At lunch, I discovered that Adam had been given detention.
I saw him through the window of the dean's classroom, sitting inside alone, with a scowl on his face and a cafeteria burrito on the desk in front of him. We didn't have after-school detention at Courtyard Prep. I'm not sure why. Maybe it was assumed that we all had things to do that couldn't be interrupted. Like hours of homework or those extracurriculars that looked so good on your college application. So instead, you did your time during lunch, confined to the dreary classroom where the dean taught freshmen history.
I knew immediately why Adam was in there. This was how Courtyard handled things, apparently: I got called in to chat with the school counselor and Adam got detention. I guess it made sense. Adam didn't make the honor roll or have teachers who would vouch for him. Adam was, maybe, what Mr. Bodoni would call a bad kid. And he had called Mrs. Harold a bitch. But I still didn't like it, the disparity in our punishments. I'd been breaking the rules too. I didn't like that I was getting special treatment because my grades had been good and the only transgression on my permanent record was from second grade when I jabbed Riley Summers in the shoulder with a pencil.
But that wasn't the only transgression, I reminded myself. Courtyard knew I'd been skipping. Though as far as I could tell, they weren't punishing me for that either. I'd been allowed to walk out of Mr. Bodoni's office without offering so much as an apology. That made the whole thing even more unfair: Courtyard would toss Adam into detention but they could barely muster a slap on the wrist when it came to someone like me.
My hand started to cramp from its death-grip on my lunch bag. I'd been distracted and queasy since I left the counselor's office, sick with the idea that I had been caught, that Courtyard knew about the times I'd skipped chemistry or ducked out of precalculus twenty minutes early. But now, watching Adam serve his detention, I just felt angry. Angry at Courtyard, yeah, but also at myself for spending all morning caring so much about what the school administration thought of me.
Adam didn't care.
Through the window, I saw Adam raise a middle-finger salute at Mr. Newman's turned back. Adam really did not give a fuck if he got a trouble or not. Watching him I was struck with two thoughts: I was terribly jealous and I had never wanted more for Adam to be my friend.
When I turned away from the classroom, I almost slammed straight into Teek. She was right behind me and stood, as always, well below my line of vision. The top of her head came up to my sternum.
"You spying on someone?" she asked. She had a tray from the cafeteria in her hands, and I was relieved I hadn't toppled her lunch.
"Not really," I said. "Just seeing who's in detention."
"Who?" Teek peered around me, her tray tilting dangerously til her milk carton slid to the edge. She stood on one leg, the other extended to the side for counter-balance. "Oh, Adam Gozmen. Shocker." She set her leg back down. "So where do you want to sit? That is, if you're not having lunch with your other friends."
I made a face at her. That was one of our jokes; she knew I didn't have other friends. She didn't have any either. With only about sixty students in each grade, it was tough to find people you could relate to—especially when you were precariously close to being the class weirdos. People were friendly to us, but there's a difference between friendly and friends. I couldn't complain though; I knew I'd lucked out with Teek. She and I had been friends since middle school when we showed up on the first day of seventh grade wearing similarly ugly bucket hats.
"Let's just grab a table in the quad," I said.
"Works for me."
I stole one last look at the dean's classroom before heading for the picnic tables. I couldn't see anything past the glare on the windows and I felt silly for looking.
Teek plopped down at the first vacant table, dropped her tray with a clatter, and started to peel off the foil from her baked potato. I took the seat across from her.
"So where were you this weekend?" she asked. "I didn't even see you online."
I pulled my sandwich from its crumpled bag. Turkey today. "I was around. Just…dealing with some stuff at home."
Teek picked up a plastic knife and dug into the potato. "What stuff?"
"My mom had a problem at work." I swallowed, pressing dimples into the Wonder Bread of my sandwich with my thumbs. "They…let her go."
Teek had moved on to shaking a parade of salt packets onto her spud, but she paused mid-shake to gape at me. "No shit? She got fired? Why?"
"She made some kind of mistake. Like, a serious one."
"What did she do?"
I shook my head. "I don't know the details. She didn't want to talk about it.”
"That sucks," Teek said. "What's she going to do now?"
"I don't know."
"Well…I'm sure she'll find another job."
"Yeah," I said. Then I couldn't think of anything else to say, so I watched Teek finish with the salt and pick up a fork. The cafeteria's baked potatoes were barely acceptable as food unless you smothered them with cheese or chili, yet Teek ate hers practically naked.
"Oh," she said, once her mouth was full, "I was thinking of making cupcakes for our GSA meeting tomorrow. Want to come over tonight and help?"
"Are we calling it the GSA again?" I asked.
"Well, not officially. But we have to call it something."
Teek and I (but mostly Teek) were the founding members of what was sometimes known as the Gay-Straight Alliance. It was probably the one thing we were known for at Courtyard but we'd yet to give it an official name. Having “gay” in the name had seemed like a mislead as no one at our high school would publicly admit to being gay. Not even our faculty advisor, Mr. Frakas, who worked in the library and had been living with the same guy for ten years. They had two kids. But still, it just wasn't something you could say. What about GLAG? Teek had suggested at the last meeting. Gay and Lesbian Awareness Group? That way we weren't singling anyone out because it was just about, you know, Awareness. But GLAG? It sounded awful to me, like someone choking or throwing up. GLBTQ Club, maybe? A mouthful. Spectrum? Too vague. Aside from Teek and me, we only had two other members—both freshman girls—but we still couldn't reach a consensus. We probably never would.
Teek was waving her fork at me. "So are you coming over or what?"
"Maybe," I said. "I might have too much homework."
Teek rolled her eyes. "Come on, Dillon, it's me. I know that’s your go-to excuse.”
She was right, of course. "Fine," I said, sighing for dramatic effect. "I'll come."
Making cupcakes for four people wasn't a big commitment, and it had to beat sitting at home with Mom and Richard.
I didn't see Adam again until after the three o'clock bell, when I bumped into him leaving class.
"Hey, Dillon," he said.
I was seized by the urge to apologize for his detention, for the Great Unfairness of the situation, but I didn't know where to start. The hallway—one of the few halls in a mostly open-air campus—was filling up and I could feel people squeezing past me on both sides. "I saw you in detention," I said.
"Yeah, guess Ol’ Harold wasn't too happy with our grand exit on Friday." Adam shrugged, side-stepping the swing of someone's backpack. "They let you off the hook though?"
"It's okay, I get it. First time offender?"
"Yeah," I said, even though it wasn't true.
He smirked, hooking his thumbs in his backpack straps. "Well, see you later."
I fumbled a good-bye with a weird half-wave and spent the bus ride home worrying about just how awkward I had come off.
As pathetic as I knew it was, I just wanted Adam to like me. It had been a long time since there was someone I wanted so badly to impress.
Up next Thursday, Chapter Six: Cupcakes.