I see Carrie, a girl in my social studies class, and call out, my lungs finally working, “Hey, Carrie, can I borrow your phone a sec?” She totally ignores me and walks around the corner.
Then I see Kayla. She’s headed for Tyler who is being mobbed by a bunch of kids near the drinking fountain. She won’t ignore me, I’m sure. I come up behind her as another girl asks her if she knew that Keith Mullins was Tyler’s brother.
I stop short. Huh? Keith Mullins? The senior who is friends with Michael Hoffman? The guy I was in a car with yesterday? I could have been in that accident!
And then somebody else swings a book bag at my chest. On purpose.
It’s like they can’t see me.
I land on my back, the breath knocked out of me. I need a doctor with a set of those shock paddles.
I feel like a flipped turtle flailing away to right itself, and nobody is coming to my aid. Not even chivalrous Tyler. Kayla is only steps away and as soon as I get some air in my lungs I gasp a plea. “Kayla, hey.”
“She can’t hear you,” someone says, kneeling down next to me. The voice is familiar. I can’t decide if I’ll be elated or deflated if it’s gorgeous Michael Hoffman coming to my assistance again. A hand takes mine and pulls me up. The bell rings and everyone scatters to class, a few of them, no doubt, facing detention for reaching the limit on tardies.
“Thanks,” I say, brushing off my butt. I have that funny feeling like I’ve forgotten something. Where are my books? Did I remember to bring back the drama script? I pat my back pocket, uncertain. I need to go to my locker before next hour, but now it’s too late.
“You’re welcome. How do you feel?”
“Okay,” I say and finally look at the angular face of tall, dark, and handsome Keith Mullins. Keith Mullins! “Hey.”
Keith’s eyes flicker back and forth from my right eye to my left eye. One of his eyes is more dilated than the other. He has a bump on his forehead that his hair partially hides. We spend an uncomfortable moment evaluating one another, alone in the hallway.
I remember something and say, “I heard you broke your leg.”
“I did. It’s in a cast, slung up on some kind of contraption.”
“What?” The tender tissue around my eye protests the scrunching I’m giving my forehead. “Huh? What are you doing here? Weren’t you in a car accident?”
Tyler steps out of room 236 and crosses in front of us to head to the boys’ bathroom.
“Tyler, look, it’s Keith.” He completely ignores me.
“He can’t hear you,” Keith repeats, almost like a chorus. “Or see you. Us, I mean.”