Hearing this name, two small heads shot up from coloring pages. Both were blonde, but one shade was platinum and the other ashy. Christie needed a red crayon, and she was not asking both Alexes.
Red like her stockings, noticed the dirtier blonde, before returning to his picture in slight annoyance. They were never talking to him. He was "Alex L.," to everyone in Miss Sylvester's kindergarten class. If this was supposed to be less confusing, it wasn't working. At home, he was Alex, and at school, he wasn't.
It didn't matter, though, because the closest thing he had to red was "red violet," the color nobody wanted. It was a silly color. Besides, he didn't like Christie. This was her second year of kindergarten, so she acted like a know-it-all because she'd already done everything. Once, he'd asked her why she had to do it again if she was so good at it, and she'd said he "wouldn't get it." Ever since that, he'd tried not to talk to her because he wasn't important enough.
"Class, it's milk time! Who hasn't passed out the milk yet?" announced Miss Sylvester. She was young, and most of her students said she was really nice, but Alex L. thought her lips were weird-looking.
A few hands shot up in the air.
"No, Brendan, you've done it twice. Christie, Matt, and Megan, you've done it before too. Who really hasn't had a turn yet?"
"Alex L. hasn't!" called out the other Alex, and a few of his classmates made noises of agreement.
"He shouldn't get to! He never does anything!" said Christie, crossing her arms.
Alex L. himself pretended not to hear. He pressed the green crayon harder as if this action would block out their voices.
"Calm down, everyone," said Miss Sylvester. "Alex L., would you please pass out the milk today?"
The boy's eyes became wide with shock upon his being addressed, and his crayon slipped so the color went outside the lines of the apple. He hated milk. It came from cows, and once his older brother had told him all about mad cow disease. Alan was an expert on scary things like that. Besides, milk tasted like cardboard.
"Christie can do it," he mumbled.
"No, she's already had her turn," said Miss Sylvester. She must've thought he didn't understand that everyone else had gone. "You have to."
Scowling, Alex L. ripped his ruined coloring page in half before walking to the shelf. The milk cartons had been delivered about ten minutes ago, and he picked up two with caution. Because he though mad cow disease could seep through the wet cardboard, he was careful not to touch the cold parts.
"You're supposed to give us paper towels first!" said Brendan.
Miss Sylvester had gone to her desk and was scribbling on her agenda. Distractedly, she remarked, "It's almost December. Haven't you noticed that we always start with paper towels?"
"S-sorry," muttered Alex L., brushing his mousy blonde bangs out of his face, quickly reaching for the dispenser.
"Don't do that! There are some already out!" shouted the other Alex.
Alex L. remained standing between the box of milk cartons and the dispenser, looking lost.
"Alex, show him where the stack is!" said Miss Sylvester, still staring intently at her page. This statement further confused Alex L. until he realized it was not directed at him.
He glared at his name-stealing nemesis, who approached him with a look of self-importance on his lightly freckled face.
"It's so easy. They're right here," said Alex, pointing to the left side of the classroom sink.
Alex L. didn't walk over to the classroom sink. He was growing angrier by the second. Everyone treated him like he was stupid. It wasn't fair at all. Why should he have known where the paper towels were? He decided to handle this like a grown-up.
The whole class was staring at him, except for Miss Sylvester, who didn't seem to care. The other Alex had not gone back to his seat yet, and he was saying something under his breath about how he should be the one giving out the milk.
"I can hear you! Shut the hell up!" yelled Alex L. His fears of mad cow disease gone, he grabbed a chocolate milk carton and chucked it at the other boy's shoulder.
It hit its target and landed on the floor, slightly leaking.
The whole class gasped. Miss Sylvester looked up just as Alex shouted, "Alex L. threw milk at me!"
"Alex L.—" she began.
"STOP CALLING ME THAT!" he screeched, picking up two more cartons for self-defense.
At this point, some of the students still looked shocked, and some were giggling. The rest were just annoyed that they hadn't gotten their milk yet.
"That's it, you're going to the principal!" said the teacher.
"Ooh," was the collective response of the kindergartners.
Until this moment, Alex L. had not realized he'd done something really bad and he was going to be in a lot of trouble. Ashamed, he put back the two milks and stared at the multicolored carpet in shame.
"Can I give them out already, Misses S.?" said the other Alex, exasperated. His request was met with a curt nod.
Miss Sylvester called in Ms. M. from next door to supervise her class while she walked Alex L. to the office. Without him, milk time could be held in peace.
Although Alex L. knew he was a bad kid, he'd never been to the principal before. However, it didn't end up being scary. The principal just called Mrs. Little, told her what had happened, and said she had to pick up her son. Everyone in the office ignored him until his mother arrived, smiling and acting like the principal was her friend. Alex knew she was faking it.
"No TV for two weeks!" she said once they were alone outside the building. She was holding a McDonald's bag and a can of Slimfast; she'd been trying to lose ten pounds. Alex didn't really think she was fat, but she said all her friends were on the same diet. Her stilettos clicked as she walked, and her bleached blonde hair was so stiff that it barely moved when the wind blew. She had a nice looking face, but it was very powdery, and her cheeks seemed too red.
"But Mommy! The other Alex is a stupid name-stealer and milk is gross and everyone said I was doing everything wrong!"
"Alex, why do you have to get in trouble everywhere you go? I don't know what to do with you. Daddy is going to be so angry," she said, sighing and fixing his bangs. He flinched.
"Can't you keep it secret?"
"You're in trouble because you did something bad, honey. I'm not about to lie for you. You really need a haircut."
"But all I did was what he does! I didn't know what else to do!" said Alex, starting to cry.
"Listen, Alex," said his mother, stopping and grabbing his left shoulder. "You can't just curse at people and throw things, no matter what they do to you. Daddy's a grown up, and he's allowed to yell at you when you're bad. But you're not these kids' parents. You have to treat people the way you want to be treated. You wouldn't want anyone to…throw milk at you, would you?"
"Exactly. Now can you promise me you're not going to do this again?"
"Yes," he sniffed. "But I don't wanna be 'Alex' anymore."
"Okay then," she said, and he doubted she'd even heard him. "Now let's go. Now. I don't know how Daddy will react when he gets back from work, but maybe for once you'll learn your lesson."
The entire car ride home, Alexander sobbed as his mother ate her cheeseburger and occasionally reminded him, "I'm ignoring you."
But that wasn't comforting. He was busy wondering if he'd be screamed at and spanked—or maybe even worse, considering he'd never done anything this bad before. He resolved to find the best place he could hide.