P.S. I Like You(9)

By: Kasie West

I wondered how often the janitors wiped down these desks. That message probably wouldn’t even make it to its intended target. It didn’t matter, though; just knowing someone else in this school had excellent taste in music made me happy. I wondered if I knew them. Morris High wasn’t a small school. But only the juniors used the Chemistry room—which ruled out the person I would’ve thought of right away—Lucas. He seemed like he might’ve been just as into obscure bands as I was. But he was a senior. That was just wishful thinking anyway. The odds it was someone I knew were low.

Mr. Ortega. What if he had written this message? Mr. Ortega, a Blackout fan? The thought made me laugh. Out loud. My eyes shot to the front of the room, but my teacher was in the middle of a sentence so thankfully he didn’t seem to notice my outburst.

Lauren, sitting next to me, had, as evidenced by the look on her face. I knew that look. It was basically the silent version of why are you so weird? I thought about telling her I had pictured Mr. Ortega dancing, but I didn’t think that would help. Besides, I’d already learned my lesson about saying things out of context, so I just shrugged.

Then I glanced back at the writing on my desk.

The rest of class seemed to pass by a little faster than normal.

I caught up to Isabel in the hall.

“Why are you so smiley?” she asked.

“I always smile.”

She laughed then stopped. “Okay, actually, you do smile a lot, just not usually at school.”

“That’s because high school is a crusher of souls.”

“Not to be dramatic or anything,” she said.

“Exactly.” But she was right. I was feeling light now, and I could only think of one reason why. “You know that band I’ve told you about? Blackout?”

We stopped at her locker and she took out some books from her backpack and shoved them inside. “No. What do they sing?”

I quietly sang a few lines of one song and when recognition didn’t light her face, I switched to another. “No?” I had played them for her several times. It surprised me she hadn’t remembered.

“Sorry, but you do like weird music,” Isabel said, closing her locker with a grin.

“I think you mean awesome music, but whatever.”

“What about them?”

“Someone else knows who they are.”

“Well, I would hope for the band’s sake that you’re not their only fan.”

I smiled. “No, I mean someone here at school. We exchanged a couple lines of lyrics on the desk. It was cool.”

“You wrote on the desk? Are you trying to get in trouble?”

I sighed. She did not understand the significance of this revelation.

A loud laugh sounded from the opposite end of the hall. I turned to look and saw Cade and his crew. Sasha, the only girl in the group, was holding on to his arm. They must’ve been dating now. Not that it would last long. Cade seemed to have a new girl hanging around every week these days. He was looking at his phone while Sasha was talking animatedly to him. It brought back memories of his birthday party again.

After Isabel had snapped me out of my awestruck daze over Cade’s entryway that day, I had followed her into the kitchen, which was at least three times as big as mine. The island was lined with silver food warming-trays that people in white jackets and bowties were removing the lids from. Who had a fourteenth birthday party catered? Cade had leaned against a far counter and was scrolling through his phone like he couldn’t be bothered with his own party. It was Isabel on his arm that he was easily ignoring that day. She’d whispered something to him after a moment and he shoved his phone in his pocket as though angry at having been interrupted. The expression didn’t last long; a second later he’d put on his fake smile and said, “Eat while it’s hot, everyone.” I’d nodded to the trays and said, “Most people serve pizza and cake.” He’d looked at me with that smug arrogance of his and said, “I’m not like most people.”

I’d said something rude back. Something like, “Thank goodness.”

“Can’t you just ignore him? Be nice?” Isabel had pleaded.

That day I couldn’t ignore him, not after how he’d been treating Isabel. Today, I was going to prove to Isabel that I could. As we headed his way, toward the only way out of the building, I would not respond to whatever abuse he threw my way. But he just gave Isabel a dazzling and confident Cade smile, not acknowledging me at all. She returned it. I realized I was glaring, so I smoothed out my features and kept my mouth shut. It was harder than I had imagined.

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