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The bell announcing the end of lunch break rang, and I saw red. I saw it in Kate Flynn’s poorly chosen shirt; I saw it in the pieces of broken glass on the floor, and also on my knuckles. I had her blood on my knuckles. Ew.
She was whining about the blood oozing from her nose, her eyes radiating hate. “You,red-headed freak! You should be in a mental institution!”
A lot of people should, but they weren’t. Were we going to start arguing about that?
I bent to pick up Emma’s framed picture. It featured her in all her glory, after her boyfriend had won the championship for the Trojans two and a half years ago. My eyelids wanted to drop down, like the curtains in a stage, but I knew that if they did, the waterfall would start. So I raised my chin, looking at her; at Jesse, who was trying to get her to accept some torn pieces of paper so she could wipe the blood under her nose; at the bystanders, who were risking arriving late to class for the sake of the newest gossip. I dared them to try to hurt me now.
Things moved pretty fast after that. There were teachers, and booing, and a short trip to the principal’s office.
“Mackenzie, did you hear what I just said?” Principal Cash’s palm hit the desk several times to bring me out of my trance.
I dragged my gaze away from the window behind him.
His eye twitched. I swear I could’ve laughed but that wouldn’t have given me good odds against who knew how many detentions I had already stacked. Instead, I sat straighter. Detentions were nothing out of the ordinary. What really was worrying me is who I was going to go with the next day to Homecoming.
“It’s very serious, what you did; are you aware of that?”
“Do you have anything to say about it?”
“Are you sure? This… file shows me this isn’t the first time something like this happened,” he said as he flipped through a green folder with a significant number of pages, and with a sharp look, he closed it. Aha, let’s get down to business.
“Detention: Three times a week, for two weeks.”
I nodded, and picked my backpack from the floor, getting up. “Thanks, principal.”
“And you’re suspended from extracurricular activities.”
I paused in front of the door.
“I can’t play volleyball? You can’t take me out of the team. I’m the captain!”
He sighed, leaning back. “I’ve already solved that with the coach. Miss Flynn will work as a replacement for the remaining of this semester.”
“Are you serious? As in Kate Flynn, the girl who can’t even duck when someone is clearly going to deliver a hook and she doesn’t even try to move. You want those sorts of reflexes in a captain?”
“She did deserve a compensation for having you physically attacking her.”
“Oh, come on!” I shook my head, turning the doorknob and stepping out into the hallway.
With gritted teeth, I noticed smoke coming from where I was holding my backpack. My hand was burning it. I quickly stormed towards the girls’ restroom, at the end of the hallway and turned on the water. Steam rose from them.
Since as long as I could remember, I’d been working on this, making my way up the ranks until the year before, when I got the captain position, finally. Now it was being stripped away from me. I wouldn’t have the chance to draw attention from college people and get a scholarship. Because I gave someone what they deserved.
The world was so f*ed up.
The worst thing was that little b… –that girl wasn’t going to receive any kind of punishment. Jesse would bare that weight instead. He’d been the one who smashed the trophy shelves.
When I had calmed down and I was sure I wouldn’t burn anything, I slowly shouldered my backpack once more, and headed to class.
No one was supposed to be out without their hall pass, or better yet, no one was supposed to be out of class at all, except for bathroom emergencies. The guy who was cramming an impressive amount of raw meat into a locker hadn’t gotten the memo.
It was becoming kind of a trend, doing these ‘pranks’. No one had tried this on me yet. They were mostly aimed at freshmen and, those who pissed off the wrong kind of people.
The guy hadn’t seen me yet, and I planned for it to stay that way. A smart person picks her fights. A smart person never should pick fights that aren’t hers to fight.
I turned around. I could use the other set of stairs.
In my haste to do exactly that, I bumped into another guy heading in the opposite direction.
“Sorry,” I mumbled, sidestepping him to resume my walk. That’s when I remembered. This could be my chance. I turned. “Hey!”
The guy stopped walking. “Hmmm?” He didn’t bother taking off his sunglasses. This was when I noticed he was wearing them. It struck me as odd. Bonaire wasn’t a very sunny place. In fact, I could count with my fingers the times I’d seen a sunny day this month.
This had to be the new guy. For a new arrival, he was… well, hot. His body was, a least, because his face I couldn’t figure out if he didn’t take those shades off.
“Do you have a date for tomorrow?”
His body angled towards my direction. “No…”
“Do you want to be my date? I’ll buy you a cheeseburger.”
There was a moment of silence and then he laughed. I hoped my face remained stoic. I wasn’t sure if he was laughing at me, or at the situation, or maybe he was deranged.
“Make it two cheeseburgers. Should I… pick you up or-?”
“I’ll text you my address.” One less problem to worry about.
I was about to continue on my merry way when he called, “Text? How?”
“You’re the new guy! I’ll get your number.”
“You’ve got to tell me everything!” Taylor whispered as soon as my butt touched my seat.
When Mr. Keller wasn’t looking, I leaned my chair back a bit. “I haven’t been expelled, but Kate’s parents aren’t happy.”
“Go figure. I thought you were fine when I left; that the picture hadn’t bothered you. Did she sa–”
I straightened, locking my hands on the desk in front of me, and I could almost see Taylor doing the same thing. Just thinking about what Kate had said earlier at lunch, and what she’d caused by angering me, got my blood boiling again.
Very soon, I settled into my default position when in class, one arm folded over the desk, the other supporting my face, which was angled away from the front just enough to pretend I was listening, but hiding my features enough for me to sleep. It was almost too easy.
My eyes eventually wandered to the mark on the inside of my left wrist, though, taking in the slightly raised skin. I traced the lines with my gaze, three vertical lines with two crossed out by a horizontal one. Grace didn’t like it when I asked about it. I refused to believe that she or Reed, my dad, had done it. That’d be just sick. It hadn’t been the accident, either. Fire can’t harm me. I only wish I’d known that then.
I wondered what did it mean.
I wondered if it had anything to do with my not so normal abilities.
I told myself those were pretty legit things to wonder about while I gazed out the window. Blurred grey clouds blocked the sun. It already smelled like rain, and maybe lightning too.
“Blaze, Blaze, the class is over.”
I nodded, and then stood to pick up my backpack from the ground, which carried nothing but a single textbook.
“You are going to Homecoming, aren’t you?” Taylor had no trouble catching up with me.
“Yes, I’m allowed to go, so I’ll go.” I nudged her. “I agreed to the awkward double date thing, remember? And now I’ve got mind. And nuh-uh,” I waggled my finger at her. “I’m not telling you who he is yet. It’s a surprise.” Actually, I’d forgotten to ask for the guy’s name.
She beamed at me, but then sobered. “You should really stop doing that.”
“Hmmm… doing what?”
She gave me a blank look. “You know what. Going all ape on people just because –And no, I’m not siding with Kate. It’s just that you should tone it down. Are you sure those krav maga lessons are helping?”
“The lessons are fine, but I can’t help being angry, okay? I can’t… It’s… I’m angry all the time. They detonate me.” My hands tried to demonstrate how I felt, but they fell limp at my sides, unable to.
“Is it Jesse?”
I hooked my fingers on my backpack straps and turned my face to cough. “No, not at all; I’m totally over him.”
“Huh… Then is it about Emma?” She looked at me and swore. “It is about her.”
Once, when I was first learning how to swim, a boy pushed me into the pool while I was sitting on the edge. I understood the basics, but I’d panicked, and my lungs quickly filled with water. I was drowning.
That’s how I felt every time someone brought up Emma. My reactions varied. For Kate… Well, she got me on a bad day.
“It’s always about her.”