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Authors: L.M. Augustine

Two Roads

BOOK: Two Roads
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~

There once was a girl

She lived in bliss

She loved simple things: poetry, scrap pages, people who listen

Her parents were perfect, but they deemed her a waste

And then she had no one

~

I guess
you could say hating Logan Waters has become my favorite hobby. You might even argue that I derive some form of screwed-up, sadistic pleasure from it, or that I have nothing else to do with my life so instead I spend it trolling random, math-loving, twenty-two-year-old guys. Those wouldn’t exactly be lies. I mean, it’s not like I spend
all
of my free time outside of his window, popcorn and stalker binoculars in hand, scribbling down every possible unflattering thing he does just to feel better about myself, but every once in a while I do still catch myself watching him study from some insanely advanced text book on a Saturday night or laughing with one of his three friends over jokes I can only imagine got old in third grade, and then, as if it’s nothing, I insult him about it time and time again in my head. It’s almost a game at this point. I make fun of him with my friends, with my roommate, and even with complete strangers--that’s just how it is between us.

Is he a freak? Check.

A nerd? Check.

Part of the reason my brother is dead? Double check.

Logan is my older by two years, and he infuriates me to no end. Everything about him is annoying, from his rounded-square glasses to his math pick-up line t-shirts--”Honey, you’ve got more curves than a triple integral”--to his inability to keep conversation without going off on tangents and even to the way he seems totally comfortable in his own skin despite all he did to my family. But what I hate most about Logan Waters is the simple fact that he came back, that I’ve spent the last four years of my life trying to forget that night and the second I come to Williams University for my sophomore year, he transfers here. Just like that. So if insulting him lets me keep my mind off of the memories he triggers, I’ll take it.

Which brings me to why I’m here, standing in the middle of The Dungeon--our on-campus equivalent of Starbucks--coffee in hand; I’m watching him once again. It has become almost daily routine for me at this point, and we are both well aware of it. I follow him wherever he goes, making sure he knows I’m there just to piss him off.

“Cali!” Lindsay says, and I turn around. She stands beside me with a group of five or six other girls, all of them looking either extremely hung-over or inexplicably exuberant with their long hair and short skirts and annoyingly nasal voices. They’re my friends, or at least I call them that. In truth, these girls couldn’t be more different than I am. “We were just talking about the party at Jefferson’s last night. Pretty awful, right? And did you hear that Marcy and Dex screwed in the middle of the dance floor?”

As soon as the words leave her mouth, everyone looks at me for my response like this is a singing competition and I’m about to kick one of them off, so I shrug. “They’re both dicks. They practically deserve each other.”

A few people giggle. I hate it, though. Hate that they respect me. Hate that this is how I’ve turned out. As I look between them, I know they’re all the same: shallow, sex-loving, people-using partiers who spend their free time both gossiping and seducing every last guy on campus. They aren’t anything like me. But somehow, I’ve become their queen.

Sometimes I think I should love it. I should use their respect to get whatever I want. I should feel the rush of power and joy and meaning I’ve been so desperately searching for these last four years. Or really, I should just be happy. But I don’t, and I’m not. The only thing this whole mean girl act gets me is a sickness in the pit of my stomach.

“Totally. Same with Tamara and Blake. They’re
so
pathetic,” Lindsay is saying, but I try to tune her out.

“So how was Jake last night?” another girl, Sarah I think?, says to me, her eyes sparkling like I’m about to tell her the greatest secret in the world.

“He wasn’t bad,” I say absently. All I know is that I want this conversation to end as soon as possible. “Okay kisser. Somewhat handsy but pretty hot. He grunted way too much during sex, though. It was kind of disgusting.”

“Ew,” another one of them, whose name I don’t even pretend to know, says. “It’s like all of the guys here are shallow morons.” I can’t help but enjoy the irony of that statement.

“Agreed,” Lindsay cuts in. “Guys suck. Don’t they, Cali?”

