A lot of me thought I was going to die after swinging the first punch at Pierson, that these were my final moments alive.
And what a sad, sad way to go.
It was my fault that I started this though. I had basically walked into my own death by stepping out of that stall and cursing out his friends. I was one of those people who did things without considering the possible consequences, which was something I needed to work on.
Who was I kidding? I’d probably never fix that issue. There was more of a chance that Faye would get knocked up by Maven than for me to change my reckless decision making skills.
Pierson tapped the back of his hand to his nose and his brows fused together when he saw a smear of blood. He looked at the smear in a way that made me question if he had ever seen blood before. I instantly imaged the kind of traumatic life he would lead if he was born a girl.
“What’s wrong?” I mused, “Never had a bloody nose before?”
A slur of words spat out his mouth that didn’t sound English. He was talking so fast in his thick accent that I wasn’t sure if he was cursing me out in his native language or being possessed by a demon.
Hunter held him back. “Pierson, don’t do it.”
As he tried to calm Pierson down, I thought of dashing out of the restroom door to get myself out of this situation, but I couldn’t do it. Punching a guy and running off wasn’t my style. I brought this upon myself which meant I needed to face the aftermath.
Hunter whispered something to him that made his fists lower and his body stop thrashing against them. I was too far away to catch what it was. I was secretly hoping they were lovers of some sort.
In all honest though - no bullshit - if this had happened a year ago, Hunter wouldn’t have done anything, let alone get Pierson to calm down and not attack me. What was different now?
After he was sure Pierson wouldn’t punch me, Hunter advised Ollie and Doug to stay with him. As they did what they were told like good little servants, Hunter turned to me and practically pushed me out of the restroom door.
“What is wrong with you?” he hissed once we were in the vacant hallway.
“I didn’t need for you to stop him from hitting me. I had it under control.”
“Oh, trust me. He’s going to still kick your ass for what you did. Pierson wanted to fight you long before you walked into the restroom. But now, he’s definitely going to. You can’t believe what he said. He was only saying that stuff about Silvia to piss you off. I thought you were smarter than that, Dakota, but it looks like you’re not.” He strained his eyes on me when I began to laugh. “You find this funny?”
“Kinda. Especially when you think about how he looked afterwards.”
Hunter squinted at me. “What are your intentions for the school year? Just start fights with everyone until you get kicked out? If those are your intentions, you’ll be out of here a lot faster.”
“I’m not trying to start fights.”
“Yeah, says the guy who just punched,” he nearly shouted. “That right there is a prime example of someone that wants to start up shit. You’ve got a lot more coming at you Ridgewood if you keep this up.”
“Is that a threat?”
“It’s a warning,” he clarified. “Graduation is close. Do you honestly want to spend this year stuck in detention instead of participating in senior activities and not with your fellow peers?”
“You’re making detention sound very appealing,” I mused, “Any excuse to get away from this psychotic senior class is a good excuse to me.”
I walked away from the men’s room, leaving without saying anything else. I didn’t see a point in continuing this conversation. Despite the dislike I had towards this subhuman, I knew he did ring some truth. I was starting up drama I was trying to steering clear from.
It was as if I had taken a page right out of Silvia’s “Instigating 101” textbook and took the words to heart. Heath wanted me to mess-up everyone’s senior year, and I had unknowingly gone with his plan to do that.
“That was a heated argument,” someone commented, followed by a low whistle. I looked around to see who the voice belonged to. I spotted a girl leaning on the lockers, gesturing over to the restrooms. Hunter was long gone and it was just us in the hallway while classes were in session. “I walked by the restroom...a couple of times. That argument is the reason why I’m about fifteen minutes late to my-”
“I don’t care.” I shut her down faster than she was expecting. Straightening my creased shirt, I started my long trek to my creative writing class. It was in another building on campus, which required me to go outside and walk countless stairs till I reached my destination. “Whatever you heard, forget it and pretend you weren’t here.”
“I didn’t find any of that fight amusing or funny. From what I heard, I can tell that they’re a bunch jerks for laughing at something like that. They’re most likely unsatisfied in their own relationships and probably lead a mediocre life. That’s why they’d find humor in something that isn’t funny. There’s nothing wrong with being inexperienced--”
“I said pretend you weren’t here,” I I came to a complete stop, throwing a look over my shoulder with an utmost amount of strained tension building up in my shoulder. “Waste your motivational empowerment speech for someone else to listen to.”
