Friday came as a godsend for Rebecca. All week she had dealt with Blake and his stupid admiration for Lucita. A small part of her felt guilty for disliking Lucita, she seemed like a nice girl, but it was terrible enough Blake flirted with every skirt that walked around. So why did he have to add her to the mix? She waited near the school entrance for Silvia and Liz, picking at her cuticles.
Waiting there, she heard something she hadn’t heard in a while. The voice was familiar, and looking ahead, she saw where the laughter was coming from and from the strangest place. Heading in her direction was none other than Liz, laughing alongside Lucita.
“What the hell?” she muttered to no one in particular.
“Yeah, they’re friends,” said a voice behind her. Spinning around, Rebecca looked over at Silvia, who just happened to pop out of nowhere.
“You weren’t on the bus this morning. I didn’t think you were coming.”
Silvia shrugged. “I woke up late, so my mom drove me. But anyway, yeah, they’re friends.”
Rebecca looked back at Lucita and Liz, laughing it up, no longer heading in her direction. “For how long?”
“A few days now. Liz thinks she’s cool. They have PE and French class together.”
“Yeah, so come on, unless you wanna stay and hang with them? We can stay or head out on our own?” Seeing the eager look in Silvia’s eyes, Rebecca knew she wanted her to choose to stay, to give Lucita a chance. But she couldn’t do it.
“Sorry, Sil, I can’t stay. Let’s get going.”
Silvia shook her head, disappointed. “Okay, fine. But just so you know, she’s pretty cool, and she doesn’t like Blake at all.”
“Can we not talk about Blake.”
Shock filled her eyes. “Yeah, totally.” Together they walked in silence, heading to class. First Silvia, then Blake, then Elizabeth. What the hell made her so special? What made her so memorable?
Taking her seat in the back silently, she pulled out her notebook, aware of Silvia watching her intently. Silvia had always been a good friend, always stuck by her, even when everyone else seemed to forget she existed.
Sitting in English class, Lucita chatted away with Richard, her only friend in the class so far. Again, another substitute sat there with their feet on the desk while everyone did whatever they wanted, even though there was an assignment on the board. A short essay to present on Monday. The one thing Lucita hated more than anything was having to talk in front of a class. Especially in a class of people she barely knew. But she would do the stupid assignment, do her best, and make an impression on the teacher.
“What are you writing?”
She looked up at Lucas, Richard’s friend, as he sat beside her. “The essay is due Monday.”
“Shit, that’s it?”
Lucita blushed, looking back at her already half-full paper. “Yeah, I know, it’s a lot—”
“It’s more than a lot. Well, at least you’ll get an ‘A’ on it.”
Laughing nervously, she pulled her hair down to cover her face and burning cheeks. “Yeah, at least I’ll get an A.” Sitting back in her seat, she stared at the paper, watching while other people fooled around. Something never changed; she would always be the outsider with her head down in her notes.
Rebecca looked at Blake across the classroom and sighed when her phone vibrated.
Stop looking at him.
She rolled her eyes, sick of Silvia pestering her about Blake. Her feelings for him weren’t going to change overnight, that’s not how things worked, and Silvia didn’t get that. Without responding, she shut her phone, turning it to silent. This was her life, not Silvia’s.
Silvia watched Rebecca shut her phone from the back of the class. She only wanted what was best for her friend, and that wasn’t Blake. Anyone who didn’t flirt with every girl he knew would be better than Blake, playing boyfriend to more than one, on the hunt for another. Silvia knew Lucita was smarter than that, and she could see what Blake was really like. She was smart, she was sweet, but a little sad too. It made Silvia want to talk to her, even if it made Rebecca want to push her away.
The bell rang, and Silvia left Rebecca alone, giving her the space she clearly wanted. Then, taking one last look at Rebecca, head down, shoving her stuff into her bag, she left, sighing. All Silvia wanted was to help her friend, not push her away. Sometimes it felt like she couldn’t do anything right.
Rebecca watched Silvia leave from the corner of her eye. She knew Silvia cared, unlike pretty much everyone else, but Rebecca was not in the mood to deal with her telling her how to feel.
“Hey, Becca.” Rebecca spun around and looked at Blake. He smiled at her.
“Let me walk you to class.”
“Why not.” He smiled and adjusted his bag. “So come on.” She smiled and walked next to him.
“So Blake, what’s—”
“You wanna go to the movies sometime?” Rebecca almost tripped over her own feet.
“Uh, yeah, sure, why not.”
Blake shrugged. “I haven’t decided. So, what class do you have now?”
And just like that, her insides crumbled. “That same class as you,” she mumbled.
