The Wrong Side of the River
CHAPTER
3
I am fortune’s fool

Julian
I took a deep breath and opened the door of Mom’s car, stepping out on the green grass of Montague Middle School.
I could do this.
This was the year my whole life was going to change.
“Don’t forget to use those eye drops three times a day, sweetie!” My mom called from the open window. “We don’t want the fungus coming back!”
My stomach sank as several kids nearby snickered. I waved Mom away, praying she wouldn’t say anything else. Either God wasn’t listening or He was trying to lower my expectations for eighth grade.
“I also packed that cream you like in the front pocket of your backpack, just in case you have more itching.”
All out laughter busted out behind me. I gritted my teeth and said, “Thanks, Mom.”
“Do you remember where your locker is?” She asked. “I could come in with you and help you find it if you need me.”
“I’m fine,” I said, a little too harshly. I knew she was just trying to be helpful, but if I didn’t get out of there soon all my plans for eighth grade would be ruined before I even started. “I’ll see you later.”
She frowned. “Okay, sweetie. I love you. Have a great first day.” She rolled up the window and let the tires inch away as she watched me over her shoulder.
To my relief, the grass around me was empty by the time Mom was out of view. Hopefully the kids who’d seen me talking to my mom had wandered off to laugh at someone else. They might not even remember me by lunchtime.
I unzipped my backpack and pulled out the little white paper with my class list on it. Most of these classes were required—math, English, history, science—but I’d been able to choose two classes for fun. The first was band, because I played the saxophone and it was the one thing in my life I didn’t totally stink at. My mom said I could be the next Kenny G if I practiced hard enough.
I also signed up for theater. I’d made very sure there was only one theater class for the whole school. I didn’t want to be placed in remedial theater or something like that and never be able to see Romy. I’d just have to get through four classes and lunch and then she and I would be together on stage for the first time. I’d impress her with my acting abilities. She’d have to touch my arm for a scene we would do together. If everything went according to plan it would be life changing.
I walked around the school to the eighth grade entrance, because only seventh graders used the front entry way. I stood in front of the glass door and took a deep breath, closing my eyes and visualizing success. It was something my dad called “outcome manifesting.” He swore by it. All you had to do was picture everything going your way and then it would—like you’d imagine making the winning goal and then you’d make it. Or in his case, he imagined being the mayor of Montague and then he was elected.
I’d just about finished my visualization when the door flew open, whacking me in the face and sending me careening back onto the sidewalk.
I tasted blood.
I heard laughter.
I blinked and saw two guys standing above me. I recognized one as Parry Goodwin, president of the eighth grade class, ladies man, and all around popular guy. He tried to stop smiling as he reached out a hand to me. “Sorry man, I didn’t see you there.”
“It’s okay.” I said cupping my hand over my dripping nose and taking his hand, trying to be cool.
“That looks bad. You better get to the nurse.”
“Nah,” I said, squinting through the stinging feeling and forcing myself to look tough. “This is nothing. I get bloody noses all the time. The doctor says I damaged my nasal cavity because I stuck so many rocks up there when I was a kid.”
The other guy laughed. “Idiot.”
Parry smiled a little, but didn’t laugh or say anything mean, and I was grateful. “Whatever, man.” He patted me on the back and walked off with his friend.
It took me a good ten minutes to get the bleeding to stop and another ten minutes in the bathroom trying to clean myself up. I got most of the blood out, but I still had a big rust colored spot on the white stripe of my shirt.
When I tried to put my glasses back on, my nose screamed out in pain. I folded them back up and stuck them in my pocket and squinted to the door.
The hallway was a sea of blurry shapes and colors. I bumped into five people in the hall and uttered “excuse me”s with a voice that was so high and nasal-sounding it felt like it wasn’t actually coming out of my mouth.
“Whoa, Julian, what happened to your face?” My best friend Ben asked, as I finally made it to our lockers.
I shrugged. “I ran into a door.”
He raised his eyebrows, which I could only see because his head was less than a foot away and cocked sideways, examining my nose.
My other friend Marshall stepped up next to Ben, his face screwed up in disgust. “It’s really swollen. It could be broken.”
“You should go see the nurse,” another kid said.
I dialed in my lock combination and yanked the lock open. “I’m fine, okay? Just drop it.” I wasn’t really fine. My head felt like it it was swimming in a tunnel somewhere not connected with my body and my nose was giving off it’s own pulse.
Ben opened his locker, which was right next to mine and asked, “How does a person run into a door hard enough to possibly, maybe break his nose?”
I rolled my eyes. “I didn’t exactly run into it. It ran into me. I was standing on the other side when Parry Hendricks opened it.”
“What a jerk.” Ben said, taking off his jacket and hanging it neatly on a coat hanger he’d set up in his locker. “He probably thinks he owns the place since he won the election last year.”
“Pfft,” Marshall chimed in. “He only won because all his Northside cronies campaigned for him.”
“He was really nice about it—the whole knocking me over thing, I mean,” I said, trying to stop this conversation before it got ugly. “He helped me up and said sorry and everything.”
Ben scowled, clearly not impressed. “They think just because they’re living in ‘original Montague’ that they’re better than we are. I’m sick and tired of it.”
“They don’t think that,” I assured him. “There are lots of really nice people who live Northside.” Like a certain girl…
“Whatever,” Ben said, zipping up his “at school sweater” like Mr. Rogers.
I shut my locker and leaned against it, looking out at the hallway filled with muddled shapes and colors. I’d need my glasses if I was going to get through this day so I pulled them out of my pocket and set them gingerly on my nose, blinking my eyes to stop them from watering.
“Where should we meet for lunch?” Ben asked.
I didn’t respond because just then, I spotted Romy, dressed in shorts and a white shirt with ruffly things on it, which kind of reminded me of the lace doilies my grandma had all over he house, but in a good way.
And then, out of nowhere, Parry Hendricks parted the crowd and walked straight up to Romy, grabbing her hand like it was no big deal.
My jaw dropped.
“Earth to Julian,” Ben said, snapping his fingers in front of my face.
“I didn’t know they were going out,” I whispered, still in a daze.
“Who?”
“Parry and Rosemary Madison.”
Ben shrugged like it was no big deal. “They probably got together over the summer. So the table by the salad bar? I’ll save a seat for you?”
“Yeah, sure. Fine,” I said, shutting my locker and heading to first period.

Keep Reading

Chapter 4

Wisely and slow; they stumble that run fast Romy

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