Chapter 11 – Forgivable
Somehow Alison and Jen were pacing outside my apartment building when we pull up at my building. A flash of green and pink race to the passenger side door. “He what? Un-fucking-forgiveable. I don’t care that it was his first time! He is so done…” Allison is yelling into a cellphone.
I open the car door. Nothing from Nic. He wasn’t going to stop me. I don’t look back. I slide out of the seat and into Jen’s open arms.
“Holy shit Julia! Are you okay?” Jen is a welcome warmth after the chilly ride home. Nicolas hadn’t said a word the entire way.
“I’m fine.” I wince as Alison hold my hurt shoulder.
Jen’s arms tightened around me as Alison yanks the sweater collar to the side revealing a large gash on my shoulder. “Shit.”
“What did he do to you?” Alison growls, her eyes flash behind me towards the car.
My head is still spinning. I couldn’t take this anymore. Nicolas was still in the car, looking forward into nothing. Nothing. That’s really what I meant to him. I wrench myself out of Jennifer’s arms and pull up the sweater. “I’m tired. I hurt. I need a shower and a bed.”
“Julia. Did he do anything to you?” Alison emphasizes each word. It finally dawns on me what she’s asking.
“No. Just a few scratches. Nicolas got me out.”
Alison nods. “Jen, please take Julia upstairs. I need to speak with Nic.”
“No.” I would not be coddled like some pup. “It’s late. You guys should just go home. I can take care of myself.” I looked into Jen’s worried hazel eyes. “Please.”
“Someone needs to look at your shoulder.”
“I’ll get my aunt to look at it. Please. I need… I just need to be alone.”
“Fine. I’m calling you tomorrow.”
“Okay … and Jen,” I turned back and looked towards the black car. Alison was having an intense argument with its driver. “Please tell Nicolas I said thank you.”
I don’t know if Nicolas ever got the message. I don’t answer the phone when Jen and Alison call and I tell my aunt that I’m sick. I don’t want to see anyone so I just lay in bed all weekend listening to music and checking books off my reading list.
I’m just done.
Monday morning comes sooner than expected. Walking the halls. Everyone talking about what a great time they had. Everyone talking of the after parties. I tune it all out as I make my way to the cage, to study hall. First one in the classroom, I take out my latest book and plunge myself head first into its safe literary word. It doesn’t stop my head from wandering. The words and images flow into the words and images of the dance, of what happened after the dance and the rest of the crazy weekend.
I didn’t want to be in school but I would not hide. I would not let Rich and Laurie and all her goons win.
I hear the chair next to me scrape against the wooded floor. Richard’s chair. The room blurs a little as I dig my nails into the table. Please not now. I don’t want to deal with him right now. In my peripheral vision something golden slides in.
It’s not Rich. I tense even further. I would almost rather deal with Rich.
Caleb walks towards me from the other direction. I finally glance up but I’m careful not to look to the right of me. The class has filled. I hadn’t noticed.
“Yes, Caleb, I’m sitting here today.” Caleb froze next to me, his pale hand grips the back of my seat. The golden boy chuckles. The laugh sounds familiar. Too husky but the smooth ease of it was like a dream I’d had a long time ago. I do not look at the golden dream. “No, Caleb, I don’t care what Alison said. She may have rule over you and yours but I am a free man. Why don’t you go talk to Laurie? She’s mad about something, again.” He smirks. “I’m sure you can calm her down.”
I look up at Caleb. His blank face drops slightly. He shrugs and turns away. Caleb hadn’t said anything. My eyes follow him partly because I did not want to look at the dickhead that was sitting beside me.. Caleb sits next to Alison. Sam and Cami are noticeably absent from the table. I jump in my seat but I don’t look away as I watch Laurie yell something at Caleb and storms out. Honestly, I kind of want to laugh at her.
I finally look away. I let my glasses fall to the edge of my nose. Everything gets immediately clearer. I must need a new prescription, I grumble to myself, people were getting blurry even with my glasses on. I take them off.
Jen along with the Freshman boys, Max and Leo, rush in a minute late. They all look meaningfully at me. The boys pull out their computers and show me some of the simulations they’ve done. They look really well done. I tell them that. Pleased, they start fussing over some other task for the project. Jen slides her chair closer to mine. “I knew you weren’t going to call after we dropped you off.”
“I’m sorry… I just needed some time to myself. A lot has been happening. I just couldn’t deal.”
She deflates a little, “At the dance… With everything that happened with Laurie… I thought Rich was on our side. I should have gone with you to the bathroom. I should have been there.”
I grab her hand to stop her. “Seriously. Jen, you are an amazing friend. Thank you so much for everything. You couldn’t have known he was going to do that. I really needed to get out of there and Rich was the only one there. Don’t you dare blame yourself for this.”
