When did the lies stop?
When did the truth start?
When did things stop being fake? Where they ever real?
Was...was any of it real?
A million questions race through my thoughts as Pierson maneuvered us out of the party and to the front yard. Reality didn’t hit me—not entirely—until the cold, crisp December air chilled my lungs. I was hoping for my breathing to stop—I wanted it all to come to a stop—but the white clouds continued to form outside of my mouth. This was my life. This wasn’t completely constructed in the darkest corner of my mind. As much as I wanted this to be a mere nightmare, the goosebumps running up my arm told me that I wasn’t in a dream world. My secrets, at least some of them, were about to be exposed to a lot of my schoolmates. And with Finn in possession of that tape, I knew there wouldn’t be an end to this torment.
“C’mon, let’s go,” Pierson said, heading toward his car.
I yanked my arm out of his reach. “I’m not going anywhere with you.”
The keys rattled in his hands, shivering from the cold. “Silvia, we can’t stay here.”
“You can leave, but I’m not getting in the car with you.” I pivoted, hugging myself and tugging at the zipper of Gabriel’s jacket. “I’m going to walk home.”
“You’re being ridiculous.” He sneered. “After that stunt in there, I’m not the one you should be having trust issues with.”
I spun back around. “Is that true? I don’t know that right now, Pierson. Everything is up in the air. From what I can see, people around here are getting shadier by the damn minute.”
“Silvia,” his eyes went ablaze, narrowing down at me as he stepped up to me. “I was among the few who came to your aid when that asshole fucked with your feelings the first time. Look in my face and tell me everything I did for you was meaningless.”
I slammed my eyes shut, inhaling through my nostrils. I try to compose myself, give grace to an ungraceful moment, but the attempt was lost on me. My voice came out weak and laced with emotion. “I’m going to ask you a question, Pierson. Answer it honestly.”
“Of course.” He said quickly.
I was on the verge of tears. “Are you a part of SEGG?”
There was a painstaking pause. The world, and everything in it, froze in that silent moment and so did my breathing.
My eyes fluttered open. His mouth was ajar, working out which lie to spew my way. “If you can’t answer that, then this friendship is over.” I turned back around—in the direction of my house—and started walking. Just as fast as I had moved away from him, he caught up with me and grabbed my elbow, making me come to a stop.
“Wait.” He sighed, dropping his gaze to the concert. “I was not a part of SEGG when you arrived to Crescent High.”
“That’s not answering the question.”
“Let me finish,” he pleaded. “I wasn’t a part of it because I found their tactics to be tacky and borderline psychopathic.”
“Borderline,” I scoffed. “That’s a kind remark.”
“That’s what I thought before. Before tonight.” He moved his hand from my elbow to my hand, holding on to me tightly. “But now, after what I saw Finn do to you—or tried to do—at the party, I know that I’ll never associate myself with them every again.”
“You still haven’t answered the question, Redmond.”
“I’m getting to that part, Ellington.” He flashed a smile. A small one, but it was a smile regardless. Taking in a deep breath, he said. “I joined SEGG because of you.”
"What?” I spat. “Don’t pin this on me.”
“I wanted to be with, Silvia. More than anything. And my desperation turned to horrible tactics. I turned to people who I shouldn’t have trusted. I wanted Dakota out of the way.”
I dropped his hand, slamming my two hands on his chest and pushing him back. “The video. You were a part of that? You ran in there like you had no clue what was going on!”
“I needed Dakota out of the picture.”
“So, you broadcast him cheating on me in front of the whole school!” I yelled.
“That wasn’t really him. It was his brother kissing Carmen.”
“It’s a long story—”
“A story I don’t want to hear.” I cut him off, not interested enough to hear his side.
God, he was despicable. What kind of self-centered person would orchestrate an entire event like that to make themselves the hero? He must’ve known this would eventually get back to him.
“You’re vile, Pierson. That’s what you are.” I said and went back on my walk to my house.
“Listen to me, Silvia.” He hurried up alongside me. “What I did is nowhere comparable to what Dakota did. He created an entirely fake relationship and recorded God knows how many conversations with you.”
“This isn’t a competition,” I snarled. “You’re not helping yourself at all. Both of you betrayed me. I can’t talk to you right now.”
“I...I respect your decision. I deserve that.” He stopped walking, becoming a shadow on the pavement and nothing more.
Minutes till midnight, I got a text from Ronnie, saying she was outside of my house.
I was fooling myself into believing I was fast asleep. When I got home from the party, I took a shower and cried for what felt like forever. My eyes hurt, and my nose wouldn’t stop running. I grabbed at my chest, right above my heart, every now and then because the all-consuming pain felt like needles digging into my flesh. Dakota’s betrayal was written into my skin, forcing me to look at my wounds. I made this mess. I tried to make a boy who couldn’t stand me love me.
