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Don't Need Anyone
Author's note: It's also humor or mystery, but it only allowed one tag:P Enjoy. Don't let Renee get too crazy.
I stumbled out of the car, heels striking the street with a pronounced clack. I stood up, ignoring the fire shooting through my legs, and had started towards the front door when a hand caught my wrist, spinning me around. Devon glanced down at me, worried.
“Ren, are you sure you’re OK?” he asked. I cringed at the name.
“Please don’t call me that.” It came out in a whisper.
A puzzled expression crossed his face. “Why…?” He shook his head. “You didn’t answer my question.”
“Yes, Devon,” I replied tiredly. “I am A-OK. Now could I please get inside?”
He let go of my wrist slowly, dark eyes on mine as I stumbled back to the door, fiddled with the lock, and slid inside.
I’d never even said it was a semi-good date.
At least, good by my standards. He’d taken me to a nice movie, a nice dinner, picked me up and dropped me off in a nice car, and paid for it all.
But he just couldn’t stop fussing.
“Renee, do you need help here?” “Is this too high for you?” “Want me to carry that?” “Will your parents be alright with this?” These comments plagued me the whole night. Yes, I’m fine. No, I do not need your help. No, they won’t care any more than they care about the Mets. Which isn’t a whole lot.
And the sad thing was, he was better than most of them.
Sighing, I shucked my four inch high daggers into the corner and crawled up the stairs—literally. Hands on one step, feet three below, hands up, feet up. It was the quietest way to get to the bedroom without alerting my parents to my presence.
I, on the other hand, was completely aware of theirs.
“James!” I winced as the shriek dug into my tender ears. Someday soon they’d start bleeding “What the hell is wrong with you? You bought a three hundred dollar suit just for a business meeting!” I reached my room. Quickly, I entered and closed the door behind me. My elbow snapped completely straight as it slammed shut, and a red haze crossed my vision. I slowly slid to my butt, but the voices continued.
“Yeah, a business meeting! For my job! You know, the one that keeps this roof over our heads?”
I dragged myself over to the bed, and slung a leg over the top. The other followed and, with more than a little effort, I lifted my head and torso to the cushion. Thank G-d I have such a short bed. The screams hadn’t ended yet. I buried my head beneath the pillow, breathing in the faint smell of cookie dough. I love my air freshener.
I stayed there for minutes. After all, what was the point in getting up? Lena wouldn’t text me till morning, and I didn’t have anything else to do.
My elbow begged to differ.
The initial shock of straightening it had worn off, but the dull ache I was forced to greet every night had returned. It grew, bit by bit, until I couldn’t ignore it anymore.
Cursing, I hopped out of my bed as if it were still two feet high. As I landed, my knees protested much more strongly than they had before. Dammit, at this rate I was going to be a grandma at sixteen.
I hobbled to the little station I’d erected in my room years ago. A small, chilled bucket stuffed with ice and box upon box of zipline bags. These bags of ice were my best friends every night.
Quickly scooping up and dumping ice into the bags, my fingers starting to go numb, I made decent time. About a minute later I was back in bed, one bag at the right elbow, one on each knee.
I glanced down at myself in satisfaction. See? I thought, towards Devon and all of the rest of them. I can handle myself. I don’t need anyone.
I could only hope someday they believed it. Because at the moment, none of them did.
Not even me.
He had me backed up against the locker. The sharp metal ridges grated against my spine, but I couldn’t move. I cast my glance around for Lena, hoping against hope that, for once, she wouldn’t arrive half an hour late.
It was a futile hope.
“So,” Devon murmured. “Do you want to go out again tonight?”
I closed my eyes, just about ready to scream. Gee, what a great way to ask a girl on a date, corner her and trap her against a locker. ‘Cause that works so well. I might have actually considered it before, but now…
Devon stiffened. “Why?”
Why? I said no, does it really matter why? I shoved against his arm, but it wouldn’t budge. For my troubles, I got a twinging elbow. “It doesn’t matter,” I snapped, pain making me irritable. “Now let me out.”
