CHAPTER FIFTEEN – Cold Heart , Cold Feet
The last Monday of the school year was always chaotic. The pent up stress from final exams was unleashed in a wave of noisy eagerness for summer vacation. Spirits were high, rules lax, school almost felt good.
Out in the quad, Tiffany and Amber sat in the sun during the morning break, getting a head start on their summer tans. They both wore shorts and tank tops to get maximum exposure. Amber brought some self-tanning lotion and the girls were applying it to their skin. Tiffany was telling of her encounter with Gunther at the mall.
“… so I say, ‘Rocky!’ and he’s panting like a puppy and I sashay over and give him my sexy look. He’s totally into me. So I say, ‘Let’s go see a movie sometime. Call me, okay?’ He says okay, completely dense to the fact that I never gave him my number!”
The girls laughed hysterically, Tiffany going HeeHeeHee. She squirted tanning lotion on her arm and said, “Yanking Gunther around is SO fun! This was the best idea you’ve ever had, Amber.”
“I have a better idea,” said Amber, leaning back on the bench and turning her face to the sun. “The next time you see him? Be completely cold. Act as if he’s frog snot.”
Tiffany howled. “Oh my God! That is so good! I can’t wait to see how he handles that!”
“Just be sure I’m around too, ok? I do NOT want to miss this,” said Amber.
A group of boys passed and slowed to admire the girls. One of the boys whooped.
The girls pretended not to notice. Tiffany stretched out her long legs and spread lotion on them. To Amber she whispered, “Don’t you just love being gorgeous?”
* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
“Wait a minute. Run that by me again,” Bernice said. She and Luann were headed for third period English class and had stopped at Luann’s locker.
“After school today, I’m going to have my hair buzzed and bleached white,” stated Luann, matter of factly, even though the mere thought of it made her heart pound with fearful anticipation.
“What on earth for? No, wait, you don’t need to tell me. It’s obviously more of your desperate attempts to outshine Tiffany and get Aaron Hill’s attention.”
“No, it’s not, Bernice,” said Luann, not even sounding convincing to herself. “It’s just about having a fresh, cool new look for summer.”
“Right. That’s why you made the appointment for today instead of after school’s out.”
“Y’know, I don’t need your approv–” Luann stopped, her attention caught by a scene across the hallway.
Gunther was at his locker. As Tiffany and Amber came in from the quad, he stepped out in front of the girls.
“Hey, Tiff,” he said, trying to sound intimate yet cool.
Tiffany and Amber halted and stared at Gunther. He had on baggy shorts that revealed sickly white legs and his sockless feet were engulfed by huge sneakers. His t-shirt was nine sizes too big and hung nearly past his shorts. He looked absolutely stupid.
“Hey,” Gunther repeated.
“Yes?” said Tiffany, her voice hard as a frying pan.
“Um… it’s me… Rocky? I was just wonderin’ about that movie.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” said Tiffany. “So if you don’t mind…” Tiffany shooed at Gunther like he was an annoying bug.
“But… it’s me, Rocky…” Gunther’s voice was turning to a plead.
“Look,” said Tiffany, “move your creepy self OUT of my way, ok? Like WAY out. Like to your house and take a shower. You reek. And those clothes. Wha’d you do, eat them and then puke them up?”
Gunther shrunk back and Tiffany and Amber flounced away down the hall.
“What was that all about?” whispered Bernice.
“I don’t know,” said Luann. “But look at poor Gunther. He’s devastated!”
From down the hall, a twittery ‘HeeHeeHee’ could be heard. Bernice narrowed her eyes at the sound and said, “Something’s fishy here.”
* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
“YOU’RE GOING TO DO WHAT!?” gasped Delta. She, Luann and Bernice sat together in English, talking before the bell.
Bernice pointed at Luann’s head. “She’s lost the reasoning section of her brain. The finals probably fried it.”
“It’s a haircut,” stated Luann. “Not plastic surgery.”