I turned the corner of the hallway, but she was still behind me like an obnoxious shadow. “Other than being a part-time motivational speaker, are you a stalker on the side?”
She shrugged and put her arm through the sleeve of the coat, pulling it on to her broad shoulders. “I have a writing class in the same direction. If you didn’t cut me off, you’d know that.”
Unless there were two separate writing classes, that meant we shared a class.
I was already late to class. If I was in a different circumstance, I would’ve lagged behind or taken a detour to my locker just so I didn’t have to walk alongside this stranger. I did slow down my pace though. There wasn’t anything particularly wrong with her.
I just didn’t like people. I especially don’t like new people.
New people were the worse.
In the eighteen years I suffered in the town of Crescent Heights, I had never crossed paths with this girl. I had a feeling she was the girl they were talking about in the men’s room.
She reached the creative writing class before I did and held the door open for me as I walked down the remainder of the hallway. My eyes naturally scolded her. I swear, it happened on its own with little to no effort.
It was like a fucking gift.
She quickly took the hint and shut the door behind her, shuffling into the classroom. Moments later, I entered the writing class. All of the chairs were brought to together to form a big circle in the center of the classroom. Each student sported a colorful spiral journal and a matching blue pen.
I found the teacher standing near the back wall, nodding to himself as if he had concoct a mastermind plan, but only in the silence of his own mind. He locked eyes with me and motioned me over to him. I introduced myself to him and showed him my second semester schedule.
“Ah, I’m glad you could join us.” He continued to bobble his head and he reached into a brown box, retrieving a green journal, and then handed me a blue pen from off of his desk.
I purposely didn’t grab the journal he picked for me and took the gray journal that was underneath the green one. “I already have a pen.”
He quirked a smile. “Alright then. Take a seat in the circle and start a free write.”
“Is there a prompt?”
“I don’t like using prompts for free writes. Just write whatever comes to mind. Don’t let anything dominate your thoughts. Write freely and flourish your imagination.”
Oh, he was one of those writing teachers.
I listened to his instructions and took the first available seat in the circle. After setting my backpack down on to the floor, I moved my gaze around the room to see if I knew anyone. Directly in front of me, Silvia sat with a journal on her lap, scribbling away with her eyes focused on the paper.
She didn’t see me yet.
Worst case scenario: she loses her shit, starts flipping tables. Out of nowhere, she begins swearing in a foreign language that randomly overcomes her (preferably a dead language that’s only spoken by Monks), and storms out of the classroom without saying anything to the teacher first.
Best case scenario: she throws her journal aside and does something along the lines of taking her clothes off and starts giving me a lap dance.
There was less of a chance that the last one would happen because we were in school...and broken-up. But mainly because we were in school, of course.
The person beside me rises up out of their seat and switches with someone else. I look up and see Heath taking the guy’s seat. A frown graced his face after he set his backpack down.
“What’s up?” I asked, bringing out a pen for the free write.
"What’s up? Have you not seen who’s all in this class?” I looked back at Silvia, which won me a slap to the back of my head. “Other than her, idiot.”
I panned my head around the room to see what he meant, and I instantly saw the issue I was in now that he was mentioning it. Maven and Faye were at one side, talking softly to themselves with a journal open between them. Ronnie sat next to Silvia, and two seats away from her was Finn, who was shamelessly watching her every move. Carmen was popping her pink gum repeatedly, not even opening her journal. She had her phone out and was typing away. I wasn’t sure if my eyes were deceiving me when I spotted Beth next to Finn, flipping through the pages of her journal. Xander was nowhere in sight though.
To make matters worse, the door opened once this finally hit me. The entire class turned to see who had walked in. The three stooges, plus their manager walked in. Pierson, Ollie, Doug, and Hunter went over to the teacher and explained how they had the class.
It was no surprise when Finn clapped his hands together and smiled at the four new people that entered the classroom, calling them over to sit with him. I didn’t know how, but Finn had to be behind this. Witnessing drama unfold before him was something he found amusing in.
He must’ve thought: What would be more catastrophic than publicly ruining Dakota’s life? Oh, I know. Make him share a class for several months with his ex-friends, his two ex-girlfriends, and then throw the ex-girlfriends best friend so I can have someone to stare at when things get boring.”
That had to be his logic behind this. Why else would this happen?
