867-5309, Jenny Jenny
**This is a Story of the Song, inspired by YTommy Two-Tone's "867-5309 Jenny, Jenny"**
"Jenny," I holler. "Jenny!"
She doesn't turn, except to give a half-glance over her shoulder. Jodi and Stephanie both look back though. They laugh and whisper into Jenny's ear. All three duck into the girls' bathroom, so I set up camp on the other side of the hall, leaning up against Craig Shilders' locker while I wait for them to come out.
They don't, and after a minute, second period bell rings. I run to Algebra, ducking around other kids doing the same thing. Jenny is front of me, she always is. Her face, her hair, that smile. I'm in love with her and it's the most awesome thing ever. I just have to get her number so we can go on that first date, then everything else will work out.
I slam into my seat seconds before Mr. Daniels shuts the door.
"Dude," Kyle whispers to me. "Where were you? Craig waited and you didn't show. Now he's going to be really pissed."
I wave him off. "That doesn't matter. I had something else to do."
"You were chasing her again, weren't you? She's way out of your league, man. How many times do I have to tell you?"
Daniels gives Kyle a long stare before he starts speaking. Kyle straightens up as a bunch of other kids snicker at him. I spend the rest of the class staring out the window, thinking. The next time will be after lunch. She has fifth period Bio and I've got English in the same wing. If I skip my lunch and hang out around Door Three, I should be able to avoid Craig and catch her before class. I only need a few minutes. She'll see.
After class, I dart out and head for the east wing. I can hear Kyle's voice following me, but I ignore him. There's only one goal. My nerves hammer, but my pulse hammers louder. The excitement of what waits around the corner outweighs the fear of the unknown. I grab a bar from vending, smashing it down my throat as I stand out front of the science labs. Other kids walk past, some looking over at me, most not. I'm invisible, I know, the guy no one ever pays attention to. That's OK, because she paid attention to me once. That's when I knew.
Keeping one eye on the clock overhead, I pace back and forth, trying to contain my energy. Dreams fill my eyes, blocking out the hallway, the endless row of lockers, the noise of stupid kids doing their stupid things. They'll see, they will all see.
Finally, B lunch finishes and the hall starts getting crowded as kids file into their classrooms. My eyes dart up the clock so often that I don't miss the second hand as it ticks from one notch to the next. I stand on my tiptoes, trying to see over the bobbing heads down the hall, watching for her. I hate being short.
There! I can only see the top of her head, but I know it's her. I'd know that hair anywhere.
I start forward, moving to intercept, tumbling the right words around my tongue in silent practice. Got to make it right, make her understand, so we can get started. I bump into a large chest and it doesn't move.
"Where you going, spaz?" He says, pushing me back. I stumble but manage not to fall. "You ducked me once, what's your excuse this time?"
I crane my neck to peer around his shoulder at her. "Go away, Shilders. I'll meet you after school, OK? Promise. You can beat me up then."
He doesn't say anything at first. I'm sure he's probably trying to form a thought or something else incredibly difficult. Neanderthals are that way. He follows my stare and laughs. "Are you serious? Jenny? You like her?"
She's thirty feet away by now, walking with her head down, by herself for once. She looks deep in thought, maybe even a little sad, and the sight makes my heart nearly burst from my chest. I try to push past Craig. He shoves me back and this time I do fall. My backpack skitters across the tile and an instant circle forms around us. Everybody knows what's coming.
"You want her number, skeez? You want to make a love call and tell her your deepest darkest secrets? I can get it for you." He laughs, but there's no humor in it. "Go hit the boy's pisser. Pick one, any one. Her number's there, on the bathroom wall. We all call it." This time his laugh is louder.
For the first time, I meet his eyes. I get back up to my feet. Everything goes blank for a second but when my vision comes back into focus, Craig's laying on the floor, curled up into a ball, arms wrapped around his head. Blood drips to the floor from his nose and lips; it smears my knuckles. Loud whispers travel the length of the hallway but I ignore them. My eyes seek her out and we cross stares. My heart skips and thuds in my ear, the world goes silent.
Jenny gives me a shy smile.