Authors: Hillary Homzie
Today, he was wearing a dark blue T-shirt with a lacrosse stick logo on it that matched the color of his eyes.
Blue really was a perfect code name for him.
Except it also meant sad. And sad was the opposite of how I felt when I saw Hayden.
As I was stapling, I suddenly heard giggling, out-of-control girls. Nia, Ava, Sierra, McKenzie, and Amber
were all bunched up, shoving one another and laughing in the hallway.
Then Nia stuck her head into the classroom. She had pulled her hair back with a clip but let some loose curls cascade into her face. As usual, she sported lots of layers, in all kinds of textures and colors, as well as multiple necklaces and bangles. For a moment, she glanced at me. And my heart hammered away. Oh, my god. She knew. Somehow. Some way.
“Can I help you?” asked Mrs. McGibbon, glancing at Nia. Since Nia headed seventh-grade leadership, she often was handing out official flyers about school dances and stuff.
“No, I was just checking something,” said Nia. Then she flicked her eyes over at Hayden.
“Hi, Hayden!” she cooed, shaking her head so her blondish corkscrew curls bobbed. “You're number one!” Today, she had on yellow leggings, gray suede boots, a white, oversize tank top with sage green swirls, a vest, and a wide tan belt with a big peace-sign buckle.
But right now, I didn't feel like she was bringing peace. I held my breath. What could be the worst-case scenario? Answer: that Nia would call out that Hayden was number one on my personal hot list.
Hayden glanced up from his desk and grinned. Then
Ava and McKenzie, who were flanking Nia, chorused, “Number one!” and they all giggled down the hall, both their long hair and their clothes flowing.
I breathed a sigh of relief. Yay! They didn't seem to know it was
hot list! Huzzah!
Auggie began shoving Hayden and said in a falsetto voice. “Eww, those girls think you're number one!”
“Hayden, looks like you've got some lacrosse fans,” murmured Mrs. McGibbon. She didn't seem mad that Nia hadn't been delivering official school flyers or something. Part of me wanted Mrs. McGibbon to write up Nia. But that'd be stupid. Then Nia might start talking to my dad about the Hot List.
“He's numero uno, bay-bee!” shouted Squid Rodriquez, pointing at Hayden and then waving a finger in the air. Of course, I knew they didn't mean number one in lacrosse.
They meant number one on the Hot List.
As Hayden flicked the paper football across his desk, I could see a blush spread to the tips of his ears. Wait a minute. Had he noticed Nia looking at me and then at him? Did he make a connection?
As in, did he know he was
number one? I pressed the heel of my hand down hard on the stapler, only my pointer finger got in the way. I felt a needle-sharp stabbing
pain. “Ouch!” I yelled, and began hopping in pain.
“What's the matter?” Mrs. McGibbon dashed over to me, the crease above her nose puckering.
Bravely, I looked down at my finger. No staple. Just two holes with drops of blood.
Mrs. McGibbon handed me some tissues from a box on her desk. “Hold this over your finger. Let's get you down to the nurse.”
I shook my head. “I'm fine. Seriously.” Going down to the nurse meant that my dad would be called, and everyone would make a huge production out of it. Not good.
“You at least need a Band-Aid,” stated Mrs. McGibbon.
Brianna Evans, who was always the first to know the gossip, flew to my side. “Ow!” she pressed her fingers to her mouth like she was the one who had been hurt. She gazed at Bear Arvanites, who she constantly flirted with. They were always pushing, shoving, and generally maiming each other. “Bear, would you like to me to staple your finger?” she asked teasingly.
“Staple yourself,” growled Bear, whose real name was William, but Bear fit him much better since he was big and fuzzy-haired.
“Does it hurt?” she asked.
“The staple didn't actually go in. See?” I showed Brianna the little bubble of blood. “I'm fine,” I said.
“I hate blood,” said Brianna, moaning and turning her head away.
