Authors: Gwen Hayes
Tags: #Romance, #Contemporary, #Teen & Young Adult
So Over You
So Over You
Copyright © 2010 Gwen Hayes
Published by Gwen Hayes at Smashwords
Copy Edited by Jennifer Barker
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form without written permission from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages for review purposes.
This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to any person, living or dead, any place, events or occurrences, is purely coincidental. The characters and story lines are created from the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
Even though I’d already blown right past the “do not exceed” warning on my Excedrin bottle, I popped two more without water and surveyed the scene before me.
A sorrier crew of journalists would be hard to find. Fitting, since, technically, we no longer had a school newspaper due to district budget cuts. What we did have, besides the bunch of fools currently yelling at each other, was a classroom with three ancient computers, an unpaid advisor, six “journalists,” and two co-chief editors. Yours truly and…well, I liked to call him
Everyone else called him Jimmy Foster.
Our after-school staff meeting began the same way we’ve begun every staff meeting this year—with an argument. Only this one was pretty heated. We had a forest fire on our hands, and my co-editor seemed to be clutching a lighter instead of a fire hose.
Foster and I stared each other down from opposite ends of the thirty-year-old folding table while the rest of the crew tried to get individual points of view across by raising the volume of the argument and moving their arms a lot.
The argument wasn’t even relevant to the news. Nobody fought for first dibs on a hot story or argued over bylines and cover copy. No, they were upset over fundraisers. More specifically, our fundraiser.
I missed the days of hard-boiled reporting. We only had one returning staff member. The rest were too young, too idealistic, and far too grating on my nerves. That was probably my fault, though.
It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to call me neurotic. I’m not good with people. I tend to be brisk and seemingly uncaring. I’m the girl who never got hired to babysit a second time by the same family. It seems I lack certain…skills. Namely patience.
Mr. Blake kept reminding me that I needed to be a mentor, so I kept hitting the Excedrin and praying for a break in the clouds.
Or at least a little help from my “partner.”
I folded my arms across my chest and raised one arched brow. My nemesis responded by unfolding his limbs in a giant stretch and then clasped his hands behind his head as if he didn’t have a care in the world. Of course, he had to do that maneuver every so often. His big fat head would cause him terrible neck strain if he didn’t take frequent breaks to support the weight of it in his hands.
This was going to be a long year. I worked hard to get this position on the paper, and I wasn’t pleased I had to share it with such an arrogant excuse for a reporter. I’m sure he had some good traits; I’d just never witnessed any in the years we’d worked on staff.
I checked my watch. We needed to calm down the children or Mommy and Daddy were never going to put the first issue to bed.
I stood up slowly and cleared my throat. Several times. I shot the evil genius a look that meant
, so he put his fingers in his mouth and whistled. Everyone covered their ears and shut up; he had a way about him, that’s for sure.
Foster appealed to some girls. I didn’t understand the draw, but several of our staff were girls with new “aspirations” in journalism, and they hung on his every word. Blech. While it’s true his evil black soul didn’t show from the outside, he still wasn’t the kind of guy you’d want a poster of on your wall. At least I wouldn’t. Unless I drew a bull’s-eye on it and used it for dart practice.
It was annoying the way the new girls pandered to his ego all the time.
“Jimmy, what do you think?” “Jimmy, is this a good idea?” “Jimmy, I always get confused—is it their or there?” “Jimmy, do you think it’s annoying or cute when a girl dots her
s with a heart?” “Jimmy, is it true you won the Aronsen Achievement Award for Excellence in Journalism last year?”
Well, okay, he did win the award. We were both finalists, but his interview with a survivor from Wesley High after a student shooting incident was exceptional. I’ll give him that much.
And he could sure whistle.
Since I finally had everyone’s attention, I began, “I’m not sure the calendar idea is going to work.”
The whining commenced immediately, but Foster brought his fingers back to his lips and everyone shut up and covered their ears again. I fought a smirk—they had no idea how easily they were being trained. When we were freshmen, the editor used to smack our hands with a ruler. I’m not an advocate of corporal punishment, and he did serve a lot of detention over it, but our staff meetings ran a lot smoother that year. Just sayin’.
