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Love Me Never

Page 8

   


I quickly scribble down a battle plan on the back of my hand with ballpoint pen;
1. Assess the threat
2. Pinpoint weaknesses
3. Exploit said weaknesses
4. Win
“Isis?” Mrs. Gregory snaps. “Are you paying attention to the problem on the board?”
“Seventy-two,” I say, and get out of my chair to sit beneath my desk.
“Excuse me?”
“The answer,” I call from underneath the wood. “Seventy-two.”
She looks startled, but quickly takes in the board and scribbles on a loose sheaf she thinks I can’t see. The whole class is staring at me with bated breath, wondering what the hell is going on. Mrs. Gregory finally looks up.
“Correct. But why are you sitting –”
The bell rings then, shrill and in short bursts. Mrs. Gregory tells everyone to get under their desks and remain calm. Her bug-eyed face is anything but calm. The lockdown lasts for four or so tense minutes in which I pick the black polish off my nails while everyone debates whether it’s a shooting or a drug raid. Mrs. Gregory crawls over to me and frowns.
“Isis, how did you know there was going to be a lockdown? Are you…” she lowers her voice and leans in. “Involved with shady characters? It’s okay to talk to me, you know. I can convince the police you didn’t mean any harm. There are programs for students like you - ”
“I saw the kid who likes knives too much run across the quad in his underwear with a plastic one.”
She looks understandably shocked. Principal Evans gets on the PA and announces it’s safe. On my way to the parking lot I pass the open Principal’s door, where knife kid sits in a chair, surrounded by three cops arguing what to do with him. I flash him a thumbs up, and he makes scissors with two fingers and drags them across his throat in a jovial greeting, but it doesn’t faze me. I’m still in a daze.
I got kissed.
The one thing I never thought would happen to me, happened.
-3-
3 Years
10 Weeks
1 Day
I quickly find out two things about East Summit High;
1. Avery might be the most popular, but Kayla is widely regarded as the prettiest.
2. Every boy in school has had at least five wet dreams about her.
This means that Kayla didn’t have to earn her popularity by groveling to Avery like everybody else. She simply showed up, grew a pair of fabulous knockers and had a face to die for, and Avery recruited her into her friend group solely based on how pretty she is, and how spineless. And I say that with the utmost respect. Kayla is, comparatively, spineless. But she isn’t stupid. This means that Kayla might actually like being popular, or she might actually like Avery. I’m willing to bet it’s the first more than the second, because who honestly likes contract slavery other than two-hundred-year-old racists and the raunchy BDSM crowd? No one.
Kayla invites me over to consume cookies and interpret the giant stack of World History homework she can’t quite seem to grasp, which is understandable – grasping the true glory of Genghis Khan is a little difficult to do when he’s not here himself, shooting fletched arrows into your ass.
“Hello, spawn!” I coo at Kayla’s baby brother as he waddles into her room. He burps at me.
“It looks like you guys speak the same language,” Kayla quips.
“Where was that sass when Jack was making you cry at Avery’s party?”
“Uh, hello? He’s my crush? I’m not going to sass him.”
“Flash ‘em the sass before you flash ‘em the ass.”
“What kind of saying is that?” She laughs.
“Grandma-saying. She’s the head of the motorcycle gang at her nursing home.”
I amuse myself for a few minutes by showing her brother how to blow spit bubbles. Kayla’s still a little beat up over the fact Jack kissed me, for real this time, and I’ve spent the past hour assuring her it was nothing, but she still won’t believe me.
“Everybody’s saying you looked shocked. Like, a good shocked. And what the hell is that?” She points at my hand. I hold up the snakeskin-patterned wallet.
“Oh this? I just, uh, picked it up.”
“It looks like something from a corny cowboy movie.”
Her brother squeals and pulls my hair. I blacklist him.
“Hey, don’t call my wallet corny. Do you have a snakeskin wallet? No. Even if you did, yours would be uncool, whereas mine was both free and satisfying, by which I mean I stole it from my nemesis’ butt pocket while he was macking on me.”
“You stole Jack Hunter’s wallet?” Kayla’s eyes bug out. I wave it in front of her with a smirk.
“What, you think I’d go down without a fight? Wanna see what’s inside?”
Her curiosity wars visibly with her crush, but curiosity kills all types of cats, including people. She scoots next to me. I peel it open and expect some sort of unholy glow to come from within like in cartoons, but all that comes out is a piece of lint and the smell of pine. Inside is Jack’s ID – him glaring at the camera intensely.
“He’s so hot,” Kayla sighs. “He even takes good ID photos.”
“That’s a sure sign of being an alien. Or plastic surgery. Possibly both.”
“Look at the age!”
I peer at the age stamped on the ID and frown. March 20th, 1989. There’s no way he’s that old.
“That’s not his birthday,” Kayla insists. “It’s January 9th, 1994.”
I give her a long, meaningful look and she flushes. Fake ID – fine. We all gotta buy booze and get into clubs somehow. It’s pretty standard. I rifle through the rest of the wallet – five bucks cash, some change, a library card because he’s a nerd, some receipts for chicken and milk and measuring tape. Pretty basic high school kid stuff, but surprisingly tame coming from the wallet of a guy who talks like an Einstein clone and looks like an underwear ad. I was expecting loads of condoms and maybe a line of molly.
Kayla’s brother screams in my ear for candy. I tell him the plants in the yard need watering and he immediately trundles towards the kitchen spewing spit bubbles.
“Look!” Kayla grabs something from the wallet. It’s a stack of business cards. Or, at least I think they’re business cards. But they don’t actually have any business addresses on them, so they can’t be business cards. They’re a deep black with a single red stripe on the bottom, with the same name and same phone number in dangerously svelte red text;
Jaden 894-354-3310
“Jaden must’ve really liked Jack to give him this many cards,” Kayla muses. She’s so dense sometimes.
“They’re his, Kayla. He’s passing them out. That’s why he has so many.”
Her mouth makes a little ‘o’. “But…but his name isn’t Jaden.”
“It’s a pseudonym.”
“Why would he need one?”
“It’s probably for a job.”
She nods. I bite my lip and torture my brain into thinking more clearly. I take a single business card and put the rest back, handing the wallet to her.
“Here. You can do the honors of returning that. He’s probably stressing its gone – this is your chance to tip the scales in your favor. Even if the scales are made of misogynism and the bones of small infants.”