Silvia was on some unknown substance; she probably took huffs of an unspecified drug when I wasn’t looking. There wasn’t any other plausible explanation as to why she’d suggestion something so crazy. No sane person would want to go up against Segg unless they were hoping to miserably fail.
“No,” I protested, shaking my head at the three of them. Heath, Silvia, and Ronnie didn’t flinch at my words, unbothered by my tone. ”No.”
“Saying no twice isn’t going to make Segg disappear.” Ronnie said.
“Our graduation in a few months will make them disappear though.” I offered, piercing a harsh glance at her. “It’s what people at Crescent High have been doing since this senior tradition was created. All you have to do is survive the hellish environment and then graduate so you don’t have to ever see these monsters ever again.”
“You want us to keep our mouth shut and be cowards?” Silvia while tilting her head, gaping at me. “I can’t do that, Dakota. I want them to have a taste of their own medicine and go out with a bang. We could end the tradition once and for all.”
“We’re just four seniors. There’s no way we can do that on our own,” I said, uncertain. “I know how this will play out. We’ll try to get at them, but they’ll be two steps ahead of us and stop us in our tracks. They always will. They’ll always have the lead.”
“Have some more fate in us.” Heath nudged me. “Silvia’s right. We can’t stay silent any longer.”
“We really can’t.” Silvia nodded.
“Yes, yes we can.” I uttered, cupping her hands into mine. She loosened her hold on me, inching back. “They’re not worth our time. Feeding into this toxic system will only make things worse.”
“Worse than what’s already happened?” Ronnie asked. “You don’t have much to lose, Dakota. But Silvia does. You can’t expect us let this harassment get any worse. This week it was her locker they vandalized. What’s next? Her home?”
“It’s not going to get that far.” I said.
“Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t know you were Raven Baxter and could see the fucking future.” Ronnie hooted sarcastically. “Now tell me, psychic Dakota, what’s the lottery numbers tonight since you know what’s going to happen in the future?”
“Lay off on the jokes.” I snickered. “I don’t know what’s going to happen, but neither do you. Jumping to the wild conclusion that things will get any worse is only going give us more stress.”
“Y’know what? Fine. Suit yourself, Miss. Baxter.” Ronnie threw her hands up into the air. “I’ll do this with just Heath’s help. If you want to play it safe, then be my guess. Unlike you, I can’t stay silent.”
“Neither can I.” Silvia added in. “After Ronnie told me that Ian was in town, I nearly had a panic attack at the thought of him telling people what happened in Maine.”
“Wait, what happened in Maine?” Heath questioned. I shot him a glare. “Sorry. I’m a tad bit on the nosey side.”
“It’s a long story. My mom thought it would be a good idea if I lived with my dad because of a few things I’d done. I’m not happy with what I did there. But I never did anything without being provoked before.” Silvia informed us, pausing momentarily as she gnawed on her lip and spaced out. “Sadly, incidences in my hometown of Portland, Maine made her turn to my father. She thought I’d be safer with him in California after her tires were slashed.”
“You don’t have to tell them.” I gently whispered into her ear. I didn’t know the full story. I knew about her drug addict of a mother and about the horrible man named Jared Reynolds. But that was when she was fourteen. I didn’t know what lead up to her mother’s decision to ship her to her father in California.
The case with Jared had been solved in court. They required her mother to go to rehab while Silvia and her brother temporarily lived with their grandmother in New York - with occasional visits from her father. After her treatment, her mother begged for Silvia and Lenard back, and quicker than he should’ve, her father handed them over.
Silvia told me how the day her father gave her back to her mother was the day she hated him as much as she despised her mother.
She once said to me, weeks before we broke up on Thanksgiving, that she couldn’t fully forgive her father. Saying that, I can at least blame my mother’s problems back to the divorce and her addiction. For my dad, it’s not the same. His reasoning to leave us with our mother was purely based on the fact that we didn’t fit in with his new, perfect family. We ruined that image for him.
I had tried to tell her that it couldn’t possibly be that cut and dry, but she refused to hear me out.
I respected her discussion to not change her views on her father. I didn’t necessarily have an ideal relationship with my dad, either. He was rotting inside of a jail cell and I could care less.
That conversation we shared, talking about her parents, was so long ago though. It felt like it was eons ago. We were in a different place now than we were in that moment.
