"But what's the fucking point?" Mikey asked.
"Dude, would you want to fight a drunk monkey? They're fucking huge. Like Every Which Way But Loose, man. Imagine that bastard losing his shit on you."
Park noticed the new girl at about the same time everybody else did. She was standing at the front of the bus, next to the first available seat.
There was a kid sitting there by himself, a freshman. He put his bag down on the seat beside him, then looked the other way. All down the aisle, anybody who was sitting alone moved to the edge of their seats. Park heard Tina snicker; she lived for this stuff.
The new girl took a deep breath and stepped farther down the aisle. Nobody would look at her. Park tried not to, but it was kind of a train wreck/eclipse situation.
The girl just looked like exactly the sort of person this would happen to.
Not just newbut big and awkward. With crazy hair, bright red on top of curly. And she was dressed like like she wanted people to look at her. Or maybe like she didn't get what a mess she was. She had on a plaid shirt, a man's shirt, with half a dozen weird necklaces hanging around her neck and scarves wrapped around her wrists. She reminded Park of a scarecrow or one of the trouble dolls his mom kept on her dresser. Like something that wouldn't survive in the wild.
The bus stopped again, and a bunch more kids got on. They pushed past the girl, knocking into her, and dropped into their own seats.
That was the thingeverybody on the bus already had a seat. They'd all claimed one on the first day of school. People like Park, who were lucky enough to have a whole seat to themselves, weren't going to give that up now. Especially not for someone like this.
Park looked back up at the girl. She was just standing there.
"Hey, you," the bus driver yelled, "sit down!"
The girl started moving toward the back of the bus. Right into the belly of the beast. God, Park thought, stop. Turn around. He could feel Steve and Mikey licking their chops as she got closer. He tried again to look away.
Then the girl spotted an empty seat just across from Park. Her face lit with relief, and she hurried toward it.
"Hey," Tina said sharply.
The girl kept moving.
"Hey," Tina said, "Bozo."
Steve started laughing. His friends fell in a few seconds behind him.
"You can't sit there," Tina said. "That's Mikayla's seat."
The girl stopped and looked up at Tina, then looked back at the empty seat.
"Sit down," the driver bellowed from the front.
"I have to sit somewhere," the girl said to Tina in a firm, calm voice.
"Not my problem," Tina snapped. The bus lurched, and the girl rocked back to keep from falling. Park tried to turn the volume up on his Walkman, but it was already all the way up. He looked back at the girl; it looked like she was starting to cry.
Before he'd even decided to do it, Park scooted toward the window.
"Sit down," he said. It came out angrily. The girl turned to him, like she couldn't tell whether he was another jerk or what. "Jesus-fuck," Park said softly, nodding to the space next to him, "just sit down."
The girl sat down. She didn't say anythingthank God, she didn't thank himand she left six inches of space on the seat between them.
Park turned toward the Plexiglas window and waited for a world of suck to hit the fan.
Excerpted from Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell. Copyright © 2013 by Rainbow Rowell. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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