The thing is, when he wasn’t actively tormenting me, I could see why people adored Josh.
He was good looking, smart, funny, and oh, could he be charming! If he liked you, well, you would soon be the recipient of flowers, teddy bears, and romantic mixed tapes!
Occasionally, Josh would give me a break. A week without any abuse. These were few and far between, but very welcome. Each time it happened, I would allow myself that sliver of hope that maybe he’d forget how much he hated me. Or he’d find something else to do. Or just lose interest. Whatever, just so I could go back to being completely ignored.
Then, it actually happened. For a month. I was elated. Josh left me alone. A couple of times he even held the door open for me when I was with a bunch of my friends. Before, he would have slammed it in my face. But now, he’d actually smile at me.
I wasn’t naive enough to think he liked me or anything. But I was so relieved, that I even tried to like him a little. It wasn’t that hard, really, when I stopped dreading his presence. He was so charming. He had a way of looking at you that made you go all gooey and warm inside. Like you were the only person in the room he cared about.
My parents saw the change in me. So did my teachers. I was a different person.
Then, one day, Josh sat down at the girls’ lunch table. He was laughing and flirting with some of the girls, and then he turned to me. “I hear you have the new Amy Grant tape.”
“Yeah,” I admitted nervously.
“I was just wondering if I could borrow it,” he asked, smiling.
“Sure, I guess.” I tried to sound low key, but I was thrilled! Maybe he actually wanted to be friends. I just couldn’t believe my change of luck.
I brought my tape to school the next day and gave it to Josh. He accepted it gratefully and promised to return it soon. I was on cloud nine the whole morning.
At lunch time, Josh reappeared at our table again. This time, he carried a bag of candy. We all looked at each other and giggled. Josh had this tradition of bringing candy to the girl he was currently interested in. I wondered if it would be DS, A2, or DA this week.
“I got this for you, Ann-Marie,” he held the bag of candy out.
I was speechless. So were the other girls at the table as they rapidly revaluated my status. I started to reach for the candy, when I saw Josh suddenly move his hand up. The bag of candy wasn’t really candy. He had emptied the bag and filled it with steaming nacho cheese. With precision, he squirted the greasy mess out of the bag and onto my shirt.
The other girls gasped. I think one of them giggled nervously. Hot tears welled up in my eyes as I pulled my sticky shirt away from my chest and raced out of the lunchroom down the hall.
I ran all the way to my locker where I kept my extra set of clothes to change into after gym. That’s when I saw it.
Josh had methodically ripped out all the tape ribbon from my new Amy Grant tape. It was all there, looped over the coat hook and plastered against the back of my locker. It looked like my locker had been T.P.’d with tape ribbon. In the center of the mess, he’d taped a note.
“Thanks for the tape!” – Josh
From then on, I never allowed myself to think, even for a moment, that he wanted to be my friend.