He laughed. “Oh, yeah, that’s right. I can’t believe I never noticed.” He laughed some more, fueling her sadness that made its way around her stomach. But, of course, he never noticed; he was only really talking to her because of Lucita’s existence. So she held her tongue and listened to him babble on about irrelevant obstacles faced in a day. He spoke about Evie and Lucita and school and homework. Rebecca wanted to shut her ears, but she couldn’t. She loved listening to him talk.
Once they entered class, they moved around the seats so he could sit next to her. At least one small part of him was paying attention to her. Rebecca counted her blessings, as pathetic as they were.
Bolting out to leave Rebecca, Silvia hunted down Lucita. As it was second period, she knew she had French class with Elizabeth. It was her luck that Silvia just happened to have Spanish right across the hall. And for more luck, she got there just as Liz entered the classroom, without Lucita, which meant she was still on her way from wherever she was.
Silvia waited just outside the room until she saw Lucita. She was walking through the double doors, entering the third-floor hallways, a book in one hand, her bag on her left shoulder. Lucita wore plain black sneakers and jeans, a simple blue tank top, and a black sweater tied around her waist. Her eyes were on the ground, but she looked up as though feeling eyes upon her.
Lucita scrunched up her eyes in confusion. What was Silvia doing in front of her class? Nevertheless, she kept her step and continued to walk toward her. She wondered what she wanted or if she was just here to see Elizabeth.
“Hello?” said Lucita as kindly as she could, trying to keep the questioning tone out of her voice.
“Hey. Uh, I don’t know if you remember me—”
“I do. You’re Silvia. You live in the same complex as me, ironically on the third floor.” Lucita found it ironic because, at this moment, they were standing on the third floor. She didn’t think Silvia got it, though, as she stared at her, confused.
“Wow, you do remember.”
“Somethings I don’t forget, despite what my mom says.” She said that more to herself than to Silvia.
“Oh.” Silvia didn’t know what to say. Lucita felt awkward; she didn’t know what to say.
“So, what class do you have?”
“Oh, um, Spanish.”
“That’s cool. I have French.”
“Cool, yeah, you have that class with Elizabeth.”
Lucita nodded. “Yup.”
“So, uh, hey, do you wanna have lunch together.”
“Uh, sure, yeah.”
“Cool, I’ll see you later then. Meet in the cafeteria?”
“Yeah, I’ll see you later.” As conversations went, it was probably the shortest one Lucita had ever had with anyone. Starring after her as she left, she entered her own classroom, taking her seat next to Elizabeth. Pulling her sweater on quickly to avoid being chastised by the teacher, she leaned back into her chair, arms crossed.
“Hey, what took you so long to get in? I wanted to talk to you about something.”
Lucita looked at her curiously. “Sorry, Silvia wanted to talk to me. What do you want to talk about?”
“You know Blake, right?”
Lucita wanted to roll her eyes but fought against the urge. “Yeah, I know, Blake.”
“Yeah, well, be careful around him. He’s a real a-hole.”
“I figured. He seems to have a ton of girlfriends.” The bell rang, but Ms. Henley was nowhere to be seen.
“I don’t think he considers them girlfriends,” continued Liz. “They’re basically girls he makes out with.”
“That doesn’t seem to surprise me.” They looked at the door quickly, but still no teacher. “I wonder where Ms. Henley is?”
Elizabeth shrugged. “Who knows? Why doesn’t that surprise you?”
Biting her lip, she took a sidelong glance at Liz. Liz, who was friends with Rebecca who liked Blake. Lucita knew that she couldn’t procrastinate any further. Elizabeth looked like she was beginning to grow suspicious.
“Well, I mean, Blake is good-looking. And I’ve already noticed the amount of attention he attracts from girls.”
Elizabeth let out a friendly laugh. “Like the attention you get from guys?”
Shakily, she laughed herself. “I guess.” The door finally opened, revealing a substitute teacher who seemed to have lost his way. Lucita felt terrible for him as people around her began to snicker. She knew what getting lost felt like.
Rebecca waved for Silvia outside the cafeteria. Given her day, she was in the mood for some greasy pizza loaded with cheese and pepperoni. On her way, Becca caught sight of Blake, arm wrapped around Evie, headed to PE. Blake waved at her with his free hand while Evie, in her stupid smug way, smiled at her as if she were better than her. Rebecca’s crush may be just that, but at least she wasn’t in a delusional one-sided relationship.
Silvia caught sight of Becca staring longingly after Blake as he headed to his fourth-period class, arm around Evie. She looked back at Lucita and Liz, who approached together, chatting away like they were best friends. Looking back at Becca, she just hoped Becca would be nice.
