After all the zombie attacks, even the word made me twitchy. Especially when repeatedly moaned by an annoying freshman in the school bus loop at eight a.m. As if I wasn’t annoyed enough already--I’d gotten to school early because the Future Doctors of America program started today. According to plan, we should have been bouncing across the railroad tracks on Washington Ave. right about now. But instead, I stood in the gray winter slush with my fellow FDA students, watching the underclassmen arrive for school and scanning the loop in vain for the bus. It was fourteen and a half minutes late. The program would be starting without me; watching people act like complete morons only added insult to injury.
The freshman elbowed his buddies before putting his backpack on his head and staggering around with his arms outstretched. They laughed so hard I thought they’d burst something. Some people thought the zombie virus was hilarious. Obviously, they hadn’t seen the victims; my boyfriend’s best friend was still in assisted living. Brain damage. So I didn’t think it was all that funny when zombie boy staggered over and accidentally grabbed my breasts, one in each hand. And when I say accidentally, I really mean on purpose.
I knocked his hands off my chest, grabbed him by one backpack strap, and yanked him close enough to talk right in his ear. Or right in his backpack, anyway.
“Listen up, dork,” I said in the most pleasant voice possible, which wasn’t very pleasant at all. “I don’t have the time or the masochistic tendencies necessary to deal with you. So how about you keep out of my way, and I’ll pay you the same courtesy?”
He dumped the backpack on the ground and pushed me off. For a moment, I thought maybe he’d back down, but then his so-called friends started in on him.
“Uh-oh, Damian. I think you pissed her off!” crowed one.
“Look out! She’s gonna stake you!” added another.
“That’s for vampires, you morons,” I muttered, turning away. Not my smartest move. Damian-the-freshman didn’t like being taunted, so he shoved me to save face. It didn’t hurt or anything; I’m tougher than I look. But my backpack spilled all over the ground, and that ticked me off.
I’d never hit anybody before, but this was really the last straw. He was lucky someone interceded before I could swing.
“Hey, calm down.”
Trey Black stepped in front of me. He was a recent transfer from Southern California. Why anyone would want to trade that kind of weather for Ohio winters was beyond me. But here he was, and apparently he’d designated himself the sworn protector of freshman idiocy. I needed to get him together with my brother, Jonah. Jonah was the poster child for freshman idiocy.
I let out a long breath in a vain attempt to calm myself as I bent down to pick up my stuff. Trey had this knack for making me uncomfortable. He had tousled blond hair and surfer-boy good looks, and I wasn’t totally immune to that. But I had a boyfriend, and they were friends, so it felt really wrong when he acted flirty. Or looked at me. Or stood within fifteen feet of me. The fact that he flirted with anything in a skirt didn’t make it any easier to deal with.
“You okay?” He bent down beside me to pluck my calculus book from a mound of dirt-speckled snow. “You look pretty upset.”
“Yeah.” I glared at Damian, who flipped me off before heading to class with his friends. “Just a little stressed.”
He handed me the book with one of his patented charming smiles, his fingers grazing mine. A girl getting off the bus across from us took one look at him and nearly fainted. I tried to act like the “accidental” caress was no big deal, but I could feel the embarrassed heat in my cheeks. I started stuffing the books into my backpack. The worst part about it all was that he had never crossed the line, so I couldn’t be sure if I was overreacting.
“Just crazy busy this week,” I babbled. “I was up until almost midnight working on my slave-trade paper for American history, and I’ve got a huge pile of FDA makeup work, and I’m still not done with all the Rockathon prep, and my mom’s coming back from Germany this week. After it’s all over, I think I might go into hibernation.”
“Well, if you need any help . . .” He sidled closer to me. There was no way for me to stand up without getting within kissing distance. My legs started shaking from being crouched over too long, but the only choices were standing and giving Trey the wrong impression or plopping butt-first into half-melted bus slop.
I would have been stuck there forever if Aaron hadn’t walked over. But the minute he did, Trey backed off. Aaron Kingsman--my boyfriend--was smart, sweet, and salivatingly gorgeous, not that I was biased or anything. He was also the quarterback of our football team. I tried not to hold that against him. In return, he tried to pretend I wasn’t a semi-reformed nerd. I couldn’t decide which one of us had the more difficult task.
Trey’s face broke out into a huge grin. Seriously, he adored my boyfriend more than I did. I kept expecting him to tattoo Aaron in a big heart on his arm, but it hadn’t happened yet. Maybe he had put it on his butt instead.
“Hey, bro.” He punched Aaron on the shoulder. “Haven’t seen you in the weight room lately. Where’ve you been?”
“Sorry, just busy,” Aaron replied. He didn’t brush Trey off, exactly, but he pulled me to my feet and wrapped me in a hug. “Everything okay, Kate?”
I couldn’t complain, not with everything Aaron was going through. He went to visit his friend Mike every week, but the brain damage was so bad that Mike couldn’t remember who Aaron was. And part of that was my fault because I’d unknowingly helped my crazy teacher develop the zombie virus. But I’d cured it too; that had to count for something. So I pushed away my problems and said, “Yeah. Trey helped rescue me from a wannabe zombie.”
Aaron snorted. “You don’t need anyone to rescue you from anything, Kate.”
“Exactly.” Trey looked me up and down behind Aaron’s back.
Luckily, I didn’t have to reply. The bus pulled into the loop and screeched to a stop. When the door hissed open, Mrs. Gilbert, the FDA program liaison, stuck her head out with a slightly panicked smile. I would have been worried except that slight panic was her default setting. I could relate to that.
“All right, everyone!” she said. “We’re running a bit late here, so I’d appreciate it if you’d move move move!”
Excerpted from Bad Hair Day by Carrie Harris. Copyright © 2012 by Carrie Harris. Excerpted by permission of Ember, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.