The R Word
Author's note: I wrote this book a little of a year ago in my spare time. It was just for fun and I started... Show full author's note »
Bad Move William FoleyNothing. There was nothing. Beth sighed loudly, remembering her complete failure Friday night. She was sure that she’d find something, but Anthony’s room was squeaky clean, not a hair out of place. Beth began to think it was too perfect and unsuspicious, but she decided not to go there. Maybe Anthony was just acting weird because he was a crazy teenage boy, maybe he didn’t know anything.
Beth stared at her bag that was lying on the bench beside her. She’d been fighting with herself for the past few days, whether or not she should search Aaron’s phone for information. She didn’t know what she expected to find, maybe where he was, what really happened with Austin, something.
The halls were fairly empty, everyone out getting lunch or hanging out in the main building for seventh period off. Star and Olivia had invited her to go get coffee since it was so freaking cold and snowy outside, but she’d lied and said she had to go in for Mr. Fredrick. All she needed was a little time alone to clear her head, was that so wrong?
Beth looked around her one, the hallway completely abandoned. She snatched her bag off of the bench and dug around the bottom, pushing lip gloss, a mini mirror, a pen, headphones, her cell phone, and bobby pins out of the way. Finally she found Aaron’s phone.
Beth held the screen inches from her face as she chewed on the inside of her cheek.
Pushing the enter key, the screen glowed to life. Beth scrolled through Aaron’s text messages first, and then his notes and pictures, but she wasn’t finding anything.
Frustrated, Beth went back and started looking through the text messages again, and then listened to his voice recording. She jumped at the sound of another voice close by.
“You won’t find what you’re looking for.”
Startled, she turned to see Will Foley standing before her. She raised her eye brows and swallowed.
“In there,” Will nodded towards the phone that Beth had now hidden behind her back. “You won’t find what you’re looking for.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Beth snorted, grabbed her bag, and rose to her feet. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to be somewhere.”
“You know exactly what I’m talking about Beth.” Will stopped her. “I know all about Austin and Aaron and your pathetic attempts at investigating.”
Beth turned, her forehead creasing. How did he know? What did he know? “What are you talking about?” She demanded.
“Oh stop playing dumb. Even you aren’t that stupid. I know that you know exactly what I’m talking about. And since we both know exactly what’s going on here, then let’s skip just skip the lies, okay? Plain and simple, you need me.” Will shrugged, a smug expression painted across his face. He looks as if he were about to start a race that he was positive he was going to win. Like he was racing cars with a guy whose car he’d taken the engine out of just minutes before the race.
“You’re insane.” Beth laughed uncomfortably and took a defensive step backwards.
“Am I insane? Or do I know where you can find what you’re looking for?” Will laughed once.
“What do you know?” Beth demanded.
“Oh no, no, no, it doesn’t work like that. I’ll be happy to tell you everything I know, after you do something for me.” Will told her, clearly enjoying himself.
“What do you want?” Beth groaned, crossing her arms.
“You know exactly what I want.” Will assured her.
“Platform heels so you can finally ride the bumper cars?” Beth snorted.
“Ha, ha.” Will rolled his eyes. “No. I want you.” He shrugged casually.
“Wait, what?” Beth laughed, looking around her one more time.
Will’s eyes sparkled as he bit his lower lip and raised his eye brows smugly. If he wasn’t such a loser jackass, Beth may have actually found him attractive. “You. My terms are you date me, you get your information. Do we have a deal?”
“You’re joking right?” Beth demanded.
Will just scrunched his nose and shook his head.
“I can’t date you. You’re a sophomore for Christ’s sake!” Beth half laughed, beginning to feel very nervous.
“Your loss.” Will shrugged dramatically and turned to walk away.
Beth chewed on her lower lip, her insides burning. “Will!” She called, choking on her own voice.
Will turned, a huge grin on his face. “Yes?” He batted his eyelashes.
