Shift by Pili Yarusi – Chapter 10 – Attack

Chapter 10 – Attack

Oh my god.

“Alison!” I shout from inside my bathroom. I peek at the girl in the mirror. The dress was simple enough with spaghetti straps that could easily be covered with a hoody. The material was a smooth golden silk that clung to my body and shimmered with the slightest movement. The dress was beautiful. There was no way I could wear this.

“Jen! Alison!”

I jump back just in time to miss the door flying open into my face.

“What’s wrong?!” Alison kicks open my bathroom door wearing my two sizes too big purple bathrobe and wielding a mascara ward. I snort back a laugh. I guess she’s trying to make sure I don’t spill make up all over her when it’s my turn. A bit of electric pink taffeta pokes out. One of her worried eyes seriously smudged.

“You okay?” Jen towers over the slight figure of Alison. She pushes a couple of curlers off her forehead. Her eyes light up. ‘Wow, you look amazing!”

“What is this?” I looked down at the dress.

“Your legs?” Alison snorts trying to keep the laughter in. “Seriously, Julia. You have an amazing body. It’s about time you showed it off.”

“Yeah! Be proud of it!” Jen pulls me out of the bathroom.

“It’s so short!” I pull at the edge of the dress, fruitlessly. “I feel so naked.”

“Stop or you’ll rip the material.” Alison pushes me down and I fall into my desk chair with a plop.

“I can’t believe you don’t have a proper vanity.” Jen scolds. Her strapless forest green dress sparkled matching perfectly with her hazel eyes. Her foot taps. “Sweetie, where is your makeup?”

“I don’t have any.”

“Okaaay. We will definitely need to remedy that later. You can use anything you need from my box”. The box she spoke of was a monstrosity that took up most of my desk. I look in. It was filled with so many little pots of different colors. My head spins. I had no idea what to do with makeup. What was I supposed to do with all this stuff? I pick up the closest tube for inspection.

“Unless you’re into a gothic look, I wouldn’t recommend that.” I feel hands on my shoulders. “Would you like me to do your makeup?“ Alison reemerged from the bathroom, mascara and eyeliner fixed into a smoky cloud around both of her startling grey eyes.

“No, it’s okay. I’ll just use a little bit of, um, this.” I grabbed another tube of something.

Jen laughs, “That’s eyelash primer, babe.” She takes the tube out of my hands. “Trust me. You want Alison to do your makeup.”

“Okay. Not too much though… I don’t wear…”

“Oh shush.” Alison spins me around and takes a good look at my face.

She puts her hand under my chin. “First things first. Jen.”

“Yes, boss.”

“Tie her hair back.”

Wait. This was not part of the deal. “No…”

“Julia.” Alison’s small hand lifts my chin. Her big grey eyes search mine. “Stop hiding, Julia. Stop looking down. I don’t know why you hide your beautiful eyes.”

I shrugged. I’d always hide my eyes. They get me in trouble. I tell her that.

“Well, babe, we’re gonna get into a little bit of trouble tonight!” Jen does a little booty shake.

Alison wields a metallic pinching object in her pink tipped nails. “So … you wanna do this?”

***

“So when did you start going out with animals?”

My breath catches. I look at the golden boy who appeared out of the gyrating throng of craziness that was on the dance floor. He is wearing a light golden colored sweater and blue jeans. Even dressed down he looks amazing. He takes a simple black mask off his face. Not that he needed to. I would have recognized him anywhere. My mouth pops open. At first I can’t think of anything to say. This is the first Nicolas has talked to me directly in ages. Finally, with some dignity, I manage, “You’re talking to me again … I’m so honored.”

I see Laurie snake over in our direction. Her tight red tube dress hugs her body like second skin. I know there is nothing she can do to me here, but her icy black stare made my knees want to cave in. “Speaking of animals, looks like your girlfriend is angry. I’d better run along before she decides to bite me.” I spat at him.

Not looking back … I walk away and into the crowd of dancers. The tears want to flow. I swallow them. I don’t want Alison’s masterpiece to go to waste. Jennifer tamed my hair into a low ponytail, Alison got to work. After a half hour of brush strokes and face pinching she let me view her work. The girl in the mirror looked like me and yet I couldn’t recognize my dewy golden tinged skin. Alison had used just enough makeup to highlight my eyes. My eyes. In the mirror my eyes changed to a golden rimmed, blue-violet.