He didn’t seem to have heard. “Is it your parents, Ren?” he demanded. “Did they tell you to stop going out with me?”
The question, and the name were the last straw. “No! It’s not my parents! Why is there always something wrong? I’m not a cripple, and my parents aren’t mental patients! So you need to stop treating me like a frickin’ baby! And don’t call me Ren!”
I breathed heavily after my mini-rant, already ashamed of myself. Sure, he was being annoying, but that didn’t give me the right to scream my lungs out at him. Not in this country.
Devon’s eyes were wide. “Ren—“ he cut himself off. “Renee. What—what’s the matter, then?
I lowered my head. At least he wasn’t too upset. “I just don’t want to, Devon. OK? Now can I please get to my locker?”
Without taking his eyes from me, he slowly backed away. I turned to my locker, but I still felt his eyes on my back minutes later.
Lena groaned and rocked back in her seat. “Why, Ren?” She was the only one who could call me that now. “He was certainly better than the rest of those clunk heads you’ve dated!
I made a face. “Don’t bother softening it for me, Lena. Don’t bother at all.” It was pointless even mentioning it. Lena said what she thought and she thought what she said.
Guessing my thought process, as always, she smirked. She was opening her mouth to speak when the teacher rapped the board angrily.
“Ladies!” she barked. “I would very much appreciate your full attention, thank you.” Lena and I sat up straighter and smiled politely. Meanwhile, with her free hand, Lena was digging out a pencil and piece of notebook paper.
A moment later a wad of paper landed on my lap. Glancing up to make sure our teacher was still completely and fully occupied with the mysteries of Algebra 3, I unfurled the note.
So who’s it going to be next?
My hands clenched guiltily. She knew me too well. I didn’t really want her to think any worse of me in that area than she already did, but I didn’t want to lie to her.
There’s a junior boy who sits next to me in French—he’s really cute.
When she opened my note, Lena frowned, but didn’t even pretend to act surprised. The next note sailed toward me, and I saw her turn away and take out her math book. Puzzled, I glanced down at the note.
Talk to me later. I don’t care if we’re late to class, we need to talk.
Uh oh. If I was late to three more classes, I would get a detention. I glanced over and saw the intense scowl on Lena’s face as she focused on her notes.
Better to get the detention than make her angry.
Outside of class, she caught my arm in a pincer-like grasp and steered me in the direction of our next class. Even if I’d wanted to escape, I couldn’t have.
“What is it you want to talk about?” I grumped.
Lena elbowed me. “You know what.” I couldn’t avoid her judgmental stare.
“Is it the fact that I can’t stay with a boy for more than two dates, because they won’t stop trying to take care of me and do everything for me and show how helpless I am and be the big, grand saviors?” The words poured out as they had earlier. I was having some serious diarrhea of the mouth.
She was still holding my arm—at least she knew not to grab the elbow. “Ever think there might be a …solution to this?” she asked delicately. Lena was clearly trying not to upset me anymore. I felt like a little bomb, ready to explode in any innocent person’s face. I hated feeling like that. If I was going to be a bomb, I could at least be a big bomb.
I shrugged, and her arm rippled along with mine. “Yeah. I think there’s a solution to everything. Doesn’t mean it’s better than the problem.” My attempt to sound mildly sophisticated failed. Badly.
Lena raised a brow. “Since when are you all philosophical?” I wasn’t going to answer, and she knew it. “Whatever. But this solution is really simple, Ren. Really simple.”
“Fine,” I sighed. “I’ll bite. What’s the solution?”
She grinned as happily as a dog with a new squeaky toy. “Easy—you take a break from dating. No, don’t look at me as if the world were going to end—“ That was indeed how I was looking at her. For all my complaints…stop dating? Dating was all I had to keep my mind off of…other things. Unaware of the direction my thoughts had taken, she continued, “—‘cause a break is really just what you need right now. You wouldn’t have anyone trying to help you, or coddle you, and you might find something you like even better.” While the smile had gone, her eyes were still crinkled in amusement. Well, glad she at least found this funny.