I restarted, tapping my fingers on the pseudo-wood table even though I itched for a ruler. “As a fund-raiser, the idea is original but problematic. For one thing, it’s objectifying.”
Foster laughed. “I’ll never understand why girls wear tight clothes and short skirts and then complain that we like to look at them.”
I exhaled and counted to five. “Some girls haven’t learned yet that their real value isn’t what part of the body they are exposing. This newspaper is not going to capitalize on their low self-esteem.”
Foster stood and all heads snapped back to his end of the table. “Some girls have high enough self-esteem to realize that their appearance is an asset, not an obstacle.” He scanned my outfit meaningfully, as if he found it lacking, and then grabbed both corners of the table and leaned toward me. “We need a fundraiser. We’d have to have a car wash every Saturday until May to earn the kind of revenue we could earn from making a calendar.”
I copied his pose. “I won’t endorse this idea just so you can ogle a new cheerleader every month.”
“You jealous, Logan?”
“No, but I’m beginning to taste bile, Foster.”
Like at a tennis match, the staff followed our word volley with their turning heads.
“Fine, we’ll do a calendar with the football team, then,” he answered. As if that solved anything.
“So it’s not objectifying if it’s boys?”
don’t care. For crying out loud, my mother has a calendar of cats in the kitchen. Do we need to call PETA? Is she objectifying felines?”
I rolled my eyes. Did Foster ever take a break from being Foster? “Why do you want to do a calendar so badly? I don’t see what’s in it for you.”
He shrugged. “You may not see what’s in it for me, but when you stand like that, I can see down your shirt.”
I had to bite my tongue. There wasn’t much I could do about the flush creeping across my skin and threatening to set fire to the roots of my hair, but I could control my temper. Barely.
Resisting the urge to check the status of my shirt, I unclenched my fingers from the table and eased back into my chair.
“We wouldn’t have to objectify the boys,” said Maryanne, one of the newer sophomore girls. “What if we wrote meaningful exposés on each player?”
Chelsea snorted. “How many meaningful things are you going to find about the football team?” Thank goodness for returning staff. I knew she wouldn’t let me down. “We should do the soccer team instead. They have a broader ethnic background too. And ohmigawd, their butts are to die for.”
Though gaping is unattractive, I couldn’t help it. I thought for sure Chelsea would have agreed with me that the whole idea of personifying any student’s physical appearance as character traits to be lauded in such in impersonal way was just wrong. I mean she was a
. She wore sandals and patchouli.
All the girls began arguing again, this time over which team was the sexiest and therefore deserved a year of leering. I nibbled at the inside of my cheek and rubbed small circles into my temples as I watched Jimmy Foster make notes in his spiral notebook. An evil grin spread across his face and I narrowed my eyes. What was he up to?
He scribbled in earnest, bent over so I could only see the top of his mussed-up hair. The little gelled-up spikes were dark, but when you get him in sunlight, his hair is redder, especially at his temples. He looked up from his notebook, but I didn’t avert my gaze. He’d already caught me staring at him; I wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of being embarrassed by it.
A slow smile slithered across his face and he winked at me. He was plotting something horrid. There was no other explanation for his apparent happiness. Every time that boy smiled, somewhere a puppy died.
“Okay, we got it.” Chelsea smiled, playing with the ends of her braid. Speaking for the group, she stood. “We want to do a photo shoot with each
from a different school club or sport.” She shot me a quelling look. “We’ll have meaningful verbiage for each one and the whole project will be about diversity and un-objectifying the male species on campus.”
“It’s a great idea,” I chirped, despite the throbbing in my temples and the churning in my gut.
Foster narrowed his eyes. “Did you just say it was a great idea?”
“Well it goes against all my principles, which means it’s sure to rake in the dough. And we need a lot of it.” I wanted to thrash Chelsea with her own Birkenstocks, but instead I smiled complacently.
