Therefore, the class was even more disorganized than usual. Instead of working on our projects for the newspaper or the yearbook or journalism independent study, everyone was goofing off like it was study hall-except Kennedy and me, of course. They weren't paying attention to us. The room was so loud with conversations and laughter that nobody could hear us when we talked in a normal tone. I'd thought it was safe to sit with Kennedy and break up with him between assembling the layouts for two Superlatives pages. It never occurred to me that he would care enough to get mad-much less raise his voice.
Quinn and a few other guys eyed us, then turned back to their own computers. I kept my voice quiet, hoping Kennedy would follow my lead and calm down. "You and I have dated for six weeks," I said, "and we've argued for probably five of them. We got along better when we were just friends, remember? Some couples don't work out."
Kennedy nodded. "Some couples aren't perfect like you and Brody. You know he only wants down your pants, right?"
At least somebody does, I thought. "If he did," I said carefully, "it's none of your b-"
"He never would have noticed you if you hadn't started following him around like some rock-star groupie after that stupid vote. And dressing like you wanted it." Kennedy waved at my fitted V-neck T-shirt (no cleavage), chunky necklace, Bermuda shorts, and high-heeled wedges.
"Everybody says you're trying to get Brody by dressing and acting like Grace," Kennedy sneered.
"Oh, really?" I tried to sound scathing, but I didn't feel very scathing. What Kennedy was saying hit too close to home.
Until he said this: "I thought you were a nice girl."
"You thought I was a nice girl," I repeated. "You thought I was a nice girl? What the fuck does that mean?" Now everybody from the surrounding computers was staring at us. I lowered my voice. "I can't be a nice girl anymore because I don't wear glasses, or I don't wear high-necked dresses? Or is it because I don't do what you tell me?"
"You know what it means," Kennedy said darkly.
"No, I honestly don't," I said. "But I know it's sexist. Like girls are supposed to be vessels of purity, and I've sprung a leak. Boys, meanwhile, can do whatever they want.
"You know what?" My voice was rising again. I'd stopped caring. "You've never treated me like you genuinely wanted to be with me. You wanted the appearance of dating without caring about me or my feelings. I deserve better. I should have broken up with you the first time you gave me the silent treatment."
I got up then, taking my bag and moving toward the back of the room. When I'd brought up the subject, I'd intended to break up with him gently and then listen carefully to his response
. But I didn't care what he had to say anymore.
I didn't look forward to sitting at the back of the room for the rest of the period either. Everyone who'd been in earshot of our breakup was still staring at me. But before I'd even sat down, Kennedy was standing close, towering over me.
"I need all of the Superlatives photos tomorrow," he said smugly.
"Tomorrow!" I exclaimed. "My deadline is a week from tomorrow."
"No, my deadline is a week from tomorrow," he corrected me. "For the whole section. Your deadline is whenever I say it is. I've given you as many breaks as I could, but I've told you I need those photos on a rolling basis so I have time to lay out everything. You haven't been turning many in. So I want them all tomorrow."
I looked slowly around the room. All conversations had hushed when Kennedy followed me to the back. Now everyone-not just the people who'd overheard us before, but everyone-stared at us like we were a reality show. Only the sub wasn't paying attention. She had her earphones plugged into her phone.
"Kennedy," I whispered hoarsely, "I know you're mad at me, but I can't do that. There's no way. I haven't even taken all the photos yet. And once I did, I'd have to stay up all night to format them."
He shrugged, as if to say, Serves you right. "You'd have the section photographed and turned in by now if you hadn't spent the last week creating an after-school job for yourself with that 5K. Maybe we need a different yearbook photographer."
I'd felt myself blushing under everyone's attention before. Now I felt the blood drain out of my face, and my fingers tingled. Photography was what I loved most in the world. I'd busted my ass to get this position. Kennedy couldn't do this to me.
Yes he could. Mr. Oakley had told us to handle our problems like the yearbook was a business and we were employees. That meant Kennedy could fire me.
I gaped at him, wishing away the tears in my eyes. "That makes zero sense! I'm busy, but I'm turning everything in on time. If you'd set my deadline for tomorrow in the first place, instead of a week from tomorrow, I wouldn't have asked for the 5K job."
He smiled. "If you turn all the Superlatives photos in tomorrow during class, I'll consider letting you keep your position."
I wasn't sure whether it was his patronizing tone, or the fact that he'd chosen to make a scene in front of the whole class, or the entire six weeks of him acting like I wasn't good enough for him. But something made me snap. I shouted, "You know what? Don't bother. I quit."