Chapter 19

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Blake wasn't waiting for Dakota by my locker on Monday. If he broke up with her over the weekend, her perfectly applied makeup gave nothing away. She strutted around like usual, the head hen with her flock of dumb chickens following her everywhere she went.

I kept my head down at lunch, listening to Vanessa and Kayla argue over which Star Wars movie was the worst. Darren warned me at the beginning it was best not to add my opinion to the conversation. "This is going to get heated," he whispered. "And besides, they're both wrong, but don't tell them that."

Even if I'd cared to toss in my opinion, I was focused on a short, short time ago in a pizzeria one point six miles away. My conversation with Blake played over and over as my current self-destructive loop. The only thing I wanted to do was make it through the day without having to deal with him.

I would have made it too, if it wasn't for that meddling kid...

Kayla left for work as soon as the final bell rang. I finished my English assignment in the library and then headed home via the treacherous streets of Dorn. At any moment, I expected to be accosted by a street herbalist trying to slather me in essential oils samples. I made my way from campus, jacket collar pulled up around my cheeks even though it was nearly seventy degrees.

Five blocks from my house, it was a twelve-year-old who took me down. Shelby. She broke away from a pack of adolescent Populars-in-training, crossed the street, and attempted to greet me with pleasantries and eye contact. It didn't turn out so well for her.

"Hello? Mazie, didn't you hear me? I asked how you're doing."

I'd kept walking up to this point but resisting Shelby was an exercise in futility. "Hello, Shelby. My day was a Monday. How was yours?"

"You sound like someone's robot maid who doesn't realize she's hilarious."

"A robot isn't a she."

"See? There you go. You're funny, Mazie." She danced around me like a graceful robot ballerina. "I'm going to be a robot for Halloween. You should be too. We can be twins."

Hard pass. "Um... maybe?"

"So, you're coming, right?"

"To what? Halloween?"

"No, I mean tonight. To see my dance studio."

"Oh, I don't know..."

"Because Blake told me you were interested." She stopped dancing and began hopping up and down instead. I followed her movement until my neck began to ache."

"I just wanted to know what it was like in case I decide to take a class."

"That's why you should come. Check it out. It's the best!" One more hop and then she grabbed onto my shoulders. "Please? It would be so fun! You have to come. We'll drive you and everything."

"Shelby, I can't really dance."

"Duh! That's why you go to a dance school. To learn how to dance!" A car pulled up down the road and beeped. "That's our ride. Come on."

She grabbed my hand and pulled me through the crosswalk. "I'll even let you sit in the front seat."

She opened the passenger side door and I braced myself to have to explain my presence to Shelby's mom. Shelby pushed me in, where I found myself face to face with someone even more terrifying: Blake.

"Oh my God, are you kidding me?"

Blake snorted. "Hello to you too. So happy we've moved beyond the awkward stage."

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