"You know I heard once that Finn can smell fear,” Gabe said, putting in the combination to his locker. “I thought it was bullshit at first, but I think it’s true. I saw him this morning by the gym and I could’ve sworn he knew there was sweat building up on my brow.”
“Don’t be afraid of him, Gabe,” I said, partly trying to convince myself. “While you’re worrying about him, I’m freaking out at what Ian and Laura are going to do after the pep rally.”
“You didn’t hear?”
“They don’t go here anymore.” He traded his textbook for a composition journal that had ‘MUSIC’ written on the top corner with a metallic marker. “You’ve skipped a lot of days, so I guess that makes sense why you haven’t noticed they’ve transferred.”
“When did they leave?”
“A long time ago.”
I hit my back to the lockers. “That’s good to know. Well, that saves me one headache.”
When classes were released to funnel in to the gym, I had my eyes scanning the seas of students for Dakota. I let out a shout at the surging sensation of tickling, coming from behind me. I laughed when I saw face of my assailant, pushing me into the nearby wall with his fingers running freely to my sides.
“Stop,” I squeaked. “Seriously, Kota, quit it.”
“What’s the magic word?” he asked, breathlessly.
I slapped his arm, “Fuck off.”
“Oh, shit, ok,” he paused, but when my guard was down for a millisecond, he returned to annoying me.
If it weren’t for the warning issued by a scowling instructor, Dakota would’ve still had me up against the wall with no mercy. I thanked the teacher and moved back in to the stream of students, grappling with the impulse to see if Dakota was trailing behind me.
As suspected, he was to my left in no time. “I wanted to know-”
“I’m not talking to you.” I interrupted, entering the gymnasium. “I’m upset.”
“Schedule that for a different time. We have important things to accomplish today.”
“C’mon, Silvia, I want to know if you’re busy on the 3rd of June.”
“That’s the same night of prom.” I realized, going up the bleachers.
“I don’t want to go to prom, Kota. I told you that.”
“Ah,” he snapped his fingers, taking the seat next to me, “you’re not really mad, or you wouldn’t have said my nickname. Good.”
I shrugged off the arm he rested on my shoulder. “That doesn’t change my answer to your question. I’m not going anywhere with you on the 3rd.”
“I’m not going to bring you to Crescent High’s prom. I promise.”
“I don’t believe you.”
“I said I promise, believe me, Silvia.”
“Okay, fine, but what are we doing?”
“I can’t tell you that.”
“How am I supposed to agree on attending if I don’t know where I’m going?”
“It’ll be worth it,” he said, tapping his finger to my chin and lining it with my jaw. Like a magnet, he was drawn to my energy and latched his lips to mine. I found myself feeling as if I was sinking in to the seat, melding my form in to his to form a new entity. Drifting back in to my senses, I remembered I was in school and felt a wave of embarrassment, releasing myself from his entrapment.
“Does that mean you’ll be available on the 3rd?” he muttered, a bit dazed.
“I will be.” I caved in. “What should I wear?”
I scoffed. “You better keep your promise.”
“I plan to.” He mused, pecking my cheek.
The noise level in the gymnasium began to decrescendo with the arrival of the principal, front and center, on stage. Mr. Brentwood was a short man, standing at close to five foot even. Given his stout height, it left him with a stocky body that made watching him wattle across the shiny hardwood floors entertaining.
“Welcome Crescent High Lions!” he said in to the microphone.
“I don’t know if I’m ready for this,” I told to Dakota. “I’m getting nervous.”
“Don’t be. Gabe has it handled.”
I twisted in my seat, seeing Gabe in the glass room high above the audience. I waved at him for a few seconds until he saw me. He waved back, giving me a thumbs up.
“...I’m happy to introduce to you the new school banners, but before we show you all, let’s give a warm welcome to one of the star of the Lacrosse team, Hunter Price!”