“But…” My voice emerged as a squeak. “But dating is what I do. It’s what distracts me from…stuff.” The humor drained from Lena’s face as she realized what I was talking about.
“Ren,” she murmured. “You can’t use that as an excuse to keep dating. Maybe having some extra time will help you cope.”
I couldn’t tell her how wrong she was. I couldn’t tell her that I didn’t want to cope, I just wanted it to be over. I wanted things to be normal again.
Like that was going to happen.
But…she had a point.
And those fingers hurt.
“Alright! I’ll take a little break.”
The grin returned to her face. “Not that little,” she cackled. “At least a month.”
I gaped at her, sure she was joking. “A month?”
I glared at Lena, but she twinkled back, unfazed. “Fine, I’ll take a break from dating for a month. Any longer and I’ll go insane.” Under my breath, I added, “Just you wait until I have one of these brilliant ideas.”
She snickered at me, having heard the last part. “Oh, but I don’t need your brilliant ideas, Ren. Because I, unlike you, have some common sense.”
We had arrived at our class. Checking my watch, I drooped. Late by five minutes. Just two more. Then Detention, here I come.
As we walked in, I whispered, “Since when do you have common sense?”
I slung my backpack over the door handle and plunked onto the bed, mindful, this time, of its lower height. The rest of the day had gone by far too slowly, with Lena shooting me smug looks every two seconds.
And Devon, when we were in the same class, shooting me glares every three.
At least that was one thing I wouldn’t have to deal with now. Not that her plan was a good one; there were just a few upsides.
Oh G-d, who was I kidding? This would be torture.
I filled the ice bags angrily, then stomped over to the bed, despite the fact that stomping was the last thing my knees needed. Damn Osgood-Schlotters. Damn running.
Head resting on a slightly under-stuffed pillow, I saw a picture begin to slide off my dresser. I reached out and snatched it from the air in a rare moment of hand-eye coordination. There was a reason I did running, not tennis.
I looked down at the picture and froze. Inside a small, creamy frame was a boy and girl. The boy was tall and lean, in his late teens, with a mop of dirty blonde hair and dark blue eyes. His arm was around a girl who barely qualified as a teenager, with tumbling red curls and beaming green eyes.
I hadn’t realized I still had this picture.
My thumb trailed gently across the boy’s smiling face, as a memory swept through me, covering my sight.
“It’s your birthday, Ren,” Jared laughed. “Don’t you want to see your present?”
I looked up at him, energy coursing through me like an outlet. “A present?” Sure, I was thirteen, but I was never too old for presents.
“Of course.” He bowed and gestured toward the door with a proper “Ladies first.”
I bounced out the door, and screeched to a halt. Sitting there, all nice and wrapped up, was the PC I’d been lusting after for months.
“Jared…”I began, hushed. “You—you spent your shop money, didn’t you?” He’d been working at an ice cream shop over the summer to save up money for college.
He shrugged, and that was enough confirmation for me. Before I could begin to protest, he covered my mouth, cutting me off. “It was money well-spent. And if you’re wondering why it’s out here, I was too lazy to lug it inside by myself. Wanna help?”
I rolled my eyes, the corner of my lips tugging upward. I could never argue with Jared. He was way too good at it.
“Fine, but if I drop it on myself, I’m suing for damages.”
Jared clasped his hands tragically. “Ah, but I spent all my money on this poor computer, so there would be none to give. Therefore I may drop it on you with good conscience.” I giggled, and we were bending down to pick up the rather large box when Mom yelled “Wait!”
We both turned towards her, exasperated.
“Just one picture?” she wheedled. Jared glanced at me. I nodded, and he turned back to Mom.
“Just one,” he allowed. He strode over to me, and slung his arm around my shoulder. I wrinkled my nose at the sharp scent of Axe that surrounded me. Seeing my face, his eyes danced wickedly. “Enjoying the fresh scent, sis?” Mom caught the picture just before I burst into laughter.