“I think everyone’s here,” the teacher announced after the three stooges and their manager took their seats in the circle. I avoided their death glares and focused on my free write.
“Oooh, can I do roll-call just to make sure?” Beth leaped out of her seat. ”Pleeease.”
“Sit back down. You’re embarrassing yourself,” Ronnie snickered.
Beth didn’t acknowledge Ronnie’s remark and walked to the front of the class anyway.
“I suppose that would be a good idea.” Mr. Adrian said while handing her the clipboard.
“Okay. Brittney Abbes, Maya Adams, Ricardo Bell.” Each one of those students said they were present. She proceeded. “Nora Ellis, Saliva Ellington. Oops. I mean Silvia.”
A couple of students laughed at this. I searched Silvia’s face to see what she thought. Her face remained frozen at the fake slip-up. She didn’t blush, she didn’t raise her brow. She did, however, tilt her head to the side and stare up at Beth.
“If anyone should be named Saliva, it’s you. You’re always drooling over Pierson,” she snapped. ” And c’mon, Beth. We all know you used to respond to my name. I’m actually proud of you for not saying ‘present’ for me.”
Far more students responded to this jab. Ronnie was louder than all of them, laughing a little too hard and pointing at her while doing so. Beth’s frown deepened, fumbling on a rebuttal and gripping the clipboard.
Mr. Adrian waved his hands around and hushed at us. “That’s enough. I’ll do the rest of the roll-call.”
He took the clipboard from her and went on with the other names. When he was done, his timer went off, signaling the end of the free write. He was one of those teachers that sat with the students during class, sitting with the chair in the wrong direction, pretending to be “cool” and “hip.”
I aspired to not be like him.
“Okay. I know it’s only the first day in this class, and you guys might not be confident in your writing yet, but I think it would be a good idea if we read a few pieces so we could connect with each other and maybe even get to know each other a little better.”
The new girl from earlier raised her hand. I didn’t catch her name during roll-call. “Wait, are we going to do an ice-breaker? I’m new here and I’d like to get to know you guys.”
“We don’t want to get to know you,” I mumbled.
Mr. Adrian’s eyes darted over to me. The way his brows knitted together in a permanent scowl told me he had heard my little comment. “I think I just heard Dakota volunteer to read his free write.”
“No, you did not hear that,” I corrected him and shut my journal at breakneck speed. “I’d gladly repeat what I actually did say.”
“Why don’t you tell us what you were writing about, then?” He suggested. “What was the main focus in your free write?”
“It was about a girl,” I supplied in a slow voice, as if speaking about my work drained me of every ounce of energy in me.
“Tell us three things about this girl.”
I faced the ceiling momentarily as I responded to him. “She’s human for one, she has a six letter name, and—”
“Aw, it’s about me.” Carmen gasped and pressed a hand to her chest.
“He said it was about a human girl. Not a female dog. Don’t get your hopes up that quickly,” Ronnie spat.
This time, the class didn’t have enough time to react to the insult that was being thrown. Mr. Adrian stepped in and shut us up with a loud, authoritative tone. It was perfect timing when the bell rang.
“No one is leaving!” Mr. Adrian growled. I was still heading for the door. “Dakota. Sit down.”
Dragging out a long breath, I collapsed back into my seat and waited to hear what he had to say. I had to drive up to the community college as soon as possible.
“Now, I’m not aware of the issue between you kids, but whatever prior hatred or dislike you have toward each other, leave that drama outside of this classroom. This is supposed to be a safe space where you get to express yourself without fearing judgement or rude comments. What I saw today was a blatant form of bullying. I don’t want any of that in my class. Have I made myself clear?” There was a soft response back from the class. “I said, have I made myself clear?”
Everyone echoed the same thing, saying “Yes, Mr. Adrian,” in a monotone, dead voice. He released us from class after he was satisfied with our reply.
Or really, their reply. I was just staring at him with an empty look in my eyes.
Everyone filed out of the room. Heath trailed behind me as I tried to catch up with Silvia, but someone tugged my arm and stopped me from tapping her shoulder.
“Man, she said to give her space.” Heath nudged me. “Following her out of class isn’t going with what she wants. If your intentions are to annoy her, then be my guest—go and tap her shoulder.”
“I have been giving her space. I didn’t text her for most of break.”
He stretched out his hand. “Give me your phone.”
“You don’t believe me?”
“Of course I don’t fucking believe you. Now, give me your phone.”
