The Boy Who Is So Very Rude
I don’t like the boy on the third floor.
Actually, I hate him.
I know hate is an ugly word, and I tried really hard not to feel that way, but sometimes feelings can’t be helped. Last week, Tutu told me that bad feelings are like pimples, and when they pop up, you can squeeze out the toxins, or you can cover them and pretend they don’t exist.
“Are those my only choices?” I asked.
She nodded in her very wise Tutu way.
“Just stay away from him,” Mom said.
“But there’s only one elevator, and that’s where I keep seeing him.”
“Then take the stairs.”
“Why should I take the stairs? I’ve lived here longer.” It was a matter of seniority. Plus, walking up six flights was not something I wanted to add to my daily routine. I was already incredibly busy spying on the Haileys.
There are six Haileys at my school. Hailey, spelled with an I. Haighley, spelled with a GH. Hayley, spelled with a Y. Heyley, spelled with an EY. Heeyley, spelled with three E’s. And the most confusing of all, Heighleigh, spelled with two E’s, two I’s, and two GH’s.
My name is Leilani. It’s a Hawaiian name that means “heavenly flowers.” Tutu’s real name is also Leilani, but we call her Tutu because it means “grandparent” in Hawaiian. She’s actually my great-grandmother, but she doesn’t like being reminded of that fact because it makes her feel old. Tutu’s from Hawaii, but now she lives with us in Seattle. She grew up on Kauai, the garden island. I visited Kauai when I was a baby, but I don’t remember the trip. Mom and I haven’t been back since my dad died. I was a baby then, too.
Tutu and Mom are full Hawaiian, but I’m hapa haole, which means “part.” My mom and my dad both grew up in Seattle, and that was where they met. Mom’s name is Alani, which means “orange tree.” My dad’s name was Conrad, which is an old Germanic name that means “bold.” I know the definitions of everyone’s name because I bought a book of names from the dollar bin at the public library. I looked up each different spelling for Hailey, and no matter how you spell it, it always means the same thing—“a hayfield.”
The reason I spy on the Haileys is because I want to join their group. It’s my goal for sixth grade. It won’t be an easy feat. The Haileys are like an exclusive club that you have to be invited to join. They’re super popular, and even though I haven’t spoken much to any of them, they all seem nice. And they’re always having fun. At some point in first grade, their names brought them together, and they’ve been inseparable best friends ever since. If I lived in Hawaii, there’d probably be more Leilanis at my school, and maybe we’d all be friends. That would be great.
At lunch, the Haileys sit at the big round table and swap food. At break they hang out in the concrete tunnel and share secrets. And after school, they wave good-bye and blow kisses and promise to call one another if anything exciting happens on the ride home.
The most exciting thing that happened to me on my ride home was when my bus driver got an attack of acid reflux and had to pull over. We thought she was going to barf, but all she did was burp super loud a whole bunch of times. I tried using acid reflux as an excuse not to go to school the next day, but my mom knew I was faking. She’s a nurse, so it’s nearly impossible to fool her.
I considered changing my name, as a way to infiltrate their group. Maybe I could spell it Hey! Lee! I thought that was funny. But I knew the change would upset Tutu. Besides, as soon as the Haileys get to know me, they’ll want me in their group, regardless of my name. I’m sure of this. I just need the perfect moment to get their attention. The more information I gather, the better my chances of creating that perfect moment. And then we’ll all be friends.
But that boy from the third floor—I no longer care about being his friend. When he moved in last month, I thought, Great, a new kid in the building. I tried to be nice to him, three times in a row, but he ignored me. The first time went like this—he was already in the elevator when I ran into the lobby. I’d just gotten off the school bus and I was starving. “Hey, hold the doors, will ya?” I called. But the elevator started to close and the boy just stood there, staring at his shoes. I shoved my hand inside and practically got it cut off. “Why didn’t you hold the doors?” I asked as I squeezed in. I pushed button number six.
He didn’t say anything, just kept staring at his shoes. They weren’t sneakers, like most kids wear. They were brown leather and scuffed. His hair was so blond I could see right through to his scalp. And his face was so pale I could see a blue vein at his temple.
My backpack bumped against the side of the elevator as I tried to find a comfortable place to stand. It was pretty crowded in there because the boy had a huge leather suitcase that was covered in stickers of places like London, Paris, and New York City. He also had a plastic pet carrier. “You moving in?” I asked.
He didn’t say anything.
I reached into my pocket and pulled out a pack of gum. “Want a piece?”
Without even saying no thank you, he turned his back to me. What was his problem? Maybe he was shy. Shy people need a little extra understanding. I know because my best friend’s so shy that sometimes, if she gets really nervous, she pees her pants a little. But she really doesn’t want me telling anyone that. “So, my name’s Leilani. I live on the sixth floor. What’s your name?”
He didn’t answer, just kept ignoring me. I decided to try again.
“What’s in there? Is it a cat?” I tapped on the top of the carrier and heard a soft meow.
The boy slid the carrier behind his suitcase so I couldn’t reach it.
Maybe the cat was shy, too. You never know.
“Where do you go to school? Where’d you live before you moved here? Have you been to all those places on the stickers? How old are you? I can show you around if you want.”
The elevator stopped on the third floor and the doors opened. The boy grabbed the handle of his suitcase and the handle of his cat carrier and darted out.
“Let me know if you want a tour of the neighborhood,” I said.
He didn’t look back.
Weird, I thought.
The second time we rode the elevator together, I tried to make polite conversation, because that’s what a nice person does, but again he said nothing.
The third time, when he got off on the third floor, I decided he wasn’t shy, because even a shy person can say one simple word, like bye.
“Never mind,” I told him, but he was already heading down the hallway with his cat carrier. “I don’t have time to give you a tour. I’m way too busy.” I pressed the sixth-floor button again.
But just as the elevator doors shut, I heard him whisper, as if he were talking to a teeny, tiny mouse, “My name is William.”
Copyright © 2018 by Suzanne Selfors