I don’t want you to misunderstand. Sally Jean is not my girlfriend. I don’t care how many times you see her pass me notes. Have you ever seen me pass one back to her? No.
And all those times you’ve seen her walking alongside me on my way home is a coincidence. She lives two blocks away from my house. We’ve got to cross paths sooner or later.
But she is not my girlfriend. Get that straight.
I wish she’d let things be the way they were before I saved her. We had a perfect relationship. We ignored each other. If only that day had never happened. But it did, and now I’m stuck.
I hung around after the dismissal bell that day waiting to see Mr. Sweeney, the chemistry teacher. I had to ask him about some lab work I needed to make up to pass his class. If my folks ever found out I’d been skipping, I would be in deep do. The thought slowed my steps.
As I neared the lab, I heard voices. Not a deep voice like Mr. Sweeney has. His voice is so low he could sing bass in a Nashville gospel quartet. No, these were boys’ voices. Mingled in with them was a hysterical female voice begging, “Please, leave me alone!”
Just outside the lab door, I paused. I recognized Sally Jean’s voice, now sobbing. I also knew the other two voices and I shuddered at the thought of what those boys were doing. But I wasn’t inclined to just bust in like I was Superman. For one thing, I’d been knocked around plenty by Harvey and Jack in the past and I tried to steer clear, if you know what I mean. Besides, what was the worst they could be doing to ol’ frumpy Sally Jean?
Something you’ve got to understand about Sally Jean. She ain’t pretty like Rhonda Sue. She ain’t Debbie Marie who everyone wants to share class notes with ‘cause she’s smart. She ain’t popular. She doesn’t seem to have any friends to speak about. She scurries from class to class like a furtive little brown-haired mouse. A tiny mouse always dressed in penny loafers, a white blouse, and plaid pleated skirt. Kind of low-class prissy. In class, when she’s called on for an answer, she even squeaks like a rodent. I’m ashamed to admit, that’s the reason I didn’t take immediate action.
I stood outside the lab, debating my options. I could run for help but by the time I found someone, Sally Jean might be hurt. If I stormed in, I would be hurt. I decided to pretend I’d heard nothing and saunter in, maybe toss out a friendly, “How’s it going?” Maybe that would break it up.
As I wandered through the door, the words I’d prepared stuck in my throat like Aunt Sarah’s overcooked turkey dinner. Harvey’s hulking figure standing at the end of the lab table couldn’t hide Sally Jean’s terrified face and flailing legs from my view. Jack stood at the other end, pinning her arms above her head.
Before I knew what I was doing, I launched myself at Harvey with an angry roar that surprised him. Surprised me, too.
I definitely got their attention.
“Run!” I screamed, moments before a mammoth fist that seemed twice the size of my head connected with my face. Sally Jean was long down the hallway before I crashed to the floor.
She thinks I singlehandedly drove those boys away. Here’s the facts. While Harvey and Jack were deciding which part of me they would most like to cripple for life, a form huger than either loomed up behind them. Mr. Anderson, the school custodian, grasped a collar in each of his hands and dragged them away to the principal’s office.
I skedaddled out of there, deciding to talk to Mr. Sweeney when I was less bloody. Somewhere on the way home, Sally Jean found me, cleaned up the worst of my injuries, and cooed over me like I was some superhero. I begged her not to tell anyone what I had done. I’d rather let my folks think I got in a small scuffle than know the reason I went to the chemistry lab that day.
Sally Jean has been faithful to her word. She says in private I’m her hero. A tiny part of me kind of likes the praise. But is she my girlfriend?
Not on your life.
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