Rules of Attraction(8)

By: Simone Elkeles


I follow the exemplary student out into the empty hallway and I think I’ve entered hell. Lockers line the hallways and signs are taped to the walls. One says YES WE KAHN!—VOTE FOR MEGAN KAHN FOR STUDENT PRESIDENT and another reads JASON TU—YOUR “GO-TU GUY” FOR STUDENT COUNCIL TREASURER! are displayed along with the rest of the signs from people who actually want to MAKE HEALTHIER STUDENT LUNCHES THE NORM!—VOTE FOR NORM REDDING.

Healthier student lunches?

Hell, back in Mexico you ate what you brought from home or whatever crap they put in front of you. There weren’t choices. Where I lived in Mexico you ate to survive, without worrying about counting calories or carbs. That’s not to say that some people don’t live like kings in Mexico. Like in America, there are definitely the rich areas in every one of the thirty-one Mexican states . . . but my family just didn’t live in any of ’em.

I don’t belong at Flatiron High, and I sure as hell don’t want to follow this girl around all week. I wonder how much the exemplary student can take before she gives up and quits.

She directs me to my locker and I shove my stuff inside. “My locker is two away from yours,” she announces, as if that’s actually a good thing. When I’m ready, she studies my schedule and walks down the hall at the same time. “Mr. Hennesey’s class is one flight up.”

“¿Dónde está el servicio?” I ask her.

“Huh? I don’t take Spanish. Je parle français— I speak French.”

“Why? Do a lot of French people live in Colorado?”

“No, but I want to do a semester abroad in France my sophomore year of college like my mom did.”

My mom didn’t even finish high school. She got pregnant with Alex and married my dad.

“You’re learnin’ a language that you’ll use for one semester? Sounds stupid to me.” I stop when we reach a door with a male stick figure painted on it. With my thumb, I point to the door. “Servicio is bathroom . . . I asked where the bathroom is.”

“Oh.” She looks a little confused, as if not exactly knowing how to handle deviations from the schedule. “Well, I guess I’ll just wait out here for you.”

Time to have a little fun by screwin’ with my peer guide. “Unless you want to come inside and show me around . . . I mean, I don’t know how far you wanna take this whole peer guide thing.”

“Not that far.” She purses her lips like she just sucked on a sour lemon and shakes her head. “Go ahead. I’ll wait.”

In the bathroom, I brace my hands on the sink and take a deep breath. All I can see in the mirror above the sink is a guy whose family thinks he’s a total fuckup.

Maybe I should have told mi'amá the truth: that I got fired from the mill for protecting little fifteen-year-old Emilie Juarez from being harassed by one of the supervisors. It was bad enough she had to quit school and start working to help her family put food on their table. When our boss thought he could put his filthy hands on her just because he was el jefe, I went ballistic. Yeah, it cost me my job . . . but it was worth it and I’d do it again even if it had the same consequences.

A knock on the door brings me back to reality, and the fact that I have to be escorted to class by a girl who dresses like she’s goin’ mountain climbing. I can’t imagine a girl like Kiara ever needing a guy to fight for her, because if any guy threatened her she’d probably suffocate him with her oversized tee.

The door creaks open the slightest bit. “You still in there?” Kiara’s voice echoes through the bathroom.

“Yep.”

“You almost done?”

I roll my eyes. When I walk out of the bathroom a minute later and head toward the stairs, I notice my escort isn’t following. She’s standing in the empty hallway, that sour look still plastered on her face. “You didn’t even have to go,” she says, sounding annoyed. “You were stalling.”

“You’re a genius,” I say flatly, then take the stairs up two at a time.

Score one for Carlos Fuentes.

I hear her footsteps tapping on the floor behind me, trying to catch up. I walk down the second-floor hall, thinking of ways I can ditch her.