In her rush to get ready for school this morning, Jess barely had time to find her talisman—a piece of emerald green sea glass tumbled and tossed by the waves of Omiko Bay. She wrapped her fingers around it, now, where it nestled like a smooth jewel deep in the soft folds of her sweater pocket. Then she hid her face in her hands.
“Jess, right? Don’t take it personally.”
Hans. The boy sitting next to her. He hadn’t budged. She knew he was trying to reassure her, but she wished he’d stop. Her voice would break if she tried to respond. Go away! she wanted to scream. Only she didn’t. That would’ve brought even more attention to herself, and she preferred to be invisible. A lump in her throat and a dull ache in the pit of her stomach brought tears to her eyes. She swallowed the urge to cry.
He continued to speak in a low voice, as if he didn’t wish to startle her. “Kei doesn’t like me either. That’s her name, by the way. I’ve known her since Grade Five. Used to sit behind her. Teased her a lot back then, just to get her attention. Fell for her in junior high, though. Big mistake. Every time I try to approach her, I get dumped on.”
Jess forced herself to look into his eyes and was immediately distracted by the curl on his forehead. Her gaze wavered.