Zee was a big fan of corners. She found them comforting. And, in strange social situations such as school dances, comfort was, well, comforting. Sure, standing in her corner all alone made her look a little bit like an antisocial hermit, but it was a good corner. It provided clear sightlines to every other corner of the room, and to a fair portion of the dance floor as well. It also was slightly out of the way, so it she wasn’t the first thing people saw. It was the perfect place to observe her strange surroundings. So, Zee stood in her corner, idly sipping a flimsy, paper cup of pop, and observing. At first, her friends had protested her antisocial attitude, but she’d been able to slip away from their excited chatter when she said she was thirsty and promised to be back. Which was true; she would be back, eventually.
It wasn’t that she didn’t like her friends, or didn’t want to be there, she just needed a little space to clear her head every once and a while. She always felt a little out of place in social situations, like she was on the outside, looking in, and she generally liked to fulfill this role. The more massive the social occasion, the more frequently she felt suffocated and wanted to escape to calm herself. Not that she wasn’t having fun, she didn’t want to be like the bumbling baboons populating the school.
The dance had had a surprisingly good turnout. Everywhere, clumps of students (mostly girls) stood and talked, or bounced awkwardly on the “dance floor” (aka, the multipurpose gym, which was opened up to the cafeteria with the removal of the sliding wall that usually separated them). In the main gym, tennis shoes squeaked and basketballs bounced as the guys entertained themselves the only way most of them seemed to know how: Sports (which Zee considered next to useless on many levels).
Also, Zee was not over or under dressed, which she was very thankful for, as she didn’t like drawing attention. The black and white striped skirt and red t-shirt were perfect, as were her black Converse boots and her small, silver necklace shaped like a giraffe. She’d ditched the leather jacket in the coat room with her friends’ things; it was too hot for it inside.
Most other people were wearing skirts, t-shirts, semi-formal dresses. Most of the guys hadn’t dressed up at all, staying in their jeans, t-shirts, athletic shorts, and tennis shoes. That was no surprise.
So far, Zee hadn’t seen much interaction between the guys and the girls, aside from the occasional person being shoved in someone else’s direction by a horde of well-meaning, out of control, friends. This wasn’t unexpected, and Zee hadn’t been expecting anything, but that didn’t mean it didn’t sting a little when Jacob had walked right by her corner without a single form of acknowledgement towards her. Zee had dismissed it, telling herself that he hadn’t seen her, or perhaps peer pressure or awkwardness of some kind was influencing him. Of course, she didn’t really like those explanations, but they were understandable.
As Zee pondered these things, staring blankly into thin air, Gabriella came up next to her.
“You okay?” she asked, obviously concerned. This was a common occurrence. Apparently, when Zee was thinking she looked unhappy, even if she wasn’t.
“Yeah, I’m fine,” Zee smiled at her.
“Really? You looked like you wanted to kill someone.” Gabriella looked at her critically.
Zee put her hands up. “Seriously, I’m good. Have you seen Pete yet?”
Gabriella sighed, “No, have you?”
“Nope. Have you looked in the gym?”
Gabriella glanced warily at the doors to the echoey basketball court. “No...”
“Well, go look then!” Zee encouraged. Gabriella gave her a pleading look and Zee rolled her eyes in agreement.
Somewhat reluctantly, Zee left her corner and started walking towards the gym. She noticed Gabriella trailing behind, so Zee grabbed her wrist and gently tugged her along behind her.
The gym smelled like floor wax and old socks. There were a total of about ten boys in the echoey room, and about six girls standing in two groups along the sidelines, watching the guys play a competitive game of basketball. Or, as Zee called it, pointless.
Yes, let’s throw spheres at stationary objects and call it fun. Good idea.
Next to her, Gabriella shrunk a little. “What if he’s not coming?” she worried.
