly don’t.
The aisle cleared as I strolled through the crammed lunch tables.
“There she is,” I say with a bright smile on my face.
Patricia, my absolute perfect girlfriend of six and a half months is sitting and waiting.
“Hi there, where have you been?”
“Sorry, that Jay P. kid ran into me, and you know how he bothers me.” I leaned in to kiss her cheek. I could smell her elegant soft ends of her hair hit my face.
“So, I was thinking on coming over after school.” Patricia says.
“Um, why would you want to do that.”
Well, because we always go to my house. I have never even seen yours before.”
That’s okay, it is um, still under construction, and I want you to be surprised and impressed for when it’s done!”
“Okay.” She strokes her hair behind her ears and looks awkwardly down at her shoes.
So glad I got out of that one, I thought to myself. I pick up my bag and push open the red, double doors. I go into my AP History class to find a little present sitting in my seat. It was Alicia, the seductive, slut of the grade who never gets off my back.
“Hi, there gorgeous,” she says
“Alicia, get out of my seat”
“You can sit on my lap”
I could smell her cheap 99-cent store perfume bounce off her overly exposed chest.
“Alicia, class is about to start, just get out of my seat, now.”
AP history goes by as slowly as usual, and I can’t stay awake. Alicia is sending me naughty looks from across the room and Mr. David smells like he’s been living in a trashcan behind the second building for the past month. I have a lot on my mind and Tammy next to me is chipping off every bit of nailpolish she had left on her thumb. I’m getting paranoid and restless.
The bell finally rings and I jet out of class. I open the door to find my beautiful girlfriend waiting.
“Just the person to make my day feel so much better.”I open up my arms to welcome her as the wrong reaction comes in return.
“I have to go, I can’t hang out tonight,” she says.
“Wait, what, why not?”
“Well, I am too stressed and have to watch my little brother tonight. Sorry”
I get a peck on the cheek and she disappears from my arms.
“Uch, this is so annoying” I hit the locker vents with my fist.
“What is?” I hear a voice from behind my shoulder.
“Nothing Alicia. I am going home.”
“Alone? Well why, shouldn’t your girlfriend be tagging along?”
“She can’t tonight, she has stuff to do.”
“Well, would you like me to come along?”
“Why would I want that?”
“Well…” she steps forward and I can smell her disgusting overly chewed gum breath hit my cheeks.
“Get away from me. Find an easy man who can satisfy you.”
I push her off and turn around towards the exit. I hit the pavements and sit down on the steps in front of school. I will do anything, but go home. My incredible workload and taking care of my mom and sister is getting so exhausting.It is almost dark outside. I get up and start heading toward the bus stop.I look both ways and enter the cold, overlit atmosphere of the metro.There is a crying baby on my left and a smelly homeless man on my right. I put my hood on and knock my head against the windowsill three times. We start driving into the pitch-black distance. I hear sirens outside, honks and yelling. My stop comes and I get up.
“See ya later, John,” the bus driver responds restlessly.
I look up at the stairway heading into my apartment. Manny, the homeless man is sitting there as usual.
“Anything new today Manny?”
“Nah Johnny, same old Sir”
Theft has been a popular activity in my neighborhood since the cops haven’t been as watchful on it. I hate it. My mom says she doesn’t want to move because she doesn’t know if she can pay the bills some place else.We have always wanted to move back into our old house, but there’s no hope for now. I offered to get a job, but she says I have enough to deal with.
“How come you never bring your friends over, kid? Don’t you get lonely?”Manny asks.
“No, if anyone at my school saw how I lived, I’d probably never be able to show my face again”
“’Don’t sweat it kid. Keep your head up boy’, I lift my head up, good things come to good people”
Manny always had those cheesy, after school special lines. Made me gag in my mouth, but I listened anyway.
“How can you be so optimistic when you don’t even got a home Manny?”
“I’ve got hope” he responds.
I nodded my head in agreement. He’s a smart man. My feet feel heavy and each step feels farther away. I am tired and the only thing keeping me happy was Manny’s words and the smell of Tito’s tacos a mile down. I open the door to my home and see my sister asleep on the couch. I walk in my room and fall onto the air mattress, which has served as my bed for two years. I don’t eat, take off my clothes or brush my teeth, I close my eyes and I’m out.
I get to school the next day, walk over to my locker to find Patricia waiting there.
“Hey Babe,” I say.
“Hi, sorry about yesterday, I…”
“Yeah whatever.” I put my head down and roll my eyes.
“I really am,” she says.
I feel a tap on my shoulder, it’s Alicia.
“Great talk yesterday, Johnny. You missed out on a great time,” She winks and pats my lower back.
I tilt my head back and put my sweaty palms over my face,
“What was that all about Johnny?” Were you going to go out with her last night?”
“No of course not, I turned her down, you know I would never want to hang out with any other girl but you!” I respond.
“Save it.” She gives me one of those typical rude looks girls give like they just smelled a piece of moldy cheese. She walks away.
“Hey!” I stop her, “I had to just understand and believe you yesterday when you turned me down to go home. You can’t just believe me about this Alicia thing?” “What is with you?”
“What is with me?” She swings around with just the perfect spin of attitude, takes a deep breath, and I sense the mood changing,
“Okay, so we are being honest?
I get a pit in my stomach.
“I wasn’t babysitting my little brother yesterday,” she admits.
“See!” I cut in, you were lying to me and I wasn’t even lying to you about Alicia and look how you get so mad!”
“Don’t Johnny me, I am sick of you doing stuff like that.”
“Johnny!” She screams louder, as if I couldn’t hear her the first time. Kids in the hallway stop and stare at us. I feel like a spotlight just turned on.
“ I was with your mom”
“My mom? “Why were you with my mom?”
“I know about your situation at home ok?” I am having my parents work some things out to help get your home back.”
“What?Why didn’t you tell me, why didn’t my mom tell me?”
“We know how protective you are of your mom and your situation, we wanted to do this on our own, and surprise you, you know?”
“Wow.” I storm off into the distance.
“I am trying to help you,” she yells, but it fades away quickly into the locker vents.
I run home and confront my mom about her not telling me.
“Mom, what is going on?”
“Hunny, I wanted to tell you, but I didn’t want to add more stress to your plate. Nothing was for sure anyways, I’m sorry.”
“Mom, Ever since dad walked out on us, I feel like I need to take over, this is my business too.”
“I understand.” She turns around and turns to put the dishes away; I can tell she feels terrible because she won’t look me in the eye.
Patricia calls me to apologize again, she promises not to tell anyone in school. I trust her, but don’t know why. I tell her I have to go, and as I am about to hang up she asks me to come outside.
I hang up, but she knows I’ll be there. She is sitting on my front steps with Manny.
“What are you doing here?” She grabs my hand and leads me around the corner; we stand in front of the dark alley. She turns around and looks me in the eye. From the look on her face, I can see she feels bad.
A taxi drove and stopped in front of us, “get in,” she says.
“Where are we going?”
We drive a few blocks and enter my perfect little neighborhood I used to live in.
“My dad used to bike ride with me around here,”
“You never told me what happened to your dad,“she says
We stop in front of this pleasant little, white house. The brown, wooden door and green shutters looked awfully familiar. Almost, like my old home, but fancier. I was hesitant to ask where we really were, but was so curious.
“Whose house is this?” I ask.
She looked at me. I got nervous because she was silent and for once I couldn’t read her facial expression.She opened the door and turned around.All she could do was smile. I finally smiled back because I knew I was home again.