Read After Tuesday Online

Authors: Renee Ericson

Tags: #General Fiction

After Tuesday (22 page)

BOOK: After Tuesday

As I fall asleep with Dragon at my side, my last thought is that I’m thankful this day is over. Considering the emotional rollercoaster I’ve been on, I’m filing this day under
More Than I Can Deal With


Chapter Twenty


When I wake up on Monday morning, I can’t help but think about everything that happened this past weekend. First, I shared probably the most intimate moment in my life with Brent. Then, as my dad relapsed, Brent got a glimpse into my family. It was all just surreal. To top it off, I somehow thought the smart thing to do was to go out and get hammered. That was not my finest moment. With my dad’s situation, I should know better than to let myself get so out of control.

I do know better, but I can’t dwell too much on my mistakes. I just have to note them, move on, and try not to make them again. I don’t want my life to be out of control like my dad’s, so I better start taking some responsibility. I need to get it together.
It’s time to put on my big-girl pants and carry on.

When I leave the house, I notice that my dad is already gone. I’m not sure where we stand, and I don’t know if there’s anything left to say right now either. As I walk out the door and head to school, I decide that a cooling-off period is a good idea for both of us.

Brent is another story. I don’t know exactly what happened. All I know is that it’s a flaming mess, and we need to talk about it. I can’t deny that I still love him. I have to see if he will even talk to me. I just
need a second chance, and I hope he’s willing to give me one.

Walking into school, I think about skipping. First period is not my friend. It’s the only class I have with Brent. I quickly decide to take the Band-Aid approach. I just have to get it over with and take the pain in one fell swoop. The sooner it’s out there, the sooner I can move on with whatever comes next.
God, this is going to hurt.

I get to class early and take a seat where Brent and I usually sit. We don’t have assigned seats, but I hope he doesn’t look for a seat elsewhere.

When most of the class begins to file in, I can’t help but stare at the door, waiting for Brent to arrive.
This is a horrible idea.
I should have stayed at home. What was I thinking?
I’m not ready for this day. I can’t handle seeing the look on Brent’s face or hearing my name murmured through the hallways. I don’t think there’s a chance in the world that the entire school won’t be calling me all sorts of names by the end of the day. I really don’t care about rumors, but not dealing with them makes for an easier day. I could use a little easy right now.

There’s no sign of Brent as Mr. Clyde, our English teacher, comes in the room, closing the door behind him as the bell rings. Just as he’s sitting down, Brent opens the door, gracing the room with his presence.

“You’re late, Cromwell,” Mr Clyde says to him sternly.

As Brent moves across the front of the desks, he quickly scans the room for a seat, finding one at our usual spot. I can’t help but stare at him as he sits down next to me. My heart is breaking. On the bright side, his face doesn’t look as bad as I expected. He has a slight yellowing around the eyes, but the bruising looks like it’s getting better. I hope not too many people will ask questions.

“All right, class, it’s time to partner up,” Mr. Clyde says, stepping in front of his desk. “We’re going to continue our work on poetry. Today, we’re going to examine William Blake’s poem ‘How to Know Love from Deceit.’ Together, you and your partner will examine the poem in your textbooks and present your findings at the end of class. Now, get to work.”

Automatically, my head turns toward Brent. As he looks at me, his expression is tight-lipped and guarded. I need to push through and take the first step.

While nerves circle in my stomach, I can feel heat rising to my face. I force my words to come out. “Partner with me?” I ask cautiously.

Brent closes his eyes, thinking it over for a minor second, and then he nods his head.

“Thanks,” I utter quietly.

Wordlessly, he scoots his desk to meet mine. I’m careful not to have any physical contact as I reach into my backpack on the floor to pull out my textbook.

“So, I guess we each read the poem, and then we can discuss it when we’re done,” I say, staring at my textbook.

Brent wordlessly flips open his textbook and begins to read the poem. Although I’ve read this one before, I try to look it over, too, but I’m having a hard time concentrating given…well, everything.

About five minutes later, Brent sits back in his chair, indicating he’s done. I sit up, pull out my notebook, and look at him to start the discussion.