The crowd modestly applauded, cheering on Hunter who was dressed entirely in his Lacrosse uniform, including the padding. He took the microphone from Mr. Brentwood and said that he wouldn’t be able to say everything that he wanted to without a video and gave Gabe the signal to turn the lights off.
The video, innocently enough, began on a field with team mates playing. In the background, narration of the first girl swarmed the speakers, explaining to listeners the path of falling in love with a boy who was only out to take her virginity as a joke. The next story was of a boy that had been locked in a freezer overnight by people he thought were his friends. And the following tales detailed more experiences of ridicule and abuse dealt by the hands of Segg members. In closing, the video went over the undoubtably of Diana, told by none other than Hunter himself.
Students erupted, clapping louder than they had before. The noise of it all was consuming me, so much so that I forgot about Gabe. Looking pass the cheering spectators, I saw Mr. Brentwood holding Gabe by his collar, dragging him out of the glass room.
My friends and I, sectioned out from the masses, were informed that we were had been summoned to the principals office. Someone snitched and I didn’t know who. They told us to bring along our things, saying we wouldn’t be returning. This was part of the plan, in a way. I had milled over the possible punishments we would be dished out for making such a controversial video.
Dakota went in before I did. He lingered at the exit when he was told to leave, telling me that he wanted to speak to me once I was finished with my conversation with Mr. Brentwood. I had never been in his office. Truth be told, I had minimal trips to the office in general. And any time I had, it was usually for the nurse.
“Please close the door,” Mr. Brentwood instructed.
“Yes, sir.” I obligated and went to the leather chair across from his wooden desk. “I’m not sure what the other kids have told you about Segg.”
“I’ve heard an ear full of the Segg today, shocking more than I had in years prior.”
“That’s hard to believe.”
His brows arched. “Are you implying I had some knowledge of this organization?”
“They’re a cult.”
“I don’t see any natures of an established cult here, but I would label it among the lines of organized crime. What they did was act on criminal behavior.”
“They have initiation ceremonies. That sounds like a cult.”
“Gangs do the same thing. Which would fall under organized crime.” He brought his pen, putting it to the lined white paper. “There is no need to argue semantics. I summoned you to my office to go over the ruling of your punishment.”
“I’m being punished, of course I am being punished and not the monsters who have been tormenting your students for years.”
“I can control what can and cannot be shown in this school and that video crosses countless breaches of security. I have parents ringing me up, nonstop, because of that video.”
“We opened your eyes to what you’ve been ignoring all along.” I snapped.
“I commend your courageous tenacity, but you could’ve gone around exposing the group without embarrassing the face of this school. Unkindly images were described in your video. Due to the level of adult talking points brought up, I’m going to have to take some actions for being behind the release of this video to the impressionable students of Crescent High. You are no longer allowed to attend prom.”
I scoffed. “I wasn’t going any way.”
“And you will not be accompanying your senior class for any senior activities.”
I sat up right. “Does that include the Disneyland trip.”
“Yes, it does.”
“Oh, c’mon, you can’t take Mickey from me, too!” I cried out. “And what about the kids who are a part of this group?”
“Leave that up to us.”
“If you even punish them,” I huffed. “I done here.”
I got up out of my chair and went for the door. Dakota was waiting for me outside, holding my jacket. I shimmed in to it, staring at the floor in contemplation.
“What is it?” Dakota asked, caressing my cheek. “What did he say in there?”
“They kicked me out of Disneyland trip.”
“They said that to me, too. You got Saturday cleaning?”
“For two weekends,” I nodded, exhaling a deep breath. “I’m going to hate the last weeks of school.”
“Look on the bright side,” Dakota chimed, “now that buys me an excuse to take you Disneyland.”
My gaze shot up to his, beaming. “You mean that?”
“Yeah, I do. We can go after one of the Saturdays we have to clean the campus.” He said earnestly. “I’ve been there a million times already.”
“No need to rub it in my face.” I pouted, but it was a fake one. Nothing could dampen my mood. I was going to Disneyland with Dakota and Finn - for all I knew - was out of my life. Things were looking up for us. For once.