"I thought you might want some company for lunch," Patty said, struggling to hoist herself up on the ledge next to Jack.
Jack didn't move to help her up.
"I can't believe she did that to your locker," the red-head continued. She made a show of fishing through her backpack, pulling out a paper bag labelled with a large "P." "Well," she said, "actually, I can."
Jack took another bite of his sandwich, making sure to chew carefully.
Patty frowned as she unwrapped a large foil bundle. "Oh, Catty made way too much. Here." She held half of a sandwich out to Jack.
"No thanks," he said.
"Oh, take it." She gave the sandwich a shake, and part of a tomato plopped between them. "Otherwise it will just go to waste."
"Keep shaking it and it will go to waste," Jack said.
Patty frowned, her lower lip sticking out slightly. "You would have taken it if she had offered it."
“Beth knows that I don’t like tomatoes.”
Jack wrapped his sandwich back in the foil, stuffed it back into the crumpled paper bag. He scooted from the ledge, hoisting his backpack.
“Where are you going?” Patty asked, fingers fumbling as she tried to rewrap her own sandwich.
“I’m suddenly not very hungry.” He turned and started back towards the school.
“Jack, wait!” Patty scooted awkwardly off the ledge, gave a yelp as her shoes skidded in the snow as she landed.
Jack turned, then turned back when he saw she was still standing.
“John Henry Jacobs, I said to wait!”
At first, Jack thought she’d hit him with a snowball — ice prickled across the back of his neck. When it shot up the back of his neck and blossomed into bright hot pain along the back of his head, he thought perhaps it was actually a brick she’d thrown. He staggered, as the world pitched and heaved, colors bleeding away, leaving everything painfully bright white and gray in his vision. The hollow, solid thud of his own pulse in his ears and an atonal off-key ringing drowned out anything else Patty might have been saying.
Jack closed his eyes, but the bright white light only faded a little bit. He felt like he was falling away into somewhere deep — he wished it was someplace dark, too — and then the hard sting of cold ground against his hands and knees knocked the color back into the world.
His backpack was on the ground beside him, and he was up to the middle of his lower arms in snow. His bangs, in fact, were brushing against the pile he’d pushed up as he’d fallen.
He shook his head, and nearly smacked his nose on a black-stockinged leg.
“Jack! I said are you okay? You tripped. Are you hurt? Should I go get the nurse? Jack? Say something!”
He wanted for the ringing to return. He drew in a deep breath. The pain was already breaking up, scurrying back to wherever it had been hiding. Though his head throbbed, it didn’t feel like it was about to come off.
“Jack? Say something? Please?”
He turned, blinked. Color was definitely back in his vision. The thought was on the way to his tongue before the rest of his brain could catch it and stop it.
“I can see your underwear.”