A week went gone by, leaving my group of friends no closer to nabbing Hunter than we were earlier in the semester. In his haste to avoid us, Hunter stopped showing up to classes. He left Silvia’s car in the parking lot of their house, unlocked and with the keys sitting in the driver’s seat. He didn’t explain to his mother where he was going when he ran up to his room that afternoon, hurling necessities into suitcases and zipping it up in a rush. Silvia told me about it the next day, telling me how her family reacted to his departure from Crescent Heights.
“He can’t hide forever.” Silvia calmed me with her touch, stroking the back of her hand to my neck. We’ve been in my room all evening, talking mostly and listening to music to distract the looming cloud stuck over our heads. “He’s got a graduation to attend in a month. He’s not going to risk it over this and that’s when we’ll have the chance to get him.”
“And do what?” I groaned. “There’s no point to all of this. If he wanted to be Ophelia’s life, he would’ve made the effort.”
“We still don’t know if he knew she was pregnant.”
“What differences does it make when he didn’t even show up to Diana’s funeral?” I gulped, revisiting the gloomy morning of Diana’s service. Many Crescent High students attended, mostly out of curiosity I supposed. There were rumors floating around on how she took her life and I’d caught word that there was a bet going on what was the culprit.
That, along with other factoring issues, made me keep a tight grip on who got to come in. Carmen arrived and I made sure she didn’t get a chance inside. Hunter, however, didn’t make the attempt to go to her wake. Now, with knowing what Sherri told us, I had a deeper sense of hate for the twins—one that couldn’t be chalked up to only being jealous for taking Carmen.
“We can’t let them get away with this...all of them.” Silvia said, drawing me out of my detailed imagery of strangling Hunter. “We can’t let them walk away unscathed.”
“Heath and Ronnie have that cover, from what I know.”
“I mean other than that.”
“I’m tired of plotting for revenge on people who don’t deserve the effort.”
“So, you want to do nothing?”
“Not nothing...” I trailed, tip-toeing my fingers up her arm. “I want to talk about something else. Something that isn’t wrapped around Segg, or Diana or Hunter. I want to escape for a second or I might just lose my mind.”
“I can understand that,” she whispered. “It’s defeating my mood, too. I know it’s hard to want to keep on fighting for something that only ever feels like it being pulled further and further away from you the harder you try to get a hold of it.”
My gaze shot up to her face, cracking a smile. “You have no idea how perfectly that describes my relationship with you.”
She snorted. ”Friendship.”
“You keep saying that like it’ll happen, but it won’t.”
“We are friends, Dakota.” She assured assertively, yet followed it with a sigh. “I had a hunch we were going to bring that up again after I said no to your third prom-posal.”
“I thought the stuffed animals would’ve drawn you in more.”
She rolled her eyes. “I was more impressed with the signs.”
“Impressed, but not enough to say yes.” I arched a brow. “You’re really killing me, Silvia.”
She folded forward and then rotated herself on to me, pressing her back to my thighs and raking her hand though her hair to get it out of her face. “I’m not going pay to dance with some losers I already hate.”
“I told you, I got the tickets a long time ago. You don’t have to pay. Don’t use that as your excuse to not go.”
“I said no, Dakota, not because I don’t like the idea of dancing with you. But because I don’t want you to waste your money on something as anticlimactic as prom. I’m actually shocked Mr. I Hate Everyone wants to go to prom.”
“It’s because it’s not about just going to prom,” I breathed, laying my hand her shoulder and working my way up to her cheek. “It’s about going to prom with you. More chances to make memories with you is something I’m not going to want to skip out on.”
“We’ll get plenty of time to—”
“I’m leaving for college this summer, Silvia.” I cut in, jarring her with my words. “I got accepted into a program at Columbia that requires that I go on to campus at the end of June.”
“That means you will be gone sooner than I thought.”
“With how you’ve been adamantly rejecting me, I felt I shouldn’t hold it back anymore and tell you.”
“I haven’t been rejecting you. I’m taking things slow—as slow as I need it to be. You told me I could,” she reminded me, turning her cheek from my hand. “Don’t guilt me on how I spend our time when this wouldn’t have been an issue if you were trustworthy from the start.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean for it to come out that way.” I clear my throat. I hadn’t seen it in that way. “Can you stop doing that, though?”
“Throwing that in my face. I apologized. I know that can fix everything, but I have been trying, Silvia. Anytime we’ve tried talking about us, you bring that up. I want us to get pass that.”
A stillness hardened in her impenetrable gander, chilling me to my bones. “Then prove it, Dakota. Prove it that you are worthy of a second chance. Because when I look at you, if you want me to be honest, is everything that you’ve ever done wrong to me. I can’t stop the hurting. What you’ve done so far hasn’t made this pain in me any bearable.” I broke away my gaze, but she held on to my chin—hindering me from doing so. In the same gentle breath, she said, “I love you, though. I don’t know how to explain that. I love you, Dakota.”
“I love you, too, Silvia.”
She swallowed slowly. “I want to be able to trust you and make this work out. But I can’t do that overnight. Of course, I can’t ask you to stay forever on me, so if you want to go to someone else and—”
“There is no one else. Never say that,” I plead.