Silvia was uncomfortable telling me then, meaning she didn’t need pressure from Heath or Ronnie to hear about her past. “We can talk about that some other time; when you’re ready.” I squeezed her hand and she locked eyes with me, mustering a grin.
“I want to tell you.” She shifted her gaze to our friends. “I want to tell you guys, too. It has to do with Ian. And if Ronnie’s ex-boyfriend, Finn, already got to Ian, that means he already knows.”
“He has gotten to Ian.” I noted, recalling the party I had broken up by nearly burning Pierson home. Only a carpet got thrown out, but I liked to believe there was more property damage to help me sleep at night.
“We could get to Ian before he tells anyone just to be safe.” Ronnie supplied.
“Knowing Ian, you can’t shut his big mouth. I would know. He went behind my back when we were younger and told the entire school about my situation at home, making me the laughing stock.” Silvia sighed. “What I did in Maine lead to me being expelled from my school.”
“That’s what you did?” Heath appeared impressed, clapping his hands. “I never saw you as the kind of person who’d get expelled from a school.”
“It was well deserved.” Silvia gave a weak smile. “Also, it has to do with Ian’s family. When I moved back in with my mom, I was going through a tough time, falling in a downward spiral in life. I didn’t see a point in caring about anything. I got in fights, dating some questionable people, and I did things I’m not proud of. Around April this year, I found out that Ian’s father – who was the Vice Principle at our school – was cheating on his wife. I had stayed behind really late at school one day and saw something I shouldn’t have in the parking lot.”
“What did you do?” Ronnie inquired.
“I-I...” Silvia stuttered. “I took photos of them. That next day I woke up extra early to make printed out copies of those images. I then plastered them all over Ian’s house and all over campus.”
“Badass.” I noted, but Silvia didn’t find any amusement in my compliment.
Ronnie raised her hand to high-five her.
“It wasn’t a smart move.” Silvia didn’t reciprocate the high five, causing Ronnie to let it drop. “Someone decided to do the same exact thing to me. They had photos of me with assortment of guys from the past and posted them everywhere on school grounds and online. Most of them were pinned on my locker.”
“Like the Segg prank from last semester.” Ronnie recollected. She was right. Someone had put photos of Silvia with other guys on her locker. They must’ve gotten it online. I didn’t know how they found it, but whoever did that must’ve done a lot of digging.
“Yeah. A lot of the photos on my locker were also from that incident at my old school.” Silvia stared at her hands. I rested my chin on her shoulder. “It didn’t end there. I got threats from Ian’s friends. He was popular at our school. The bullying before was no match compared to the treatment I endured after I leaked the photos. One night, I couldn’t take it anymore...but my mother stopped me and for once opened her eyes to see that I was going through. She called my dad that very next morning.”
“You don’t have to tell us what else happened.” I held her. “You’ve said enough.”
Numbly, she said, “I’m sure you all can come to the conclusion on your own. I wanted to end everything that night, thinking that would make the pain stop. I never got over that....talking about it feels good.” She released a deep breath. “It feels great telling that to someone who’s willing to listen.” She scoffed a laugh while a tear fell down her face I extended my hand, stroking my on her cheek and caught it before it hit the neckline of her purple T-shirt.
Silvia’s head lifted up as the curl of her lip raised, forming a partial smile up at me and moving in close enough to kiss the center of my palm.
“I’m so single.” Heath noted, gawking at Silvia and I. “Damn, I want that, Ronnie.”
“Me too.” She grinned at us and I rolled my eyes. “It sucks being single.”
Heath relaxed back in his seat, faking a yawn so he could wrap his arm around her shoulder. “I could change that, babe.”
“Ew. Gross.” Ronnie scooted away from him. “I said I was single, not desperate.”
Heath gasped. “That was brutal and uncalled for.”
“It was totally called for the second you said ‘babe.’ You know I despise that word.” She moved even further away from him. “Silvia, about what you said, I want you to know that talking is always an amazing thing. Your mom should’ve gotten you help, professional help. She shouldn’t have pushed you off to your father. That doesn’t address the issue.” Ronnie reached out and touched Silvia’s knee. “You can still get help. I know a fantastic therapist over on 34th Street. You can talk to her about it, too.”
“I don’t do well with strangers.” Silvia shook her head. “I can hardly tell my dad what’s going on with me.”
“It’s odd at first, but trust me. It gets better the more you go.” Ronnie smiled. “Also, we’re here for you. It is best if you speak with someone who went to school for this.”
