Evan the Horrible, page 1
By Kimberly King
Copyright © 2019 Kimberly King.
All rights reserved.
This is a work of fiction. Any similarities to places or people are entirely coincidental.
First edition. September 2019.
Written by Kimberly King.
Edited by Debbie Despain.
Other books by Kimberly King:
The Trouble with Fairy Godmothers
The Trouble with Prince Charming
Wow, freak. Going for more color today?”
I scowled at Corinne Blakely, fighting back the blood surging to my face. All she needed was for me to blush and give her more ammo to hit me with. No way I’d cave. Instead, I focused on the formulas Mr. De Ritter wrote on the chalkboard.
Corinne leaned forward in her desk and smiled viciously, determined to break me down. “I mean, it’s like you’ve come back from the dead. Who are you trying to impress? Dracula?”
She and Desiree Adams burst into a fit of giggles. I narrowed my eyes at them, wishing to liquify their perfect little organs.
Our Algebra II teacher turned around with a frown etched in his face and adjusted his yellow-tinted glasses. “Girls, please. One more outburst from you, and I’m going to have to issue you each a demerit.”
“Yes, Mr. De Ritter,” they sweetly answered in unison. Corinne flipped her long, strawberry blonde hair and gave him the flirtiest smile she could muster. It softened the blow, just as she knew it would. Our fifty-something teacher returned her smile and smoothed his neatly combed hair before finishing the formulas on the board. The girls covered their sputtering giggles behind their hands.
Our math lesson continued with Mr. De Ritter’s back to us, providing ample opportunity for my two mortal enemies to continue their attack unobstructed.
Desiree leaned into the aisle, dark eyes flashing viciously while she whispered to me. “Hey, Jazzy. If you put on a little more black, you might actually disappear.”
“As if,” her friend said quietly from the desk behind her. “If anything, goth-girl makes herself even more obvious. It’s like she’s begging for attention.”
I clenched my jaw, hating them for their petty little lives. So shoot me for trying out dark mauve lipstick. It wasn’t like I’d murdered anyone. Yet.
When the bell rang, I darted to my next class: Chemistry. At least they couldn’t touch me there. I slipped through the crowds the best I could, avoiding contact at all costs. People really weren’t my thing. I reached my class without any incidents and slid into my seat, folding my arms and adding a slight glare for good measure. If I looked angry enough, people tended to back off. The fewer people who spoke to me the better.
Mr. Jackson welcomed us the same way he’d done every day the past two weeks: hands on his hips and a scowl. Aside from his grouchy attitude, everything else about him shouted North Pole. A long gray beard hung from his face, nearly reaching his large belly that protruded over his belt. He even wore a red, checkered shirt as if toying with his alternate identity. He fingered his beard and stared us down. “This is the week we’ll be starting lab work. As I’ve stressed before, all projects are to be completed with a partner. This is a team sport, folks. There is no “I” in chemistry.”
A few kids snorted at his lame joke. It was so bad, he didn’t even laugh himself. I tried not rolling my eyes. I needed this class and didn’t want to risk getting kicked out. It wouldn’t be the first time he got rid of a student for being disrespectful.
Mr. Jackson continued. “I don’t care if your partner’s the person right next to you or across the room; just pick someone and then deal with it. You’ll get no sympathy from me if you change your mind. Now get going. I don’t want this to take all year.”
My heart stopped for an instant. I wasn’t exactly the popular choice when it came to picking partners. My chin-length black hair with muted purple tips tended to scare potential friends away. So did the dragon tattoo wrapped around my forearm. Not that I normally minded, but since my grade depended on some loser, I knew I’d better do something about it fast. I scanned the room. My eyes landed on Jenny Prince—some girl who’d been in my math class last semester—and she smiled when our eyes met. Looked like I’d just found my partner. I got up and shoved past the chaos before the swarm of dweebs from the back got to her first. She was my best bet for an A, and I was prepared to fight for her.
“This seat taken?” I asked.
She patted the empty chair and smiled warmly. “It’s all yours.”
I dropped my backpack and sat on top of the table, blowing out a sigh of relief. The kids making their way toward Jenny slumped their shoulders and scowled when they saw me sit beside her. I gave them a sarcastic victory wave and laughed to myself while they lumbered off to find someone else.
Jenny Prince wasn’t the typical girl I’d ever go out of my way to associate with. She was the pink-cardigan, rich-girl type I made every effort to avoid. Along with her sick desire to be friends with everyone, she had a personality too disgustingly sweet for me to handle. The only time I’d ever spoken with her was last year when our teacher, Mr. Horkley, mixed up our math tests by mistake. After we swapped, we learned we’d been the only two in the entire class to get a perfect score. We’d formed an unspoken, awkward camaraderie that never evolved beyond that class.
Jenny looked up at me and smiled. “It’s Jessie, right?”
I grinned. “Actually, it’s Jazzy. Well, Jasmine if we’re getting technical. Mr. Horkley never could get it right, though; I finally got sick of correcting him.”
Jenny laughed. “The only reason he remembered my name was because his little Shih Tzu’s name was Jenny.”
“Oh, right! You were dog-girl. I remember now.”