Zee rolled her eyes and guided her friend out of the gym. “Let’s go look on the dance floor,” she said. They weaved through clumps of people chatting before they went to the "dance floor". It was really just a gym with a rubber floor, all the lights off save some flashy colored ones, and a DJ set up in a pin of lunch tables at one end. The music was too loud and poppy for Zee's taste and she winced when they were hit with a shockwave of sound upon walking through the doorway. Gabriella wrung her fingers as they both scanned the room.
"I see him!" Zee said, nudging Gabriella.
Gabriella glanced around frantically. "Where?!"
Zee pointed to the brown-haired boy leaning against the back wall with his hands in the pockets of his jeans. He was with two of his friends, girls that Gabriella knew, and seemed bored with the conversation.
"Go on," Zee said, nudging Gabriella again. She stumbled forward a little and stepped back again, giving Zee a dirty look. "Seriously, you know those girls, and he's bored, just join the conversation, lean against the wall next to him, and ask if he wants to dance or whatever. It's not that hard."
"But what if he says no?" She looked at Zee pleadingly. "Please don't make me."
Zee sighed and pulled her to the side, out of the doorway they were blocking. Not that anyone was trying to get through. "Listen, do you like this guy?"
"And you want to dance with him?"
Again, she nodded.
"And you understand that if you don't you'll regret it later?"
She didn't nod, but her expression said yes.
"So go. What do you have to lose? Even if he says no it's not the end of the world. You'll get over it. Promise."
Gabriella looked down, but eventually nodded.
"Now go!” Zee said, gesturing in the proper direction with her head. She leaned against the wall and watched. As soon as her friend was dancing with the boy and having a good time, Zee slipped out of the room and headed back towards her corner, only to see it occupied and turn away to walk in the opposite direction just a split second too late.
“Yo! Elle!” The occupant of the corner shouted at her. Inwardly sighing, Zee turned.
“What do you want, Joshua?” Zee asked warily. Since he had asked her out on Valentine’s Day, he had asked out seven other girls, some multiple times. When Zee did the math, it averaged out to him trying to ask a girl out nearly 3 times a week.
It was pathetic how desperate for attention he was.
He smiled and chirped, “Just want to talk to you! How have you been?”
Zee sized him up and decided she could probably kill him with her bare hands if she wanted. “I’m fine,” she said shortly, glancing around for an excuse to stop talking to him.
“Cool! I’m fine too, I actually started a Youtube channel for my Justin Bieber covers, it’s pretty great, you should totally check it out and subscribe and stuff.” He looked at her earnestly.
“No, thanks,” Zee said, looking around to see if Zoya or Alice was around to save her. Unfortunately, she didn’t see them anywhere.
Joshua gave her puppy dog eyes. “Please? C’mon, why not?”
“Because if Justin Bieber was on fire in front of me and I had water, I would buy a goldfish,” she replied.
Joshua laughed. Zee looked at him like he was an alien.
“That’s funny,” he said, wiping nonexistent tears from his eyes. “Want me to request a good song for us to dance to?”
Zee opened her mouth to flame his soul but someone behind her got there first.
“No, she doesn’t,” they said. Zee turned around to see Jacob, smirking.
“Ohh are you two, y’know, together?” Joshua asked in a failed attempt of looking sly.
“No,” Zee said. “I just despise you.”
“Really?” Joshua said, before continuing with a wink, “Because you let me call you Elle earlier. It’s okay to like me, y’know.”
Zee rolled her eyes. “Get out of my corner,” she said.
“Your corner? How about we make it our corner?” Joshua suggested, flipping his floppy hair violently.
“How about no. Leave,” Zee told him firmly.
“Is that really what you want?” Joshua asked, bringing an annoyingly exaggerated face of disappointment.
“Yes,” Jacob said, intervening again.
Joshua looked at him, then at Zee, then at him, then sighed. As he he walked away he lamented, “Why are the good ones always taken?”
“Thanks,” she said to Jacob. “One of these days I’m going to cube him and replace the cafeteria cheese with his flesh, but until then...”
“No problem, dude,” Jacob answered, punching her shoulder playfully. “That’s what bros are for.” Zee nodded, and Jacob walked away, leaving her alone in her corner.