“Are you sure you’re okay?”
“I will be.” I squeeze her hand.
Jen flips her hair and looks directly at Nicolas, “You suck. What are you doing here? You’re certainly not helping anyone, especially Julia, by sitting here. Shouldn’t you go back to Laur…” Jen doesn’t get to finish.
Mr. Stiller’s voice booms over the last few attempts at socializing. “Come to order. Now.” The class is immediately still. “There was an incident involving your classmates. I can only assume what with the speed in which information travels these days that you all know more about what happened after the dance than I do.”
I stiffen. Oh please. My stomach drops.
“I will only say this: all events that took place are not to be tolerated.” His piercing eyes, ever-changing like mine were black today. “Most of you should know better. I expect better from you. For those that are a little behind I expect you’ll be catching up very shortly.” Mr. Stiller’s fist comes down on the podium. “My class shall not be a holding pen for cattle and my class shall not be caged cock fight either. You all know the rules and must obey the rules. That is all. Please use the rest of science period for personal reflection or review your Anatomy notes as I am sure none of you got any studying done this weekend.” The class blew a collective sigh of relief. “One more thing, while this school sees fit to keep its affairs and happenings in the shadows, I do not. By now you all know who in this class has Graduated and who has not. I have some congratulations in order. Richard Brown has Graduated and been transferred out of Stellar Academy.” Mr. Stiller look right at me. I don’t look away. “It was decided that he was not a correct fit for this school.” His eyes slide to the right of me, straight at the golden boy in Richard’s chair. “See to it that you do not make the same mistakes that he did.”
I hear a low growl from my right side.
“Also our young Nicolas Hart has Graduated. He, as you can all see, is still with us. Please continue your exemplary performance, Nicolas. Study hard. That is all.”
I look down at a page of memorized notes. Did Mr. Stiller just congratulate Nicolas on almost killing Richard? No way. How had Nicolas Graduated before me? When did he? Where did they send Richard? What was happening? Migraine. I did a quick tally of the students in my Homeroom. They had all Graduated except myself and the two freshmen in front of me. Why was I so behind?
If I want to be honest with myself, though … what was really forcing me to keep my head in my notes was the heat I could feel from the right side of my body. He had slid his chair so that it was about a foot away from mine.
“Excuse me.” I almost leap out of my seat. Mr. Stiller was standing right next to me. “Nicolas, I do believe your seat is at the back next to Miss Amin.”
“Yes, Sir, but I figured that since Richard is not coming back,” he punctuated the last three words, “I’d keep Julia company and maybe help her with the group project. My group is already done.”
Mr. Stiller’s eyebrows lifted a bit. “How kind of you, Nicolas. Need I remind you of the rules?”
“Rules, sir? I am just sitting by an old friend. I am not breaking any rules that I know of.”
“See that you do not. Julia’s group project is a special one, one I hope she has learned greatly from.”
“No sir. I will not mess with Julia’s project.”
“In that case, Nicolas, please carry on. Thank you again for looking out for Julia.” With that Mr. Stiller walks away.
Okay. That was a weird conversation. How could Nicolas mess with my project? I was already done too.
I tried to ignore him. I discuss bird anatomy with Jen and the boys. The boys want to explore the ties between birds and dinosaurs. I actually laugh at that. There is scientific evidence and I tell them to go ahead and I’ll add it to the project. Jen is not helping. She keeps on making mean faces at Nicolas. I wish she’d just ignore him.
I try to block out the slight purring breath that could not have been three feet away from my face. This boy, the boy with golden hair who had saved me … this familiar boy … but it had been almost a month since I had even spoken to him … until the dance … since he’d even acknowledged my existence until after the dance. I shake. I could not go there. As he would lean in to check my notes I could swear I heard him sniff me. The idea was so absurd I almost laughed, but the situation was so uncomfortable that any attempt at humor vanished immediately.
I wasn’t paying attention. The bell rang. Surprised, I send my notes and pencil flying to the ground. I really had to calm down. I was such a klutz.
Someone snorts and a hiss from the front of the room. Laurie was back. “Oh shut it, Laurie.” I hear Alison voice over the din of the class. Alison approaches me, her eyes scrunched up, but she wasn’t looking at me. She was looking under the desk. I couldn’t stop myself. I follow her gaze.
There he was, my notes stacked perfectly in his too big hand and my pencil tucked behind his ear. His rowdy gold locks practically obscuring it from view.
We stare at each other for a second. His face was set in a determined gaze. “Ah, Jules. Um… Julia, can we talk?”
He wanted to talk? “I don’t know. Can we?” I whispered.
