"I hate this game."

I let out a noncommittal sound as I stole some potato chips from Wesley's bag sitting near his tray, praying he wouldn't notice. He didn't even look up as I brought the chips to my mouth and started to chew carefully but the crispy sound was inevitable. Thankfully, he didn't seem to hear it.

It was lunchtime and we were sitting on our regular table in the lunch room, enjoying our meal. Well, I had enjoyed mine and was currently working on his abandoned one. Our lunch hour was about to be over but the cafeteria was still bustling with activities as students continued to line up in the lunch line to get more food, and held conversations with their friends around them.

I looked back at Wesley who was still occupied with the spherical shape game of Twenty Questions, which he had "borrowed" from his little brother. He was still unaware that I was helping him with his meal. The chicken salad I had finished minutes ago hadn't been enough to satisfy my stomach.

"I really hate this game." He repeated, the exasperation increasing in his tone.

I took it as another opportunity to steal a few more French fries from his plate, oblivious of his gaze following my culpable movements. "Well, no pun intended," I started saying as my hands traveled toward his plate once more. "But it does say 'I know what you're thinking!'" I stated, just as I was about to bring the fries into my mouth.


"Ouch!" I yelled out loud as the food dropped on the table from my hand and my scream attracted some unwanted attention from the people around us. I started rub my sore hand with the other and looked up at a clearly irritated Wes. "What did you do that for?" I asked him, lowering my voice.

"For one you were obviously trying to steal my lunch," He announced as he pushed his plate away from my reach. "And two, your sarcasm wasn't appreciated."

"Sarcasm?" I rolled my eyes, and automatically opened my mouth. "OK, Mr. I-can't-take-a-joke. Anyone knows this game is just based on algorithms. Don't take your frustration out on me just because you're not as smart as you think you are."

After a few seconds of unusual silence, I looked up again to see Wesley angrily staring at me. "What?" I inquired.

He shook his head and finally put the globular game aside and got back to eating his food, giving me the cold shoulder.

I sighed, realizing what I had said, a moment too late. "Come on Wes, you know I didn't mean it like that."


"It was just a joke; you know I say a lot of things I don't mean." I tried to explain.

Wes didn't reply as he quietly continued to chew on his food, looking at anything but at me.

It made me nervous. I knew I had a problem with keeping some things to myself. A lot of times I would say things without meaning to or thinking them through, and most of the time it was to Wes. Usually he ignored it but once in a while it would affect him. It seemed he was getting sick of it but I didn't blame him. I had to work on that.

"Wesssss." I pouted. I didn't like it when he was upset with me. We always worked out our differences and I was hoping this slip would pass too.

Wes was forced to look up at me and face the puppy-eyed look.

"Look, I'm sorry, Wesley, I promise not to make any more offensive comments without thinking them through, so please forgive me?"

I noticed how he struggled to keep from smiling but after I grinned at him, he couldn't help it anymore. I spoke in my sweetest voice, and he knew I was serious when I used his full name.

"Yeah, I hope you're true to your words this time, Nat."

I dramatically placed my hand over my heart to show how his words affected me. "That really hurts. You know I always keep to my words."

He scoffed. "Right-,"

"Hey, what's up?"

Wes and I looked up to see the devil's spawns- I mean, Richard Grant and Daniel Ellis holding their trays and already settling themselves across from us. The question had come from Richard or Mr. Popular himself as he was known around the school. Most people just called him Rich. I preferred calling him Dick.

"Nothing much, what's going on?" Wes asked them.

I quietly groaned but I must have been louder than I intended because Dick and Daniel both glared at me.

I looked away.

They both didn't like me much but the feeling was mutual. I didn't care for them either. They were well known around the school and they were athletes. The only reason I put up with them and vice versa was because of Wes. He was our mutual friend, but more than that he was my best friend. When he wasn't around, well, that was a different story.

I shrunk back from their condescending and intimidating stares. "Um, I just realized I have something to do in the uh...library." I mumbled, suddenly up on my feet, gathering my books and starting for the exit.

"But you hate the library!"

I heard Wes's protest but pretended as if I hadn't. He called after me but I scurried out, not bothering to look back.

