Authors: Katja Millay
Tags: #teen, #Drama, #love, #Mature Young Adult, #romance, #High School Young Adult, #New adult, #contemporary romance
“Give me twenty bucks.” I heard Drew say to her.
is the only quality her voice possesses.
“Because I need twenty bucks.” His tone indicated that this should be enough of a reason.
“No.” Then, what must have been the sound of her slamming her locker. Hard.
“I’ll pay you back.”
No, you won’t.
“No, you won’t.”
“You’re right. I won’t.” I peered around and caught him flash that cocky smile at her. “What? At least I’m honest.”
“Why don’t you go ask one of your whores?”
“Because none of them love me as much as you do.”
“That stupid grin might work on every other female in this school, but you know it won’t work with me, so forget it.”
“Sarah, you know you’re going to give it to me, so come on.”
I smiled. I couldn’t help but appreciate the absolute perfection of the name; bland, common, and wholly unoriginal. Best of all, it means
She exhaled loudly and I leaned around to see her digging in her purse.
She’s going to give him money? He’s better than I gave him credit for. Maybe I just gave her too much credit. My self-respect may not be off the charts, but hers must be nonexistent. She took out a twenty-dollar bill and shoved it at him.
“Here. Just so I can get you to leave me alone.” He grabbed it and started walking away, but not before she yelled after him, “If you don’t pay me back, I am so telling Mom!”
That little revelation was fun, though it does make me wonder if my observation skills are failing me. Did I really miss that? My brother, Asher, and I used to bicker with the best of them, but our animosity threshold was several levels lower than theirs.
I toss the last of the newspapers back on top of the pile and return to the computer, trying to come up with anything else I can do online to kill time. I’m not on Facebook or anything else anymore, so there’s no point in that. I could torture myself by using Asher’s name and passwords to check up on people I used to be friends with, but I decide against it. There’s isn’t anything I want to know.
The lightning is flashing incessantly outside the window, taunting me every time it lights up the sky. My phone is on my bed, whispering in my ear like a bottle of scotch to a recovering alcoholic, while the rain continues cackling at me through my window. I may actually be desperate enough to go out in this weather. I need to run that badly. More jumping jacks. Lift some weights. More push-ups. Lift more weights. I may not be able to get a treadmill in here, but a punching bag I think I can manage, even if it’s just one of those portable ones. I don’t think Margot will let me hang a heavy bag in her living room, but I’m not that picky. I’ll take anything I can hit right now.
Cookies. I need to bake cookies. It’s the next best thing to running. Not really, but I do love cookies and I don’t like the shit that they sell in packages, which is what Margot buys. Oreos are acceptable. Because they’re Oreos and no matter what you do, you can’t replicate them. Trust me on this one. I’ve spent more than a few days in my kitchen, trying to do just that. It’s never going to happen. So Oreos get a pass, but factory-sealed chocolate chip cookies that are shelf-stable for up to six months are another story. Life really is too short for that. Believe me, I know.
I rummage through Margot’s kitchen and I have no idea why I’m surprised that she doesn’t own any flour or baking soda or baking powder or vanilla or just about any ingredient that could possibly be required for baking. I do locate some sugar and salt, and miraculously, a set of measuring cups, but that won’t get me very far. I resolve to head to the grocery store this weekend. I won’t make it long without cookies. Or cake.
I give up, eat half a bag of jelly beans, leaving the black ones because they suck, and head to the shower to wash the shit that was this day off of me. I have a riveting conversation with myself while letting the conditioner set in my hair. I talk about my crap schedule. I tell myself about the unfortunate irony that is my music class and wonder if that tops the ridiculousness of Speech & Debate. I ponder, out loud, whether any female in the school, student or teacher, is immune to the charms of a certain blond named Drew. Then I answer—ME. Oh, and Sarah of course, though he seems to be able to badger her into submission. I have these conversations periodically, just to make sure my voice still works in case I ever want to use it again. Returning to the world of the vocal was always the plan, but some days I wonder if I ever will. Most of the time, I don’t have much exciting news, so I repeat names or random words, but today was noteworthy, so it warranted full sentences. Sometimes I even sing, but I save that for the days when my self-loathing is at peak levels and I want to hurt myself.
