Eighth grade turned out quite a bit better than the year-long nightmare of seventh grade. Some other outcasts, a little higher on the food chain than me, befriended me. My mother, while still paranoid and delusional, remained otherwise stable on her meds.
Marc Sloan sat next to me in math class. He was on the football team and the baseball team. He was cute, well-dressed and had dated a string of pretty girls in recent middle school history. So why was he staring at me?
Oh no, I thought to myself, no way am I falling for this B.S. again. After the whole Jim Field fiasco, I didn’t trust this kid as far as I could throw him. I tried glaring back at him, but he just got sneakier about staring, like out of the corner of his eye. He also started borrowing things from me: pens, pencils, ruler, eraser, paper. You would have thought I was the school store. Next, my writing journal from English class would mysteriously disappear from the stack for a day or two, then just as suddenly it would resurface. I got calls at home, the kind where you say hello and no one answers—this, of course, was before the days of caller ID. All of this went on for months.
In January I had PE class with Marc. Every time I hit a ball he complimented me. All I did was keep it in play like everyone else, but that didn’t matter. I could have farted on the ball and he probably would have said “Nice work, Leah.” I felt embarrassed to have attention drawn to me. After all, I had gotten used to being invisible, but I had to admit, it was also kind of nice to be noticed.
Uh oh, what was happening? Was I getting soft? That was probably just what he wanted. All part of his master plan to dupe me. I needed to practice constant vigilance if I wanted to outsmart this guy.
One morning after PE my friend Kelly and I were changing in the locker room and Kelly said something about Marc—I don’t remember what it was. But I said, “He is so tense. He must drink 10 cups of coffee a day.” I don’t know why I said it, it was meaningless and didn’t even make sense. A couple of his female friends overheard me, though, and went and told him I was badmouthing him.
He wouldn’t even look at me. In math class, he turned his entire body the opposite direction from me in his chair. I couldn’t believe my stupid little comment had actually hurt him. Maybe he really did like me. Maybe I liked him, too. But it was all over, now.