“You’re going to college in the summer. I’m just saying that if—”
I wouldn’t let her finish. “Don’t, though. I don’t want you to start getting that thought when I haven’t left yet.”
“I’m being realistic.”
“And so am I. Realistically speaking, I wouldn’t have the patience to start over with someone else when I know what I want, and it’s you and not them.”
She struggled on her reply for a beat, sitting up right—off of me—and back on the bed with her legs up on the mattress. “As much as I wanted to hear that, I do...but I have to tell you that you’re free...free to do what what you want. I want you to understand that it’s ok if you did go for someone else. Don’t feel shackled in.”
“I told you stop, please.”
She sighed. “Okay. I will.”
“Thank you.” I muttered and cupped her face.
“I’m not ready to kiss you,” she choked. “Physical things will only fog my judgment this early on. I’d be too tempted to do something more.”
I smirked. “There’s nothing wrong with that.”
“Not in this house!” someone outside my bedroom door hooted, ripping us apart. Silvia scurried away from me as though she was burned, stuffing her hands into her pockets. I got on to my feet and walked to the door that was left slightly ajar.
“Mom.” I stuck my head out of the room. “A little privacy?”
“Privacy is a lie parents tell you about, but doesn’t actually exist. I go through your room once a month.”
“I knew I was missing weed. I thought I miss placed it. You threw it away?!”
“No, sweetie, I didn’t toss your greenery, I toked it.” She chuckled and it further pushed me to leave my room, shutting the door behind me. “You’ve two have been locked up there all day. I was getting concerned.”
“That I’d be made into a grandma by surprise again.”
“Silvia and I aren’t like that...”
She laughed louder, filling up the hallway with an echo. “I may be stoned, but I wasn’t born yesterday.”
I took a whiff of her as I walk pass, shocked that it didn’t creep on me sooner. “Mom, relax, I mean we aren’t dating.”
“That never stops your generation.”
I was the one laughing now. “Rest assure, I’m not sleeping with her. Be my pleasure and ask her yourself.” I threw the door open.
“Hi.” Silvia squeaked.
“Way to put me on the spot,” my mom grumbled, giving Silvia a small greeting and then walking out of view. Down the hall, she motioned for me to come to her. I closed the door, as she instructed, and followed her to the stairway.
“Isn’t her father worried about her? I feel like I’ve seen her over here almost every night.”
“He’s probably too distracted with the incoming new member of their family.”
Puzzlement became solidified in her features. “I don’t understand.”
“Silvia’s family is expecting a baby.” I sometimes forgot how she was disconnected to the rest of the world. In those moments, I pretended I was having a conversation with a full-fledged citizen, contributing to their community.
I couldn’t remember which day it was when she refused to leave the safety of these walls, unwilling to make contact with others. I did remember the last fight about it, getting caught up in my own feelings when I came home after a visit to the hospital. It was the day I found Diana, locked up in her room and unresponsive. I called an ambulance and I rode with them to the ER. It was too late though. They couldn’t save her. I came back home and something in me made me snap. Seeing my mother watch television in the living room—disassociated entirely to the tragedy—made me go off the edge.
We never addressed that argument. No one in this family did any confrontation. We swept shit under the rug and the next day act as if nothing happened. I couldn’t stand it. Dion tried to do the same thing with Carmen, but I didn’t let that slide.
There’s no use, but you might as well tell her.
I half expected not much, but part of me wanted a reaction when I said: “I’m valedictorian. I found out not too long ago that I’ll be doing the speech at graduation.”
She smiled, petting the top of my head. “I’m proud of you.”
“You know what would show your support? Being there for me.”
Her hands froze. “I...I don’t think that’ll be possible.”
“It’s not like you’re booked and busy.” I snickered. “Will you at least see me off to the airport this summer? You’re coming then, right?”
“I’m sorry, Dakota,” she huffed, dropping her hand to her side. “I haven’t left this house in a long, long time...”
“No one is asking you to become the Genius World Record holder for fear of leaving the house.”
“That’s not funny to make fun of a phobia--one that I don’t have, may I add. I don’t have a fear of leaving.”
“Then what’s been holding you back?”
“Maybe there’s nothing out there I want to see. Did you think of that, perhaps?”
“There’s a whole world out there, Mom. You haven’t seen much of it. You can’t possibly say that whatever it was you saw out there was bad enough to call off walking out this house for the rest of your life.”
"Enough,” she snapped her fingers. “I’m not going to argue about this.”
“I don’t know why I even bother with you.” I grumbled, gritting my teeth. “You wouldn’t leave the damn house for Diana. There’s no way you would leave for me.”
I brushed passed her at the sound of the door bell ringing. I did my best to block out the yelling behind me, opening a new can of drama with the one person I shouldn’t be fighting with. I wasn’t sure what it was. The conversation with Silvia or everything that happened with Hunter, but whatever it was made me switch.
The ringing was replaced by rapid knocks, urgent and impatient. ”What?” I shouted.
The porch creaked under the weight of the entire Lacrosse team standing awkwardly back at me. What the hell is going on?
“Hey.” Hunter emerged from the masses. “We need to talk.”