“I’ll do it.” Beth shrugged helplessly. What other choice did she have? How else was she supposed to find out what happened to Aaron and Austin? Isn’t there a term used for situations like this? What is it that people call it? Blackmail, maybe? “But you should know,” Beth added quickly, “That I’m not doing it because I like you or find you attractive in any way, shape, or form.”
Will shrugged, grinning smugly. His cheeks were flushed a light pink and his eyes glowed with excitement. He reminded Beth of a little six year old boy she had seen in the candy store about three years ago. He had walked around the entire store, picking up every kind of candy imaginable, his eyes glowing just like Will’s…that was until the store clerk informed him that the total was fifty big ones, and the little kid only had five bucks. “Works for me.”
Beth rolled her eyes and her stomach seemed to clench into a tense knot. She, Beth Taylor was going to date a sophomore just to dig into the past…and he was an obsessive, freakish stalker sophomore no less. This was going to murder her reputation.
Beth stopped her train of thought short, mentally flinching at the word murder. That was going to take some getting used to, thinking of Austin as a murder victim, rather than a suicide victim. She’d always thought that it wasn’t suicide, but the idea of murder had never fully sunken in before. Beth shook off the thought and squared her shoulders as if she were in the presence of a bear, trying to make herself look bigger.
Although all this time she’d known that Austin was dead, just not exactly how that came to be, thinking about made her heart feel heavy and sink all over again. Her throat felt tight, like her airways were closing their doors and locking up. Beth licked her lips and realized she was being stupid, dwelling on something that happened over a year ago. Hadn’t she already felt miserable about this for long enough? Does she really want to start all over again?
Will stared at her expectantly, waiting for her to say something. She realized she must have just been standing there, staring off into space, looking like a complete moron. Not like she cared what Will thought of her, if he decided she was a freak after all then maybe he wouldn’t make her go through with the whole fake dating thing. Beth opened her mouth to speak and then closed it again. Swallowing hard she racked her brain for something to say, everything suddenly going blank. It was as if just thinking of Austin had turned her brain to mush.
“Okay, then.” Beth nodded weakly, anger burning in the pit of her stomach. Did Will even know how incredibly selfish and inconvenient he was being? Beth so didn’t need the extra stress right now. “Now that I’ve agreed to be your first girlfriend,” Beth said in a shrill, sarcastic voice, grinning and batting her eye lashes. “Tell me everything you know, now.”
“Please,” Will rolled his eyes as if Beth had just said the most unintelligent statement in the world. “I’m not going to tell you everything. Not right now anyways.”
“Why not?” Beth demanded, swinging her back over onto her other shoulder.
“I’m not stupid Beth. The minute I tell you what you want to know, you’ll dump me and forget about your side of the bargain.”
“So then tell me one thing per thing I do for you.” Beth offered. “I hold your hand, you tell me something. I tell someone we’re dating, you tell me something. I change my facebook relationship status, you tell me something. I let you kiss me on the cheek, and only on the cheek, in public, and you tell me something. Get it?” Beth rose her eye brows, speaking as if she were teaching Algebra to first graders.
Will bit down on his lip, considering. Beth wished he would think a little faster, standing here in silence, waiting was driving her insane. Beth’s mother had always made fun of her because she’d never had much patience. All of the time she rants off on old stories of when Beth had just stormed out of the grocery store when she was six because her parents were taking too long. Or when flipped the waiter off in Red Robin when she was nine because he’d forgotten her ketchup, and then took ten minutes to bring it to her. But her mother’s favorite story was when they were waiting in line for the ladies’ restroom in the Platinum Mall, Beth had gotten so fed up with the long line that she’d just barged into the men’s room. She was only seven years old at the time, but there was a little boy washing his hands who screamed at the top of his lungs when he saw Beth storm through the door. From how high pitched and dramatic the scream had sounded, you’d have thought the little boy was being brutally murdered; but he was just still afraid of cooties. Somehow her mother managed to tell almost everyone who ever came over to diner or to a party. In fact, Beth couldn’t name one person who her mother hadn’t told.