We’d already resigned ourselves to putting out the
, our newspaper, digitally only this year, but we still needed better software to pull that off. The school had given us a budget of minus one hundred dollars (they still wanted the money we went over budget last year). If that meant we had to whore out our integrity, so be it. The one thing I wouldn’t do was let the paper fold. Not on my watch.
Mr. Blake, our esteemed and unpaid advisor, and the sophomore he took with him—I forget his name—returned from the coffee run. So, of course, all forward progress stalled as he called out complicated coffee orders.
“Tall half-skinny, sugar-free vanilla.”
“Right here,” said Maryanne.
Ugh. This was going to take a while. I pushed away from the table and found the box of freebie software we’d liberated from an old storage closet. Hopefully, there would be something compatible with the three different operating systems we had to choose from.
Another order up. “Quad shots with heavy foam and Splenda, not Sweet’N Low.”
Foster pitched himself onto the table next to the box. “What is going on in that devious head of yours?”
“What do you mean?” I held up an eight-inch square. “What is this?”
“That’s a floppy disk. I’d say circa 1985. And you know what I mean. You hate the calendar idea. Why’d you go along with it?”
I shrugged. “I don’t have much choice. I’m outnumbered.”
“Soy frappé, no whip. Who had the soy?” Mr. Blake asked.
“Chelsea,” everyone answered, and Foster and I rolled our eyes.
“It will make a lot of money, Logan. We need it.”
“I know, I know.” I sighed. “I bet we can get the cardstock donated if we advertise the stationery store.”
“Two black coffees.”
Foster and I raised our hands.
Mr. Blake joined us. “What’s this about a Stud of the Month the girls are yammering about?”
“Fundraiser,” I offered.
“And,” Foster added, taking both coffees and handing me one. “A really great feature story.”
“Feature?” Something told me I was going to hate this idea.
“Listening to all those girls argue about which guys were worthy enough to make the calendar, I couldn’t help but wonder…” He looked me straight on with his devil eyes. “What is it, exactly, that girls are looking for in high school boys?”
now?” I asked. “And you sound like Carrie Bradshaw from
Sex and the City
with all that ‘I couldn’t help but wonder’ crap. Where is the feature story in this? I don’t see it.”
Using his TV announcer voice, Foster began, “A year of dates in six weeks. Our intrepid girl reporter de-objectifies the calendar boys by spending time with each model and extolling the experience in an award winning exposé into the mind of a teenage female.” Nerves under my skin began racing to get away. Far, far away. “Culminating, of course, with the release of the beefcake calendar.”
“So you want to send one of our reporters on twelve dates with virtual strangers?”
“No, I want to send
on twelve dates. The stranger part is just a bonus.”
Like hell. “Me? I don’t date high school boys.”
There are plenty of reasons not to swim in the dating pool that is high school. But the root source of my reluctance to dive right in has always been avoidance of the questionable warm spots in the water.
It’s not so much that high school boys are stupid or even immature. It’s just that they’re, well, high school boys.
“Which is exactly why you are the obvious choice.”
“It’s a terrible idea.” I turned to Mr. Blake. “I’m not comfortable with this idea at all.”
Mr. Blake, my hero, my mentor, the English teacher who taught me to think and the journalism teacher who taught me to think for myself, rubbed the silver whiskers on his face and betrayed me. “Sometimes a good reporter needs to challenge her comfort zone. Break out. Question her world.”
Lucifer waggled his eyebrows and gloated.
“I can’t believe you are taking his side,” I whined.
Mr. Blake nodded toward the staff. “I suggest you get your newsroom back under control so you can hammer out some details.”
* * *
It’s amazing what the right motivation coupled with caffeine could do for a staff of my peers. They took the cover shoot and twelve blind date ideas and ran as if they’d been handed the Olympic torch. While I was pleased that, only two weeks into the school year, several of them were beginning to show leadership and organizational skills, I was a little miffed that nobody was even a little worried about my safety. Or sanity.