Epic Fail

By: Claire Lazebnik

“Can I come, too?” Gifford asked eagerly.

Chelsea twisted her mouth. “Oh God, Gifford, I don’t think that’ll work. Sorry, but I have a lot of homework. Let’s do it another time.” She touched Derek’s shoulder. “So I’ll see you after school? I am so glad you’re back.” Her hand lingered on his arm as she smiled prettily down at him, letting her pretty hair bounce prettily along her pretty collarbone and pretty shoulders.

Man, I thought. She really likes him. I’d always wondered what it would be like to have an older brother who could bring friends home for me to date—guess it would be like this.

Did Derek like her as much as she liked him? Hard to tell. All he said now was, “See you,” and since he didn’t even turn around, he totally missed all that prettiness on display for him.

Chelsea and Gifford said a general good-bye and moved across the courtyard together.

I shifted over a little, just to fill in some of the space on the bench. Chase and Juliana were talking quietly, which left me and Derek sitting there in silence.

I was still trying to process the fact that the guy sitting two feet away from me had parents who were world-famous. We didn’t have movie stars in Amherst.

I studied the table in front of me, running my fingers over the unblemished surface. It wasn’t wood at all, I realized. It was plastic made to look like wood. No wonder it wasn’t splintering or rotting.

The silence was getting more awkward. I felt like one of us should say something. So I tried. “How’s the raw food thing going?”

“Sucks,” was the helpful response.

“What’s the theory with that diet anyway? Is it supposed to be better for you because it’s not cooked? Nutrients more nutritious? Vitamins more . . . vitamitious?”

That elicited a very small smile. “Something like that, I guess.”

Four more words: I was making progress. Next topic. “So what was the movie your mom was making in Australia? Will it be out soon?”

The edges of his mouth tightened. “I don’t know.” He threw down his fork and started to close the containers. “I give up,” he said to Chase. “I can’t eat any more of this crap. If I don’t see you later, I’ll meet you at Romano’s.” He neatly packed up the steel cylinder while I sat there feeling totally brushed off and annoyed about it: I was just trying to make polite conversation. If he didn’t like my choice of topic, he could have come up with one of his own.

“Hey, you want to come with us?” Chase asked Juliana. “Get some pizza after school? You too, Elise.”

“We can’t,” Jules said. “We have to drive our little sisters home.”

“Bring them along.”

Derek froze halfway to his feet and stared at Chase. He didn’t wave his arms and scream, No! For the love of God, no! but the look on his face pretty much got that message across.

I quickly said, “I can drive the girls home, Jules. And that way you could—”

“No, no, I think you should all come,” Chase insisted. “Your sisters will love it—how old are they, anyway?”

“Layla’s fourteen,” Juliana said. “Kaitlyn’s ten. But—”

“Great.” Chase rose to his feet. “Romano’s is on the southwest corner of San Vicente and Montana. But maybe I’ll see you before then. What classes do you have after lunch?”

Juliana thought a moment. “Uh . . . math. And then English. And then Visual Arts One.”

“Who for English?”


“Me too!” His delight seemed genuine. “Save me a seat if you get there first.” He swung his leg over the bench. “Bye, Elise. Nice to meet you.”

“Same here,” I said.

“Later,” said Derek Edwards without looking at either me or Jules. He grabbed his lunch silo and left the table without another word. Chase followed after him with one last cheery wave.

“Are we really going to go out for pizza with them?” I asked Jules as we picked up our trays and carried them to the trash cans.

“I’m not sure we should.” Her brow was creasing the way it did when she was uneasy. She added her tray to the stack on top of the trash can. “He probably felt like he had to invite us since we were sitting right there.”

I emptied my tray in the trash and put it on top of hers. “I think he really wanted you to go. But he probably was just being polite about the rest of us.”

“I don’t want to go alone. So either we all go or none of us.”

“Derek looked kind of annoyed when Chase said to bring everyone.”

“I think that’s just the way he always looks.” Jules grinned wickedly at me. “But we shouldn’t judge—maybe the poor guy has a rash in an awkward place.”

I laughed. “That would explain why he’s so irritable.” We started walking back toward the building. “Especially about his parents—he acted like no one had the right to talk about them.”

“Yeah, I noticed that, too.” A beat. “Chase is nice, though, isn’t he?”

I nodded and sneaked a glance at her. Yep. All starry-eyed and hopeful and excited, just like she sounded.