“Fine.” Will agreed, snapping Beth out of her flashbacks.
“Then you owe me one, right now.” Beth instructed, cocking one eye brow expectantly, as if Will owed her some huge debt.
“For what?” He demanded.
“For agreeing to be your girlfriend. Now quit with the staling and spill.” Beth snapped as she flipped her hair over the fronts of her shoulders. She readjusted her necklace and wondered if Will actually knew anything, or if this was all just some kind of game to him.
“Fine.” Will agreed reluctantly. “Uh, let’s see...okay, so I don’t know what you read in Austin’s journal—”
Beth cut him off. “How did you know about that?’
“Would you just let me finish? Do you want to know or not?” He snapped rudely.
Beth waved her hand in front of her, as if to motion for him to go on.
“Austin and Aaron weren’t enemies.” Will told her simply, as if they were discussing what color of shoe laces he should buy next time he goes to the store.
Beth squinted her eyes. “But I thought Aaron like tortured Austin—”
Will cut her off. “Yeah, Aaron pulled pranks on Austin, Austin pulled pranks on Aaron, blah, blah, blah. But that day before Kristen Dollsworth’s party, they made a truce. They were planning pranks together, they were like a team or something. I guess they came up with some kind of understanding or something. But basically what I’m saying is, Austin and Aaron weren’t fighting or pissed at each other or anything the day before Austin died.”
“So you’re telling me Aaron didn’t kill Austin?” Beth asked slowly.
“I’m not saying that all.” Will shrugged and laughed once. “I’m just telling you that they weren’t as big of enemies as you probably think they are. I mean they’re guys after all. Guys aren’t like girls. They don’t have lifelong rivalries because one of them dating the boy that the other likes.” Will laughed once to himself, obviously off somewhere else, thinking about something that Beth didn’t even what to know about.
“Do you know who killed Austin?” Beth asked, barely louder than a whisper. Her voice cracked, and she could feel her heart gaining weight with every second.
“One piece of information at a time.” Will batted his eye lashes, looking as evil and manipulative as anyone Beth had seen in her entire life.
Beth looked around her once. No one else was around.
She swallowed the vial taste in her mouth, a nauseating feeling forming in her stomach at the thought of what she was going to have to do. She knew what had to be done in order to get some answers. Her head throbbed and every nerve in her body screamed for her to just slap that jackass and walk away; but she couldn’t do that, not while she still needed him. Beth swallowed back her disgust and took a step closer to Will.
Will’s forehead creased and Beth saw what looked like a flicker of fear in his eyes. She raised her eye brows and grabbed onto the neck of his shirt. She pulled his mouth to hers, trying not to let her distaste show too much. Of course Will would take advantage of it, so he grabbed either side of her face and held her securely there. He wrapped his mouth around hers and Beth was surprised by how not completely awful it was. As much as she wanted to punch Will in the face right then and there, he wasn’t the worst kisser. His lips were soft and warm, and kind of reminded her Valentine’s Day in some way. The way all of the hearts, valentines, romantic notes, candy grams, presents, and overall romantic feeling just makes you feel warm and blissed out. Beth flinched away from the thought. The first thing that always popped into her head when she thought of Valentine’s Day was love, and she sure as hell didn’t love Will.
Beth pulled away, slightly breathless. Will was breathing heavily as well. “Okay, tell me. Do you know who killed Austin? Who was it?” Beth demanded.
“And we were having such a nice time.” Will rolled his eyes.
“Tell me.” Beth pushed.
“Okay, yes, I do know who killed your brother. But it’s going to take a lot more than a kiss for me to spill something that major.”
Beth caught her breath, taking a step back. So everything that everyone had held to be true since that horrible, dark night, was all a lie? Every piece of comfort and understand had been faulty? Everything was just a huge, intricately woven lie? Austin really hadn’t committed suicide. But confirming this statement didn’t bring any joy or relief to Beth as she’d hoped it would.
