No matter what they say about happily-ever-afters, fairytales are always tragedies. I learned that yesterday.
* * *
My tray felt heavy with a scoop of lasagna and the biggest apple I’d ever seen. The lunch line had been short today, thank the Lord, but the room was packed with people who had gone through before I got there. Only two tables weren’t maxed out at eight.
Option one was dismissed without a second thought. Seven self-centered football players talking about angle-tackling? Nope. The lunchroom advisor, Miss Greene, must have gone to the restroom or something, because she wasn’t hovering over the table as usual.
Option two set my heart to thumping. One of the popular girls must have been out sick, because there was an empty seat right beside Lita Stevens from my French class. Worth a try, I thought.
“Do you mind if I sit here?” I asked no one in particular at the table.
One of the senior girls cocked her head to the side. She glanced around the room. “I guess,” she said.
I sat down and cast a sideways glance at Lita. Her eyes were pink and puffy. She took a sip of mineral water, then wiped away a tear.
“What’s wrong?” I asked, my voice small. My face went hot.
“Her date to the dance last night showed her up,” said the senior.
I shifted a hand close to Lita’s. My jaw dropped as she grasped it. Her head turned toward me, two wounded amber irises focusing. She smiled just a little.
“I’m sorry,” I said. Her hand felt soft.
A deep voice intoned behind me. “What are you doing, chump?”
I twisted to see Roger Clemons, the biggest bully in the sophomore class, holding his tray with one hand, the other on Lita’s far shoulder. Lita looked at him with a grimace. “You never picked me up last night, jerk-off.”
“I’m sorry, babe,” he said. “I had to help put out a brush fire. The call came as I was getting in my car to get you.”
Lita let go of my hand. “Oh.” She got up and hugged him. “I just wish you would have told me sooner. I forgive you, Roggy.”
My throat tightened as I got up to try my luck at the jock table. If I’m lucky, I thought, they won’t even notice I’m there.