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Love Me Never

Page 23

   


Wren turns red, and glances sheepishly at Jack.
“Right. I should go. Bye, Isis.”
“See ya!” I wave.
“And you, Mr. Bernard,” Jack continues savagely. “Last time I checked they don’t pay you to ogle teenage girls. They pay you to teach. So start teaching.”
Mr. Bernard jumps in his chair, clears his throat, and hurriedly goes to the whiteboard and starts writing equations. Knife-kid laughs. I salute Jack as I bow out the door.
“Have a great day, Jackoff.”
“Try not to get molested, cow,” He snaps.
“Oh my stars!” I fan my face. “Could it be? Could East Summit High’s Ice Prince be expressing concern for me?”
“Get out,” Jack says.
“That’s the only command of yours I’ll obey.” I wink, and flounce through the door. It’s obvious I’ve won this battle. By lunchtime everyone is talking about how slutty I look instead of how fat my butt crack used to be. It’s not much of an improvement, but it’s the best I’ll get. The whispers are the sound of me winning the war again Jack Hunter.
Boom, bitch.
-8-
3 Years
16 Weeks
1 Day
I pick Mom up after her shrink sessions downtown. I wait in the car outside the brick building and watch the late-afternoon sun dance its golden fingers across the sidewalk and through the trees. Northplains might be quiet, and chock full of a whole lot of nothing, but it’s incredibly pretty in the fall. Orange and red leaves litter the ground, dreamy clouds of steam and smoke pour out of the chimneys, and the sky is a cold, bright blue, like a chilled porcelain dish. I pull my scarf up over my nose. It’s way chillier than Florida, but if I freeze to death, at least I’ll die far, far away from where Nameless can see. I bump my head against the headrest thoughtfully. Nameless. He hasn’t crossed my mind in a while. He’s always been there, like a massive poopstain in my brain, but with the war against Jack and Mom’s problems, I hadn’t thought about him for weeks.
That’s a lie, of course. I always think about him when I see a mirror, or the thing on my wrist. There’s no escaping him. He’s the reason I look the way I do, now. Maybe someday I’ll get rid of him. I hope so, at least. But hope is hard to hold without cutting yourself on it, so I try not to hold on too tight.
Mom’s taking longer than normal, so I grab my coffee and head inside the building. Neat offices line the hall, and a lobby with fake plants and faker girls on the magazine covers greets me. The receptionist is a woman with gray hair and eyes and a sad sort of smile. She’s helping someone at the counter with flaming red hair.
Hair that can’t be mistaken for anyone else but Avery.
“Hey, Avery!” I wave.
The girl freezes, shoulders seizing up as she slowly, so slowly, turns around. It’s Avery alright, bright green eyes glaring at me and her freckled nose twitching. She says something to the receptionist, and walks over to me.
“What the hell are you doing here?” She asks. Non-threateningly.
“Uh, my Mom goes here. For things. What about you? Why are you here? Oh, uh, shit, is that insensitive to ask?”
“Slightly,” Avery drawls.
“You’re here for someone else too, huh? Duh. Avery Brighton doesn’t go to a shrink.”
“Of course,” Avery says quickly. “I’m here to pick up my…cousin.”
“Ms. Brighton?” The receptionist calls. “Here’s your prescription. Would you like to schedule another appointment for next week?”
Avery winces, composes herself, and turns to the receptionist and takes the prescription. She marches back to me with a super angry face.
“Don’t you dare say anything.”
“Uh, I won’t. It’s cool.”
“It’s not cool,” Avery’s voice pitches up. “Don’t you get it? It’s the f**king opposite of cool, what I’m doing here, so just keep your mouth shut.”
“Look, it’s fine, I’m not gonna tattle. It’s Jack I’m after, not you.”
“So you don’t know about Kayla and Wren then?”
I frown. “What? What about them?”
Avery’s face relaxes visibly. “Never mind.”
“Wait a second, I might not be after you, but I care about Kayla. What the hell did you mean by ‘Kayla and Wren’?”
Avery flips her fiery hair. “Remember how I said I’m never inviting you to a thing of mine ever again?”
“Vividly.”
“Well I’m inviting you now. And I hope you’ll return the favor and not talk about what you saw here.”
“Suuuree,” I say slowly. Avery narrows her eyes.
“The Grand 9 bowling alley, in downtown Columbus. Saturday at noon. Be there.”
“But what about Kayla and Wren?”
Avery scoffs. “It’ll be clear when you come to the alley. So just come.”
“Yes? Okay? I guess?”
She pushes past me and is gone before I can ask more questions.
“Isis!” Mom comes up behind me, hugging me and turning me to face her. “I’m sorry I’m late, honey, the session went long.”
Her eyes are a little red, and she’s clutching a wad of tissues. It must’ve been a hard session. Hard, and sad.
“It’s fine.” I smile. “Let’s go. I’ve got some pizza dough rising in the oven.”
“Homemade pizza!” She laughs and looks to the receptionist, wrapping an arm around me and pulling me into a hug. “I’ve got the best daughter in the world, I swear.”
When we get home, I roll the dough out and put sauce on it and decorate with mushrooms, olives, and a few onion slices. I sprinkle it with garlic salt and mozzarella, and put it in the oven. The smell soon permeates the house in a cloud of cheesy, saucy scent. Mom is upstairs taking a nap when the phone rings.
“Hello?”
“Isis! How’re you doing, sweetie?”
“Hi Dad. Wow, I’m sorry I haven’t called? It’s been crazy over here.”
“Your mother told me! Apparently you’ve made friends and have been going to parties! I’d be proud if I wasn’t so insanely worried.”
“I’m fine, Dad,” I laugh. “It’s really okay. I’m smart and careful.”
“No boys yet?”
“Never boys.”
“Good. Keep that off your plate for a while, you don’t need the distraction when you’re so close to graduating and going to college.”
Jack’s dangerously handsome face instantly pops into my mind, and I smirk.
“Don’t worry. No distractions here.”
***
There are only two things people will ask you in your Senior year of high school; What colleges you’re applying to, and whether or not you have a boyfriend. Everything else seems completely irrelevant – no one will ask after your mental state (deteriorating rapidly with all my homework and essays), what you do to have fun (stare at my bedroom ceiling and pick the nail polish off my nails), or whether or not you actually want to go to college (no, I don’t, I’m tired of school, but I’ll go because everyone is making me and flipping burgers at McDonald’s for seven bucks an hour sounds revolting). So far I’ve applied to a couple, and the only one I really want is Ohio State. It’s close to Mom, so I can take care of her if she has another breakdown, or if she just needs me, period. I can’t go too far, obviously, not with her nightmares and flashbacks. She’d forget to eat without me here to cook for her, I’m sure. And I’m not gonna let her waste away.