He laughed with me for a while, but a minute later, as we were catching our breath, he regarded me with a serious, proud look on an otherwise mischievous face.
“Happy Birthday, Ren,” Jared said quietly.
I snapped back to the present with a thump—the ice bag had fallen off my knee. I ignored it. My eyes were captured by the boy smiling out of the picture at me.
“I miss you, Jared,” I whispered. “Where did you go?”
Chapter 2 All of my friends were obsessed with my tendonitis and Osgood-Schlotters. None of them realized the danger of sleep deprivation. It’s rather hard to fall asleep weighted down by three ice bags and listening to a somewhat…heated…argument one room over. So I was running on a lovely four hours of sleep. Quite fun. I arrived at my locker and was shocked to see none other than Lena leaning against it, arms folded. “Since when do you get to school before the third bell?” I asked. She twirled her hair innocently. “Oh, I’m helping you break the habit. Like with a druggie. Rehab, and all.” I elbowed her with my good arm, clearing the path to my locker. “Thanks for that flattering comparison.” A small crowd of seniors passed by, joking and rowdy. Several wore the bulky gear of a football player. My eyes latched on to them and followed shamelessly. A hand gripped my chin and wheeled it around. “Beat the habit, Ren, beat the habit,” she intoned. “Because of you, I just missed an eyeful,” I accused. Lena nodded brightly in agreement. “Let’s get to class before I kill you.” History was my worst class of the day, every day. Not because of the subject itself—falling asleep wasn’t painful in the least. Because of who I had to sit next to. Chad Davidson. My brother’s former best friend. Chad was one year younger than my brother, and two grades lower, due to being held back, but they had still been almost as close as Lena and me. He used to come to the house every day. Needless to say, he didn’t come anymore. But seeing him every day was like a constant slap in the face. Chad, Chad, Chad. Jared, Jared, Jared. Plenty of Chad. No Jared. And Chad wasn’t exactly helping with the awkward atmosphere. Every once in a while he’d glance over at me, and look as if he had something to say, but then he’d shake his head and turn away. Thanks for sharing your opinion and helping me through this hard time, Chad, really appreciate it. I had to admit, he did seem like he was having a rather hard time too. With Jared, I remembered him as a lively, excitable person who was always laughing, snorting, or “Ooo” ing. He hadn’t done any of that in months. Or at least he hadn’t done it where I could see it. Well, due to him, my already-suffering grade in History had taken a sharp plummet. If my parents asked why I was failing History, I’d just blame it on Chad. Always good to have a scapegoat. Then again, maybe not. This had all started after Jared. Hearing his best friend’s name might not help the situation a whole lot. Scrap that idea. And letting my thought ramble like this probably wasn’t helping that C minus either. But it was fated to die anyway, so I would just let it do so in peace. Chad leaned over and tapped my shoulder. I started, shocked out of my thoughts. This was the first time in the month or so we’d been in the same class that he’d made any sort of contact with me. I turned my head towards him, inquiring. “Are you holding up alright, Renee?” he asked. He actually seemed sincere. That just made it worse. Yeah, I’m just dandy. My body’s falling apart, my parents hate each other, I have to abstain from dating for a month, and my brother’s disappeared. Just freakin’ perfect. But I’d blown up at enough people already. “No,” I replied curtly. “But thanks for asking.” He nodded awkwardly and went back to his homework. Guess I couldn’t blame him. As the teacher instructed us to flip our textbooks to page 5,000 or some such, I let my head fall into my left hand. This was going to be a long day. Math class came all too soon, and with it a fresh dose of Lena. “So, how’re you managing?” she asked. I wanted to smack her for her cheerfulness. “Hmm, I haven’t let a boy ask me out in three hours so far, so I’d say I’m doing pretty good.” Lena put a hand over heart. “Well label me impressed and ship me off to North Korea.” I slammed my math book down, muttering. “That would be fabulous. Then you’d never come back.” She twiddled her fingers dismissively. “Did you