“Go ahead,” he says, pointing at the books in front of us.

The sound of his voice reminds my body of how much I miss him.

“Right. Well, I think Blake is saying that when people are in love, they’re blind to so many things around them. It’s like love is hiding what’s underneath. We never get the full picture. That’s also what makes love deceitful.”

“So, do you think the poem means that love is a big lie?” he asks with raised brows.

“No, not at all. I think Blake means that sometimes, when two people are in love, some things are overlooked, but that doesn’t mean
is a lie. You just can’t see see everything due to the mask created by love.”

“But what about the part ‘interest blind’? It means that the lie is ever present. It consumes you and becomes your life. It’s

“That doesn’t mean it’s a secret.”
Are we still talking about the poem?

“Oh, really? The last line though indicates a conscious maintenance,” he says boldly, pointing to the page in the book. “It’s like they know what they’re doing.”

“But maybe they can’t help it. Maybe it isn’t important because their love is so great,” I insist.

“That makes no sense. Love is built on trust and truth. Not lies.”

“Love isn’t a lie. I never said it was. It’s just that everyone has something they don’t talk about. It doesn’t mean they won’t, especially if the one they love asks.”

“But the lie is real. That’s what the poem is saying.”

I quickly retort, “No, it’s saying that we believe it’s real. We do our best to make it real. It also says that love trumps all. It can bend the rules. It changes people.”

“Yeah, it sure does,” he scoffs.

“It changes them for the better.”

Brent stares at me for a long moment before turning to the front of the class.

“I’m not so sure,” he says softly to himself.

Hearing his last words, I look up at the blackboard, staring at nothing. Silently, I wait for the next instructions. The proximity of Brent to me is unnerving. I want to touch him, but I can’t stand the idea of rejection. Tears threaten to prick at my eyes, but I blink a few times to fight them back.

“All right, class,” Mr. Clyde says. “Let’s go around the room and hear your thoughts. Who wants to go first?”

Liam raises his hand.

“Liam? Go ahead.”

“Well,” Liam says and then clears his throat. “I think Blake is trying to tell us that although love and deceit are opposites, they are also similar. They both blind us from the truth. However, one is intentional, and the other is not. One is premeditated, and the other is organic.”

“Very good. Anyone else?”

I raise my hand. I need to add a few things.

“Go on, Ruby.”

“While I agree with Liam, I think it also means that deceit can get confusing. Even though it might be premeditated, it may not have the intentions of hurting another person. There can be innocence and ignorance with deceit, just like with love. So, while we might negatively point a finger at deceit because it can hurt someone, we should also recognize that there might be more to the situation at hand. Sometimes, deceit can be misinterpreted and
harm someone. Maybe those who feel deceived should consider that before they get upset. It’s quite possible that the deceit was never meant to harm anyone.”

“That makes no sense,” Brent interrupts.

From my peripheral vision, I can see he’s looking right at me.

“Why not?” Mr. Clyde questions.

Brent faces the front of the classroom. “Why shouldn’t we get upset about how deceit affects the individual? That’s pretty selfish thinking. Just because someone didn’t mean to hurt an individual doesn’t mean that there are no repercussions. It still hurts. I mean, it could hurt someone in that situation.”

“I’m not saying that there shouldn’t be repercussions,” I say to Mr. Clyde. “What I mean is that deceit can get confusing. While it might hurt others, I think there’s probably more to the story that needs to be explored. Just like deceit, love can unintentionally blind people to the truth, too. We just seem to be more willing to accept that when it comes from love. I don’t think there should be a double standard when deceit and love can both do the same thing.”

“That—” Brent starts.

Finishing with a bit of tension, I say, “That being said, if love is true, it should override any deceit, especially if the deceit is never meant to harm anyone. Sometimes, the deceit is meant to protect.”

“Um, okay. Does anyone else have an opinion? Yes, Peyton?” Mr. Clyde moves on to the next group to discuss the poem.

I can feel Brent stealing looks at me. Blocking out what everyone else is saying, I just stare at my desk. Then, out of my peripheral vision, I can see that he is openly glaring at me. I look over to see half of his mouth twitch up right before the bell rings.