“Luann, look at me,” said Delta in her ‘I am now going to tell it like it is’ voice. “You will NOT get your hair buzzed and bleached.”
“You’re the one who said I’d gain confidence by punching up my looks,” said Luann.
“Yes! New clothes! A little makeup! Not a shaved scalp! Luann, think about what you’re doing here. This isn’t just a wardrobe change. This is major hair removal!”
“And this is a perfect time. If I hate it, I’ll have all summer to grow it out.”
The bell rang and Mr. Fogarty entered the room. He never arrived even one second early, savoring every last moment of his time in the teacher’s lounge. “Ok, class, this is free reading time. I want to see everyone reading. NO talking. If you don’t have a book to read, go quietly to the bookcase and pick something.”
Luann grabbed a Seventeen magazine she had in her backpack. Bernice opened The Diary Of Anne Frank. Delta wrote something on a piece of notebook paper, glanced at Mr. Fogarty and handed it to Luann. Luann slipped it behind her magazine and read it:
“Don’t be stupid, Luann. You know you’ll hate your hair. And summer isn’t the time. Summer’s swimsuits and parties — you need to look your best, not your worst. Butcher your hair next Halloween when nobody will notice!”
Luann’s head throbbed. Delta was always right. Maybe this was the worst time for hair experiments. If she looked dorky all summer, she wouldn’t want to leave the house. What kind of summer would that be? Luann looked at her Seventeen magazine. Colorful buzz cuts look cute and sassy on fashion models but what if hers just looked dumb? Suddenly, Luann realized she was wrong. She didn’t want to have her hair buzzed. She looked at the clock: 11:45. She’d call the salon during lunch and cancel.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The public phone was outside the cafeteria and the noise from the lunch crowd made it hard to hear. Luann put her hand over her ear. “Yes, the 3:30 appointment today, Luann DeGroot. I want to cancel. Yes. What? DeGroot! Right. Thank you!” She hung up and went in to join Bernice and Delta. But just inside the door, she witnessed a scene that stopped her cold.
Gunther decided to make a final, desperate move on Tiffany by doing something he’d seen other jerky guys do, with some success.
He approached Tiffany, who stood with her back to him, talking to Amber. Gunther stepped up behind her, reached out his hand and snapped Tiffany’s bra strap.
She spun around, saw Gunther and immediately slapped him on the face. His glasses went sideways and he took a step back.
“Don’t you EVER do anything like that again!” Tiffany hissed. “I want you to get away from me, understand? FAR AWAY!”
Instantly, her expression changed from furious to flirty. “Aaron!” she sang out, waving at Aaron Hill. Luann looked and saw Aaron wave back, smiling as he made his way to Tiffany.
Gunther skulked away rubbing his cheek as Aaron joined Tiffany. “Hey, Tiff,” he grinned. “You look great today.”
“Thanks,” chirped Tiffany. She hooked his arm and provocatively pressed her hip to his. “Want to buy me lunch?”
“Okay,” said Aaron. And off they went.
As Luann watched the retreating figures of Gunther, Tiffany and Aaron, her cheeks grew hot and her eyes began to water. The cafeteria blurred and the chatter of hundreds of students echoed in her ears.
She felt totally insignificant and invisible. Like an absolute nothing.
Slowly, Luann turned and walked out of the cafeteria. She went to the pay phone, dropped in some coins and dialed.
“This is Luann DeGroot. Can I get my 3:30 appointment back?”
“No, I’m sorry, that’s already filled.”
“Oh… okay… thanks anyway,” Luann murmured as she prepared to hang up.
“I do have an opening tomorrow morning –” Luann put the phone back to her ear “– would 8:30 work for you?”
Luann stared through the glass doors of the cafeteria. She could see Aaron and Tiffany at the Jock Table, laughing. Tiffany’s head rested on Aaron’s shoulder.
Luann’s focus shifted and she saw her own image reflected in the glass door — the round face, the bangs, the “Dusty Cheeto” hair…
“I’ll take it,” said Luann.
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