hear the news?” I looked up—the teacher was writing the answers to the homework on the board. Amazingly, I’d gotten about half of them right. Such an accomplishment. “Seeing as this is a high school, there’s a lot of news; I’m not sure if I’ve heard the news you’re talking about.” Lena was grinning at her homework—I suspected she’d gotten them all right. Little over-achiever. “You haven’t heard it, then. You’ll see.” The teacher was putting up the last few problems when there was a knock on the door. Everyone’s eyes except Lena’s went in that direction. Hers went in the direction of the empty seat behind me, and narrowed. “Dammit!” she hissed. “He’d better be ugly.” I blinked. That was unexpected. “He who?” With my wholly clean mind, I was thinking of what would happen if I added two more letters to the end of the second word. “You’ll see.” This time, she didn’t sound as pleased. The door creaked open—I could only imagine the last time they’d oiled it—and in stepped a boy. That would probably be the he. “Class,” the teacher announced. “This is our new student.” No s**t. “Come tell them your name and something about you.” I thought teachers only mortified new kids like that in books and movies. Poor kid. He stepped forward. “My name’s Cole, and I’m new. Obviously. That’s about all you need to know about me.” I tapped my lips, secretly pleased. That was pretty much what I’d say in the same situation. So I wasn’t alone after all. I gave the kid a run-over, even though, with my current situation, that probably wasn’t allowed. Oh well, screw Lena. He was pretty good looking. Long, dark brown hair, large hazel eyes, tall and filled out. Perhaps more than “pretty good looking”, but I ranked everyone by Jared, and to me, none of them came close. The teacher seemed slightly offset by his brusque introduction, but recovered quickly enough. “Cole, you’ll be sitting by Renee over there in the corner. She can tell you what we’re doing.” Way to put me on the spot. Guess I knew why Lena wanted him to be ugly. Sucks for her. Cole made his way toward the desk, in no apparent hurry. Why should he hurry? He probably wasn’t super pumped to begin a fascinating day of math. He plopped into his seat and angled his head towards me. “What do you have to tell me?” I really didn’t feel like explaining what we’d done in math for the past month, so I kept it nice and simple. “We’re going over homework. You want to follow, get out your textbook. If not, do whatever the Hell you want, because it’d probably be more interesting.” I was already foisting my bad habits onto the new kid. Ah, well. Lena, on the other hand, looked pleased. Cole pursed his lips. “I think I’ll go with the second option,” he decided. “Smart choice.” “Then why aren’t you doing it?” he wondered, gesturing towards my opened textbook. Hmm, good point. “Because if I fail one more class I’ll be locked in my room for the rest of my life, and that would be horribly depressing, so to avoid depression I’m actually paying attention to class, slightly.” He paused a second in rummaging through his bag. “For once, someone who actually explains something,” he approved. When his hand emerged from the bag, it held a battered sketchpad. Oh, so he was one of those guys. “You draw?” I asked skeptically. A rather pointless question, seeing as he had a semi-full sketchpad and pencil in hand, but I felt like clarifying. “No, I just decided to bring this sketchpad around because I thought being an artist would really impress the ladies.” He didn’t even raise his head from the drawing. I kept a straight face, trying not to show the fact that I was somewhat giddy on the inside. Finally, someone who could come close to keeping up with me in the one area I dominated. “That’s definitely going to work,” I agreed. Not even trying to be subtle, I leaned over to glimpse his current drawing. It was an old-fashioned well, with a bucket and rope, but the well was completely dry. “See?” Cole’s face had the hint of a smile. “It’s already working. You are so fascinated by my work that you will soon wish you were dating me, because I am just that amazing.” I pushed away, hopping back into my seat. “You wish. Who draws a dried up well? Honestly? If you’re going to draw one, at least let it have water in it.” It came to my attention that I’d missed the first part of the lesson. So much for keeping up that grade. He shrugged. “I find it has