Theo didn’t show up on Thursday, a rare, but awesome occurrence, and Lillian was brimming with happiness from it. She wouldn’t have to listen to his dumbness in French and English, thank god, and she wouldn’t have to listen to him chat with Doug during zero-hour.
She arrived exactly on time, as usual, and the ever-punctual Yvette and stupid-looking Noel were waiting for her in the room.
“Morning Lillian,” Yvette said calmly.
Noel waved cheerily and greeted with much more enthusiasm. “Good Morning!”
Lillian grunted. She hadn’t gotten quite enough sleep last night, what with extra ballet practice for the Spring Showcase. She should have quit ages ago.
The teacher left a little work time at the end of class, and Lillian was overcome with jealousy for Noel’s seat. She had competent people at her table, not just bozos who loved to flub their mouths. She cursed Noel’s luck.
She and Noel talked during P.E. warm-ups, but went their separate ways-Noel took fitness while Lillian had opted for power-walking. She probably should have switched to Noel’s class, if only to avoid the morning chills. That was why Noel had taken an indoor P.E. class in the first place. She was a wimp when it came to cold.
But at least it left a whole hour for solitary contemplation. No one Lillian knew, or was willing to talk to, was in that class, so thoughts flowed freely and without any chance of being spoken aloud. She made fun of song lyrics and the relationships between her friends, complained about her dad living elsewhere, and slandered those she hated, all in the confines of her mind. No chance of her thoughts slipping out here.
When first hour was over, Lillian and Noel rushed outside to avoid the crowds.
“It’s cold,” Noel muttered, shivering and gripping her heavy wool coat. She’d gotten it this year, and the cream-colored jacket was still magically new-looking. “I hate cold,” Noel grumbled again.
“We know,” Lillian said, “You’ve said that a thousand times.”
Noel smiled her dork smile, the one she used whenever she conceded to someone else’s opinion. “Yeah, you’re probably right.”
“But you’re right,” Lillian continued, “It’s what, April? It should be like twenty degrees warmer by now.”
“I’m not sure the difference is that great, but seventies sure would be nice. Seventies are almost as good as eighties.”
“You and your dumb weather preferences.”
Her dark-brown-haired friend giggled self-deprecatingly and readjusted her glasses.
Friday was normal. Theo came back, still sickly, but still savage in his commentary. He’d never change that.
During the passing between fifth and sixth hour, Noel managed to reach the Deutsch room just a bit earlier than usual. In fact, she'd gotten there so early that Theo, who she usually missed, smacked into her while she struggled towards the door.
“Watch it, fool,” he sneered, seeing her destination and trying to block it.
One of Noel’s classmates walked up, surprised to see someone waving his arms like a lunatic trying to keep someone out of their class.
“There are other people trying to get in, Theo,” Noel said. She tried to sound calm like Yvette, but it came out timidly.
The upperclassman laughed. “Freshman,” he said, rolling his eyes and magically sending Theo on his way. Lillian stopped Noel this time.
“Did you finish the math?” she asked.
“Duh, of course not. I’ll send it to you. I wish Theo was still sick and not being a dorkwad. See you.” She disappeared back into the stream and headed for French.
Finally, Noel could get into the Deutsch room.
When school was out, and the Deutsch room looked like some lunatic’s house with the chairs all put up, Noel and Lillian walked quickly, but amiably to the band locker room. It was Friday, and soon enough, Theo begrudgingly showed up to carry Noel’s French Horn.
“Why don’t you carry your own?” he asked as they walked to the buses. He asked that every time.
“I doubt Carrie trusts you with hers, but I’m fine with you carrying my Horn.”
“You should just let Carrie get her own instrument.”
“You know I couldn’t.”
“You should stop doting.”
“It’s not doting if I treat everyone like this,” Noel whined.
“Then stop caring. Whatever. Every man for himself, right?” Theo said.
Noel didn’t reply. Instead she tossed her hair and lifted her chin haughtily to look the other way.
“You were more fun in middle school.”
“I made resolutions.”
“No one follows through with resolutions.”
She didn’t say anything back and slipped a hand into her pockets to grope for her bus pass. A thick piece of paper touched her fingers and she showed it to the driver in one fluid motion, climbing the stairs and pocketing the pass right after.
The two found seats near the front where Carrie could easily find them. Carrie’s Horn sat between Noel and strangers, and Theo was trying to balance Noel’s precariously on his lap. Grimacing, Noel asked him to stop.
“You’re no fun,” he pouted.
“Noel is lots of fun,” Carrie argued from right in front of the two. When did she get there?
“She never reacts to my teasing anymore.”
“You just don’t know which buttons to press. And for the sake of her private space, don’t press the buttons on her coat.”
Noel hated being talked about when she was right there with them, but she was thankful for Carrie catching Theo’s attempt at a stomach poke.
“Mind telling me which ones to press then?” Theo asked.
Carrie began to say no, but Noel had already used her signature move. She pushed Theo’s head away, displacing his glasses in the process. “Shut up,” she said.
Surprisingly enough, he did.