“Did you know about Tasha?” the words blurt out of my mouth as soon as he picks up the phone. “About Owen hooking up with her?”
The other end of the phone is silent for a moment, before he finally lets out a breath. “Yeah, Jess, I know about Tasha. So does everyone else. Owen isn’t exactly trying to hide it from anyone – but you.”
I stand up from my bed, and walk to sitting at my desk, in front of my mirror. Placing my phone down onto the desk, I switch it to speaker and focus on pulling my long brown hair up into a high pony tail. “Yeah, well Owen hasn’t exactly done a good job at hiding it from me. Girls in the locker rooms don’t whisper quietly, Simon. I heard about Tasha a while ago when he first did it, but I thought he stopped.”
Yanking on the band in my hair, I switch off speaker and press the phone back to my ear. Sighing, I make my way back to my bed and flop down. “He never stopped, Jess. I told you that. He’s never going to change, and the longer you’re with him you’re going to get hurt.”
My hands clench at my side, as I fight back the tears that come to my eyes. I’ve cried enough because of Owen this week; I wasn’t going to do it again. He’s had enough of my tears, and he doesn’t deserve any more. “Yeah,” I whisper, closing my eyes so I don’t have to see the intimidating blankness of the white ceiling, “I know. It’s hard, Simon, he was perfect and I don’t know…” I trail off, running my hand down my face in defeat. “But I’m over it. Everyone’s laughing at me, Simon. I’m a fool.”
I imagine Simon shaking his head, his floppy black fringe moving backwards and forwards like it had a mind of his own, and his bottom lip pulled into his mouth. “You’re not a fool, Jess.”
I chortle. “You’re required to say that, Simon. You’re my best friend.” I tease, rolling onto my front.
He laughs. “No, I’m required to tell you the truth. And I did. You’re not a fool, but you’re going to be if you carry on. Jess, you know what Owen is doing and you can’t let him keep treating you like this. If you don’t do something, I will.”
Playing with the edges of my pillowcase, I sigh. “What do I do, Simon? Go around and make out with each of his best friends? Because I’m not doing that. Publicly humiliate him? I couldn’t sink to his level. There’s nothing for me to do, Simon. I can’t even punch him; my mum would ground me for a month and make me sit in the kitchen as punishment. She knows that locking me in my room wouldn’t be punishment, as all my books are there.”
Simon laughs. “That’s very true. But Jess, there are worse things you can do to him without the words ‘revenge’ and ‘humiliation’ involved,” Simon pauses, which I assume is to lead up to a dramatic delivery (he’s in drama club, and is forever going on about dramatic pauses and stuff), “the worst thing you can do to him is be yourself. Not the Jessie Miller that he expects you to be. Not Jessie Miller the girlfriend. But Jessie Miller, the awesome girl who is my best friend and the girl that takes no shit.”
Before I get chance to say anything else, Simon cuts me off. “But first, you should probably break up with Owen.”
My heart stops in my chest and I sit up. “No, Simon, I can’t do that. Like how? I’ve never really broken up with anyone. And this is Owen what if he gets mad at me?”
A sigh comes from down the end of the phone. “Jessie, you have to do this. There’s no point in trying to be you while going out with Owen. He’ll see he still has you and it won’t teach him anything.”
“What if it gets him to stop? If me being me stops him from being a cheater then it’s a win-win.”
“Yes, Jessie. Until the next time he wants to do something you don’t want to do, or when you’re not paying enough attention to him, it will work until then. He will change for a while, but not for long. He’ll revert back, Jessie. He will go back to being that jealous possessive guy that goes and does the exact thing he’s afraid of you doing. For this truly to work, you can’t be with him anymore.”
I let out a long breath of air. “I guess you’re right,” I agree, biting on my bottom lip, “I don’t want to be a fool anymore, Simon.”
“Then don’t be.”
Nobody could stop staring at me. Everywhere I went curious eyes followed me. The eyes followed me to the cafeteria, to my locker, and even to the toilets. Everybody was staring at me, their eyes full of curiosity and surprise.
Jessie Miller just broke up with Owen Davies. Jessie broke up with Owen. I could hear the whispers of surprise; nobody expected it to happen. They all thought it was going to be Owen to dump me on my ass and leave me for Tasha.
I guess that’s why nobody asked me why I broke up with him. They all know. It was because of Owen, and his increasingly large portion of ‘on the side’ girls. Some looked sorry for me, the sympathy plain on their faces. “Poor Jessie,” they were probably thinking, “to be made a fool of, everyone knowing that her boyfriend was cheating on her.” Some people though looked proud. Those were the people that I smiled at in the hallways.
I didn’t want anyone’s sympathy. I didn’t want their pity. I wanted them to see me as me.
Usually when anyone went through a break up, they retreated into the back of the classroom. It happened two weeks ago, when Amy broke up with her boyfriend Derek. She kept to the back of the room, her head down, avoiding all the questions. It was the classic routine.
But I wasn’t going to do it.
I walk into my maths class, ignoring all the stares of the few class mates that have arrived. I’m five minutes early for my maths lesson, something which has never happened in the past year. “I guess breaking up with Owen has already changed me,” I mutter to myself, and plop down in the middle seat of the middle row.