I continued on my way out although I knew he was absolutely right. I hated the library and it was rare that I set foot in there, but it wasn't my fault. I just needed an excuse to get out of the lunchroom. I couldn't stand being around Daniel and Dick just as much as they didn't like being around me. Besides, I always seemed to get into some kind of argument with Dick every time they decided to sit with us. It never ended well. I knew more of their friends would join the table since the most popular guys in our junior class had claimed it and I really didn't want to deal with any of them.

I always felt like an outsider with them and they never tried to make me feel welcomed or included. The only person I really ever felt comfortable around was Wes, but even with him there, at times the looks his friends gave me was too much to bear. I wasn't like them. I wasn't like the cheerleaders and other athletic girls they usually hung out and therefore I didn't belong. It never bothered me before, but lately a lot of things had been bothering me. And that was one of them.


"How many times do I have to bear your presence, Saunders?" The deep disappointed voice came from a stout man in his mid-forties with dark aging hair. He was leaning back against a black office chair and glaring at me.

"How many times do I have to tell you, I didn't do anything, Weatherman?" I replied, also leaning back against my chair, an annoyed expression stuck on my face.

The principal merely let out a sigh with a shake of his head and sternly stared at me. "I highly doubt that's the truth. Your teachers have a problem with your attitude, and as I see it, the solution is very simple. I'm sure you can tolerate, can't you?"

Mr. Weatherman waited for a response from me. He never got it.

"Maybe I'm not making myself clear anymore."

I shrugged, apparently not interested in what my principal had to say. It was the always the same thing every time I was there. Some teacher would believe I was being rude or disrespectful and they would ship me off to the principal. He's lecture me for a while and then dismiss it like nothing has ever happened.

Mr. Weatherman leaned forward on his desk and set his hands on top of his desk. "I don't want to see you in my office for the remainder of the school year, Alex, is that understood?"


Weatherman didn't believe me for a second. "I'm serious, Alex. You're running out of chances."

I wanted to roll my eyes but retained myself. "I get it, bald man."

The principal slightly shook his head before mentioning toward the door. "This is my last warning to you, Saunders, no more privileges. I've been too lenient toward you, and that ends today. Now get out of here before I change my mind about that detention."

"See you in a few days." I just smiled at Mr. Weatherman, standing up from the chair and making my way toward the door.

I had a soft spot for the man. He and I were basically old buddies. I even remember the first day we met. It was my first day in the school as a freshman and some upperclassman had bumped into me, pushing me back, hoping to make me his punching bag and thinking I wasn't going to defend myself. He was sadly mistaken. I introduced him to my fists and didn't hold back, and the rest as they say was history.

From then on, and everyone in school knew my name and they knew not to mess with me.

That was how I officially met Ronald Weatherman. He was the one who had to pry me off the prick. Sure I was suspended on my first day of high school but my reputation had been set.

Anyway, after exiting Weatherman's office I nodded at Ms. Larry, the assistant in the front desk who was used to seeing me pass by all the time before completely exiting the office. I heard her mutter some incoherent words sounding close to "poor kid" or something, along those lines but I smiled anyway and went out. I knew she loved me too.

Entering the school corridor, I craned my neck up toward the clock to see that I had about eleven minutes to get myself something to eat in the cafeteria before my next class. Thanks to my idiot of a physics teacher, I missed about a third of my lunch period for the fifth time that month. All because of my "quick mouth" and "uncaring attitude," quoted from Weatherman himself. It wasn't my fault that I just happened to have physics right before lunch and when I was hungry, I was grumpy.

Now because of my grumpiness I only had about ten minutes to grab myself some food.


I quickened my pace to get inside the lunchroom and just as I opened the door to make my entrance, a girl who was coming out from the cafeteria also in hurry sloppily crashed into me. I saw the image of my first day as a freshman replay in my head and chuckled inwardly. I quickly stepped back before that girl and I could both wind up on the floor but some of her books had already scattered all on the floor, and a curse flew out of my mouth.

"Sorry!" She quickly mumbled, grabbing her books before rushing past me.

Holding the urge to snap at her, I tightly clenched my jaw, but muttered a few words of digress nonetheless but she was already down the hall. I was only impatient because my stomach was growling. All I needed was some food, and because of her, now I only had nine minutes left.

As she scurried off, I sighed and finally entered the cafeteria directly walking in the short lunch line to finally get myself a meal.

