by Walter Bego
Betty Gattis pushed the point of her notebook’s spiral binding into my thumb, drawing blood.
"That hurt?" she asked.
"Thought so," she said. Then the bell rang.
I left my books on the cafeteria table and went round the corner to the boys’ room. Eddie Franklin made to dump his cigarette in the urinal until he saw who I was. If I had been a teacher, he might as well have taken a drag. He would have been caught either way. I ran water on my thumb and wondered if I should rub the gritty powdered soap into it. The soap dispenser was caked with brown crusty soap stalactites. I decided against it.
"What you do to your hand?" asked Eddie.
"Betty Gattis," I said.
I didn’t answer. I had less than three minutes to get to algebra, and my books were probably getting kicked all over the cafeteria by now. I pulled a paper towel and wrapped it around my thumb.
"See ya," said Eddie as I left.
I only ever saw Betty in study hall, and only if I went to the talking study in the cafeteria instead of the quiet study in the library. Mom wasn’t thrilled that I didn’t get my homework done at school anymore, but like usual, as long as I didn’t say anything, she gave up on it after a while.
The first time I got the nerve to sit next to Betty she ignored me. A senior was telling her about his car – a ’70 mustang that he bought with mostly his own money. Betty didn’t seem too impressed, but she listened for a while. The senior went on about his "beauty," and Betty stood up like she was headed to the bathroom. The senior kept talking, as Betty stood behind him. Then she bent down and grabbed the back legs to the senior’s chair. She stood, pulling the back of the chair with her, and sent the senior sprawling head first into the table.
"What the…" said the senior from the floor, stopping before uttering the word that would earn him certain detention.
"Mister Ward," said Coach Fox, looking up from his training equipment catalog, "is there a problem?"
The senior, who must have been named Ward, ‘cause Coach Fox was pretty good with names, sat there on the floor for a second until it was obvious that Betty wasn’t going to put his chair back down for him.
"I just fell, Coach," said the senior, getting up to chorus of giggles across the cafeteria.
"Alright," said Coach, going back at his catalog.
Betty, back in her seat with no senior to torture shifted her attention to me. Her eyes were just normal brown, but something about them made me warm all over.
"You don’t talk much, do you?" she said.
She nodded her head.
From then on, that was my seat – there next to Betty in F period study hall, and no power in heaven or the Archendale School Board could drag me from it.