Auggie and Hayden craned their necks to get a better look. Hayden probably thought I was a complete stapling idiot. And naturally, Squid stood on his chair to get a better view. “Would you like me to call up Spider-Man or get the Green Hornet to save you?” asked Squid.
“Enough!” said Mrs. McGibbon. “Focus on your prep work, everyone.”
Mrs. McGibbon inspected my finger. “Have you had a tetanus shot recently?”
I nodded. “During the summer.”
“Good. Let me get you a Band-Aid.” She reached up onto a shelf and pulled out a red first-aid box, and insisted on putting on antibiotic cream first and then the Band-Aid. I liked looking at her long nails, which she painted burgundy. Would I ever grow long nails like that? Probably not, since I bit them all of the time.
As the bell rang, I went back to pick up my backpack.
At that moment, Hayden brushed past me, but he slowed down. “You okay?”
“Yeah,” I said, even though my finger was now kind of throbbing. But suddenly, I didn't really mind. My hurt finger was the reason for my first conversation with Hayden. I tried to think of something more to add about
my finger, but my mouth went in reverse. I also found it really hard to look him in those sea-blue eyes. But I did check out his footwear. He was sporting a new pair of red Vans.
“See ya,” said Hayden with a grin as he caught up with Auggie.
as in he was happy about the idea of looking at me again. And he asked if I was okay, which meant I occupied space in his brain. I couldn't wait to tell Maddie. But I didn't really have the chance. Hot List hysteria was sweeping the school by first period.
Texts sent and received on Sophie Fanuchi's phone:
Travis Middle School
Monday, September 7
Between 8:27 a.m. and 8:31 a.m.
ppl have gon epic crzy. Kip calm
Hot List = P
The HL= âº mood.
In the hallway outside of Mrs. Tate's first period math class, Squid bounced around and tapped his T-shirt, which pictured a flying sandwich and the words
I NEED A HERO.
“If there's a hot list,” said Squid, “I know I'm on it. Oh, yeah, bay-bee! The digs chick me!”
The digs chick me
was Squid's dumb little personal saying he made up. He swiveled his hips and danced around like he was stepping on burning coals. A couple of girls started laughing at him. And Auggie and a bunch of his baseball friends rolled their eyes.
Maddie smiled at me knowing that Squid wasn't on the List, unless it was a list for weird boys in shirts featuring baloney sandwiches who thought they were funny when they were lame instead. Immediately I stared at the tiles on the floor, so I didn't start cracking up.
At that moment, Nia swept down the hallway, and I watched her long corkscrew curls bounce up and down. “Sorry, Squid,” she said, snapping one of the elastic hair bands on her wrist. She always wore at least twenty in different colors. It was part of her fashion statement, I guess. Or maybe she just liked being the human ponytail holder. “Dudeâyou're not on
Then she looked at me for a moment and sort of half-smiled. “But I am.” And she glanced back at her friends. “And they are too.” She played with the New Agey crystal pendant on her leather cord choker-necklace.
“Which means you're officially not hot,” added one of her posse, Ava, in her breathy, scowly voice. She was always acting mad about something, and Nia was constantly whisking her away to comfort her. Usually I had no idea what Ava actually had to be mad about. She was tall and slender, with gorgeous almond-colored skin and hair, and she held her body perfectly straight like she was riding a horse, which she did on the weekends and won major horse awards for.
“If I'm not on the List,” said Squid, contorting his face, “that's âcause you wrote it.” He dug some change out of his pockets. “I'll pay you to put me on the List.”
“That's so sad,” said Nia, tipping her head forward and transferring one of the hair bands off her wrist into her hair to make a ponytail. “But I didn't write anee-thing. The List just appeared,” she said dramatically. “It just is.”
“It just is,” repeated McKenzie, another posse member, in the same sort of whispery magic-sounding voice. McKenzie always spoke barely above a whisper. She made me seem talkative and loud. “And it's amazingly accurate,” she continued.
weird. It was like they thought the List had magical powers, as if it were animated. I watched Nia and her groupies strut to their seats, so I could hang back a minute with Maddie.