Jenny was cool and laughed it off. A nickname like that could kill a person, but she took it in stride. Another reason she’d make a great chem partner.
I wasn’t looking to be BFFs with her or anything, but she was serious about school and so was I. It was my last semester at Forest Hills High and nothing was going to stand in the way of me and a 4.0. I’d already been offered a partial scholarship to a local community college, but one bad grade and I could kiss my future goodbye.
“This class is going to be the worst,” Jenny said, settling into her seat.
“We get to blow things up. It might not be too bad.”
She grimaced. “I heard someone lost a pinkie last year.”
I laughed. “Keep your eyes open and follow the directions. It’s pretty simple stuff.”
“I take it chem’s your thing?”
“Oh, yeah. Loved this stuff since I was a kid. Santa brought me a chemistry set every single year.”
Jenny laughed. “I’m in good hands, then.”
“One more minute,” our teacher announced. “It’s not rocket science, people. Look around you. Anyone who’s still standing is your new partner. If you can’t figure it out yourself, I’m doing it for you.”
“I feel bad for whoever ends up with that kid,” I said, nodding at the front of the room. Evan Rice relaxed in his seat with his legs outstretched and hands interlocked behind his head. He clearly had no intention of pursuing a partner. Mr. Jackson noticed him, too, and marched over with a stern glare.
“Is there a problem, Mr. . . .?”
Evan smiled, unmoving. “Nope. No problem at all.”
Our teacher heaved a giant sigh. “I don’t see your partner. I instructed everyone to find one.”
“What a jerk,” I whispered.
Jenny nervously cleared her throat as if talking badly about anyone made her uncomfortable. Figured.
Our teacher’s face grew red and blotchy, probably to hold back some explosive words. The color faded as he blew out a slow breath. “Yes. That is what I said.” His beady eyes darted across the room to find a victim. His lips moved while he counted up the partners, then he frowned, folding his arms on top of his overflowing belly. “Looks like you’re the odd man out. You’re just going to have to pair up with another group.”
The class released a quiet groan in nearly perfect unison.
Evan didn’t budge. “Sounds like I lucked out, then.”
“I’d say things are about to get very difficult for you,” Mr. Jackson said, heaving up his drooping pants.
“I doubt it. Three people means splitting everything three ways. Less work.”
“I need you to stand up and go find a group to join.”
“How ‘bout I just wait here and let you choose for me?”
Jenny and I glanced at each other. Something bad was definitely about to happen.
“Fine. You want to play hardball? I can do that.” Our teacher looked up and his eyes landed on me and Jenny. My heart stopped and my entire life nearly passed before my eyes. He smiled. “Don’t worry. I’m not that cruel.”
My partner and I sighed collectively. Evan was the last person anyone would ever want to be paired with. Especially someone as desperate for a perfect grade point average as I was.
“You two,” Mr. Jackson said, eyeing a couple of guys behind us.
“No way, man,” the curly-haired one whispered to his partner. His friend quietly moaned in response.
Mr. Jackson nodded. “Now that everyone’s been paired, let’s discuss that project.”
Istomped the snow from my black leather boots as I trudged up the stairs to my apartment. The wind howled through the stairwell and I tucked my chin into my star-studded black denim jacket. I could’ve sworn it had gotten colder as the day drew on. I unlocked the door quickly, then slipped in and slammed out the cold, breathing in the heavenly warmth. Winter was the worst.
I threw my backpack and jacket on the kitchen counter then pulled out my homework folder, rifling through some papers until I found my math sheet. I flipped open my Algebra book but stared blankly at the pages for several minutes. Math used to be my favorite subject, numbers being my thing, but that was before I got caught in Desiree and Corinne’s line of fire. Now, all I saw whenever a math problem glared at me were the mocking stares of those two girls. I sighed; it was too quiet. I turned on the radio and switched it up a couple of notches. Loud enough to chase away the silence, but not enough that the neighbors would pound on the wall. Hopefully.
For thirty minutes, I scribbled out some answers, skipping the ones I didn’t get. Mark would have to help me figure those out when he got home. It was nearly dinnertime anyway, so I stuck my pencil in the book to save my place, then slammed it shut. I searched through the kitchen cupboards for several minutes before finally deciding on spaghetti. That was easy enough.
The apartment was warm and steamy when Mark finally came home, tracking snow inside from his sleek work shoes. His neatly combed, dark brown hair was covered with a thin layer of melting flakes. “Hey, Jazzy. Smells good. Spaghetti?” He blew on his hands before hanging up his overcoat.
“Yep,” I said, draining the noodles into the sink.
“Can’t wait. School okay?”
I scoffed. “Best day ever.”
He laughed at my sarcasm. “Come on. It can’t be that bad.”
“It’s high school. What do you expect?”
“I don’t know. A new friend, maybe?” His blue eyes sparkled with hope.
I rolled my own. “Ha. Wishful thinking.”
“Think maybe all the black scares everyone off?”
I glared at him. “Seriously? That’s where you’re going?”
