“Brady looked so mad when Mr. Venza said your presentation was better,” Brittany told me.
“Mr. Venza didn’t say that.”
“He practically did.” She cocked her head at me. “Don’t worry about it, it’s not your fault you’re the smartest one in class.”
“I am not,” I mumbled, but pride bubbled up inside me like a pot of water forgotten on a hot stove. Brittany thought I was the smartest of the class?
“Brady’s an Army brat, besides,” Kathy added. “He’s no competition for you.”
“Competition?” Mom always said I was the least competitive person she knew. When she enrolled me in soccer during third grade, I let the opposing team run by me because I didn’t want to steal the ball. Mostly I just liked the orange slices we got to slurp on during halftime.
“Come on, he asks you what grade you got on every assignment,” Kathy said. “We’ve all heard him. He wants to try and beat you.”
“Or maybe,” Brittany said with a sly look on her face, “he likes you.”
All the girls dissolve into giggles. I sit there, clutching my sandwich, confused. “But he hates me.”
“Maybe he’s just pretending,” Elise said. “He probably doesn’t want everyone to find out.”
“Wouldn’t it be funny if you got married?” Brittany shrieked with giggles. Loud giggles. The girls at the table next to us turned to stare. My ears burned.
“Can we talk about something else, please?”
But Brittany wasn’t letting it go. “Your kids would be geniuses. Like, freak-smart.”
“The wedding would be awkward, though,” Kathy laughed. “Half Army, half Air Force. You’d have to put a duct-tape DO NOT CROSS line down the center of the church!”
“That’s not going to happen!” I exclaimed, desperate to shut them up. “I don’t even want a boyfriend!”