more character. If I’m the only one drawing it, then I’m unique. If I draw one with water simply because everyone else does, I’d be conforming.” My gut wrenched. Cole’s words had awoken a memory as easily as the picture. I ran my eyes over Jared’s Cookie Monster T-shirt. Seeing my hesitance, he smirked. “What do you think?” Choosing my words carefully, I replied, “It’s very…interesting. Let’s just say you’ll be the only junior wearing a Cookie Monster T-shirt.” He bobbed his head. “That’s the point. I’d hate to conform.” That was what he always said. “I’d hate to conform.” It was practically his motto. And yet somehow, despite all of his odd quirks, he was still popular. Maybe it came with the looks. Maybe disappearing was another quirk. I lowered my gaze to my math book, lips a thin line. I didn’t really feel like bantering anymore. Cole wasn’t entirely oblivious. “Something wrong? Did I offend you?” Nothing’s wrong. I really, really love math. “No, I’m just…tired.” Wow. That was the very best lie I could come up with. Beyond sad. “Of course you are.” I wasn’t looking at him, but I could feel he was rolling his eyes. It was like a sixth sense. Or a fifth. I’d always thought I was missing one of them. Coming in about eight minutes late, I understood about three percent of what the teacher was saying. But hey, some is better than none, right? A certain someone murmured in my ear, “If you understand more than a word she’s saying, then congratulations and could you relate it to me?” Slacker. “Hate to disappoint, but I can’t claim as much,” I admitted. “Now get back to your pretty little drawing and let me pretend to concentrate.” He shuffled away, but not before a small comment. “At least you realize it’s pretty.” It wasn’t until I returned my focus partially to the teacher that I realized Lena was squinting at me. A lot. I tore off a piece of paper, scribbled, and aimed it. It’s not my fault he got the seat next to me! She made a face upon seeing my note, and sent it back, with extra. It’s your fault for talking to him. Don’t go breaking this on your first day. Uh oh. Someone wasn’t happy. But it wasn’t like she thought. Relax, I’m not talking to him anymore today. I’m actually trying to pay attention. He reaction to this one was what I expected; a snort. But she didn’t leave another one in my lap, so she must’ve been fairly satisfied. Now if only I was, too. Home time was blissfully quiet, since both parents were at work. I stuffed my face with cookies and watched reruns of Medium as a productive way to pass the time—I thanked G-d everyday for my metabolism. The bad guy in the episode just happened to have dark hair and hazel eyes. But I wasn’t thinking of Cole. Nope, not at all. This abstinence thing was working really well. Now I sounded as if I were abstaining from sex. I wish. My parents arriving was my cue to make a beeline for the bedroom. Today, for once, I didn’t need the ice right away, though I knew I would once night came. If I ever heard another old person complain about how much their joints were bothering them, I was going to slap them, honestly. They ain’t got nothing on me. Muse was decided on as the best way to tune out my parents. Cranked up to full volume. Perhaps I’d lose my hearing; that’d be a blessing. The one line of Uprising made me cringe. Our time is running out… It was exactly how I felt about Jared. Whatever could be done, it had to be done soon. Or else… No. I hated “or else”s. We’d do something. I’d do something. I’d get him back by myself if I had to. No matter what it took.
It didn’t take Lena long to pick up on my mildly depressed mood. Her guess was a bit off, though.
“Abstinence starting to get to you?”
This earned us several odd looks as we passed through the halls. “Maybe we should find a different word for that,” I advised. “People are looking at me funny.”
Lena shrugged. “Dear, people are always looking at you funny. This just gives them another reason.”
We’d reached my locker. I spun it savagely, taking out my frustration on a poor, inanimate object. “Whatever. That’s not why I’m upset, anyway.”
She was quiet for a minute. I took it as a sign of comprehension.
“Oh.” Her voice was softer now. “Ren, we’ve been over this—there’s nothing you can do. It’s up to the police and your parents.”
I scoffed. “My parents? Yeah, ‘cause we both know how well they get things done. And the police gave up months ago.”