I crawl into my bed, which is covered in a sage green floral-print comforter, just like the one in my bedroom at home. It was probably more my mother’s doing than Margot’s. I think she has trouble grasping the concept that I was trying to get away from that place, not bring it with me. I lift up the mattress and pull out the composition book I’ve hidden there. I’ll have to find a better place for it soon. The rest of them are in the back of my closet, packed in a cardboard box, underneath old paperbacks and my middle school yearbooks. The one in my hands is black and white with the word
written in red marker across the cover. Like all of the others, the first few pages are filled with fake class notes. I grab a pen and I write. Exactly three and a half pages later, I slide the book back to its hiding place and turn off the light, wondering what fresh hell tomorrow will bring.
I live in a world without magic or miracles. A place where there are no clairvoyants or shapeshifters, no angels or superhuman boys to save you. A place where people die and music disintegrates and things suck. I am pressed so hard against the earth by the weight of reality that some days I wonder how I am still able to lift my feet to walk.
On Friday morning, the first thing I do is pick up my amended schedule from the Guidance Office. Ms. McAllister signed off on my teacher aide position for fifth hour, so I have now officially dropped Intro to Music, which means I get to spend that period making photocopies and handing out papers instead of wanting to bleed myself dry.
At this point, I’ve gotten better on the shoes, even though they’re too cramped at the front and my toes unleash a string of expletives at me when I put them on. I chose my second most appalling outfit for today’s endeavors – more black on black, because that’s really all I have anyway. I keep the thick black eyeliner, the red lipstick and the black nail polish. The stilettos, as always, are the exclamation point on an ensemble that screams
I am a slutty horror show. I think of pearl buttons and white eyelet skirts and wonder what Emilia would be wearing if she were alive today.
I’ve been successfully hiding in hallways and bathrooms during lunch all week. The disheveled artist boy, whose name I have since learned—by surreptitiously glancing at the cover on his sketchbook—is Clay, was kind enough to give me an unsolicited short list of my best bets for solitude when he caught me trying the doors to the English wing again on the second day. I’ve checked out most them. Give me a few more days and I’ll probably be able to draw a map and star the best places for disappearing. Then I can sell it to other losers like me.
I find, from my daily walks, that the layout here stays pretty much the same. You would think there was a designated seating chart for the courtyard. No one strays from the place they planted themselves the day before. I recognize more of the faces at this point, but even the ones I know don’t acknowledge me. I am left blissfully alone. I’ve scared, offended or made everyone uncomfortable enough to stay away. Mission accomplished. It’s even worth all of the discomfort of the shoes. If I don’t do anything wrong, it should stay this way.
I’m considering which direction to head today, when I pass the boy in the force field. I wonder how he does that. Maybe I can find out his secret, because I would love to get one of those for myself. Sometimes I think he’s invisible and I’m the only one who sees him, but I guess that’s not the case, because if it was, I’m sure someone would have grabbed that bench by now. Maybe he’s a ghost and no one goes near the bench because he haunts it.
He always sits in the same position and he’s completely motionless. Ever since he caught me on Monday, I’ve been trying not to stare more than a couple of seconds each day. He hasn’t looked up at me again. I still get the feeling he’s watching, but maybe I just kind of want him to be. I shake that off quickly. The last thing I need is anyone’s attention.