“Ronnie is right.” I agreed. “If you don’t address this early on, another episode like that could happen again.”
Diana’s first attempt wasn’t this summer. It was earlier than that, but I didn’t see the signs that things had gotten worse until only after she died. It’s sad how many people only notice all the warnings when it’s too late. She needed professional help, which was something I was blind to until the time had already arrived and she was taken from us all by the claws of her depression.
Silvia relaxed back into my arms. I lifted my head off her shoulder so she could perfectly fall back on to my chest, breathing in slow breathes. “I’ll think about it.”
That was a start. It wasn’t a definite yes, but it was a step in the right direction. Once they leave, I would have to talk to her more about this. She was emotionally drained. I could see it written in her weary eyes and trembling voice.
It put into perspective what she had on the line if there was a repeat of what happened at her old school. I couldn’t let that occur here.
Unlike at her previous high school, Silvia had us this time around. We weren’t an army, but we were strong enough to make waves at Crescent High. “We’ll do it.” I decided, still processing what I was signing myself up for. “We’ll help you destroy Segg.”
Silvia sat up. “You mean that?”
“Yes, I mean it.” I pecked her cheek. “Like you said, we should give them a taste of their own medicine and finish our senior year with a bang.”
. . .
Half an hour before Silvia’s parents were meant to arrive, I drove home. Not wanting to face them just yet, she came along with me.
I enjoyed the company. We did manage to talk about Maine more after our friends left, but not as much as I’d hope. I could sense her mood worsening so I diverted the topic to something that I knew would brighten her tone.
“Do you want to go see a movie this weekend?” I asked during the drive home. “I saw the trailer to an action movie yesterday called Bolded. It looks great.”
“I’m not into action movies at the moment,” she made known, frowning out her window. “I heard there’s a formal coming up at school this upcoming Friday.”
“The winter formal?” I scoffed. “Those are no fun. Usually freshmen and sophomores get excited for that stuff.”
“Oh, I didn’t know.” She frowned. “I thought it would be fun to go to one of them. You’re probably right though. It’s lame.”
“I didn’t say it was lame, per se.” I disagreed. “Frankly, I’ve never been to one.”
She brows lowered, glowering at me. “Then how do you it isn’t fun?”
“I went to socials in middle school. I figured they’re the same thing – just with a formal dress code.”
“Socials are horrible.”
“They are. I accidently dropped my retainer in the punch bowl at the last social I went to.”
“Gross. I can’t look at you the same.”
“I said it was an accident.” I emphasized.
“Nothing is an accident with you. I bet you threw it in there on purpose and used the wall as your backboard to make the shot.” She accused. “Admit it. Confess to your wrongdoings, Ridgewood.”
“I didn’t do it on purpose. It was an expensive retainer that my mom bought. I only know how much it cost because my mother kept reminding me after I got it.” I swore, raising my right hand. “I promise it was an accident.”
My words didn’t sit as solid evidence that I was telling the truth for her. She shook her head, but there was a smirk across her face. It was drastically different than the heartbroken expression she had painted on for most of the afternoon.
I liked seeing her happy.
When she heard me say I’d join in on the take down of Segg, her face had lit up. Even if this didn’t end well on my part, I’d be glad knowing that I tried my best.
I had a bad upbringing, but it was nowhere near as traumatic as Silvia’s. The mere thought of someone experiencing that and still baring a brave face against the world was an inspiration.
I sometimes forgot about the amount of hardships she had to overcome in order to be the person she was today. It explained her actions the more I learned about her. It wasn’t an excuse for her short temper at times or the many flaws we both shared, making an unhealthy pairing at first contact. But it gave me insight as to why she did the things she did.
Regardless of the amount of times in her life she had gotten hurt, she leaped into the world with her eyes closed and her heart on her sleeves. I loved that about her. She lived unapologetically.
She couldn’t mask her feelings. She didn’t fake it. She was unfiltered and real. If you liked her or not, she didn’t try to change herself in order to appease to the crowd.
“Dakota.” Silvia tapped my shoulder, ripping me out of my internal thought. “Isn’t that your brother?”
I hit the brakes, peering out my window to see my brother sitting on a bench, talking to a man. “Isn’t that your dad?” I pointed out. “What are they doing, talking in the park?”
“I don’t know.” Silvia shrugged. “He said he’d be back home fifteen minutes ago. I don’t understand why he’d speak with your brother on his first day back from his trip. He didn’t even stop home.”