The floors of the school were squeaky, striped with black sneaker marks. Tiled, alternating gray and white squares. And my shoes were there, too, ratty Mary Janes with ratty bows on each. Stepping on each of the tiles, sometimes over the cracks in between until I reached my locker. The front was dented in. I'd untie the ribbon holding it closed. No one ever snooped in my locker. All there was in there was books. Lots of books. Some school related, some notebooks with my own words stuffing them. All sitting silently as I drifted from class to class all day.
"Hey," a voice said to me. My eyes pushed upwards. My invisible-ness was undisputed, not a word spoken to the mousey girl in the corner. So who was talking to me? It was Mark, the guy from creative writing. His glasses were gone, he'd had Lasik surgery earlier that year. I knew by his books and his clothes that he was rich. His car was a brand-spanking new Mustang.
"You're Thea, right?" he said, opening up the locker to the right of me. I nodded, quickly drawing my Biology book to my chest. Why was he talking to me?
He grabbed his Biology book, also, holding it to his hip. He was lanky, lean and tall. The kind of boy that the other girls loved. Me, too, but I didn't delude myself about anyone liking me this year. Maybe next year.
"Sit by me in class?" he asked of me. I nodded again, knowing he'd forget by the time he reached the classroom. It was up the stairs. And Mark's friends, Lacy and Allison and Brody and Jake would be going down when we went up. By the time they discussed the homework for their other classes and exchanged a study date plan, I'd be tucked away in my usual seat. Far away from Mark's near the front of the room and the whiteboard.
Mark smiled, heading forwards. "See you then."
I bit my lip out of reflex, striding towards the stairs with my eyes forward, too. Chin up, Mary Thea Hallworst. That was my full name – perhaps the only interesting part was the last name. My Mom was a high-ranking business executive. She flew home from her New York office on the weekends. Jess Hallworst was a name that frequented the New York Times.
My Dad was the owner of the Hallworst Stadium in downtown, bringing in millions in ticket sales, especially since Justin Bieber's concert six months ago. I was their only child. They were perfectly satisfied with my A's and B's, with my gray tolerance of the high school. I didn't need to make myself famous. My parents did that for me, with my Mom's second building – the Mary Thea building – opening in Spring, and my Dad's season concert pass, the "Mary Card." So I went by Thea, somehow managing to keep myself shielded.
The stairs were near empty when Mark and I climbed them. No Lacy, Allison, Brody, or Jake assaulted Mark with high fives and smiles. Oh, no. I really would have to sit next to him. I promised! Impulsively, maybe, but I still did. There it was. Mrs. Langston's room. Mark held the door open for me. I knew where he sat – at the front of the classroom by the teacher's desk. I took the one by the window, drawing my Bio notebook from its place inside my book. Maybe the constant drum of rain on the dirty, gray window would offer some inspiration for my poetry. Or maybe I'd be suckered into doing the work for Mark. He took his seat beside me, flipping up his phone and texting someone. His thumbs flew over the keys. Cautiously, I doodled a heart on the front of my notebook with my sparkly gel pen. MT + AG. I scratched it out right after. Mark had seen it. He pointed to the tumbleweed-looking shape.
"Who's AG?" he asked. My instantly dropped, the usual heightening of my heart rate absent. AG was Alexander Gray.
"No one. Not anymore." I answered vaguely as Mrs. Langston walked into the room. She tapped her chin at me.
"You're Thea?" she said, eyes critical. I nodded.
"Please stick to the seating chart. As I recall, you're in the back." She recounted, bony finger pointing to my usual seat in the back left corner. I stood up, casting a sorry glance at Mark.
"Wait, Mrs. Langston." He suddenly interjected. I turned to him.
Mark's blue eyes sparkled. "Thea's eyes hurt. She needs to see the board up close today. Is that okay?" he lied. Mrs. Langston grinned at her star pupil.
"Of course, Mark! How silly of me not to think of that." She said. Mark was the star academic of the school with straight A's. All the teachers abided by his wishes about this kind of stuff in the classroom. I sat back down, unhappy.
"See? Now you can sit by me!" Mark said to me, opening his arms wide. As if he was saying, How lucky you are!
"Thanks." I mumbled, redrawing my heart and the forbidden initials within it. I didn't use to be so invisible. Everyone knew my name six months ago.