“It’s definitely hasn’t changed much, you’re still talking to yourself like a loony,” Brendan snidely comments, slipping into the chair onto my left. “If you stop talking to yourself, then I’ll definitely know that something’s wrong.”
I roll my eyes, and pull out my pencil case from my bag. “Ha-ha, Brendan. Charming as always I see. Is that a sign saying you’re still single?”
He grins. “Are you offering?”
I sputter. “No!” I exclaim, slamming my pencil case onto the desk. “You have no shame, Brendan, no shame at all.”
Again, he grins. “Never said I did.”
He turns back to face the front as Mr Samuels walks into the classroom. He places his black brief case onto the desk, and flops down into his chair. “Good morning,” he greets, turning around and giving the few of us who occupy the classroom a charming smile, “I wonder who’s going to be late today – 10 pound it’s going to be Jessie.” Mr Samuels wasn’t an old teacher. He was in his late twenties, and held a very charming smile and gloriously styled hair. Even though I didn’t like maths, he made it a little more bearable.
“Sir, I’m here,” I announce back, popping my head around the side of John – the boy who sat in front of me – and smile directly at Mr Samuels. “I’m not late today.”
He blinks twice and immediately stands up. Running his hand through his stylish hair, he comes towards me. “Are you feeling okay, Miss Miller?” he presses the back of his very smooth and tanned hand to my forehead. “Brendan, what did you do to her?”
Brendan shakes his head, and reaches up to push his messy blonde hair away from his eyes. “I didn’t do anything,” he says, “scouts honour. She was already here when I turned up. Mind you, she was a little bit extra flirty today.” He leans forward, and presses his fingers to my neck. “Are you sure you’re okay?” he peers into my eyes.
“Oh get off of me both of you,” I command, swatting both of their hands way. “I’m fine. Just enthusiastic for maths. Is that a crime?”
“Yes,” both of them reply.
“For you Miss Miller, it definitely is. You haven’t shown up a second early to maths in the past year. But alas, I am not going to question it.” He raises his hands up in surrender and walks back to his chair. “Just going to embrace it.”
“Good.” I respond, nodding at him.
“Yup,” Brendan quips, “embrace the moment, Mr Samuels, because it’s never going to happen again.”
I turn to tell him shut up, but my words are cut off just as Tasha walks into the room. A crowd of people follow behind her, and they pile in heading straight for their seats. A few of them look at me, and then towards the back (I can almost hear them think about why I’m not at the back where I’m supposed to be) but then lose interest. Tasha though is a different story. She stands still by the front of the class room, her eyes trained on me.
“If there’s suddenly a girl fight, just know I’m on your side,” Brendan whispers, “and that’s not just because we are also partners in cooking class, and I’m at risk of you stabbing me.”
Tearing my eyes away from Tasha, I look at Brendan and roll my eyes. “There’s not going to be a bitch fight,” I reach over and pat Brendan’s hand, “and I’d never stab you, Bren-Bren. I’d cook you.” Grinning, I let go of him and laugh.
Brendan narrows his eyes, only a small proportion of his grey eyes can be seen. “Nope, you’re definitely still the same ol’ Jessie Miller you were before Owen.”
Immediately the frown drops off of my face. “No, I’m not,” I whisper, “I don’t want to be, okay?” turning back around, I face Mr Samuels, whose moaning at everyone to shut up so he can do the ‘important legal document’ that is called a ‘register’ which could ‘save’ our lives if there ever was a fire.
Brendan doesn’t say anything else. He just looks at me for a few more seconds, his bottom lip pulled into his mouth, before shaking his head and turning around. I let out a small breath that I was holding, and fiddle with the end of my pencil case.
“I’m sorry.” The words are sudden, cutting off Mr Samuel’s and his very monotone reading of the register. “Jessie, I’m sorry.” I look up, to see Tasha looking down at me. “I didn’t mean to hurt you like that, Owen told me that you guys were-“
I cut her off. “Tasha thank you for the apology.” I force a smile at her. “But it doesn’t matter to me anymore. It’s done. Owen and me, we are done. Not just because you made out with my boyfriend, on multiple occasions, but because other girls in this room also have. So don’t sweat it, I’m putting it behind me. Owen is yours.” My heart thumped in my chest, my fingers clenching on my pencil case, and my back tensed. The intense gazes of everyone were on Tasha and I, waiting to see what would happen. But I would not rise to their silly high school expectations of a full out bitch fight. “If you don’t mind, I’m pretty sure Mr Samuels has an important legal document he needs to fill in. I’m not sure about you, but I don’t fancy dying in a fire today.”
Tasha nods, and goes to walk away. Just as she moves past, she stops and turns around, facing me again. “He told me that you guys had broken up,” she says, her hands twisting in front of her. I see her bright pink nail varnish flash as she does quick hand movements, “and that you two were waiting to tell people. You wanted to quietly separate and not having drama. I believed him, and I’m sorry.”
I smile at her, releasing the end of my pencil case. “Then I guess we’re both fools, huh?”