I had started to count the books I had stacked up on my shelf, but not even counting could sooth me. The more I thought about, the funnier it got. For most of my life, I had wasted so many minutes on counting numbers. But I’d spent an entire lifetime counting on all of the wrong people. I laughed at that for moment until the laughter turned into sobs.
Somehow, California became more of a hellhole than Maine.
Ronnie called me, seeing that I hadn’t gone to the window to check on her arrival. I picked up after the second ring.
“I’m not going to move.” I announced. “I’m staying in my bed and there’s nothing you can do about it.”
“Why won’t you come down here?”
“You need will to move and that’s something I no longer have.”
“Ok, fine. At least throw me down a bedsheet ladder so I can get up there.”
“There’s a set of keys in the third potted plant to the left of the front door. Dig into the soil from the back and you’ll find it. I’ll see you up here.”
Moments later, there was a soft knock on my door and I sensed a body settling on to the foot of my bed. Shifting my spot, I moved to give her room. After kicking off her shoes, she crawled under the sheets and dived right into a hug. I didn’t know how much I needed that until she tried to release me and I didn’t let go. She remained still, stroking the back of my head as a wave of sadness slammed into me.
“How are you feeling?” she asked into my hair. I croaked, struggling to get a word out, but then she stopped me. “Shh, it’s ok. It’s ok. You don’t have to talk at all, Silvia. I just want to be here for you.”
“I feel stupid,” I said after some time had gone by, hugging her harder and setting my wet eyes on her shoulder. “I feel so stupid, Ronnie. I feel used. I feel like I was the only one in that relationship.”
“You don’t know that.”
I reeled back. “Were you at that party? Did you not hear that recording? D-didn’t you not hear what—”
“I did, I did. But I think you should talk to Dakota.”
I pulled back from her completely this time, shellshocked at her statement. “You’re kidding me.”
“What you found out tonight is very important. And I understand if you never want to talk to him again. But something tells me that Dakota didn’t record that conversation of you. You weren’t looking at him when it was playing, but he was just as shocked as you when it started.”
“Yeah, shocked that he was finally getting exposed for the monster that he is.”
“That could be. But it also could be something entirely different. All I’m saying is have a conversation with him to get closure. Then, once it’s done, you decide what you want to do from then on. This all just feels so staged to me. I can’t get myself to believe that your entire relationship was fake. Weren’t the drawings he did of you after the party at Beth’s?”
“Those pictures were planted, too.” I said, weakly. “Thats what Finn said.”
“Find out the truth, Silvia. Don’t just take his word for it.” She extended her hand out to me, cupping my shoulder. “If it’ll make you feel better, I can accompany you so you’re not alone.”
“No,” I shook my head. “If I’m going to talk to him, I’ll do it alone. If,” I emphasized. “That’s a really big if. A lot of me doesn’t want to talk to him...or see him...or be anywhere near him.” Half of me began praying that he did successfully transfer to Bolder Valley High.
“That’s understandable.” She nodded, patting my shoulder and embracing me once more. She released me while saying: “Don’t do anything you’re not comfortable with. Seek closure when you’re ready. Don’t rush yourself, Silvia.”
“I know,” I whispered. “I know.”
“And what about Pierson?”
I groaned. “What about him?”
“He looked rather sad when he walked back into the party. I left a little after you did, but couldn’t see you anywhere outside.”
I divulged to her what transpired after the tragic events inside the house party. Everything about Pierson, about his SEGG prank, and about me walking the entire way home. She stopped me while explain the SEGG prank Pierson conducted at the last day of school and told me about her run in with Carmen. So, that did answer one question. Dakota definitely wasn’t the guy in the video; Dion was.
“Are you not on talking terms with Pierson either?”
I nodded. “I can’t trust someone like that. I see him entirely differently.”
“Even though what he wanted was you all to himself? That’s not as evil as what Dakota—”
“Stop comparing them.” I snapped. “They both betrayed me and that’s how I see it. I’m not measuring on a scale who screwed me over the most. I can’t trust either of them.”
“Fine, fine. That’s a smart choice, too.”
I brushed my hand over his chest, stroking one of the lines of his tattoos. He looked so beautiful, even at this angle. My breath hitched when his body pushed into me, moving slowly inside. He bit down the corner of his lip as he pushed in even deeper. I closed my eyes and got lost in the feeling.
I realized only now, looking back at that night, that I fell in love with his emptiness, sucking me deeper and deeper into him. I fed on his pain and he fueled my temptations. I became drunk in the sorrow, pouring out of his wounds. In that breathless moment of sex and sensuality, all of our faults and flaws pooled at our feet-along with our discarded clothes and disbelief that this relationship would work. I was bare before him, and he was bare to me. We were lost in our nakedness, intertwining our limbs to one another to the point where no one could tell where one began and where one ended. I wasn’t fully myself, I was drowning in his flesh, clawing against his tattooed back. I was fading into his body, helplessly holding on to him as if that was the only way I could hold on to reality.