My mind was rambling. After two months Nicolas decides to talk to me. After two months. No apologies. No smiles. I guess he took the bait. Rich said he’d be angry if I went with him. Prick. No one notices me in the thrashing gyrating mess of bodies. I thrash and spin with the surging crowd. I see a pair of crystal blue eyes watching me. I close me eyes. Not here, not now. I felt what little control I had return to me. It wasn’t fair. He has no right to be angry.

I let the loud pounding vibrations wash over me. I let it fill the empty crater in my heart … even if it was merely a temporary fix … it works. The school didn’t allow Halloween costumes. They said it was a security risk but students could don masks as long as it covered no more than half the face. Alison forbade me to wear mine. “No hiding,” she said.

The techno beat of the music drives me deeper into the crowd. Alison and Caleb join me in the frenzy, their infectious laughter and bouncing making me drown out my insecurities. Against my own will I find myself bouncing along with them. And after what feels like the first time ever, I feel like I don’t have to hide. I could be me without apology.

Alison grabs my hands and we bounce and sway to the music. It feels so amazing to just let go. I’m so exuberant, I almost miss Alison’s eyes bulge. I was about to ask her what was wrong but then I smash backwards into it. ‘It’ grabs my waist and starts gyrating behind me. I jump forward and spin around.

Rich.

“Hey, Julia,” Rich slobbers. He smells strange, sort of … ripe. Animalistic. His hands grope like a bear trying to catch his prey. I was the prey.

“Whoa… Slow down big guy. You can join us.” I shout over the loud music and try for compromise.

“Aw … Julia … come on, dance with me!” I look over his shoulder. Blue eyes stare at me from within the crowd. I smile as the song turned soft, sweet almost. A slow dance.

“Sure, Rich. Let’s dance.”

Rich’s’ eyes widen with surprise right before he lifts me up and spins me. Against my will, I laugh. He sets me down and holds my waist against him a little too close for my liking. But he does it gently so I give in and place my hands on his shoulders. I wasn’t sure how this was supposed to be done. It was my first slow dance. I let Rich know that.

He smiles sweetly. “Oh no…” he smirks, “I think we’ve done it.”

I look up at him as he spin me back around and leans his chin on my head. “I think we’ve made Laurie and her boy consort angry…” I peek through the crowds. Those steely blue eyes weren’t looking at me anymore. They are transfixed on Laurie. Laurie looks like she was screaming at him. But him… nothing. He just looks at her and shakes his head. He looks away and into my eyes … almost. I turn my head away too fast and my lips brush Rich’s neck.

Oops … crap. “Um … sorry.”

I see Rich’s neck turn red. He’s blushing! He doesn’t say anything. Rich isn’t a horrible guy, once you got past his initial rudeness. He might even make a good friend. That was it, though. He would only ever be a friend.

Just as the song ends he asks, “So what are you doing after the dance? My parents have a place on Staten… Shit…” Rich almost topples into me as someone barrels into his back. “You ok?”

“Gross dude.” A rumbling voice interrupts Rich. Sam looks down at me like I’m just dirt. What was wrong with this guy? Rich tucks me behind his back. “Awww… so valiant, Rich. Let’s play hero so you can get some later. Guess you need a piece of something after getting dumped by Laurie.” Sam smirks in Rich’s face.

“Get a life, asshole.” Rich steers me back towards the tables. “Go back to gettin sloppy seconds from Laurie.” Sam steps towards us.

“Hey, you guys!” Jennifer comes skipping over with Caleb in tow. THANK YOU ALISON!!! “We’re going to get some food … you wanna come?”

“Yes!” I stammer, tugging on Rich’s sleeve. “Come on, he’s not worth it.” I didn’t know what Sam’s problem was with me but this was not the time or place to find out.

“Yeah sure.” I grab his hand and we snake through the crowd over to the buffet. I grab some salad and barbecue chicken. I look at the three kids around me. Rich has piled his plate with every meat product available. It was a mound of protein. I guess that’s how he kept up his physique. What surprises me though is Jen and Caleb. They both had the steak guy slice off two thick pieces.

“Hey, aren’t you guys afraid of clogging an artery?” I laugh. They all look at one another.