Still, he is extremely nice to look at. Nice arms. Not douchebag workout arms, just
arms. I saw him on the first day in my shop class, but only for a second, and then he left and never came back. Now the only time I ever see him is at lunch. That handful of seconds I spend crossing the courtyard becomes the most intriguing part of my day. If I’m being honest with myself, those precious seconds are the only reason I still walk across this damn thing every day. I walked it on the first day to make a point. I walked it on the second day to see if he was still there and still alone. I walked it on the third and the fourth to see if he’d look up at me again. He didn’t. Today, I just wanted to look. So that’s what I’m doing when the pointed end of the heel of my shoe ends up lodged in the crack between two brick pavers. Beautiful. Fortunately, since I was walking pathetically slow to make the most of my stalking experience, I don’t end up face first on the ground. Not so fortunately, I am now stuck directly between his bench and that of Princess Sarah and her ladies in waiting. I try to nonchalantly wiggle my heel out from where it’s ensnared, but it won’t budge. I’ll have to maneuver my way down to kneeling and try to pull it out with my hands, which will be a feat of balance, but bending over in this dress is so not an option.
I kneel down slowly and slip my foot out of the shoe. Then I grab the heel with my right hand and yank it. It comes out easier than I expect and I stand up and slip my foot back into it. I glance to my left and see that statue boy still hasn’t moved. He seems utterly oblivious to my shoe debacle. It’s a small miracle, but small miracles are the only kind I can hope for right now, so I’ll take it. Too bad I haven’t gone completely unnoticed, because the next thing I hear—
“I think those are made for street corners, not school.”
This is followed by giggles and then another female voice—
“Yeah, does your dad know you left Hell dressed like that?”
“I thought her dad was in Transylvania.” More giggles. Seriously.
The insults here are really subpar. At least they could throw something mildly entertaining at me if they’re going to make me turn around. I look to my right to find the fountain of wit that spewed that gem at me. Several girls surround Sarah and are looking at me and, yes, still giggling. I guess I congratulated myself a minute or two too soon. I mentally run through my options A) Hurl said shoe at them B) Hurl insults at them C) Ignore them and walk away D) Smile my most demonic and unhinged smile at them. I’ve chosen D, the only real option of the bunch. I won’t ignore this, at least not in the slink away with my tail between my legs way. Besides, since I’m apparently the spawn of Satan, or possibly Dracula, depending on who you ask, it can never hurt to throw a little crazy out there just to drive the message home before the weekend. I stare them down for a few more seconds, debating whether to unleash the smile all at once or just let it subtly drift across my face, when I’m interrupted by a voice behind me.
Sarah’s mouth, which was open in what I suspect was the formation of another display of her scathing wit, clamps shut so fast I think I hear her teeth clash. I turn around, even though I kind of know that the only person in that general vicinity is the last one I would expect to be all knight-in-shining-armor. Not that the situation even called for it. It was hardly an attack. It was more like a sort of lame insult version of karaoke. A performance by amateurs. Something you mock rather than fear. I can tell these girls wouldn’t have stopped there, and if I was the type to care it might have hurt my feelings, but I don’t care and my feelings haven’t been hurt in a very long time.
At this point, I’m completely turned around and mine aren’t the only eyes on the boy in the bubble. In fact, there are quite a few sets of eyes watching him now, waiting to see if anything else comes out of his mouth. I feel like I’ve found myself in the middle of a Twilight Zone episode, where everything around me has frozen and I’m the only one who can move. But I don’t.
The boy’s eyes are trained on Sarah, giving her a look that matches the don’t-fuck-with-me tone in his voice. His glance flicks to me for a second and then he’s back to staring at his hands like nothing at all happened. I’m contemplating moving now but I can’t seem to find my legs just yet. I turn away from the boy and catch Sarah staring at me now. The look on her face isn’t carved out of jealousy or even bitterness, which is what I kind of expect; it’s forged out of one-hundred-percent-pure, rock solid, WTF. As much as I’m trying to keep my face blank, I have a feeling that my expression quite possibly looks a lot like hers, but probably for very different reasons.
She seems perplexed as all hell that he said something. I don’t really know this kid well enough to know if his interference is the most surprising element of this whole situation. If you ask me, the weird part about it is how everybody reacted. They all shut up. They didn’t question him, didn’t laugh or ask why, they didn’t ignore him and continue with the ridicule, and they didn’t turn their derision on him. They just
. He said
and that was that. Because I said so. End of story. Don’t make me have to tell you twice.