“Yeah. I mean, why bother with them? You know how they are. You got to kick them right to the curb after you use them,” I say, not believing my own words for a second.

“You would know a lot about that.” It’s Sarah again, looking up at me with such envy that it makes my insides twist.

“Yeah,” I lie. “You could say that I know
all
about meaningless sex.” My voice shakes a little as I say it, though, and I feel all eyes on me. It’s like they know I’m lying. “Almost as much Tamara knows what’s in Blake Whethers’ pants,” I add, and everyone laughs. Sometimes I wish I had the heart to laugh with them.

See, I have a reputation around campus for being just as shallow and sex-crazed as Lindsay and Sarah and everyone. I’m the one who goes to all the best parties, the one who hooks up with a guy virtually every night, the one who acts like a bitch, who is surrounded by friends, who doesn’t care.

Here’s a secret: it’s all a lie.

I don’t have sex with guys, not after those first few times I tried it and felt absolutely nothing.

I’m not surrounded by friends. I’m surrounded by
people
, but none of them are friends--not real friends.

I do care. I care so much it hurts. I care about everything--about my brother Ben, about hating Logan, about being happy, about poetry, about life.

But the thing is, this mean girl front gives me a place to hide from all of the guilt I feel over Ben’s death. It gives me strength, meaning. Like if I can bring everyone else down to my level, I won’t be so alone.

“You’re such a bitch,” one of them says enviously, and I just smile. I don’t mind being called a bitch. Being a bitch means I’m strong. Being a bitch means I’m surviving, and sometimes that’s all I can do: I survive. I do everything I can to get by, even if it makes me sick to my stomach.

“I know. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some guy stalking to do,” I say, winking at them and turning around. A few girls laugh as I go, but they leave me alone for now, thank god. So I sip my coffee and focus back on Logan and letting everything else wash away. He’s busy making some insane hand gesture which resembles that of a dying elephant to another senior, who is complete with oversized round glasses, pale skin, and freckles. They drink hot chocolates--child’s play, if you ask me.

Logan and I are rivals in every sense of the word. I hate him and he hates me and we both have an unspoken agreement to make each other’s lives as miserable as possible. I call him a nerd, he calls me a bitch. I tell our professor that he murdered his parents (which is a low blow, I admit), he tells all of the guys on his floor that I am secretly a man. As much as I hate to admit it, our rivalry is seriously entertaining. One person strikes, the other returns a blow. I’m the cat and he’s the mouse, but unfortunately, Mouse Boy knows how to put up a fight. And it makes things a hell of a lot more fun.

I smile, knowing it’s time to plot my next form of revenge. Just yesterday he broke into my room while my roommate and I had English and covered the wall in a particularly unflattering picture of me drunk-kissing some random guy, whose face was so kindly replaced with a photoshop of the President’s, which means it’s my turn to pull something on him. Warm mocha slides down my throat as I take another gulp. I close my eyes, savoring it, and it makes the knot in my stomach unfurl.

But damn, I really do need a new prank idea. Logan and I have been at this for six months and right now, I’m flush out of pranks. I’ve done it all: Vaseline on his door handle, apple-juice-filled condom in his freezer, shrink wrapping his whole bed and clothes, and so on. There are only so many pranks in the world one can successfully pull off, and I have done most of them. I have to hand it to Logan, though. For a nerd, he’s come up with some seriously brilliant pranks of his own. He’s done everything from super-gluing my laptop closed and covering it with pictures of his own obnoxious face poses, or putting fake blood in the sink faucet which I admit freaked me out for several minutes, or even filling my car with nearly thirty blue crabs, a situation that resulted in a lot of screaming and desperate calling for my roommate Ruby to come to my rescue.

The last six months have been an all-out war, and now I need to top him, once and for all.

“Hey, Cali,” a girl, Kelsey or Kelly or someone, says to me, giving me a coy smile and leaving the group to slink over to me. “Are you looking at Logan?”

“Yeah,” I mumble, hoping she takes the hint and leaves.

