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“Dad said—”
“I heard.” He sounded defeated now. His voice was soft as he stared at the screen. The last image on it was of her. She was naked. Her head was back. She was holding her breast and her other hand was pressed between her legs, moving inside herself. He shook his head. “I will. I’ll delete it. Dad’s right, but…”
“What do you want me to do?”
He turned around. His eyes held mine and I saw the stark need in them. She’d broken him. Then he said, “Hurt her. Hurt her even when I’ve forgiven her.”
“I will.” The pain in his gaze sealed her fate.
It had been three months since we threw Tate out of the house. She apologized to Logan for the first week, but he ignored every message and every apology. She was nothing to him now. Then she began with me, but she only apologized a few times. I warned her to get the f**k away from me. She heeded the warning and had kept a safe distance since. Neither Logan nor I talked about what happened, but everyone knew he and Tate had a nasty ending. Like sensing a weaker prey, Kate turned on her. Her friends all tormented Tate, who took it for a while before she started fighting back.
Getting to class late one day, I stopped in the doorway and saw my usual seat was filled. The guy in it saw me looking at him, but turned away. His neck grew red as I continued to stare at him. The teacher stopped writing on the board. “Mr. Kade, you weren’t here when I had everyone pick their new seat for the rest of the year.”
I frowned. “We’re in the middle of a semester.”
“Your point?”
“I don’t have a great attitude, but I’m never late and I’m not a bad student.” I gestured around the room, ignoring how everyone was staring. They always stared. “Did you do this because I was late this one time?”
He barked out a laugh and shook his head. “Mason Kade. Of course, this whole thing was about you.” He rolled his eyes. “I like when my students are confident, but you’re to the point of arrogant. No, this had nothing to do with you.” He sent a pointed look to the back where Kate was sitting. She flashed him a smile and flicked her hair back, behind her shoulder. Then he sighed and looked in the opposite corner, to the front of the room. Tate lowered her head and slumped down in her seat. He continued, “Due to the history of heated exchanges these past few months, these are the seats you will have for the rest of the year and there will be no talking amongst the tables.”
I saw the open seat. It was in the front row, but on the opposite side of Tate with a table between us.
The teacher pointed to it and said, “You will be sitting with Miss Hooper for the year. Be nice, Mason. She’s the only one you can talk to for the rest of the year.”
As she was named, my table mate glanced up. I recognized her from other classes, and remembered we had been assigned to work on a different project at the beginning of the year. She hadn’t been excited to deal with me then either, but I hadn’t cared. I hadn’t paid her any attention. I did now, though, considering the circumstances. Then I tensed. Kate was always jealous when I spoke to other girls. I glanced back at her, but she wasn’t paying attention. Then I gritted my teeth. She needed to stop acting like my girlfriend and I needed to stop caring.
As I sat next to her, she scooted her chair back. Her eyes were filled with fear and awe. She was tiny with dark hair that was pulled in a ponytail. I scanned her over, but there wasn’t much to her. When I nodded hello, she jerked her head away and hunched over her notebook.
I frowned. Shit. I knew I was scary, but I didn’t know I was that scary. “Relax. I only screw with people who f**k me over.”
She made a choking sound, but she didn’t look up.
“Don’t f**k me over and we’ll be fine.”
“Mr. Kade,” the teacher glared at me, “I told you to be nice to Marissa.”
“I am. I’m laying the ground rules.” I leaned back in my chair and gestured for him to continue. “You can keep teaching. I won’t interrupt anymore.”
He pinched the top of his nose and looked in pain. Shaking his head as he turned back to the board, he muttered to himself, “I retire in five years. Five years. I have to get through five more years.”
I frowned. I didn’t think I deserved that reaction. My table mate slid a piece of paper to me. She gave me a shy smile and said softly, “He wants us to start working on these.”
I nodded. “I didn’t mean to scare you.”
Her eyes got big again and she retracted her hand as if she’d been burned. The slight smile vanished. Then she jerked her head in a nod. “I know. I…you’re a lot.”
I narrowed my eyes. I knew what she meant, but this wasn’t a girl that I was used to dealing with. Taking the worksheet, I saw she had started on the first question. When I began to fill out the second question, I said to her, “We worked together before. Do you remember that?” She didn’t answer so I added, “You’re not a normal chick, are you?”
“Oh god.” Her cheeks turned red and she closed her eyes for a moment. “Do you know the answer to question three? I couldn’t find that one.”
She was one of those girls that hugged the wall. I saw them in the hallways. They stayed by their locker or their friends’ lockers and never said anything. When I walked by, they watched me, but they never said a word. I had never dealt with one up close and personal. I was used to girls coming onto me. “Do you date?”
“Um.” She was biting her lip and her hands slid from the table to her lap. She grabbed fistfuls of her pants and held onto it. Her head hung down.
“Relax. I’m not asking if you want to date me. I don’t date girls like you.” I didn’t date at all, but she looked ready to pee her pants and sit in it even if it formed a puddle on the floor. “You’re not like other girls I deal with. I’m curious, that’s all.”
She began counting to herself.
What the f**k? She’d been more normal the first time we worked together.
“Mr. Kade.”
I glanced to the teacher. “Yeah?” He was frowning at us.
“Maybe less talking with Miss Hooper. You can hand in the worksheet on your own.”
I shrugged. “Fine with me.” As I opened my textbook, I looked back over at her. She had stopped counting, but a look of relief was evident on her face. We didn’t talk for the rest of the day. After class, the teacher called me to his desk, and I was instructed not to talk to that girl. He added, “Maybe I should change the assigned seating.”