Savage Delight

Page 20


“Ah! If it isn’t Jack. Jack the Ripper of female self-esteems everywhere. Jack Sparrow who flies around and shits on heads. Jackoff into everyone’s punchbowl and ruin their day.”
The insult brings me back to five months ago. To when the war first started. It’s like nothing’s changed at all. She still dislikes me. But it’s better. I can settle for being disliked, as long as she notices me. Remembers me. Considers me worth knowing. I have to be normal. I have to show her who I used to be. If I’m lucky, it might spark her memory. I can’t be slow, or gentle. I have to be the old Jack.
“The head injury’s certainly made you more creative. And fortunately, less coherent,” I say. I look at Knife-guy. “And who is this charming young man? An admirer?” I wave a hand in front of his face. “Is he blind? Or just stupid?”
Isis’ smile fades. A twisted little grimace forms on her lips.
“Why do I have the sudden urge to perform violence on your face?” She cocks her head to the side, like a little angry bird. That one motion reminds me so much of the night at Avery’s. I inhale sharply as the memories flood back – her bare collarbone, her smile as she told me she could feel my pulse, her soft sighs –
Control, Jack. Control yourself. You’re the old Jack. The one who thought her an annoying nuisance. I clear my throat.
“That would be your body remembering the time you socked me so hard I saw through time and space,” I say.
“Did you like what you saw? Goopy aliens? Supernovas? Mantorok, God of Corpses?”
“I saw an alternate universe without you. It was like paradise.”
Knife-kid suddenly chuckles. I throw a glare at him.
“Something funny?”
“You haven’t talked to anybody in school in two weeks, and now she’s back, and you’re –” Knife-kid shakes his head. “Whatever.”
He turns and leaves just as I consider ripping into him. He’s right, and that’s the part Isis doesn’t need to know. Ever.
“You really hate me, huh?” She asks.
“Like Knife-kid said. You don’t talk when I’m gone, and I come back and you’re slinging the insults. So you must really hate me to bother breaking your silence. I get it.”
“No –” I blurt, and stop myself. No, jesus, that’s not it at all. But how can I tell her that? How can I tell her how I –
“Look, it’s fine.” She smiles. “I’m still grateful you saved Mom. That’s the only reason I didn’t hit you just then. Also, I’m becoming a beautiful mature butterfly. But mostly it’s for Mom. We clearly rubbed each other the wrong way back then. You stay away from me, I’ll stay away from you. We both go on with our lives. Sound good?”
My stomach drops. No. No, it doesn’t sound good at all. It’s the last thing I want.
“So you’re running away? That’s your solution?” I snap. “I’m part of your past, Isis. You ran from Will Cavanaugh, but you can’t run again. Nothing will be solved that way, and you won’t get any peace.”
At the mention of his name, she recoils, curling in on herself before straightening and glowering at me.
“What the hell do you think you know about me?”
“You can’t just write me out of your life like you did that scumbag. I’m not him. So don’t treat me like him.”
“You hate me,” she says dully. “He hates me. I find it better to cut the people who hate me out of my life.”
Everything in me screams to move to hold her. To hug her. To show her I don’t hate her. But that’s not something the Jack she can barely remember would do.
“You annoy me,” I say coldly. “I don’t hate you. There’s a difference.”
She laughs. “Not much of one.”
“I respect you. I don’t agree with you on most things, but I respect you.”
She scoffs.
“Believe it or don’t, I don’t care. It’s the truth. Before Leo attacked you, we respected each other. I hope someday you can remember that much.”
“All I can remember is that dumb kiss.”
“Which one?” I blurt it before I can stop myself. I’ve longed to know which one since she talked about it in the hospital. Her eyes widen, slowly, until they’re the size of amber coins.
“Which one? What are you talking –”
The bell rings shrilly just above it. She winces at the noise, and I take the opportunity to duck into a stairwell and leave her behind. Calculus can’t even penetrate my haze of disbelief. I nervously jiggle my leg the entire lesson, tapping my pencil on my paper. What the hell did I just do? I can’t control myself around her. I thought I could. I promised I would. But the idea of her presence and her actual presence are two very, very different things. I blurt things. I let slip betraying body language.
I’m not in control when she is around me physically.
And it terrifies me. Because what she needs the most from me – no, from any man – is for them to control themselves.
After Calculus is over, I glance out the window. She walks by just under me, with Kayla. She’s happier – a smile on her face in place of the frown I caused earlier. And that’s when I see it. There, on her scalp, is a pale white scar. It isn’t big, but it isn’t small. It’s jagged, and pink on the edges. Just healing. Just barely healing. The sight of it sends a surge of anger into my throat, my lungs.
She got hurt because I wasn’t fast enough.
It is Sophia, all over again.
I grab my books and push out the door. I need air. I need not-air. I need silence and not-her. The wall behind the cafeteria is the only place in school people can smoke without being seen. A few other people are here, too, laughing. I lean against the wall and light one. The smoke spirals up and the burn in my throat finally matches the burning guilt in my chest.
“Hey,” A voice next to me. Knife-guy.
“What do you want?” I grunt. He shrugs.
“You don’t look so good. Thought I’d ask if you were gonna throw up. You know, just so I know not to stand too close.”
“You’re standing close now.”
“If you can talk, you aren’t gonna throw up. So I can stand here.”
He’s irritating, but not untrue.
“When did you start smoking?” He asks. “Thought you were all clean-cut and going to Harvard, or some shit.”
“When did you?” I fire back.
“When my old man told me I was too wussy to smoke. Out of spite, I guess.”
“Where’s he now?” I ask.
There’s a long quiet. Knife-guy puts his cigarette out.
“You’ve seen it, right?” He looks at me.
“Seen what?”
“That thing on Isis’ arm.”
“What thing?”
He chuckles. “For someone so smart and observant, you sure are slow.”
I don’t have the energy to do much more than curl my lip in his general direction.
“It’s been fun,” he finally speaks again. “Watching you two. Most fun I’ve had in a long time in this shithole. So I’ll give you some advice; don’t smoke around Isis.”