I brought it out, unlocked the screen, and handed it to him. He looked at my messages and a grin snuck its way on his lips. “You have text her, but she hasn’t replied back. Oh, wait. You have her old number.”
I snatched the phone back from him. “What? She changed it?”
“Yeah. She sent out a message after Christmas with her new number. I think she lost her phone at Pierson’s party and decided to get a number change as well. I guess she didn’t send it to you.”
“She could’ve easily forgotten,” I offered.
“Or she didn’t,” he laughed, strolling into the large cluster of students that were heading to the cafeteria for some second rate lunch. “I swear, they need to add your picture next to the word Whipped in the dictionary. What happened to you?”
“I’m the opposite of whipped. What the hell are you talking about?”
“No, you really are whipped. I bet you were thinking of getting her number from me just now.”
“I wasn’t,” I lied. “I don’t care if you have it or not. Okay, I might’ve thought of asking you.”
“You’re so whipped. It’s getting a little sad— still kind of hilarious, but also a little sad,” he chuckled so hard that I could see tears leaking from the corners of his eyes. “That’s probably why she isn’t trying that hard to get back together.”
“She told me why she didn’t want to get back together, and that wasn’t –”
He didn’t let me finish. “That’s what Silvia said. But that doesn’t mean it’s how she feels. What a girl says doesn’t always correlate with what she’s feeling. Tell me right now, what was it that originally got you two together? Were you this nice to her?”
“No,” I huffed. “Not even close. I was a complete asshole to her. I don’t know why she kept sticking around.”
“Then that’s it. Go back to being an asshole to her. You need to become the one avoiding her and ignoring her at everyone corner so she’s the one who is chasing you out of classrooms. Then maybe she’ll stop dismissing you like you’re a nobody. You need to do that, or at least flirt with someone else to make her mad.”
“Wh-what kind of logic is that? Heath, that’s a stupid plan.” I rolled my eyes. “I’d most likely get slapped in the face than for that to work out in my favor.”
“Don’t cross the line. Just be enough of a dick to get her all hot and bothered for you,” he paused. “Wow, that sounded better in my head.”
“That entire plan must’ve sounded better in your head, too, because it’s absolutely insane out loud.”
“Is it though? Is it really?" He strained his neck, showcasing a lopsided grin. “Give it some thought. If this all works out perfectly—like how I know it will be—I call dibs on being the Godfather for the first kid.”
I came to a screeching stop. “Whoa there. First kid? Don’t scare me like that.”
“Shut-up. You love kids. I’m the one who’s fucking terrified of them.” Heath gripped the strap of his backpack and straightened it on his shoulder. “You always ask Dion to help out with Ophelia.”
“That’s different,” said in a low voice.
“Hardly,” he scoffed and started to yap about something else. He was interrupted by someone walking up to us from behind before Heath could get to his main point.
I felt a finger poke my back. Turning around, I saw the new girl from my writing class. “Can I help you?”
“Did I say something to you that I’m not aware of? Because I’ve never had someone act so openly mean to me without a reason.”
“Oh, my rudeness is offered to everyone—free of charge,” I said smugly.
She gaped at me.
“Unless I ask you to, never open your mouth that wide,” I noted. “You should close it before something flies in.”
Her cheeks brightened. “What is your problem?”
This girl was on war path, ready to ruin my day.
“Right at this moment? It’s you,” I confused earnestly.
That was enough for her to push past us both, mumbling incoherently under her breath. Heath nudged me when the girl disappeared off into the cafeteria.
“It’s working.” He pointed over at someone standing not too far from the start of a lunch line. Ronnie was talking to Silvia at a rapid speed, but Silvia wasn’t look at her at all.
She was look at me. Her hand went up and she waved at me with a flat, refrained smile.
“Don’t wave back,” Heath demanded. “Simply turn back around and walk the opposite direction.”
"This is so childish,” I grumbled with gritted teeth, but I obliged by not waving back at her. I knew this plan had issues along with it and that I was probably doing more damage than anything else. I followed his rules though for some stupid reason. Spinning around, facing the opposite direction, I walked away from the cafeteria. “I can’t believe I’m taking part in something that every nine-year boy does. This is no better than throwing rocks at a girl you like in 2nd grade.”
“Hey, do not shame this classic tactic.” Heath slapped his hand down on my back, causing me to cough at its impact. “This is going to work beautifully.”
“Yeah, or it’ll crash and burn,” I added on.