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Authors: S. Walden

Interim (8 page)

BOOK: Interim
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Brandon scowled.

“Don’t call an ambulance,” she said, trying for a joke.

“Not funny.”

She forced a smile and kissed his cheek. “Walk me to first period?”

He smiled. “Okay.”

She stayed glued to his side all the way down the hall. He said goodbye at the door.

“Walk me to second period?” she asked before he left.

“And third and fourth and all the rest?” he teased.

She nodded, wiping a stray tear.

“Someone bothering you?” he asked.


He studied her for a moment. “You sure?”

“Yep.” She kissed his cheek again. “I just want your company.”

“Cool,” Brandon replied.

Once she was in Room 27A, she breathed relief. For fifty minutes, anyway, she was safe.


He watched her all day. Every now and then she glanced his way, in between classes at their lockers. Sometimes in class. He never once felt the need to confront her. He was safe for now. She still had his journal, after all. He saw the glimpses of red throughout the day. It never left her side. He was never called to the office. The secrets remained guarded.

His heart plummeted when their eyes met that morning. And then the anger bubbled up in his chest almost immediately. The things she must know! He knew she read it. A girl would have read it. Fucking girls. It was written all over her guilty face, her deer-in-headlights eyes. Her body language. He saw the imperceptible tightening of his words against her chest—her biceps flexing as she secured his notebook to her body. Like she owned it. Like she owned him.

The hell you do
, he thought.

The final bell rang. He looked for her at her locker, but she didn’t show up. Little sneak. She must have packed before the last period. She was already heading home! He knew she usually walked to school. He took a chance and flew out of the building, taking her regular route. He ran down Holland Avenue and rounded the corner to Soap Creek Drive. There. Right fucking there. Maybe thirty yards ahead of him, give or take. She walked briskly. He wondered why she wasn’t running. Surely she knew he would come after her.

You better run, little girl
, he thought, feeling for the first time that he was actually the bad guy.

She heard his thoughts. He knew. She turned around at that exact moment, terror written on every surface of her face, in her eyes. She took off at full speed. He followed suit. There was no way she could outrun him. He didn’t give a shit how much soccer she played. He was too tall and too fast. With every one of her strides, he gained on her by three.

“Do the math, Regan!” he shouted at her.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about!” she screamed over her shoulder.

“You can’t beat me!”

“I can fucking try!” And she sped up.

“Goddamnit,” he huffed, and picked up his pace.

He took a sharp left on Belmonte and stopped cold. She was nowhere in sight. He growled under his breath. So she decided to switch up games. Hide and Seek now, was it? He skulked up and down the street, searching for a good spot. Didn’t take him long. A foreclosed property in the process of being flipped. Oh, Regan. You’re a clever girl. But this? You could have done a hell of a lot better.

He noticed movement in his periphery. She was crouched behind a massive oak tree. He remembered playing Hide and Seek as a kid. He always felt a sudden urge to piss when he heard the seeker nearby. He wondered if she was holding hers. How empowering would it be to make her pee her pants? He entertained the idea for only a moment before his conscience spoke up:
Don’t humiliate her

It was easier to take her from behind, but he wasn’t sure what direction she faced. He decided to attack from the right, and moved soundlessly along the edge of the property. Her back came into view. She was peering around the tree. Perfect target. Much too easy. He lunged for her. She heard the twig crack and spun around. Her mouth opened. He knew she would scream. Girls always scream.

He clapped his hand over her mouth and took her to the ground, landing as softly as he could on top of her. She struggled violently. It was a valiant effort, but he held her down easily. And waited. In approximately one minute she would tire herself out, relax, and give up.

It took five.

“Regan!” he grunted. “Please stop. I’m not gonna hurt you!”

He watched the tear slide down her temple. He was a monster. She thought he was a monster. He clambered off of her in a flash, horrified that he’d transformed into the bully.

She backed away, moving like a crab on her hands and feet. Her disheveled hair was decorated with bits of leaves, and he could almost see her heartbeat in her flushed cheeks.

“I won’t hurt you,” he whispered bitterly.

She stopped. “How do I know?”

“Because I would have done it already.”

She shuddered.

“You have something that belongs to me.”

She shook her head.

“Regan, you have my journal,” he said patiently.

She continued shaking her head.

He rolled his eyes. “It’s right there.” He pointed to her left where the notebook lay.

She couldn’t think of a response, and blinked.

“Oh my God,” he huffed, and reached for his notebook.

She was too quick, whipping her hand out and snatching it before he could. She slid it behind her back.

“Give me my journal!” he demanded, leaning into her.

“No!” she screamed, inches from his face.

“It’s my journal!”

“It’s not a journal! It’s a murder manifesto!”

His eyes went wide. “You don’t know a thing!”

“I know this is Columbine shit, Jer! I know that much!”

He never heard her call him “Jer.” Well, he never heard her say his name at all, except in sixth grade. He was momentarily distracted, and he thought in horror that his lips curled into a warm smile—an involuntary reaction only she could invoke. Because she was a wicked little witch disguised as an ordinary teen. Her magic ran in her veins where no one could see.

Regan wasted no time. She hopped up and tried for escape. The spell shattered at her sudden movement, and he caught her ankle before she could slip away. She tripped, falling face down, accidentally flinging the notebook in front of her. She stretched her arm, but it was out of reach. She felt him climb over her, keeping her pinned painfully, and watched helplessly as he plucked the journal off the ground. He rolled off of her and stood up.