“It’s a special diet.” Jen and Caleb said at the same time. They chuckle. I smile, forgetting my misgivings about their weird diet. I look for our table. Alison is already eating at there with her date. At least Alison seems to approve of Rich more now that she’d hung out with him a bit.

When we get to the table, Alison jumps up, nervous. Wow. Totally unlike her. She must really like this guy. “Hi guys! This is Keith. He was a little late because of a project he’s working on at the College.” He shakes everyone’s hand except mine, noting my bracelets.

“Is that silver?” He inquires politely.

“Um… yes. But I’ve asked the School and they said I have special permission because they are family heirlooms.” I was telling a half-truth. I did have some sort of weird exemption but the truth was, I couldn’t take them off.  I tried. They were stuck and I would have to cut them off.

Keith looks at me keenly, noting maybe that I wasn’t being totally honest. He tips his head in acknowledgement and sits. Alison smiles uncertainly and as if reading my mind, shakes her head ever so slightly.

Damn her. I was going to ask what Keith knew about silver.

After dinner, the music starts back up again. I excuse myself to use the restroom.

“I’ll escort you.” Rich pats his flat stomach. I don’t know how he’d just eaten an entire farmhouse and still managed to have a wash board stomach.

“Nah.” I didn’t want to be alone with him again. “I’ll be really quick. Just need to freshen up.”

Rich shrugs, “I’m gonna grab some water then… anyone need anything?”

I walk quickly away. Our table was fairly close to the restroom, just past a few tables. The boy I beat in the long jump from Gym waves at me. I wave back. It was such a change from a few weeks ago. My classmates actually treated me nicely. The bathroom is just around the corner now…

My world stops.

There, on the far end of the hallway that leads to the restrooms, are two bodies intertwined. I couldn’t see their faces because they were kissing, the type of kissing that you only see in movies. I could hear the breathlessness of it. I didn’t want to see, though. Everything went blurry and for the first time since the gym incident I feel a massive migraine begin. I could still see color through the  pain. I saw the red of her dress melt with the gold of his sweater.

I would hurt them both. Everything went into sharp reality. My bracelets burned my wrists as I felt my hands form into claws. I take a step forward. A large hand holds my shoulder and I hear a deep voice shout out.

“Hey! Why don’t you two get a ROOM!”

I fall back against the wall. The boy in gold looks up in surprise, his hair flies briefly out of his face. He looks at me, confused. Then slowly he looks back at the red snake. His face contorts and he steps back. The snake pulls forward. That’s all I saw because at that point I fall into a pair of strong arms.

“Rich … can you take me home?”

***

I am so lost in my thoughts about the golden boy that prowls through my head that I when I look out the window of Rich’s Cadillac CTS, I am stumped. If the Hudson River is on my right, that means we are going south. Much farther south than my building in Chelsea.

I hesitate, not wanting to ask, knowing I wouldn’t like what I’d hear, “Ah… Rich, you’ve passed my building. I live in Chelsea”

He looks at me and grins. There were more teeth there then I’d noticed before. I grip the passenger door in effort to get as far away from him as possible in the confines his car’s cab.

“Hmm?” His beady brown eyes scrunch in mock amazement. “Really, I could have sworn I mentioned that I was going to take you to my parent’s place. It’s on the water. Really nice and secluded.” His smile get wider, “Were almost to the ferry.”

“Were going to Staten Island?” My stomach lodges itself in my esophagus and the little danger guide in my head is screaming. This is not good. This is not good. This is not good. This is really, really bad.

“Yup! Didn’t I mention that to you earlier? For someone who’s supposed to be really smart, you sure don’t pay attention, do you.”

We were really close to Staten Island Ferry. If I was going to get out of this car, this stupid situation I had put myself into, I would have to do it fast. I look around the car. What could I do?

I keep talking. “I thought cars weren’t allowed on the ferry anymore.”

“My family has pull with the officials that run the ferry. We’ll be fine.” Fine. No, not fine. I was stuck in the car with him going 65 miles per hour down Westside highway.

He must have noticed my feeble attempt at planning an escape and chuckles as the locks slam into place. I jump and he lets out a little snort. “You know, Julia, you really surprised me back there. You are an amazing dancer. Here I was thinking that you were all hung up on that Nicolas kid. I thought you were just using me to get back at him. You wouldn’t do that to me, would you?” He muses, letting each word drip into my ears, “That Hart boy and Laurie really make a cute couple. Don’t you think? I mean, I’ve only heard the rumors, and from what we saw in front of the bathroom… I’m sure they’ve taken it to the next level.”