Beth suddenly felt angry, and helpless, and terrified, and protective, and confused, and determined all at the same time. Some had murdered her brother. That was even worse than him committing suicide.
“If you know then why didn’t you tell the police?” Beth squeaked.
“It’s not complicated!” Beth could feel tears swelling in her eyes. She clenched her teeth tightly so they wouldn’t spill over. She didn’t want to cry in front of Will. She couldn’t show any weakness in front of him. “Someone killed my baby brother point blank. What is so complicated with speaking the truth? Don’t you think all of his friends, his family deserve to know the truth? Deserve to get some justice? Don’t you think the person who killed him deserves to rot in hell? Or at least jail?” Beth demanded in a rush, like waves crashing against the shore.
“I won’t tell you who killed him, I just can’t, not yet. But I will tell you that you’re little boyfriend didn’t. So I guess you made him run off for nothing.”
Beth stumbled back a step in surprise. It felt like the time she’d fallen off the monkey bars in the local playground when she was seven. She’d landed directly on her back, knocking the wind out of her. She’d laid still for two minutes, gasping for air, tears stinging her eyes. Beth coughed, trying to bring air back to her lungs as she took another step back.
“If you know then you have to tell me.” Beth demanded hoarsely. Her voice cracked and was barely audible. It sounded as if she’d just been crying for hours or hadn’t spoken for weeks.
Will shrugged as if they were talking about the weather.
“Oh come on Will, even you aren’t that cruel.” Beth added, barely louder than a whisper. She couldn’t even hear her own voice, she wondered if Will would understand her. Her eyes stung as tears began to form. “You have to tell me.”
“If I tell you then you’ll just drop your side of the deal. No way.” Will argued.
“This isn’t about a fucking high school relationship!” Beth shrieked loudly. She didn’t even bother looking around to see if any adults that would bust her heard her. She swallowed and lowered her voice. “This is about a murder. You have to tell me, I’ll do anything.” Beth pleaded.
And then it hit her.
He. Didn’t. Know.
He was just playing her! “What the hell!” Beth shrieked and pushed Will as hard as she could in the chest. Will obviously wasn’t anticipating this, and fell over onto his back. He caught himself before his head had smashed into the floor. He looked up with wide, shocked, and confused looking eyes. He scooted back a little.
“What the hell to you too!” He rose back to his feet and brushed himself off. “What was that for?”
“You jackass!” Beth shrieked and shoved him again.
This time he wasn’t taken by such surprise. He stumbled backwards two steps and then steadied himself. Beth took two steps forward too, keeping herself just inches from Will.
Her nostrils flared and a million flags went off in her head. A million different emotions flooded through her veins at exactly the same moment and Beth was amazed that she was able to hold so much at one time.
Will didn’t know anything. He was taking advantage of her when she was desperate and vulnerable. Was he really that low? Was he really that manipulative, evil, and cruel? When she thought of it, maybe he was. After all, how much did she really know about the guy?
“Back up a step.” Will held his palms up in surrender, sensing that Beth was going to hit him again. “Why are you suddenly so pissed?”
“Because you are the biggest asshole I’ve ever met in my entire life! And trust me, if I could, I’d kill you right here and right now.” Beth growled and slapped his right cheek.
Will rubbed his cheek with his hand, a red mark appearing over his pale complexion. “Never speak to me again. Never look at me again, and stay the hell away from me.” Beth said through her teeth, looking at him once more with a disgusted expression painted across her face, and turned abruptly. She stormed away quickly, her breath coming in short and shallow.
Even though she was completely vulnerable and desperate right now, she was still Beth freaking Taylor. And no one messed with Beth Taylor. No one tried to fool Beth Taylor. No one, under any circumstances, got away with anything of the sort. Will Foley had no idea what he’d just gotten himself into.
Beth stormed back to her car and threw her bag in the back seat. She needed to get out of there before she sprinted back to Will and did something she’d regret later. Beth wasn’t known for controlling her anger well.