“Can you believe them?” I whispered to Maddie.
“I know,” she said, pushing up her glasses. She glanced around and then whispered, “Everyone's talking about our list!” She smiled so hard I thought her cheeks would pop. “Even Square.” Auggie, aka Square, who lived down the block from Maddie, was always out in the front yard pitching a baseball against a net. Maddie really felt sorry for him, since it appeared that he didn't have anyone to play catch with, except for the net, of course. So, in July she had offered to throw with him. After a couple of tosses together, he said he'd rather play with the net. Ouch.
Maddie got the hint that he liked his net better than her, but she definitely still thought Auggie was cute. Which he was, I guess, in a lonely, throwing-a-baseball-by-yourself-in-front-of-the-house-for-hours kind of way. I never understood why he didn't practice pitching in the backyard, where no one could see him being by himself. I would never expose my lack of friends like that. Maybe I'm paranoidâand I guess I amâbecause a scary thought hit me.
I leaned into Maddie, whispering, “What if Blue or Square figure out it was us?”
“How?” asked Maddie.
“Like if the ink from the pen started appearing on my hands or something.”
“You threw away the pen, remember?”
“So? Stuff like that happens in horror movies.”
Maddie laughed. “This is
“Yeah, I guess.” I remembered Maddie's sister, Gwen, telling us last summer that middle school was like living an actual horror movie. “Full of hapless victims who have no idea of what lurks around the corner,” she said. I guess that's how they talk in college. They use words like “hapless.” I made Maddie remind me never to go around sounding like a term paper when I get that old.
Maddie tucked her chin-length hair behind her ears. “It's kind of cool. It's like we're famous, but only we know it. Like one of those authors with a pen name. Get it? A pen name.”
“I get it,” I said, smiling.
Mrs. Tate stood up behind her desk. “C'mon in, ya'll. Sit down,” she said, looking at the students standing in the doorway. Mrs. Tate was from Virginia and had a definite Southern accent. She peered over at me. “Sophie, Maddie. That means y'all, too.”
As Maddie and I sat down, I thought about how Mrs. Tate was one of the few teachers who was really good about not being all gushy over me because I was the principal's kid. But, of course, she was dating my dad. I guess she was gushy about him. When Mrs. Tate had us do individual work, I stole some secret glances at her.
1. She was from Virginia and had a cute Southern accent. Nia didn't have the accent, except when she wanted to cut someone in line. Otherwise, she sounded like everyone else in Boulder.
2. Mrs. Tate was really pretty but didn't wear makeup, which made her look natural. Like, you could imagine her as the mom in an ad for organic yogurt.
3. My dad could practice his Southern accent on her, since he liked to try on all kinds of dialects. I guess he thought it was amusing.
Which it wasâsometimesâwhen it wasn't annoying.
During the rest of class, everybody was secretly checking their phones and passing notes and chatting about the Hot List. I even got texts from Heather and Nicole asking if I had checked out the Hot List yet.
That was like asking Thomas Edison if he'd heard of the light bulb.
Or the Wright Brothers if they knew what an airplane was.
Or Samuel Morse whether he'd heard of Morse code. Not to beat a dead horse but â¦
Did I ever know about the Hot List? Hello! I invented it.
Later in the day, at the beginning of lunch, there was an actual line outside the girls' bathroom, next to the band room, to get in to see the Hot List.
“This is madness,” I said to Maddie. They were all swarming like bees outside a hive because of me, Sophie. Or, as they say in Madame Kearn's French class,
“Do you really think they're all there just because of the Hot List? Like, maybe some of them really do need to brush their teeth or something?”
Maddie gave me a
Electrical currents zapped through the air, and every spark had to do with the List. Pride filled my chest. Maddie and I both slowed by the line outside the bathroom to listen in on snippets of conversation:
“I heard that Auggie is number one.”
“Sorry, it's Hayden.”
“Nia was number one for the girls.”
“Is it only for seventh graders?” asked a boy who was passing by.