It took a lot to make Lena awkward, so I suppose I should have felt accomplished. Instead I just felt slightly guilty. “Even if that’s the case, there’s nothing you can do, Ren,“ she told me firmly.
‘Nothing I can do’? I thought she knew me better. “I can look. I can search. I can ask people. Heck, I bet there are freshman at this school who know more about his whereabouts than the police.”
Lena leaned against the locker beside mine. She already had all of her stuff—when she actually chose to get here early, she got here early. “I’m not going to bother arguing with you, Ren. G-d knows how stubborn you can be. It was like pulling teeth just to get you to agree to lay off dating for a while. Just have a little faith, OK?”
A book toppled from my locker as it opened, and I reflexively squatted to avoid it. As I did, I felt small pops in my knees and suddenly I was no longer squatting, I was sitting on my butt, whimpering. Yes, whimpering. As if I didn’t already feel pathetic enough.
Lena knelt down, concerned. “Ren? Are you going to be alright? Should I get the nurse?” At least she didn’t ask if I was alright. Because then I’d have to scream at her.
“No, I’ll manage.” Somehow. I didn’t need to be humiliated anymore than I already had been, and missing more classes wouldn’t be very healthy for my sickly grades.
“You’re too tough for your own good,” Lena informed me, lending a hand to help me up. I took it, straightening my legs agonizingly. It didn’t help that I had to pull myself up with my left hand.
“If I was as tough as you think I am, I wouldn’t have just done a butt plant.” And I wouldn’t be crying in my room at night over Jared. But I didn’t need to share that bit.
Lena didn’t deign that with a response, but I heard a snort, and when I saw where it came from, I scowled.
Leave it to Cole to see my public display. Leave it to him.
“You have something to say?” I inquired brightly.
He forced a poker face. “No, I believe everything’s already been said. See you in math.” And he booked it out of there.
Lena turned to me and raised her brows. No words needed to be said.
“What?” I grumbled. “He snorted at me.”
“Yeah. And you spoke to him.”
I stuck my tongue out at her. Way to seem mature, Renee. “Not speaking to guys was not in the rules. You just said don’t date them. I’m not dating Cole, so get off my back.”
She rubbed her arms as if chilled. “Cold much? Fine, you can talk to him, but if you do anything else, Ren, I swear….” Her glare spoke volumes.
“I won’t!” I hurried to assure her. “Promise.”
Awkward moments may be the life of books and screenplays, but in reality, they suck. Very, very much.
Chad and I had spoken to each other for the first time in months the day before, so the atmosphere between the two of us was…less than comfortable, to say the least.
So I really didn’t expect him to talk to me again.
“Umm…any progress on the, uh, case?” The question between the “umms” and “uhs” made me stiffen. If he was so curious why didn’t he get involved himself?
“No, not really.” Second time in a row I’d said “No” in response to his pretty much pointless questions. Perhaps it would become a trend.
This time, my answer didn’t completely shut him down. “Is there anything I can…do?”
I probably shouldn’t have been that surprised. After all, he’d been Jared’s best friend. But this kid had sat on his skinny ar.se for months, so this was straight out of the blue.
“I don’t know, you tell me,” I answered, a bit sharper than necessary. “What can you squeeze into that terribly tight schedule of yours to help your former best friend?” For once, I didn’t feel bad about my harshness. He deserved it.
Chad at least had the decency to look hurt. “My best friend,” he mumbled. “Not former best friend. I—I’ll tell the police places he liked to hang out.”
I intertwined my fingers, studying them intently. This just got more and more interesting. “It’s appreciated,” I allowed, not bothering to look at him. “Though I doubt it’ll do much.” Always the pessimist.
Chad seemed to be studying me as much as I was my hands, but I didn’t recognize it. “It’s always worth a try.”
Finally, something I agreed with.
People’s memories never cease to amaze me.
In French, we were reviewing the famille, or the family. We had to list each of our family members. When I added “Mon frère”, Madame started.
“You have a brother?” she asked, completely shameless.
Mmhmm, I have a brother. You know, that boy who lived with me the past fifteen and a half years of my life.