“Want to
bother
him?” she says in the highest-pitch voice I’ve ever heard. I glance over at her, rolling my eyes. She’s a blonde. Figures.

“Why do you ask?”

I really don’t want an answer to the question, so I let my gaze drift back to Logan, who sits three tables across from me. My stomach twists just from looking at him--just from remembering. It makes me feel helpless and powerless all over again, and I hate it and I hate him for it. I hate anything that reminds me of what happened. I hate anything that reminds me I don’t belong here.

The Dungeon is completely packed, as it always is at eleven a.m., and the whole place is an explosion of voices and laughter and the sounds of cash registers opening and receipts being printed. Warm sunlight slips in through the large window behind me in the back of the store, and the smell of cinnamon and pastries wafts through the air. There are no seats left in the place, so I stand here with my friends, all of whom scan the area in search of gossip like hawks.

Logan and his three amigos have their backs to me, but I get the gut feeling he knows I’m watching him. He notices these kinds of things as much as I do, as if we’re telepathic in our own, special, hate-filled way.

“Well, I just think it’d be fun!” the blonde says in a voice that’s way too giddy for comfort. “Why don’t you go sit down with them?” Then, she giggles. Loudly. Like it’s the most clever “prank” in the world.

Oh, for the love of god…

Ignoring her, I watch as Logan does something extra painful: he clanks his mug to his friend’s and they both yell, “cheers!” like this is some sort of pub from the 1800s and the hot chocolate they’re drinking is actually beer.

Logan himself is tall and lean, with dark hair that is cropped upward at his forehead and a pair of deep blue eyes--too blue, really. He wears a light green “Geeks are cool” t-shirt like it’s nothing, like he isn’t making himself a total target, and I hate that I kind of admire him for that. As he sits there, I take in his loud laugh, his obnoxiously long eyelashes, and his infuriating dimpled smile. His appearance is messy like he just rolled out of bed, and he keeps running his hand through the hair on the back of his head. He proceeds to make a fish face to his friends, who burst into laughter like this is the goddamn second grade. But he doesn’t even seem to notice how stupid it is. He looks so truly happy with his huge smile and sparkling eyes, and that may be what pisses me off most.

That he’s happy.

And even through a few failed hookups, insults, and buckets of tears, that I’m not.

So I hate him. I hate him for ruining my life. I hate him for not blaming himself like I blame myself for what happened. I hate him for moving on with his life, when no matter how hard I try, I just can’t.

“You know what?” I say to Blondie. The anger rips through me at the thought of Logan and what happened with Ben that night, and I know it’s time to approach him before I explode. I have to stay calm and composed. I have to pretend to be okay. I can’t let him, or anyone, know that I’m not. “Hold this.” I shove my coffee into her hand without meeting her gaze. “I’m going in,” I say. She jumps up and down gleefully,
cheering me on.

Oh just kill me now.

I remove the bun from my ponytail, letting my long black hair fall onto my shoulders. I adjust my shirt to reveal extra chest, force myself to smile, and transform into what I’m supposed to be, what I’m not: that hot perky girl who doesn’t care.

Mom would
so
not approve.

I approach Logan’s table slowly, my heart racing with a mixture of excitement and the same goddamn hatred that has wormed its way into the core of my being. This won’t do for my retaliation prank, but hey, a little something in between can’t hurt. I purposely brush against Logan as I slide into the empty seat nearest him. He and his friends pretend not to notice me, but I know they do because a hush comes over the group as soon as I sit down. Four faces stare back at me, half of which are petrified as if they’ve never seen a girl before.

One of the two who doesn’t look fazed is Logan, which just makes me all the more annoyed. His blue eyes are level and calm, and he watches me without emotion, his gaze like a loaded gun. The other is Jaden, Logan’s roommate, who is really not doing himself a favor by hanging out here. With his deep green eyes and thick jaw, Jaden really isn’t that bad looking. He also seems pretty cool, which means I despise him all the more for befriending my arch rival.

BOOK: Two Roads
11.01Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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