“It isn’t Columbine at all,” he said evenly. “Don’t you dare compare me to those guys.”

She ventured a glance at his face and shuddered again. Darkness in his eyes—thick with revenge.

“You want to shoot people!” she screamed.

“You make it sound like I wanna bust up in the school and just shoot at random,” he replied.

“You wanna shoot my friends!”

He paused. “Well, I can’t argue there. I do wanna shoot your friends. Because they’re bad people.”

“Oh my God,” she breathed, unable to process what she’d just heard. “You’re crazy.” She looked at his face. “You’re crazy!”

“I’m not crazy!” he roared. “Never call me that!”

She curled into herself, pulling her legs up and burying her face in her knees.
This is all a dream. A dream.

“I’m not crazy,” she heard more softly. “But they’re bad people, and you know it.”

“You don’t get to make that judgment call,” Regan said.
Why? Why am I even talking to this guy? I gotta get out of here now. I’ve gotta get somewhere safe.

Jeremy dropped to his knees beside her and thrust his face in hers. She wouldn’t look at him, but she felt his lips close to her ear.

“Oh, I think I do get to make that judgment call. If anyone gets to, it’s me.”

She froze.

“Look at me!” he demanded, and she flinched, lifting her face.

He waved the book at her. “You read it! Don’t lie and say you didn’t. I know you read it all the way through. Don’t pretend you don’t know all the things that were said and done to me! You really want to sit there and tell me I can’t be an accurate judge of those people?”

She could say nothing.

“I am
because of them!”


He had no intention of saying it. He wasn’t looking for sympathy or a kind word. He wasn’t sure what he was looking for.

Regan brought her hand to her mouth, trying to stifle the involuntary sob. No use. It jerked and forced its way past her lips. And then another. And another, until she was crying outright. She cried for the revelation. She cried for her fear, her uncertain future. She cried for him.

“I don’t need you to feel sorry for me,” Jeremy whispered. The words were hardened and cold. Just like his heart.

She continued to sob, and he jumped up. A strong urge to hug her frightened him. He couldn’t handle his yo-yo feelings: one second angry at her and the next sympathetic to her plight.
plight? What plight? Oh yes, the fact that she held absolute power to destroy his plan, his life. That plight. She must have known it—the reason she sat crying hysterically just now. She didn’t know what to do, what to believe. He would have to tell her—convince her with silky lies why she didn’t have to be afraid of him, why she didn’t have to say anything about his journal.

A sick fantasy. Yes. That’s how he would persuade her. It was all just a sick fantasy to help cope with the pain. It could work. It would have to.

“You had no business reading this.” He turned his face away. “I . . . I didn’t write it for you.”

First, he wanted to shame her—plant the embarrassment deep in her heart so that she would find herself apologizing to him.

Regan wiped her eyes. “I know.”

“Why would you do that to me?”

Humiliation twisted like a thick, meaty vine around her heart.

“I . . . I don’t know,” she whispered. “I was curious.”

“Yeah? I’m curious about a lot of things, too, but I don’t go invading someone else’s space,” Jeremy replied.

“I guess you’re better than I am,” she said bitterly.

“Right now I am,” he pointed out.

She bristled. “Oh yeah? You wanna murder people. What am I supposed to do with that information, huh? I should have told someone today—”

“So why didn’t you?” he asked.
Feel her out slowly
, his brain said.
Tone down the aggression.

She shook her head. “I don’t know.”

“That’s a lousy answer,” he replied.

“I don’t know! I guess I was afraid!”

“Of me?”

“Of the entire situation,” she said lamely.

He squatted beside her a second time. He exhaled slowly, trying to expunge the anger.

Soften. Tone down the aggression.

“Do you honestly think I’d shoot people?”

She crinkled her brow and studied him. “No?”

He tried again. “Regan, do you really believe I’d shoot people?”

“I don’t know,” she said softly. “I don’t know anything about you.”

“Yes, you do,” he argued. “You know everything about me. You read my journal.”

He watched the contortions of her face—a visual of her working brain. It was working too hard, and he was afraid of what it told her.

She narrowed her eyes. “You’re right. I do know you. And you describe the day and time. In detail. You map out your route through the school. You list the guns you’d carry, and how you’d carry them. You note the amount of ammo you’d need if you had to shoot someone multiple times. You mark resting points throughout the halls. You describe your target practice. You explain—”

“Stop,” he said. Hearing her say it aloud—listing off the details in fast succession—really did make him sound like a lunatic. But he wasn’t! He wasn’t a fucking lunatic. He was organized. His plan made sense. It wasn’t needless killing. It was purposeful. It was just and right.

“You think you have the right,” Regan whispered, like she could read his thoughts. “You think you have the right to take someone’s life.”

She waited for his response. He knew what she wanted to hear. If he gave it to her, she would know he was lying. Better stick to the truth as much as possible.

“I do think I have that right,” he said finally, and she gasped. “In my fantasies.”

She relaxed some.

“I’m sure you have fantasies,” he said, trying to steer the conversation away from his journal.

She nodded. “I don’t fantasize about killing, though.”

“You’ve never wanted to kill anyone in your anger?”


“I’m sure you’ve fantasized about hurting someone,” he suggested. “Someone who wronged you.”

She glared at him. “Yes.”

“He was mean to you? He disappointed you?”

BOOK: Interim
3.47Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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