I slide into my seat in homeroom and nod at Meg D’Angelo, who still has her iPod earbuds in. She nods back, same way she does every morning——we’ve known each other since third grade, and she’s one of those sort-of friends, someone I hang out with at school when Jess and Darcia aren’t around.
Of course, I haven't seen them much at all since Danny died in July, and while Jess has gotten angrily vocal about it over the last few weeks, Darcia just stares at me sadly across the row that separates us in World Lit and sends me cryptic texts about new songs she likes or her little brother’s soccer games.
At least Meg doesn’t look at me like I’ve disappointed her.
I slouch down to get my French notebook out of my backpack while Mr. Rokozny calls roll. Madame Hobart is quizzing us on the imperfect tense today, and I fell asleep watching a rerun of some reality show before I even thought about studying.
I raise my hand silently when Mr. Rokozny calls my name, and it’s only when he pauses after Cleo Darnell’s name to say, “Gabriel DeMarnes?” that I look up.
Twenty-two pairs of eyes are trained on the kid in the very back of the room. Even Rokozny is squinting at him from above the morning’s roll. This far into October, it’s weird to find a new kid in homeroom.
“That’s me,” the boy says, and Audrey Diehl sits up a little straighter, head tilted in appreciation.
He’s tall——I can tell even though he’s hunched over his desk, because his legs go on pretty much forever, kicked out into the faded linoleum of the aisle. His hair is the color of clean sand, and even short it’s sort of messy. He’s all angles, planes, a geometry proof of a boy in a wrinkled yellow button-down and faded jeans, and when I drag my gaze away from the long, slender fingers splayed loose over his thigh, I blink in surprise.
Because even with everyone in the room checking him out, he’s staring right at me.