Suddenly, I was jolted out of my sleep. Turning over, I spotted my cell phone light up. It was an incoming call from Ronnie. Instead of answering it, I put it on silent and crashed my head back to the pillow. Sleep didn’t come easily afterwards. It was kind of hard to try to fall asleep after a dream like that. Waking up from a sex dream that starred your ex-boyfriend wasn’t the ideal way to start your morning.
It’s been two days since the dreadful party. I would like to say that this was the first time such a thing happened since the break-up, but if I said that, then I would be lying. I was at least glad it never happened when I was at Pierson’s house. That would’ve been extremely awkward because I talked in my sleep. And moaning the name “Dakota” right into Pierson’s ear would’ve only raise more questions than I would like to answer.
I tossed and turned, desperately trying to get comfortable. Briefly after I shut my eyes, they flew open again, staring right at the brown box Dakota had given me. I hadn’t thoroughly gone through it. It was a fairly large box. The only things I had looked through were the cassette tapes and his drawings.
Rising off of my bed, I reached for the beat-up box. I flipped open the top of the box, pushing back the drawings and pulling out the cassette tapes. Something I hadn’t noticed before appeared. A folded white shirt was tucked in the corner of the box. I retrieved it out and unfolded it. ‘BIG FUN’ was written in big black letters. It was the same fake band in Heathers.
I didn’t even get a chance to express how I felt about the gift. Before I knew it, someone started to knock on my door. For the most part, people haven’t bothering me. Even Maven was keeping his stupid remarks to himself for reasons unknown.
“Who is it?” I called out.
“Hunter.” The door opened and his face appeared. “I hope I’m not bothering you by stopping by.”
I sealed the box and tucked it under my bed. “No, I wasn’t doing anything. What’s up?”
He moved into the room, leaning his back on the walls. “How are you doing? You’ve seemed...quiet lately.”
I scoffed. “I don’t think quiet is the word I’d use.”
He shrugged. “Well, I was going to say depressing, but that’s not something you say lightly. Also, you have been quiet. You and Maven seem to be getting along.”
I suppressed a laugh. “We’re not getting along. He’s just succeeded in not pissing me off....yet. It’ll change soon. Just wait.” I grumbled. “I don’t get why he’s not making his stupid remarks.”
“Never question Maven’s kindness. It’s a very rare thing. Speaking about it will only Jinx it.” He joked. “Maybe he feels sorry about what happened.”
“Unlikely,” I mused. “The spawn of Satan doesn’t feel sorry.”
A loud bellow boomed out of Hunter, laughing louder than ever. He was typically a reserved guy that spoke in a smooth, soothing tone. He was seldom to raise his voice. It was his little comments on the side that were deadly.
His laughter came to a halt. “You call him the spawn of Satan, too?”
I pointed at him. “Hey, I’ve been calling him the Spawn of Satan since my first day in California. You can’t take that away from me.”
“I’ve been calling him the Spawn since the fourth grade. I think I win the privilege of calling him that.”
“No, you don’t. Maven isn’t ever mean to you in the same way he’s mean to me. You guys have a better relationship.”
“That’s not true. He doesn’t act like a jackass to me because he knows I’ll kick his ass if he does. He just sees other people as easier targets.” He leaned off the wall and walked toward the door. “Before I forget, I came up here to tell you that there’s someone downstairs for you.”
I shook my head, sighing into my hands. “Tell Dakota to go the fuck home. And tell me exactly how I said it. Word for word.”
“It’s not Dakota.” Hunter opened the bedroom door. “Go down stairs and check.”
After sighing loudly, I got up off of my bed and headed for the stairs. I froze before reaching the last set of steps when I spotted who it was in our foyer.
She peered up from her Nokia phone and mustered a fake smile. “Hey, Sil.”
She wanted something.
Two words in and I already knew it.
The only time she ever used that nickname from my childhood was when she was about to ask for something....or about to “borrow” something from me. The last time she called me Sil, she had “borrowed” 150 bucks from my bank account only an hour before asking me if it was okay. I had gotten a notification about the withdraw while I was in school. The fact that I was a minor at the time meant my account was connected to hers so it was extremely easy for her to transfer the money. I’d saved that money from my first part-time job. It was the first check I made, and in less than two days after it was deposited, it was gone.
She had a few suitcases next to her. She couldn’t possibly be staying here, right?
Oh God, please don’t tell she lost the house and now has to stay here.
I bit the inside of my cheek, holding back an array of swear words I had practically rehearsed in my head to say to her. Echoes of laughter rang into the room. I turned my head to follow the sound of laughter and saw two people exiting out from one of the hallways. I already knew who he was and he hadn’t even fully entered the room yet. I knew that laugh anywhere. It had been a few months, but it hadn’t been an eternity.
"Lenard!” Leaping down, I raced to where he was standing beside our father. He beamed a bright smile and opened his arms for a long awaited embrace.