Turning back to Silvia, she saw Lucita step to her side, once again making a usually stoic Liz laugh. Despite herself, her jealousy grew. What the hell, she thought.
Lucita turned away from Liz and looked ahead at the approaching Becca, recognizing the look in her eyes. Her own smile faltered as the same old anxiety she always felt came bubbling up. All of a sudden, Luci wanted to run away and hide. She also wanted to punch her but resisted the compulsion.
“Silvia,” said Rebecca, staring at Lucita, “took you long enough.” Without a word to Liz or Lucita, she led the way into the cafeteria, trying to keep her head high. Her animosity was clear to Lucita and probably clear to everyone else.
“Let’s get some salad,” said Silvia. “It’s the shortest line.”
“Yeah, okay.” No one opposed the suggestion, but Rebecca wanted to. She wanted pizza, not salad. But no one would listen to her anyway. No one ever did.
As for Lucita, she just hung outside the line, picking her nails as she chatted with Liz.
“Aren’t you going to get lunch,” asked Silvia.
Lucita shook her head. “No, I don’t eat school lunch, never have. It’s never really appetizing.”
“Oh, so you’re anorexic,” remarked Rebecca. Lucita shot her a glare and clenched her hand.
The muscles in Lucita’s arms tightened and twitched. “No, I’m not. I just don’t like eating school lunch. I’ll take someone’s milk, though.”
“Whatever.” Rolling her eyes, Lucita kept it all in, looking at Liz and Silvia with pursed lips. They both shrugged apologetically but didn’t say or do anything. Lucita was starting to get really annoyed with the girl. All she was trying to do, all she ever tried to do, was be nice, be friendly. But apparently, there was nothing she could do to make herself likable to this standoffish girl. Lucita was familiar with jealousy, but even this was too much for her to take.
Gathering their lunches together, they picked a table outside in the shade. Liz kindly handed Lucita her carton of chocolate milk, and together, they sat uncomfortably, trying to chat while Becca just picked at her food, glaring at Lucita. Lucita tried ignoring her, but when Rebecca suddenly stood up, she knew that was futile, as was being nice.
“What are you doing here?”
Lucita just looked up at her. “I’m here because Silvia and Elizabeth invited me.”
“Yeah, well, they shouldn’t have.”
Lucita fumed inside and clenched her fist. She was done being nice and taking this girl’s crap.
“What the hell is your freaking problem with me? I haven’t done anything to you!”
“Oh no? Right, you just happen to be attracted to Blake.” That was the last straw for Lucita. Standing up, she grabbed Becca by the collar of her shirt and pulled her close.
“Okay, listen closely. I am not attracted to that boy, and I am sick of your bullshit. It’s not my fault he’s attracted to me. So how about you freaking grow up and get a life. The world does not revolve around you, you petty bitch.” Shoving her away, nearly knocking her over, she grabbed her bag, ignoring Silvia and Elizabeth as they called for her, biting back her own tears. She needed a place to hide, a place to cry. Heading to the stairwell, she ran to the top floor, past kids with lunches and stupid teenagers making out, holding her tears until she was alone.
Silvia stared after Lucita, who hurried away, ignoring their calls to come back. Then, angry, Silvia stared at Rebecca, who had just taken her seat back as if nothing had happened.
“What the hell, Becca!”
Rebecca just stared at her. “I’m sorry, didn’t you see how she just attacked me? I say good riddance.” Silvia could not believe that she was the one acting like the victim.
“Are you kidding right now? You deserved it! You act like it’s just fine to treat someone like crap when it’s not. You deserve a slap in the face for being a bitch!”
“She’s right,” began Elizabeth. “For god’s sake, Becca, get over it! Blake doesn’t like you. He never will. He likes her, but you know what? She feels nothing for him. If you bothered to get to know her, you would know that. Get over yourself.” Elizabeth grabbed her bag and stalked off. Silvia just stared at her.
“You know, Becca, Elizabeth’s right, harsh but right. Get over it.” She grabbed her bag and walked off. Rebecca just sat there, stunned, picking at her salad. She didn’t care what they thought of her. She didn’t care about Lucita. No one ever listened to her. No one paid attention to her, so why should she care about someone else? So what if she was alone right now? It wasn’t like that was going to change anytime soon.
New Girl (Memoirs of the Third Floor #1)
Lucita is starting at a new school. Silvia is keeping a secret. Rebecca is struggling with herself. Three girls and their friends have entered high school, and for each of them, it’s hard enough without having to deal with friends, betrayal, and their insecurities. High School is tough enough without having to be the new girl.