Present

“Present!” yelled Kimberly, just loud enough for her elderly home room teacher to hear her. After hearing her name called, she decided to tune everything out until first period. She had a lot on her mind and really didn’t want to deal with anything until she absolutely had to. If she could have, she probably would have tried to lock herself in a sensory deprivation tank for the next half hour. But she wasn’t that lucky.

“Pssst!”

Kimberly ignored the attempt to get her attention. She knew that Sam wanted to talk to her, but she really didn’t want to talk to him. It wasn’t that she didn’t like Sam, she just wanted to be left alone for a while.

“Kim!” Sam whispered, though it was the kind of whisper that everyone in the classroom could hear. She turned, giving Sam a look that conveyed she was beyond irritated, making him jump back a little in his seat.

“What are you gonna do?” he asked, clearly not taking the hint.

“About what?” Kimberly asked, honestly unaware of what Sam meant.

“Are you gonna go out with Jack or not?”

“How is that any of your business?” she asked, becoming increasingly annoyed, especially considering that this conversation consisted of nothing but questions with no answers.

“Well, it’s not,” Sam said quietly, unsure how to proceed. “It’s just that Jack’s like a brother to me. I don’t wanna see him get hurt.”

Kimberly was a little confused. She couldn’t understand why Sam would bring this up, or why Sam would think Jack would get hurt by going out with her.

“I don’t get it,” she said, “Are you afraid that I’ll hurt him by saying yes or by saying no?”

“I don’t know. Maybe I just–”

“Samuel Dewey!” said Mrs. Caldwell over the hushed conversation.

“Here!” said Sam. “I just think you should be careful about everything. He really likes you, you know?”

“Yeah, I know,” she said, unable to help but smile. The truth was, she liked Jack, too. But he couldn’t just come out and say that. She had to play hard to get, right?

“See, that’s just mean.”

“What are you talking about?”

Sam huffed, “You smile when you say you know he likes you. It’s like you’re just playing with him.”

“You don’t know the first thing about me!” said Kimberly. At this point she was having a difficult time keeping her voice to a whisper. Sam was really starting to piss her off. “What happens between me and Jack is between me and Jack. If he wants to talk to you about it, that’s on him. But you and me: not friends! You don’t get to ask me personal questions about who I may or may not be dating!”

With that, the conversation was over. She knew Sam well enough to know that he would go straight to Jack before first period to tell him not to go out with her. But she also knew Jack well enough to know that he would ignore Sam’s advice. Yeah, they were friends. But once Jack set his mind to something, he did it. At that thought, she smiled a little again. Sam would misinterpret her current facial expression, but that was mostly because he was stupid and assumed whatever he wanted to assume.

Mrs. Caldwell had finally finished taking attendance. For the next 20 minutes, homeroom would be dull. Kimberly really did have a lot on her mind. It wasn’t just whether or not she would accept Jack’s invitation to dinner and a movie. She had a paper due in her World Lit class tomorrow She had a pretty big test in Calculus that afternoon. She had to finish putting her portfolio together for Photojournalism by the end of the week.

On top of her schoolwork, she had soccer practice every afternoon. She loved playing the game. It’s just that, with everything else going on, it seemed like one more thing to deal with.

After what felt like an eternity of boredom and annoyance, the bell rang to signal the end of homeroom. She made her way to the restroom so she could make sure her hair looked okay. A part of her really didn’t care how her hair looked. But a bigger part of her knew that she’d eventually see Jack and she wanted to look decent, just in case Sam was able to plant the seed of doubt in his mind.

She made her way to first period History, but was really not paying attention to the world moving around her. Throughout her classes, and even during her Calculus test, she remained preoccupied. She may have been present in body, but definitely not in mind.

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