Chapter 8: In The Halls Again
The following morning, Christine woke up and went through her usual morning rituals. She asked her dad to drive her to school, which he happily obliged. She went from class to class, all her surroundings seeming to whir in the background. It was her first day without Conrad in a week, and she was struggling to hold herself together.
Yes, technically he was there with her, but she couldn't see him or talk to him, and that was what made it painful.
But suddenly the winds of her day changed. It started when Christine had noticed Valery storming past the social studies room with a combination of rage and sadness on her face. Christine didn't think much of it until later at the end of the school day.
Christine was at her locker, gathering her books to go home, when a member of the lacrosse team came up to her. It was weird enough because jocks and goths rarely spoke to each other, but also because Christine recognized this boy as Chuck Gleason, Valery's boyfriend.
"Hi there," said Christine, baffled. "Can I help you?"
"You're Christine Peck, right?" he asked.
"Yes," said Christine. "Why do you ask?"
"I'm Chuck," said Gleason.
"I know," said Christine. "You're dating Valery Buchanan."
"Used to," corrected Chuck.
"Used to?" asked Christine, more baffled than ever.
"I broke up with her," he explained. "I don't care if she's beautiful and popular. She was just a nasty person to be around. Her favorite pass-time was insulting other girls, and a guy can only take so much of it."
"W-what?!" asked Christine, trying to process what was going on.
"Yeah," said Chuck. "I know your name because she would rag on you, as well as Clemmons, Platzner, Finch, and a whole lot of other girls. I really hated it."
"I imagine…" said Christine.
"Anyway, she gives us a bad name to you," said Chuck. "Just because we're richer or play sports or have perfect figures doesn't mean we're all jerks. We have plenty of problems just like you."
Christine wasn't sure what to say. It had been obvious, yet neither she nor any of her friends ever really realized that the populars weren't gods, just high school kids like them.
"Anyway, I just wanted to say hi and give you this," he presented Christine with a daisy, "and say I think you're pretty cute."
"Thanks," said Christine, accepting the flower and smiling. "You're not so bad yourself—for a jock, that is," she added teasingly.
"You want me buy you a coke or something?" Chuck asked.
"Sure," said Christine, gathering her books and closing her locker. "That'd be cool. Just let me tell my dad."
"Sweet," said Chuck, smiling.
As they walked away, Chuck walked on Christine's left; and on her right, she could sense a distinct presence she recognized very well.
"It's like I said, Christine," she felt Conrad whisper to her, "keep going."
I will, Conrad, Christine thought back as she walked with Chuck out of the school for the day, which seemed a great deal brighter now.