“We’ll continue with another poem tomorrow,” Mr. Clyde states loudly over the rustle of moving chairs and desks.

Brent stands and moves his desk back to its original place as I get up and grab my things. Without another look at me, he starts to head toward the door. Deciding to break through the imaginary wall between the two of us, I grab his elbow before he can take another step. Startled a little, he stops and slowly turns his head, looking at me wide-eyed. I remove my hand, placing it at my side.

“Brent.” I clear my throat.
Damn nerves.
“I’m sorry about your face.”

His expression relaxes a bit. He nods, acknowledging my apology, and then heads for the door. The last thing I see is his mouth moving, like he’s talking to himself. Then, he smiles and disappears from the room.

Mr. Clyde pulls me from my stupor.

“Ms. Miller? You don’t want to be late.”

“Right,” I say, walking out the door.


Chapter Twenty-One


Well, I tried. I think I did. At least he talked to me.

Sighing heavily, I close my locker and head down the hall to go to my next class.

“Ruby…” Lexi bumps my hip with hers. “What happened to you? I thought we were gonna hang out on Saturday. You never returned any of my calls or messages from yesterday.”

“Yeah, sorry about that. I wasn’t feeling well.”
Hey, it’s not a lie.

She walks next to me as I stare vacantly ahead.

“Oh, well, we missed you. We went out on Liam’s boat, and Autumn fell in the lake—” Stopping, she grabs my arm and pulls me to the side. “Hey, are you okay? Are you still sick? You look like crap. Sorry, but you know what I mean.”

“Yeah, I’m fine. It was just a long weekend.”

Feeling eyes on me, I look down the hall to see Brent walking toward us, staring at Lexi and me as we exchange words. When I take a quivering breath, Lexi turns to see what made my eyes shift. Brent looks ahead, expressionless, and passes us without a word.

“What’s that about?” Lexi whispers.

She must see something on my face because she leads me to the restroom, opens a stall, and locks us inside.

“Tell. And don’t tell me it’s nothing,” she demands.

“We broke up,” I tell her, trying to act stoic.

What happened?” Her eyes widen as she waits for me to answer.

I guess the silence is too much.

She continues, “You said you went out on a romantic date on Friday. Wait. Did he try to make you have sex with him when you didn’t want to? I’ll kill him. That is
not cool.”

“Lexi…” I grunt as I grab her arm, forcing her to look at me. “It’s nothing like that. We just didn’t work out, I guess.”

I can feel myself losing it a little as I admit aloud that it’s really over.

She pulls me into a hug. “You should have called me,” she whispers, patting my back.

I sniff while I try to hold in the tears. I didn’t realize how much I needed a hug until now. I put a little space between us. “I’m sorry.”

“Geez, Ruby.” She laughs. “You know you can call me if you want to talk about it. I mean it. I’m so sorry. I’m very confused by the whole thing though. He was always texting or calling me with a million questions, wanting to know more about you. I’ve never seen him like that before.” Lexi stops talking as she takes me back into her arms.

The reality is setting in. Now that someone else knows, it’s more real. Letting myself go, I feel the weight of everything come over me again. Something tells me that this is going to hurt for a long while. I’m going to need someone to talk to. I should have called her in the first place. She’s right about that.

“Sorry,” I say through a forced breath with a side of snot.

“Stop saying you’re sorry,” Lexi chides. “So, what happened? It’s just so weird. One minute, you guys are all
in love
,” she huffs, “and then…poof, it’s over! I’ve known Brent a long time, and I can’t see him just breaking it off for no good reason. It’s just not like him, especially when I saw how lovey-dovey he was with you. I know it sounds kind of gooey and squishy, but it’s true. I can’t think of a better way to say it. The guy was nuts for you. So, I know something happened. Did you do something to him? I mean, I would forgive you, of course. Although, I can’t see you doing anything he wouldn’t forgive. Unless…did you cheat on him?” She steps back, crossing her arms in front of her, as a severe look comes over her face.

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