“Yes I do, Madame.”
She fidgeted with her pointer. “Oh. Well…Jeremy, how about you?”
The kid next to me—the junior I’d been considering, in fact—took his turn, and all the while I just marveled at how sieve-like some people’s minds seemed to be.
She could’ve just wanted to forget the closest thing to a scandal our small town’s ever had.
But what depresses me is that she succeeded.
Cole was already in his seat when I arrived. Drawing again.
I tried to see what it was without being too obvious. Clearly I failed, because he turned to me and hoisted the sketchpad up so I could see it easily. “You obviously want to see my newest ‘pretty’ drawing, so there you go.”
I barely resisted sticking my tongue out for the second time that day. Still, I was too curious to decline.
This one was a flat, sloping plain. The sun had barely risen, and the only thing to adorn the flat, lifeless fields was a lone tree, devoid of leaves. It was all shaded very darkly.
“This is quite cheery. Making it for Mother’s Day? You’re a little early.”
He lowered the pad indifferently. “Who would draw a cheery sketch in math class?” he pointed out. “There would be no inspiration.”
I couldn’t argue with that.
Lena arrived late—she must’ve been using up all of her on-timeness for the beginning of school. When she saw the two of us leaning towards one another, her eyes spoke volumes. I popped back into my seat and sat there primly. Lena’s eyes were suspicious, Cole’s amused and questioning.
“It’s nothing,” I muttered out of the side of my mouth. He evidently disagreed, but didn’t press the matter.
Class went a bit faster than History, which wasn’t exactly the greatest comparison, but it was something. The bell eventually rang, signaling my freedom. I was about to head out with Lena when Cole’s voice stopped me.
“Could you wait up for a second?”
I could wait up for a second, but I’d grant him more.
“Sure.” Thankfully, Lena was already out the door.
He packed his stuff in a business-like manner. I stood for a few moments, bouncing on the balls of my feet, before asking impatiently, “Was there a reason you wanted me to stay?”
Cole stopped sorting his books to look at me with what was almost a sheepish expression. “Sorry. I wanted to ask what the problem was earlier today?”
I clenched my fist almost unconsciously. “You seemed so concerned when we talked.”
He flashed me a grin. “I show concern in my own special way. But really, what was the matter?”
I debated whether or not to tell him, and decided it couldn’t hurt. “I have Osgood-Schlotters. It’s a knee condition common in runners, it’s why I’ve got it. It’s really bad in both knees and is most often the reason that I land on my butt. I also have elbow tendonitis that hurts when I straighten it or pull on it. That’s the matter.”
Cole looked almost sympathetic. “That must really stink. I’m assuming you don’t do running anymore?”
What was with the curiosity? I looked at the clock and grimaced. Whatever was with it, it was going to make me late. “Nope. Now, if you’ll excuse me, if I don’t go now, I’m going to be late.”
His eyes danced. “You actually care?”
“Yes I do,” I retorted, aloof and proper. Then I stalked out of the room.
I still didn’t get to class on time.
I crumbled the small yellow slip in my hand. If I got one more, my parents would murder me. That was hardly an exaggeration.
Then again, Lena might beat them to it.
When I caught up to her, she was practically steaming. I’d gotten a telling off deserving of a nanny, and had been forced to swear, on oath, that I would never, ever do that again.
By saying “that”, I thought I bypassed my oath quite nicely.
All of the shows on were cr.ap, and without running I had no life, so I had a few options.
1. Listen to Muse.
2. Obsess over Jared.
3. Obsess over Cole.
Since obsessing over Jared always made me depressed, I chose 1 and 3. Of course, I was supposed to be avoiding all of the boy fantasies, but as long as they remained fantasies, it was alright, in my book.
I think I'm drowning
I wanna break this spell that you created
Really positive lyrics, definitely gave me a morale boost. But they did succeed in making me feel slightly less pathetic.
My dreams were filled with barren plains and haunted wells, bleeding into one another.
I blamed it all on Cole.