“Hey, I’m just saying my kid sister’s pretty cool, and I want people to see that. Sometimes they can be kinda shallow, you know? Maybe wear a colored shirt every now and then so they don’t think you’re some death-obsessed metalhead.” Clean-shaven, totally ordinary Mark would never be able to understand why I dressed the way I did.
“I’m not death-obsessed. Or a metalhead.”
His voice softened. “I know, Jazz.” He sighed, then rolled up his white sleeves. “Got any garlic bread around here?”
I smiled. “Nope. I saved it for you to make.”
He paused. “Maybe we’ll just skip it tonight.”
“Fat chance, buddy. You brought it up, so you’re the one who gets to make it.”
We worked quietly side-by-side, me on the sauce and my older brother on the bread. He wore an apron so nothing splattered on his work clothes, something I enjoyed teasing him about. My favorite song was suddenly interrupted by a pounding on the wall. I grumbled before turning the music down. My neighbors had the ears of bats.
We sat at the table and enjoyed our steaming plates of food with the music on low. Both of us hated silence. We used to eat with the television on until Mark decided one day that it turned us into mindless zombies. He said dinnertime should be family time, an idea he probably picked up from his girlfriend, Melissa. Not that I minded, though. It was nice speaking to another human, however boring the conversation typically was.
“So, Mom called,” he said slowly.
I didn’t look up. I rolled my noodles around my fork before shoving them into my mouth. “Oh, yeah?” I asked nonchalantly.
“She said she’s getting some great shots of seals. There’s a huge harem about ready to give birth so she’s gonna hang around a few more weeks. She really wants to get some pictures of the pups learning to swim.”
“But she promised your birthday gift is in the mail. It may be a day or two late.”
I wiped my mouth and stood, ignoring the heaping pile of noodles still on my plate. “Great.”
“Jazzy. You’ve got to go easier on her. She’s doing her best to support our family.”
I spun on my heels. “You call traveling clear around the world by herself doing her best? We’re stuck here living a pathetic life in a crummy apartment while Mom is out living her photography dream. Doing her best would mean being here for us, Mark. Here, living in a home like a regular family. We’re practically orphans.”
“Jazz, that’s not fair.”
“Yeah, you’re telling me. If she actually loved us, she’d work for a newspaper or something else like normal people do.” I stormed off to my room, continuing the lecture in my mind. If Mom loved us, she wouldn’t leave us. She cared more about those stupid animals and her stupid camera more than her own children.
I flopped on my bed and turned on my music, steaming with fury and hurt. Having a successful mother didn’t amount to a pile of beans if she wasn’t around half the time. Some days I could handle her being gone better than others, but today, it cut me to the core.
After a while, Mark knocked softly on my door. “Mind if I come in?”
I wiped my cheeks dry. “Door’s open.”
He peeked his head in. “Hey. You okay?”
“I saw your math on the counter,” he said, coming all the way in. “Mind if we work on it right now? I’ve got a date in a while.”
He smiled. “Do you like her?”
“Of course I do, dummy. Everyone loves her. She’s awesome.”
He took a quick breath like he was going to say something, then changed his mind. “So? Ready to go algebrate?”
I rolled my eyes at his dumb joke. “Only if you quit calling it that.”
He laughed. “Like that’ll ever ha
I punched him on the shoulder, then followed him out. It was a good thing he was so cool. I didn’t know how I’d handle life without him in it.
I glared at my reflection in the bathroom mirror the next morning. The mousse I’d rubbed into my hair didn’t want to cooperate and I looked like Frump Queen. Make that Frumpy Ice Queen. I scowled at the nickname half the school called me. So I didn’t smile every three seconds. It didn’t make me heartless. I looked down at my tube of lipstick. After yesterday with Corinne and Desiree’s teasing, I really didn’t want to put it on again. Ever. But if I didn’t, they’d win, and I didn’t want that even more.
I slid on a thin layer of the dark mauve. The color didn’t look too bad, except that it was splotchy and made me look like a corpse. I grumbled and reapplied a heavier layer, frustrated my lips were back to looking black. I’d just have to deal with it. Better that than conforming to my classmates’ pathetic standards.
I got to school just in time to see Annie Wallis—donned in a bright red scarf and matching fluffy gloves— gingerly climbing out of her car. She’d parked on black ice and was practically hugging the car so she didn’t slip. She opened the back door and pulled out a box full of overflowing funky fabric, probably for her drama class or something. As soon as her eyes landed on me, she quickly tucked her curly brown hair behind her ear and looked away, pretending she hadn’t noticed me. My heart burned in pain, so I dug my fingernails into my frozen palms to quell back the hurt feelings. I was glad she hadn’t broken down and acknowledged me. Two years of not speaking was hardly a record, and I intended to keep it going until the day I died.
When I got inside the building, I stomped the snow from my boots and quickly headed for the bathrooms. I was in a particularly bad mood, so hid in a stall to slip on my black studded choker and matching leather bracelet. It was basically a fail-safe way of making sure everyone steered clear of me today. I wasn’t in the mood to deal with anyone.
In math, Corinne and Desiree took the hint. They didn’t have the guts to see what would happen if they pestered me. But it didn’t stop them from whispering and giggling the whole time, making it pretty obvious it was about me with their constant glances.