She looked down to see that she was still holding her drink, which she had completely forgotten about and had somehow not spilled. She drank the rest of it and watched Gabriella cream everyone in a dance-off (she’d been obsessed with and in dance since birth).
When she was done, she walked around until she found Zoya and Alice by the door.
“Hey!” Alice said, “We’ve been looking everywhere for you.”
“Sorry,” Zee said, “there was a Creep situation.”
“Joshua is the worst,” Zoya said. “Look at him now.” She nodded to something over Zee’s shoulder.
Zee turned around and looked to see Tara and Jacob sitting very close to each other on top of a lunch table, their feet on the bench. Tara appeared to be hanging on his every word. “Well, that was quick,” Zee commented dryly. “They’re kind of perfect for each other, actually.”
“Maybe they’ll destroy each other and the world will rejoice,” said Alice.
“On behalf of planet Earth and humans everywhere, I sure hope so,” Zee said, “C’mon, let’s get pizza.”
They did, and they sat at the table as far away from Joshua and Tara as they could get. They were discussing the sleeping hours and incorrect classification of koalas when Tara, clad in tight, black skinny jeans and a stained, white “I heart rock” t-shirt, walked over and interrupted.
“Josh is mine,” she said, glaring at Zee.
Feeling rather confident, perhaps partially due to the effects of the caffeine she’d been drinking, Zee replied, “I’m sorry, who?” Zoya and Alice were smiling, trying not to laugh.
Tara nodded to Joshua, who was annoying the DJ and didn’t appear to see her talking to Zee.
“Oh, you mean Joshua,” Zee said, nodding her head.
“I call him Josh,” she said. “He’s mine.”
“Which I care about because...” Zee gestured for her to elaborate.
Tara flopped her greasy, brown hair over her shoulder. “Josh says you like him,” she said, putting her hands on her hips. “He said you asked him out earlier.”
Zee laughed. “I’d rather date a walrus.” Alice and Zoya let a few snickers slip.
Tara crossed her arms and stuck her hip out. “Why were you talking to him, then? Don’t lie, I saw you.”
“He was talking to me,” Zee said, taking a bite of her pizza and raising her eyebrows at Tara before swallowing and saying, “he asked if I wanted him to ‘request a good song for us to dance to’. Obviously, I declined.”
Tara huffed. “You’re lying,” she said. “He did not.”
“Actually, he did,” Jacob said, materializing behind Zee. Again.
“Do I even know you?” Tara asked him, apparently annoyed.
“No, but I was there,” he replied, looking her evenly in the eye.
At this point, Joshua noticed the powwow going on and looked slightly panicked. He left the DJ’s lunch table enclosure and started walking over, yelling “Tar! Hey, Tar!”
“Tar?” Zee laughed and looked at Tara. “Like the black stuff in smoker’s lungs that kills people? How fitting.”
“Oh my god, whatever,” Tara said with a dirty look before stalking off to Joshua. They stood for a second and talked while staring at Zee and her friends. They stared right back at them, and after a few seconds, they walked away.
Zee looked up so far she looked backwards to see Jacob. “Hi,” she said.
“Dude, when did you get so popular?” He asked.
“It happens when you get forcibly backed into literaphorical corners,” she replied. “When did you get so omnipresent?”
Jacob smiled. “Literaphorical?”
“Word sandwich. Literal and metaphorical,” she explained.
“I see,” he said.
“Do you?” Zee challenged, trying not to laugh.
Jacob replied vaguely, “I don’t know, do I?”
“That depends on if you do or if you don’t.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about, it’s entirely fair,” Zee grinned.
“Fair point,” he repeated.
“I’m so lost,” Zoya interrupted. “What are you guys even talking about?”
“Don’t try to understand it, just accept it,” Alice told her. “I’m pretty sure even they don’t know what they’re talking about.”
“Fair point,” Jacob and Zee said in unison before looking at each other and laughing.