jealousy, jealousy

By Stephanie Wong

I’m picking at my fingernails when they call my name onstage.  

They’re always pronouncing it wrong – stee-fuh-nee. I don’t stop myself from rolling my eyes. I’ve been at this school for eleven years and they still can’t get it right.   

“STEE-FUH-NEE,” the emcee yells again through the microphone. A third round follows, but her voice rises a pitch at the nee, turning it into a question, as murmurs start to build around the assembly hall. 

I pretend not to hear it. I keep my head low, scraping off old nail polish and watch as specks of baby blue dot the chipped floorboards.  

A teacher taps me on the shoulder and my entire body jolts in surprise. I stare up at her, eyebrows scrunched together in mock confusion, and she points a bony finger to the front. 

“Your prize,” she says, boredom laced in her voice.  

Translation: I actually don’t give a shit, but if I make you go up there and humiliate yourself, I might get a bonus at the end of the year. Congrats on losing, by the way! 

As much as I want to scream, I bite my tongue. Graduation is approaching, and I would prefer to leave without any complications.  

Cut all ties with high school, leave without a trace.  

I need to get out of this hellhole.  

I push myself to stand upright and flick imaginary dust off my uniform. Everyone’s staring at me at this point, making my cheeks heat up, but I focus on not squashing someone’s hand as I trudge forward.  

I grab my award from our headmaster. We’ve been here multiple times and it’s obvious she’s tired, but we both force tight-lipped smiles as a camera flash blinds my vision.  

“Good job,” she tells me, shaking my hand. 

Good. Not great, I think.  

As uninterested claps erupt from the crowd below, I’m forced to climb the stupid winners podium. The number two plastered across the pedestal greets me mockingly.  

Another pathetic silver trophy I can add to my collection of pathetic silver trophies.  

They announce first place and a girl with neat, double braids prances up to accept her title. The same procession follows, though I try to ignore the increased levels of enthusiasm everyone suddenly possesses for Champion.  

Before she steps onto the middle pedestal, she pats me on the back. 

“It’s always you and me here, huh?” Champion says, grinning widely. “First and second place again!” 

I do my best not to shove her off stage. 

*** 

My laptop screen and I have fallen into a staring contest. One tab is opened to my email. 

My knees won’t stop bouncing. I’ve peeled the skin around my fingernails raw. My hair is disheveled from tugging at it.  

A ping from my notifications makes me gasp.  

Immediately, I click on the new email.  

The subject line tauntingly waves at me with bold letters: 

GRADUATING CLASS OF ‘19 – TOP SCORERS 

I ignore most of the list, my eyes chasing the bottom where my priorities lie. Where I know I’m about to yield results because I’ve smashed my damn nose to the grindstone the entire year.  

Come on, come on, come on.  

CLASS OF ‘19 – Valedictorian 

I pause. Suck in a breath. 

Not Stephanie.  

*** 

Heartthrob is sitting next to me, rambling about the weather while shuffling Uno cards. I’m only halfway listening because I’m too focused on watching his hands expertly switch between each stack.  

Shuffle, shuffle, shuffle. 

Switch, switch, switch. 

He taps the deck of cards on the table once, lining them up evenly and placing one before me.  

“Birthday girl gets first pick,” he says. 

I swallow the wedge in my throat and smile at him, a swarm of butterflies invading my stomach. He moves onto passing around cards to everyone else around us. Our fingers brush against each other when he hands me my fifth card, and I swear, his cheeks flushed red.  

I hear my heart in my ears.  

Turning 20 turned me ballsy for a day. Pair that with a pinch of deluded encouragement from Best Friend, and suddenly, my fingers were rapidly typing a birthday invite to Heartthrob.  

And he said yes! 

I’ll tell him I like him tonight. 

The worst he can do is say no, but Best Friend is confident this wouldn’t even be an option. 

“He’s been stuck to you like glue,” she points out.  

We’re taking a break from board games so I can blow out candles. Best Friend is in the kitchen, getting cake out of the refrigerator while the other guests loiters around the dining table. Heartthrob lingers back with me in the living room. 

I’m gonna do it, I’m gonna do it, I’m gonna d– 

“Hey, so, I’ve been meaning to ask you something,” Heartthrob abruptly pipes up. 

I’m stunned for a split second until my pulse is racing again, this time at twice its initial pace. I throw a sneaky glance at Best Friend. She catches my expression, winking at me in silent support.  

“Sure,” I stutter out, though I’m elated he’s making the first move. I mentally kiss him for saving me the embarrassment of admitting my feelings.  

“So, you know, we’ve gotten a lot closer these past few weeks…” he starts. 

I can’t believe this is happening. 

“I was wondering, well…” 

Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God. 

“Could you introduce me to your best friend?” 

I turn to him. He’s smiling sheepishly at me, but I don’t say anything. My heart sinks so deep into my gut I’m about to throw up when the first verse of Happy Birthday rings in my ears. 

“Make a wish!” Best Friend urges me when the out-of-tune singing ends.  

My gaze darts to her.  

I blink back tears and close my eyes. 

I wish you were fucking dead.  

I blow out my candles.  

GLASS Team
GLASS Team
Articles: 108

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