Linda stood across the cafeteria from me as she waited for her friends to finish getting their lunch. She wore the black zipper-laced baggy jeans I loved with a tight Misfits t-shirt. Her hair lazily put up in a bun only made her lack of make-up more beautiful. I sighed as her friends joined her, and they walked to a nearby table, talking and laughing.
“Knock it off,” Samantha said, elbowing me, “It’s creepy.”
“Sorry, Sam,” I said, pulling my gaze from her. “It’s just Linda, you know? She’s just so relaxed and casual with everything.”
“Steve, will you tell Billy that it’s creepy to stare at girls?” she said, turning away from me. “Apparently, he doesn’t believe the only girl at the table.”
“Look at this, man!” Stephen said, pointing to an article in Paranormal Weekly, his favorite publication. “Mind readers! See, I told you they exist.”
“I wish I was a mind reader, guys. Then I’d know how to get Linda to talk to me,” I said, pulling the magazine toward me.
“You’ve got it bad today, eh bud?” Steve said.
“He’s had it bad every day since she showed up two months ago,” Samantha said. “Either talk to her or stop being a creep.”
“I’m not trying to be a creep, Sam,” I said, trying my best not to look at her again, “I just don’t know what to say to her.”
“She wears band t-shirts every day, dummy,” Samantha said, “talk to her about a band. Maybe you’ll hit it off. If she doesn’t know about the band, she’s a poser, and you can move on with your life.”
“Are you going to read the article?” Steve asked.
“Sorry,” I replied, looking down and skimming through it. It talked about a considerable percentage of mind readers and physical characteristics they could exhibit. I shook my head, “Dude, this is the worst yet. There’s no way that a mind reader would have six fingers or toes on the left side. That’s just crazy talk. It has nothing to do with how their brain works.”
“That’s what you said about the werewolves with the middle and third fingers-”
“And what exactly did Sherrif Barnes think of you being all weird with silver around him?” I asked.
“It was fine, clearly,” Stephen protested, “He didn’t arrest me, did he?”
“Whatever, man,” I laughed, shaking my head. “You can’t believe everything-what are you doing?”
Stephen was looking down really slowly, letting his eyelids droop as though he had been hit with a tranquilizer, then rapidly spinning, sitting upright wide-eyed and grimacing.
“It says you can catch them off guard if you scream really loud in your head. They might jump if they don’t expect it,” he said.
“Wouldn’t you have had the thought to do it before you did it, though?” I asked.
“He has a point,” Samantha agreed, pointing to me.
“Damn. So, I’ve got to not think about doing it, but do it anyway,” Stephen said as he slumped in his seat and picked up a green bean from the tray. He bit down on it and chewed for a moment. “This is going to be harder than I thought.”
“I think you should put more thought into your plans,” I said with a chuckle.
“Maybe. Or maybe Linda’s a mind reader!” Stephen teased. “Maybe that’s why she wears shirts for all your favorite bands.”
“Knock it off, Stephen,” Samantha said as the bell rang. “Time to get to class. We’ll see you after fourth period, okay?”
“See you later,” I replied as I rose from the table and took care of my tray.
Linda was in my next class, and usually, I would wait for her to walk in front of me, but Samantha had a point, I was creepy. I didn’t want to be the creepy guy to her. I wanted to talk to her. I wanted to tell her how amazing the bands were on her shirts, and how awesome she was for being so comfortable in her own skin. I was so lost in thought that I walked right past the classroom and had to double back at a run before the tardy bell rang, making it to my seat just in time.
“Good afternoon, everyone,” Mr. Tarney said, leaning against his desk. “Did everyone do their homework last night?”
Everyone in the room nodded.
“Good! Now, the Odyssey is a wonderful adventure tale set in ancient Greece. It follows the Illiad by Homer. Does anyone have any thoughts about the poem?”
Several people raised their hands, but from my seat in the back of the room, I could see where Linda had sat today. She was a row closer to me, which was odd. Her friend Izzy was in her regular seat. I tried not to stare, but the topic of Homer only ever made me think about The Simpsons.
Thoughts of Stephen’s theory about Linda slowly crept into my mind, eating away the little willpower I had to keep my doubt at bay. I thought about it for a moment, then looked at Linda.
Linda, can you hear me? I thought.
Great, I’m ridiculous now. She’s not a mind reader. Though, it would be easier to talk to her, I think.
“Who else has thoughts about the Odyssey?” Mr. Tarney asked, pointing around the room, “No one? Okay. Today, I want you to pair off into teams and come up with your own Ancient Greek poem.”
The room moved as though the bell had rung. I stayed where I was, mostly because it didn’t matter who I worked with. None of my friends were in the class anyway. I looked down and pulled a notebook and pencil from the bag next to me. When I looked up, Linda was sitting across from me, smiling broadly.
“L-Linda, hi,” I stuttered, kicking myself instantly for not saying something cooler.
“Hey, Izzy wanted to work with Gill today, you mind if I work with you?” she asked.
I mouthed the word no, but nothing came out, so I shook my head.
“What should our great adventure be about?” she asked, pulling the notebook toward her. The movement produced the slightest breeze, and I could smell the floral shampoo she used.
“I-I don’t know, mind readers?” I said before I thought about what I was saying.
“I don’t know that there are any creatures like that in Greek Mythology,” she said, tapping the pencil. “One second.”
Linda practically ran across the room to Mr. Tarney.
Here we go, I thought, she’s talking to me. I need to be smooth and casual. I can’t be creepy or pushy. Girls don’t like creepy.
“Alright, Mr. Tarney doesn’t know about any either, but her said we could come up with one,” Linda said as she slid into her seat. “What should be the story? Who should be the hero? Where should it be set?”
I was at a loss for words. I didn’t know how to answer.
“You don’t have to worry. I don’t bite,” Linda said, smiling at me. “Come on, what are your ideas?”
“I-I don’t know,” I stammered again.
Say anything, man! She’s going to think you’re STUPID! I thought to myself, like screaming in my head. Linda sat up straight suddenly. I looked up at her, and her eyes darted from mine as her cheeks flushed.
Can you hear me? I thought, trying not to lean closer to her.
Linda’s eyes came up to meet mine slowly, and she gave me a slight nod before whispering, “Stephen is smarter than he looks.”