I’m dying inside. I try to ignore the darkness that wants to engulf me. “Please, Rich … please just take me home. I didn’t mean to give you the wrong idea. Please, I just want to go home.” My pleas are hopeless.

“Wrong idea?” Rich is clearly enjoying himself. The words ooze with poison. “I’m sure I overheard Laurie tell Cami that she wanted to turn that little cub into a man.” He grabs my thigh hard.

I hit it away. “Don’t touch me!” I hiss. My words hit dead ears. Rich hits the gas harder. My breath was coming out in shallow spurts. I had to concentrate on getting out of this car and away from Rich. His torturous words were like hundreds of tiny vultures flying into my ear, tearing through my mind. Each syllable making its way to my heart, biting and tearing little chunks away from the bruised carcass.

“Touch you? Hmmm… I wouldn’t dream of it…”

I look up at him hoping I could think of someway to threaten him into letting me go. I immediately regret it. The vultures and the pain fly away in fright. There is only fear. His smile has morphed into a ravenous snarl. Rich smells feral. The sweat drips down his forehead. He looks like a crazed bear looking for meat and I was a juicy piece that couldn’t get away. “I’m not going to touch you Julia.” He laughs grotesquely. “I’m going to do much worse than that.” He put his attention back onto the road.

We pass the ferry parking lot. He flashes a card at the attendant who is staring avidly at some sort of sports game on a small screen. The attendant waves us by without giving the card a glance. He wasn’t paying any attention to anything else but that small fuzzy screen or he would have seen me pleading through the window. Pleading with him to take notice of me. Rich drives in and onto the ferry.

He maneuvers the car into the most secluded spot he can find.

When the car stops I rush for the locks. I gasp as his clammy fingers dig into my left shoulder, pinning me down onto the sticky seat. “I wouldn’t scream either. That’ll just irritate me. You don’t want to irritate me.” His hand clenched harder as he inched closer, enjoying my fear. I could smell the rot of alcohol on his breath. I whimpered in pain as the strap of my dress snaps. “Ah… do you know how much it burns to touch you? I don’t know how anyone can stand it. You are an abomination. You should not exist. You will not exist.”

I feel the ferry rock forward.

He grins again. His nails dig further into my skin as the realization that I was irrevocably trapped punches through me. My mind goes into overdrive. The different scenarios that rush in and out of my head frighten me more, each one worst then the one before. What would he do to me?

Rich seems to realize his victory. He lets his grip loosen. “Confused? It’s okay. We have met before… I know things about you…”

“What are you talking about?”

“Then it’s true. You really don’t remember. Do you?” And I have no idea what he’s rambling about. “No? That’s too bad.” He backs me up against the passenger side door.

“Rich … please let me out. You. You’re not like this. Please, let me go.”

My words don’t penetrate. He stares at me, “You’re riiight…. I’m not like this. I’m so much more. I can do so much more.” His eyes are becoming black and beady. “Then things like you had to come along. You are an abomination. You shouldn’t exist. I’m going to take care of you like you should have been all those years ago.” I’m only catching portions of what he’s saying. He’s blurring in and out. His hair is getting longer, blacker. “You should never have been born… I’ll make it so. But first.. I want to know what Nic and Rich see…” What… but I cant process anything as he pulls me under him. I go limp from fear. Frozen scared. He bends over me. “Good little birdy. I promised myself I wouldn’t touch you, I wouldn’t get my hands dirty on you but maybe just a taste. Because, unlike Laurie’s little golden boy,” he spit the words into my face, “I am a man.” His snarl inches closer to my lips. “I will make you remember me!”

A familiar burning sensation fills me as my hands form into claws at my sides. This would not happen.

I hear something scrape against the driver side door. Rich’s head snaps back to look for the culprit. That was all the time I need. My right fist slams into Rich’s’ exposed windpipe as my left swipes at his eye. My knee drive up into his manhood. Rich roars in pain.

I had to get out of there now.

