Perfect Couple

Page 47


His face fell. His eyes were wide, looking around at the staring class for the first time. "You can't quit! This section is due. Nobody in our class will get a yearbook on time!"
"Oh, I'll make your stupid deadline tomorrow," I said. "The section and the yearbooks won't be late because of me. After that, as long as I can get into journalism independent study and Mr. Oakley promises not to flunk me, I'm quitting. I'm not going to work for a boss like you."
The bell rang. Kennedy and I faced off, with the rest of the class circling us. I wasn't backing down, but the bell seemed to go on forever.
Finally it ended. I grabbed my bag and hurried for the door.
"Harper!" Quinn called, but I made my way to Ms. Patel's room without him. He was the one who'd told me to stop worrying about appearances. And now that I'd stopped-boy, had I stopped. I was already going over and over my public screaming match with Kennedy in my mind, wishing I could take it back.
At least, the part where I quit.
Brody looked more than ready for his daily catnap, arms folded on his desk, chin propped there. He looked so sleepy that the dark circles under his eyes made sense for once. He was watching the door for me, though. When he saw me, he grinned and sat up. "Did you do the deed? Uh-oh, what's wrong?"
"I'll tell you in a minute," I said, unpacking my camera. "We're out of time to take our Superlatives picture. Spend study hall in the courtyard with me."
After the bell rang, we stepped into the empty hallway. As we walked together, I said quietly, "I can't go to Quarterback Club with you tonight. I'm really sorry." I explained that Kennedy had changed my deadline and threatened to fire me.
"Kennedy can't fire you," Brody protested. "Students can't fire each other."
"We can in Mr. Oakley's class."
"But did you complain to Mr. Oakley?"
"He's driving to the Georgia game to see his son play. He won't be back until Monday."
"Oh, right." Brody nodded. I didn't think he'd ever had Mr. Oakley as a teacher, but he must have played on the team with Mr. Oakley's son before he graduated.
"And even when he gets back, I can't complain. He's told us we're supposed to settle our differences ourselves."
"This isn't what he meant," Brody said firmly. Then his face softened, and he touched my elbow. "You should have let me come with you when you broke up with Kennedy. If I'd been there, he wouldn't have gone ballistic on you."
"The next time you offer to strong-arm somebody for me, I will totally let you," I said. "Anyway, Kennedy won't be able to jerk me around like that again, because I told him I'm quitting after I turn in the Superlatives photos ."
"Quitting as yearbook photographer?" Brody sounded astonished.
"I mean, it's high school yearbook photographer," I defended myself, gesturing with my camera. "I've already made a couple hundred bucks for college from the photo in the paper and my pictures from the 5K finish line. I don't need to be yearbook photographer."
Brody nodded. "You'll regret it, though. Didn't you apply to be yearbook photographer? You submitted a portfolio, the same way Kennedy had to be chosen for editor, right? You earned that position, just as much as Kennedy earned his."
"Yeah." Unfortunately, I saw his point.
He pushed open the door for me and followed me into the courtyard. "It's not the end of the world, sure, and it's not making you any money, but I'd think about the decision to quit if I were you. It's part of your life. You're throwing away the position because you're mad at Kennedy, which means he's still got control over you. Is that what you want? You're only in high school once."
We were alone in the concrete space dotted with palm trees in planters. I sure hoped the last few Superlatives showed up for their photo sessions, or I was going to miss my new deadline tomorrow. After twelve years of school with Xavier Pilkington, Most Academic, I'd never been so anxious to see him.
"Stand over here, please." I pulled Brody under a palm tree and snapped a few shots of him, then looked around and moved him to a spot where the light was more muted and his green eyes stood out in the photos. He was smiling self-consciously, though, like he was posing for the football program that the student council sold at games. To distract him, I asked, "Are people talking about me behind my back because I got contacts and I'm dressing differently?"
"No," he said. "Well, no more than they talked about you before. You've been a favorite subject of the football team since school started this year. Though, come to think of it, maybe that's my influence."
"That would be very sweet," I said, "except that discussion is about my fine ass."
"Not just your fine ass," he corrected me. "You have many quality features. I used to look up from the table in the lunchroom and see you and say, 'Harper looks hot.' Lately I look at you and say, 'Hey, a new hot girl. Oh, wait, it's Harper!' "
"Okay," I said, laughing. I was capturing handsome photos of him laughing too.
"I like surprises." He tilted his head and considered me. "You should wear your glasses sometimes."

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