Zee untucked her hair from behind her ears and ducked her head, using the golden curtain as a weak shield to hopefully conceal her and the book she was reading from her harsh surroundings. She was in the middle of a good book and wanted nothing more than to be left alone with it until she finished it and found another one.
Reading was one of Zee’s primary means of escape. Something happened when she read, something magical that transplanted her into a world that was very different from, and preferable to, her own. When she read, it muted the real world and put her in a comfortable daze in which she could ignore everything that she didn’t want to think about.
Like Joshua, who, after asking Zee out had gone to Tara and asked her, and of course, being one for attention in all forms Tara accepted. Zee didn’t mind that they were going out, she actually thought that they were a rather cute couple, as they were both attention-seeking idiots. What annoyed her was that this occurrence had strengthened Tara’s inner, lying nature. She had started a new rumor that Zee hated Joshua so much that she snuck into his house and stolen the camera he used to make YouTube videos when he was always so nice to her. Really.
Fortunately, this didn’t last long as most people had moved on to trying to figure out who dropped a stink bomb in the busiest stairwell of the school at the busiest time of the day that afternoon.
Unfortunately, even though most people were over it, Zee wasn’t.
“Hey, Zee.” Jacob tried to get her attention. “Zee!”
“What?” Zee mumbled, not moving. He didn’t hear her.
“Hey,” he said again, and she moved her hair and sat up to look at him.
“What?” She said louder, and slightly aggressively.
“We’re supposed to be working,” he said. She made a small noise in her throat that clearly showed her dislike of the idea of doing any sort of work at all. Grudgingly, she looked at the untouched worksheet on her table.
“Coordinating conjunctions,” she said, answering the question in question, before listing, “for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so. Happy?”
Jacob looked taken aback for a moment before nodding. Zee resumed her reading.
Later, Zee and Jacob walked to Science together as they normally did, though they were unusually quiet. Gabriella was nowhere to be seen. When they arrived in the classroom, Zee sat directly in her chair and opened her book again instead of sitting on her desk and chatting like she generally did. Having nobody to talk to, Jacob sat down in his seat and began answering the question on the board. Gabriella came in a small eternity that was actually more like forty-five seconds later, and bounded over to them.
“Hi guys, sorry I wasn’t there to walk with you, I got held up.” Jacob nodded and Zee gave a little mmhmm noise. “Okay,” Gabriella said pointlessly, taking her seat and doing the bellringer activity like the good student she was.
The lesson began shortly thereafter, and Zee paid no mind, choosing the fictional world she was engrossed in over the lesson on meiosis (they had just finished mitosis and were beginning to move on).
She stayed enveloped in her own little bubble until she was interrupted by the teacher’s chastising voice which said, “Zoelle, please put your book away.” She felt every pair of eyes in the classroom turn to her and her face warmed ever so slightly as she obeyed. Internally, she wanted to make some sort of dramatic exit. Perhaps a solid no and a slam of a door. Or a well-timed fire alarm and a quick escape. Even a cartoon character’s saw and the quick lurch of falling downwards into nothingness would be Zee’s preference over the overwhelming tedium of life and thoughts and words and people and places and feelings and sounds and smells and...and...
Zee glanced over at Jacob to see his expressionless eyes already locked on her. She quickly looked away and wondered what the chances were that the nurse would buy her fake-sick act.