The next few moments happen in slow motion. Like in the movies when they really want you to pay attention. I breathe out and try the locks. They don’t work. My head turns slowly toward the enraged Rich. The left side of his face has four very deep scratches. My eyes fly to his hands that were raised up to attack me. His body blurs and begins to look very brown. I put my hands in front of me in effort to protect myself. There is a small space between my hands and his grotesque head. The car rocks as I see a huge gold body slam into the drivers side window. It looks furry. I hear glass break as two arms reach in and grab Rich from behind and into a chokehold. The arms pull Rich, head first, through the broken window. I hear scuffling and the sounds of someone choking.

I take a breath in and everything flies into real time. The sounds of choking subside. A hand reaches in and unlocks all the doors. Not a breath later, the hands that had wrenched Rich out of the window are gently lifting me out of the passenger seat. These arms swing me up and hold me close, like a child, and we dodge into an empty stairwell. He sets me on my feet. I wavered a little but my legs hold firm. He peeks out the door, his back turned towards me.

I hear hurried voices. Someone says something about an attack. I hear shouting. I feel the ferry stop and slowly begin to float in reverse. All this was going on but my mind would not focus on the details of what was happening through the door. I was looking at the figure in front of it.

I know my rescuer. He is wearing the same golden sweater that I’d seen him in earlier. It matched his longer sun-streaked hair that fell into a mess at his shoulders. His body was a bit taller and larger than I had remembered it, but he still smells the same. He smells like a light lavender wind that rustles through a forest of pine trees. Woodsy… I used to call it. He turns around to face me. I don’t look up at him.

I can’t.

“Are you okay?”

My head move up and down. I don’t know what else to do.

I sense his eyes scrutinizing me. I felt his hand brush my bruised and bloody shoulder, my strap dangling to the side. I shiver at his touch. I hear his breath hiss out, ragged. His hands pull the sweater up. My eyes followed his hands as if they could not help themselves. He is still lean but in a decidedly muscular way. As his sweater goes over his head, I get a glimpse of his lips. I look away. I would not let myself process that.

He starts to pull the sweater over my head. I push it away. I don’t want him to touch me.

“Don’t be an idiot.” He mumbles.

I stand still as he slips the sweater over me. I try not to think as his scent floods my nose. For a moment I feel… home again. It’s an irrational thought since I absolutely loathed the boy that this sweater belongs to. The acute pain, a pain that had nothing to do with my shoulder, and humiliation of the situation begins to creep into my mind. I try to stomp it out. It persists.

The ferry slows down. Not enough. It bumps into the dock. The force sends me flying into his arms. I grabbed onto him and he to me, wrapping his arms around my shoulders, as if giving me a light hug. He sighs.

It was just for a second, though. We both let go at the same time but he lets his left hand rest gently on my right shoulder and trails softly down my arm before landing on the rail.

“Are you sure you’re okay?” He tries unsuccessfully to bend down and look into my eyes. I glance to the side.

“I’m fine.”

His hand is gripping the guard rail like he’s going to break it. I try to cover my shock as a rush of whispered obscenities fly from his mouth. He never swore. Well, the boy I used to know never swore.

He wraps one arm around me. “Come on.”

As we walk out of the stairwell we are met by a few police officers and what looks like station officials. There are lights coming off an ambulance some place in the distance. I feel his arm close around me tighter.

“Hey there!” An authoritative voice shouts in our direction but we keep pace.

“Hey YOU…. BOY!” A police officer blocks our way. “Where do you two think you’re going?” The police officer had a distinct Brooklyn accent. “Don’t you see the craziness around here?”

I watch as the golden boy transforms his face into one of shock and worry. He looks up at the overworked officer. “I’m so sorry, sir!” He sounds like the little boy I’d known most of my life, “My girl is deathly afraid of boats, sir. I told her that it’d be real romantic. We were up at the front of the ferry when all of a sudden it stopped and reversed back. Sheila here got all scared and started hyperventilating. She just about ran into the bathroom. I’m sorry but there might be a mess to be cleaned up in there. Any who, she just about shit herself when you all bumped into the dock like that.” He grips me harder. The pain in my shoulder makes me jump.

The officer looks at me. I tried to give him my best sick person impression, but I knew I didn’t have to try very hard. From his expression, I was a mess.

“Sorry son. You take her straight home. Poor girl. My little baby’s the same way. Just give her some tea to calm her nerves.” He trooped away and stopped. “Hey … just in case … you two didn’t see anyone run past here? No? Well, I’ll just watch from here to make sure you get to your car safely. Someone was just attacked. A boy got real hurt. He wasn’t moving when they put him into the ambulance.”

