“Just came in today, huh?”
“How did you guess?”
The old woman grinned. “Well, one look told me you ain’t from the street. So, it had to be either the husband or the boyfriend.” She spit on the ground. “Bastards. What did he do to you?”
“It’s a long story.”
“Good. I’ve got plenty of time, Honey. And so do you.”
“Okay.” She took a deep breath and exhaled. “It all started one day during my senior year in high school.
“Johnny asked me last night,” said Jennifer.
“I wanted to go with him,” said Heather.
“What are talking about, Heather?” I said. “You’re going steady with Andy.”
“I know. But Johnny could have asked me anyway. I might have said yes.”
“Really?” I said. “Mind if I share that with Andy?”
“Don’t you dare,” said Heather.
We laughed at Heather. April just ate her lunch and listened. She never said much. April wasn’t cool enough to be part of our group, but we encouraged her to sit with us at the lunch table so we could make fun of her. She never seemed to mind.
“What about you, April?” I said. “Who are you going with?”
“Nobody’s asked you yet?” I said.
“No,” she said. “I’m not really interested. I don’t know how to dance anyway.”
“Anybody can slow dance,” I said.
The other girls agreed.
“You just kind of walk around hugging,” I said. “Wouldn’t you enjoy some hot guy rubbing up against you all over the dance floor?”
“It feels good,” I said. “Right, Heather?”
“Why are asking me?” said Heather.
“Because you’re going steady,” I said. “You and Andy must rub yourselves together all the time.”
The other girls giggled.
“So, April, if none of the boys are man enough to ask you out, then you should just ask one of them.”
“I don’t think so,” said April.
“Why not?” I said. “What could it hurt?”
April hesitated. “I don’t know…”
“How about Harry?” I said, knowing he would turn her down flat. He was one of the hottest guys in school.
Jennifer elbowed me. She knew I wanted to go to the dance with Harry.
“I do like Harry,” said April. “He’s nice.”
“Don’t you mean smoking hot?” said Heather.
“Well, there you go,” I said. “You like Harry, so ask him to the dance.”
“I wouldn’t know how,” said April. “I get too nervous around boys.”
“Yeah,” said Jennifer, giving me the evil eye, “she gets too nervous around boys. Just leave her alone.”
But I wouldn’t give up. “You know what you need, April? An icebreaker.”
“What do you mean?”
“You need something to get a conversation started with Harry. Wait—I know. You could give him a copy of that poem you wrote. You know—the one you read in class yesterday.”
It was sweet and syrupy—almost gooey. The lamest piece of poetry I had ever heard.
“Yeah,” I said, “you should give him a copy. Put his name on it, like you wrote it just for him. You could slip it into his locker. And then, after he’s had a chance to read, you could ask him to the dance. I’m sure he would be so moved by your lovely poem that he would jump at the chance to be your date.”
“Well, actually, I did write it for him.”
I nearly lost my lunch. It would be such a perfect prank. April would be humiliated.
We huddled together in the hallway as we normally did between classes and pretended to be gossiping while watching April approach Harry at his locker.
Harry held up the paper with April’s poem on it. I had suggested that she douse it with perfume—something really potent.
None of us could read their lips or hear anything they were saying. But when she turned around, we saw tears running down her face. She hurried right past us without a word. We laughed our butts off.
The old woman said, “So, Harry asked you to the dance instead, you ended up marrying him, and he beat the hell out of you until you finally killed him.”
“No. Harry married April.”
“But I thought—”
“—when we saw April crying in the hallway that day—those were tears of joy. Harry had asked her to the dance because of that crappy poem. It made her so happy that she started crying. Harry should have been mine. Instead, I ended up with Jake. Harry was my one true love.”
“But you lost him because your prank backfired.”
“Yeah. I tried to make a fool out of April, but instead I made myself April’s Fool.”