Good
Author:S. Walden

 

I carried the basket of clean laundry upstairs to my bedroom. I laid out Mr. Connelly’s handkerchief on my bed and put away the rest of my clothes. Then I sat down and decided how best to fold the handkerchief. While I considered a square or triangle, I thought back to the day I met Mr. Connelly on the side of Highway 28. Particularly his expression when he first looked up at me. I ignored it then because I was too busy wondering if I was staring at an angel, but now that I knew he wasn’t (unless God sends angels to earth to teach calculus), I was free to contemplate that look.

 

That look.

 

Like he knew me from somewhere but I was brand new to him at the same time. Or that it all made sense in that moment. Or that he finally found the one thing he didn’t know he was searching for. No one had ever looked at me like that, and I knew I wasn’t imagining it. I saw it. I saw it when his face lit up. And then he averted his eyes and mumbled something about getting out of my way so I could work. I didn’t know what to make of it now, or if the time since our roadside meeting had exaggerated that look in my mind, but I didn’t think so. I think he liked what he saw, and I was flattered. And confused.

 

I looked once more at the handkerchief. Triangle it is, and heard the creak of my bedroom door. Oliver poked his head inside.

 

“You okay?”

 

“Go away,” I said, fingering the handkerchief.

 

Oliver shuffled in and sat beside me.

 

“I believe you,” he said. “About your day. I heard Braxton call you a whore and told him if he didn’t stop talking shit about my sister, I’d beat the shit out of him.”

 

I smiled.

 

“I just can’t believe you said those things in front of Mom and Dad,” he went on, chuckling softly.

 

“They asked,” I replied.

 

“I think they’re just scared, Cay,” Oliver said. “They don’t wanna believe you’re being bullied.”

 

“I don’t care,” I said. “They should believe me. I’m their daughter and they should believe me.”

 

Oliver shrugged. “Well, you did lie about that party, and then got high and robbed a convenience store. And then had to go to court. And then got carted off to juvie.”

 

“One time!” I yelled, and Oliver laughed.

 

“It’s not like sneaking out and drinking, Cadence,” he said. “Kind of a big ass mistake, you know?”

 

“Whatever.”

 

Oliver cleared his throat. “Look, all this crap will die down.”

 

I didn’t believe a word of it.

 

“It’ll just take some time. Someone or something new will come along, and those assholes will forget all about you,” he said.

 

Comforting words, but I wasn’t convinced.

 

“Want me to sit with you on the bus tomorrow?” he asked.

 

I grinned. “And ruin your reputation? No. I would never do that to you.”

 

Oliver shrugged. “I’ll sit with you, Cadence.”

 

I shook my head. “It’s okay. And why are you all of a sudden being nice? I thought we hated each other?”

 

“I do hate you,” Oliver said. “But I’m the only one allowed to hate you. No one else is.”

 

I chuckled. “You’re such a jerk.”

 

“Wanna say our prayers together?” Oliver asked, smirking.

 

“Are you serious?”

 

“No,” he replied, and stood up. He opened my bedroom door to leave.

 

“Wait!” I called.

 

“Yeah?”

 

“Do you still say your prayers at night?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

I was dumbstruck. “Why?”

 

He looked at me confused. “Because that’s what you do. What? You don’t say yours?”

 

I shook my head.

 

“Well, maybe that’s why you landed in juvie.”

 

I wasn’t sure if he was kidding until I saw the grin.

 

“Butthead,” I mumbled as he closed the door.

 

***

 

I looked at Mr. Connelly as little as possible the following day in calculus. I was embarrassed about yesterday. I was going to give him his handkerchief after class, but he had a line of students at his desk—mostly girls—needing help or attention. The ones who needed help had their math books open, ready. The ones who wanted attention were reapplying lip gloss as they waited.

 

Today I was a “racist.” That’s what was written on the note inside my locker waiting for me after calculus. Actually it was “racist bitch.” That one I could easily figure out. The store owner I attempted to rob was an Indian man in his late forties. It wasn’t a targeted hit, though. He could have been any color of the rainbow, and it wouldn’t have made a difference. His store was out in the middle of nowhere, and we were all high: perfect combination for a robbery. I crumbled the paper and tossed it in a nearby trashcan, catching sight of Gracie across the hall. I nearly ran to her.

 

“Hey.” I wasn’t sure what I expected her to say. We hadn’t talked since my release. Her parents were adamant that I stay away from her. School was the only chance to speak with her, and she avoided me all yesterday.

 

Her green eyes darted all around, looking for an escape.

 

“Do you think maybe we could sit together at lunch?” I asked. I shifted my books to my other arm.