He was talking about Rich.

“Yes, sir.” The voice beside me was emotionless.

We walk down the ramp. His arm was still warmly wrapped around my shoulder. We exit the ferry building and I head toward a line of taxis. I am pulled towards the street instead. We head in the direction of a small black car parked haphazardly and illegally in a construction area nearby. I hear a beep. The lights flash.

“Get in.”

He holds the passenger side door open for me. I had a momentary rush of defiance. I wanted to run back to the police and tell them the whole story. Tell them that I’d been attacked and then saved by my former best friend who hated me. The crazy person in my head was starting to giggle uncontrollably. Better yet, I wanted to run down Westside highway. I wanted to outrun the pain and humiliation I was almost sure I could run all the way home. Everything went a little blurry. That was happening a lot. I was going to go into hysterics if I let my mind go down this road.

“Just get in the car, Jul… Julia.” His voice is frayed.

It was insane but my heart let out a small sigh at the sound of my name coming from his lips. He had been just about to say my special name … the name only he called me, but had hesitated at the last second. I close my eyes and tried not to feel. Total fail. I slide into the car. As soon as my door shut, he was already settling into the drivers’ seat. My mind must be worn out, I kept missing things.

I stare out of the window as we tear out of the parking lot. I watch the ferry disappear. The police officers words ring in my mind. A boy got real hurt. He wasn’t moving when they put him into the ambulance.

The police officer was talking about Rich. My mind shut itself against the terror. That greasy slimy bear!

I turn and open my mouth to ask him what had happened. “Nic… Nicolas…”

He was staring at me. I yank my gaze downward. That was a close one. I’d almost looked into his eyes. He puts both hands on the steering wheel and lets out a long flayed breath into the darkness ahead. “Just please … Julia … do not say anything yet. I’m trying to concentrate on getting you out of here. I am SO tempted to go back there and rip into that ambulance and finish off that slimy bear.” His voice turns into a low growl as a string of expletives hiss out of his mouth.

I look out the window to hide my shock. It was such a small thing but still shocking. But he, I could barely think his name, let alone look at him … had known exactly what I was thinking. Firstly, what was with all the swearing and second, he couldn’t have known what I was thinking, but he called Rich a … bear.

Figuring it was just the shock of my ordeal, but that had already become background noise in comparison to the turmoil that now rocked through my body. Nicolas was right beside me. He had, beyond all hope, saved me. He must have been looking for me, the little voice whispered. He didn’t have Laurie strapped to his right arm, as she’d been for the last two months. Nicolas was here, driving … I finally took in my surroundings … a really nice new car. He was only fifteen … how’d he get his license so soon?

“How are you?” He murmured.

“When you’d start driving?” I stammer out the stupid question. We asked at the same time.

“Okay…”

“My father pulled some strings…”

I want to giggle. I looked at him out of the corner of my eyes. I swear his cheek is slightly raised up in a smile. We always talked at the same time when either of us was hiding something or nervous. I have a sinking feeling that it was both. My heart plummets back into my stomach where the acids there could resume eating away at its tender flesh.

He clears his throat, as if announcing that he’ll talk first. “My father pulled some strings at the DMV. He knows the police chief. I went in and passed the tests. When I got home, Dad threw the key to me and this,” his blue eyes appraised the interior, noticeably avoiding the passenger seat, “was in the garage.”

A silent moment passed, “So, how are you?”

“Fine.” I lie. What was I supposed to say?

I really want to tell him how much I miss him. How much I want to grab on to his hand and skip and jump around with him like we were kids again. How I want to forget the pain of the last few months. How much I want to forget the anguish he’s put me through.

He is staring at me again.

“You should really keep your eyes on the road,” I practically whimper. The tears are going to spill. I could feel them threatening to leak out. I’d been doing that a lot lately. I shake my head a little to make them go away.

He turns back to the road, growling a little under his breath. I glance up a little. He was looking out but I could tell he wasn’t paying attention. Both hands are gripping the steering wheel so hard that it seems like he was going to rip it off. His knuckles are bone white. He rifles his fingers through his gold hair. He always did that when he was frustrated. I try not to remember the feel of his hair. “You’re not fine. I know that. Believe me, it’s much better this way.” His voice grumbled softly.

