The Lonely Hearts Club
Page 5

 Elizabeth Eulberg

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Chapter Five
THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL. I wasn't even at school yet, and I already had to face the enemy. Not Nate -- he was gone. But Nate's kind.
"Aw, can you believe my baby brother is in high school?" Tracy gestured to the backseat of her car, where her brother Mike was blaring his iPod. "And you know, Pen, I don't see any horns on the top of his head."
"Yet "I smirked at her.
Little Mikey Larson was a freshman . .. a guy ..... one of them.
I wondered when he would start acting like every other guy at McKinley. Was there some sort of secret class where they taught boys to become himbos?
As Mike got out of Tracy's car, I couldn't help but notice how much more alike than ever they looked, with their dirty blond hair, hazel eyes, and heart-shaped faces,
Tracy looked me up and down. "Pen, those shoes are adorbs. You look smokin' hawt today." She applied a fresh coat of lip gloss in the rearview mirror. "Looking to impress anybody in particular?"
I groaned. "No -- I just wanted to look nice for me."
Tracy gave me a look that said she didn't believe me.
I didn't care. This was going to be the start of an amazing year. I opened the door to school, excited about getting a fresh start, minus all the boy craziness.
The smile on my face quickly vanished when the first person I saw was Dan Walker, wearing the letter jacket I'd "borrowed" when we were dating. How fitting that I would be greeted by a reminder of hideous boyfriends past. I was just thankful that Nate was miles away back in Chicago. I turned the corner to get away from Dan and saw Kevin Parker, who was apparently still too cool to give Tracy the time of day.
My frustration grew as I continued to survey my classmates. I'd walked these hallways thousands of times, but it was as if my eyes were open for the first time. All I saw were girls falling over themselves to flirt with guys, couples walking hand in hand, guys being ... well, guys: loud, obnoxious, egotistical. They didn't go to girls; girls came to them.
My bag vibrated and I pulled out my cell phone. I stopped dead in my tracks and Brian Reed bumped into me. "Watch it!" he yelled as his girlfriend, Pam, glared my way. Heaven forbid they weren't able to hold hands 24/7.
I snapped out of my daze. I was convinced there was some sort of mistake. But no -- the phone cruelly confirmed the truth: It was a text from Nate. Of course he would find a way to torture me even though he wasn't around.
Have a good first day.
What? First, he knew I wasn't talking to him. Second, it had only been two weeks -- did he think I'd forgotten? Third, could he have been any lamer? I deleted the text and shoved my phone back into my bag.
I refused to let Nate Taylor ruin one more day of my life.
"You're in so much trouble, Bloom!" Ryan Bauer was leaning against his locker, arms folded, with a mischievous grin on his face.
Fabulous. I was so not in the mood to deal with his crap.
"What is it?" I asked impatiently as I opened my locker, three doors down from his.
Ryan looked at me, confused. "Um, never mind." He grabbed my class schedule from my stack of books,
Ryan Bauer was one of those guys with a clingy girlfriend whose life revolved around him. He was the biggest cliché at our school: a star athlete with good grades, who just happened to also be gorgeous. He was over six feet tall with a lean build; he had amazing blue eyes; and he was always running his hands through his black, wavy hair. Naturally, he was also one of the biggest flirts in school. I used to go along with it, but this time I didn't have any desire to further feed his ego.
He was a guy. A guy guy. As far as I was concerned, he probably had the dead bodies of small children and puppies hidden in his locker.
I almost didn't recognize him without Diane Monroe hanging on his every move. Ryan and Diane had been dating since forever. Well, technically seventh grade, but in high school that was forever. Diane was the classic girlfriend for an over-achiever like Ryan: shiny long blond hair, pale crystal-blue eyes, model-thin frame, and always, always put together -- your standard Cheerleader/Student Council President type.
"Man, it looks like we only have World History together" Ryan was saying to me now. "Todd is in that class, too. That totally sucks."
"Yeah, sucks," I didn't even try to hide the sarcasm in my voice.
"Hiya!" I looked down the hallway and saw none other than Miss Diane Monroe walking toward us with a huge smile on her face. She probably had some sort of sixth sense telling her that Ryan was talking to another girl. I tried not to roll my eyes as I started fishing my books out of my locker. "Happy first day of school!" she said.
I slammed my locker shut and tried to head to Spanish class -- but my path was blocked by Diane, standing in front of me with her smile getting even wider, which freaked me out somewhat.
"Hey, Penny," she said. "How was your summer?" Her eyes were practically sparkling with enthusiasm. It was almost enough to make me gag.
I looked at her in confusion. Why was she talking to me? We hadn't spoken in forever.
"Uh, hi, Diane." I didn't understand why everybody felt the need to bring up summer on the first day of school. It was so annoying. Summer was over. There wasn't a need to think about it. Ever again.
"So, notice anything?" Diane started to twirl around. Everything about her screamed perfect -- no big changes there -- so I just shrugged. "Penny." Diane looked stunned. "My outfit -- don't you remember?" I scanned her clothes: fitted denim blazer with a black sequined shirt underneath, pink layered miniskirt, and four-inch pink strappy sandals. I shrugged. Clearly, I didn't remember.