“Hey Julia?” Alison puts her hand on my shoulder. I snap my head away from Nicolas. “You want us to wait for you?” Caleb takes a few steps forward.
I shake my head.
I find my voice, “It’s okay. I’m good.” I try to convince myself. “I’m just going to clean up here. I’ll see you guys at lunch.”
“Okie.” Alison bubbled in true Alison form and bounced out of class with Caleb following slowly behind.
With that, I finally find my voice. “Please,” I spit, “do not call me Jules. So, we’re talking now?” Was this me? I couldn’t believe the venom I heard.
He cringes slightly. Good. He recovers fast, “Yeah… I’m really sorry about the other night after the dance.” He fiddles with my notes. “I was just… I was really angry and I shouldn’t have taken it out on you.”
I snatch the notes out of his hand. All the rejection and despair of the past few months wants to close in on me. All I want to do was smile and tell him that it was all right and that I hadn’t even noticed. I want to make sure he is all right. Maybe he’d had some disease that required him to stay away from me, and only me. The unwanted images of him flirting and holding Laurie tumble unwillingly into my mind. I wouldn’t allow it. I wouldn’t let him make me feel sorry for him. He’d already made me cry enough.
“YOU were angry? Come ON Nicolas, you’re going to have to do better than that. You almost killed Richard!” The bitterness and flippant accusation flows easily from my voice.
“After what he did to you … after what he TRIED to do to you … how can you blame me for wanting to kill him? I should have drowned that mangy fucker. And, since when did you start calling me Nicolas?” He accuses.
As if I were the one on trial, “Since you started hurting me,” I spit. Oh. I didn’t mean to use that word. Hurt. It was the truth. I hurt. “Don’t change the subject, Nicolas.” I slump onto the edge of the desk and let the notes flutter once more to the floor. “I’m just so sick of this. Sick of feeling like this”. My voice comes out in a cracked whisper. “Thank you for, for saving me after the dance. I don’t know what would have happened if you hadn’t. But, I just don’t understand. Nicolas, you stopped talking to me. You rejected me publicly and humiliated me. You lied to me and let Laurie hurt me. Why am I even talking to you? What could you possibly want from me now?” I finally let myself look into his beautiful blue eyes. The golden rim of the irises seemed to pulse.
A moment passes.
I finally look down and bend to pick up my notes.
I didn’t move two steps as two warm hands held my shoulders to lift me up. I jump and I try to wiggle out of his grasp. Whatever he had to say was just going to make me feel worse. I didn’t want to hear anything he had to say.
“I’m so sorry.”
I look up into his face. Something glistens on his cheek in the florescent lights of the room. I follow the tears to its source. His eyes. Just a moment ago they were burning into mine with blatant accusation. At this moment they were still burning but with sorrow.
He face was twists into a look of anguish. “I am so sorry.” As his hands drift up my shoulders and past my neck I glance up into his eyes. There was a hunger that flickered there. He was losing control of it. “I should have told you that the other night. I was just so…”
He held my face in his rough hands. I felt the blood rush up into my face, practically burning the tears of my cheeks to steam. I remembered how he used to pinch on to both of my cheeks and wiggle them around to irritate me when we were kids … but this was more than irritation I was feeling. My face felt red-hot and with the bright halogen lights of the classroom, I was sure he could see it.
The hungry look in his face became softer, as he fought, and won control. The hard lines there smooth out and I recognize the face of my best friend again.
“God, Jules.” He breathes. I start to shake as he envelopes me into his warm arms. They were bigger than I remember. I wrap my arms around his waist, and all the pain of the past two months just melts away. Pain doesn’t exist here. I just let myself go. Everything bursts out. The last few months come out in a torrent of hacking sobs and tears.
“Jules, Jules, Jules…” He whispers. I feel him lift me like he had on the ferry. That triggers more tears. My heart is going to burst. He carries me gently to a to a stool near one of the lab stations. I don’t sit. I could hear the sounds of water dripping in the sinks. Maybe it was the sound of my tears splashing against his chest. He gently bends backwards, his arms wrapped around my shoulders again, and looks into my eyes. One of his arms slides backward and his thumb brushes lightly past my ear and down my jaw. It sends jolts of electricity racing up and down my body. I close my eyes in response. This feels so right.
He cocks his pointer finger under my chin and lets his thumb rest under my lower lip. I open my eyes, and the full force of his gaze stares into mine, “I really miss you.”
I feel the strangest need to close my eyes and pucker my lips as bright happy memories flittered past my mind. I think he is thinking the same thing because, against all odds, we are both grinning into each other’s faces. His eyes are glowing.
“Me too, Nicky … I miss you too.” My arms fold into his chest as he moves to place his chin on my head. The last of my tears dry on his sweater. Could I forgive him?
I could try.