Wait. What?!? I wanted to shout at him. I want to make him stop the car and explain to me why he ignored me for the past two months. Then it finally hit me. For one who prided herself on her supreme intelligence, I was becoming extremely slow and stupid.

“It’s Laurie,” It took all my strength not to spit her name, “she’s going to be mad at you now, isn’t she?”

“What?” Now he seems genuinely confused for a moment. “Oh that.” His jaw clenches, “Yeah. I suppose she won’t be too happy when she finds out I left her at the dance. Julia, what was I supposed to do.” He looks straight into my eyes. My whole body rocks with the force of his blue eyes. They were blazing with anger. “I get to the dance and you are getting slobbered on by Rich. You don’t have any idea how hard it was for me to watch you let him. To watch you pretend to enjoy his big stinking hands touching you. I tried to ignore it … I tried to ignore you. Then, OF ALL THE IDIOTIC THINGS YOU COULD HAVE DONE… YOU LEFT WITH HIM. HOW COULD YOU BE SO STUPID!” His angry growl raised into a roar. “I COULD HAVE KILLED HIM! I SHOULD HAVE KILLED HIM.”

The car swerves to the left as he crosses the freeway. I grip the handle on the ceiling of the car. He finally lost control and we were going to crash, I thought calmly. Instead, he slams the car into park. We were in a lot in front of a dark warehouse. He turns the car off and throws the keys onto the dash so fast that I hadn’t noticed until he was out and the door slammed.

I sit there for a second, my eyes following his strides back and forth in front of the headlights… the hurt confusion that is burning in my soul doesn’t last long. I opened the door slowly and got out. My hand gripes the outside handle of the door for support. The two months of pain sears through me.

“How dare you.” I don’t recognize my voice. It was low, heartless and dripped with accusation. “How DARE you yell at me!” It was barely a whisper but in the cold silent night around us, I knew he could hear me. Refusing to look at me, he stops pacing. “Two months,” I fumed, “Nicolas, it’s been two months since you’ve spoken to me … NO! Since you’ve even looked my way.” I could hear my calm voice start to give way to a screech, “NOW THIS? YOU can’t even bare to look at me NOW. Do you think I care how HARD it was for you? YOU? You who barely said three words to me at the beginning of school. You … who ignored me time and time again. You who TRICKED me into the Gym and WATCHED while they hurt me. You … who started going out with that… that … snake! How awesome do you think I felt when I found you practically screwing that BITCH near the bathrooms tonight. You were sucking her face off.” I couldn’t say her name. I’d tear the car handle off his door if I did. “And then, of all the IDIOTIC excuses you could have possibly come up with you tell me, and I quote – ‘You’re not fine. I know that. But, believe me, it’s much better this way.’ You fucking asshole.” I scream, “HOW IS THIS BETTER?” I wanted to hit something. I wanted to hit him.

Instead I slam the door and stomp over to him. I know he won’t care, but the truth was going to come out anyway. I would not hide anymore. Not from him. Not from anyone. I ignore the pained look in his eyes. He had no right to feel any pain. I spit straight into his face, “You’re right Nicolas, I am not fine. I have never been more miserable. Ever since that night you lied to me and Laurie and YOUR friends… yes Nicolas… YOUR FRIENDS hurt me I have been racking my brain as to why you HATE ME so much. If it wasn’t for the twins … and Rich,” I heard him growl at the name. Good. “Yes, Nicolas … I don’t know what Rich was thinking tonight but, if it hadn’t been for Rich and MY friends, I would have spent this evening like last night and every night before that. I would have sat in my garden alone. I would finished all my homework and ran ten miles in the freezing cold … alone. Then, so that Mel wouldn’t be able to see or hear, I’d drown my tears for the day in a blazing hot shower. I would come out of the bathroom, tired but presentable. I would have made dinner for Mel and myself without eating any of it. Then, I would have gone up to my room and cried myself to sleep thinking … no … KNOWING … that you didn’t care about me anymore. That you hated me. That you’d rather have Laurie’s arms snaked around you than give … one … look in my direction. What the fuck is wrong with you.” Like a child, I wanted to pound his chest with my fists but all my energy was spent.

He doesn’t say anything and my body slumps. My eyes blur a little … again. I thought I could feel the world slip from under me. The last two months of sleepless nights decided to rush at me at this vulnerable moment. I turn to walk back to the car.

“Just take me home.” I whisper weakly.

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