It took me about two minutes to grab two chicken sandwich, French fries, a bag of Chips, a soda, pay for it all and then walk to my table and settle down to eat. My friends all greeted me with knowing looks but I didn't say anything about my trip to the office. I quickly set off to devour my lunch for the five minutes I had left.


School was finally out and everyone was greeted with a cold wind as they stepped out of the campus. A lot of students were shivering with arms wrapped around themselves as they waited for the bus to approach their stop.

I walked out of the building with Wes by my side and he started muttering a whole bunch of expletives as we went down the steps due to the change of weather and his lack of protective garments.

"You know, you could have told me it was going to be this cold after school." Wes complained to me, since I was comfortable in my jacket.

"Well, you didn't ask." I said back, for a lack of a better answer. "And apparently you haven't noticed that winter is just around the corner."

Wes rolled his eyes, slightly pushing me. "I thought you were done with your know-it-all ways."

"I am not a know-it-all." I digressed as we came to a halt near our pick up spot.

"I guess that would make you a nerd then, I mean. Who watches the weather channel every morning?"

I gasped as Wes smirked at me. I crossed my arms and stared hard at him. Wes just mimicked my movements and stared back.

"Stop making fun of me," I whined.

"Payback's a bitch, ain't it?" He smirked.

I playfully slapped his arm as he laughed, completely forgetting the chilliness around us.

"Well, I guess this nerd won't be helping you anymore with your trig homework." I backtracked.

Wes started at me. "You're kidding, right?"

I stubbornly shook my head.

"But Natalie!" He said dramatically.

I slightly smiled at Wes' silliness as he pouted in front of me, like a small child. "You know that look doesn't work on me."

"Then this will." Before I knew it, Wes had me wrapped with one his arm around the waist and started tickling me with the other. I let out a very unappealing squeal and tried to squiggle myself out of his grasp but it was no use. He kept tickling me and laughing at the same time at my outburst and facial expressions. I was very much ticklish and Wes knew that was exactly my weak spot.

People were staring at us but I didn't care and I knew that Wes didn't either.


I quickly trotted down the steps of the school exit, heading toward the parking lot, my keys loosely dangling between my fingers.

"Yo, Saunders! Wait up!"

I slowed my pace down and completely stopped before turning around to see my friend, Shane, coming toward me. Feeling slightly impatient with his slowness, I fumbled with the keys in my hand completely aware that this was my last chance to show up on time for work.

My thoughts got distracted once again when I heard a girl squealing and laughing at the same time to my right. I turned my eyes toward the sound to see what was going and a second later I recognized the girl as the same clumsy one that ran into me going in the cafeteria. She was encircled in some guy's arms, whom by looks of it seemed like her boyfriend, and he was tickling her.

I slightly winced at their display, and then turned my attention back to Hearst, who was still slowly approaching, while typing something on his phone.

"Hey, what's up?" Hearst asked as he finally caught up to me, putting his phone away.

About damn time, was what I thought as we both started for the lot, ignoring the coolness in the air around us. Winter was a fast approaching.

"Hmm, let's see. Besides getting fired if I'm late for work again…well, nothing." I coolly said, but Hearst only laughed.

"That wouldn't be a problem; I mean you do have another job."

"There's a reason I have two jobs, Hearst." I reminded him.

"Yeah, I know that but I still don't get why-"

"I have to." I stated and that was it.

Shane nodded, understanding crossing his face. He knew exactly why but he always questioned me about it. Thought I worked too much. "So what happened with Weatherman?" He asked.

I shrugged. "Same old. Threatened me with detentions. Said my privileged days are over,"

"Yeah right," Hearst scoffed. "Weatherman has a soft spot for you. He's probably hoping you'll join the team again,"

I didn't comment on that but Shane was right. Weatherman wasn't the only one hoping for me to get back on the basketball team this year. Almost everyone I knew had been on my case about it for the last couple of weeks.

"I'm rusty," I said.

"So what, there's conditioning. A couple of weeks and you'll be back on your old game. Come on, man," Shane said cautiously in a low voice. "Just think about it. I bet Corina would love to see you on the court again,"

I unlocked my door as an image of the girl popped into my head. She was my weak spot, and everyone who knew me knew that. "Maybe."

"For her, Alex. Think about it."

I gave Shane a stiff nod and finally got behind the wheel. "See you later, Hearst."

Hearst grinned knowingly and saluted me with two fingers before heading off toward his own car.