Trouble in the Courtyard
"You've got problems."
That's the phrase. That's the comment that I hear more times a week than should be socially acceptable, and yet… Maybe I bring it on myself. Probably, I do. For a while, most of the time, or at least part of the time, it came from someone who cares about me. From someone who's worried that I'm not who I used to be anymore; from someone who's got all the right intentions and none of the answers. Not that I've got some soul searching question that I've asked them, or that there is some magical solution to what's ailing me. I don't think I can ever be fixed. I don't think there's anyone who will make it better for me. I don't think there's anyone out there with the answers that I need.
And then… There are times like now, when someone says that to me because I've pissed them off. I learned a long time ago that my brutal honesty doesn't exactly inspire friendship. I can't remember the last time I said something nice to someone. But it's easier that way. Keeping people at arm's length is easier. That's the way I honestly feel, and honesty is something that I religiously adhere to. People expect me to lie, though, so maybe I'm just taking the easy route again.
I looked up at the twisted face of the kid before me, chewing the fry in my mouth without tasting it. I dropped the other half into its red basket and weave my fingers together. A sickly sweet smile plastered itself to my mouth and our eyes locked. "I don't think that's very nice, Jimmy."
He smacked a hand onto the table next to me. "I don't give a shit what you think," He hissed, leaning closer to my face. "You fucked me over. Do you get that? I'm losing my job, because of you!"
"Me?" I pressed a hand to my chest and tilted my head. The tray screeched slightly as I pushed it to the side. "I don't think that's exactly fair to say."
"Fair to –" He turned away and jammed his hands into his hair. "You left pills –" The table next to us had all turned to watch the scene unfold. He lowered his voice and leaned across the table to get in my face. "In my uniform! Savannah! You left oxy my uniform!"
I snorted and leaned back in my chair. "Do you even hear yourself? I left oxy in your uniform? Jimmy," My voice lowered with mocking disappointment. "You're smarter than that."
"I needed that job." He sat back with his jaw tight and shook his head at me, backing up.
"How is that my problem?" I stood and walked away without waiting for an answer. But I had a feeling I wouldn't get away that easy, as heads turned to watch me go. I flicked my black hair over my shoulder, stifling the impulse to bare my teeth at the whispering, gossiping teens around me as I went.
"I should've known better than to hook up with a rejected, washed up, dried out, lesbian addict!" Jimmy's voice cut over the crowd like a megaphone. I barely stumbled as I turned to walk backwards and held my arms out in a challenge.
"Oh, you got me Jimbo! That was a good one! Did you just insinuate that you hooked up with a homosexual?" His face visibly paled and he straightened up, his mouth snapping shut. I wagged my finger at him. "Typical, Jimmy. Typical."
His head darted around as whispers erupted throughout the silent cafeteria. I slammed my hip against the heavy duty doors and let them slam shut behind me. As I went through the hallway, I snatched a wrinkled pack of cigarettes from my pocket and seethed to myself. That little prick. I never should have let him get to second base… I'd like to punch him straight in the throat. I was doing him a favor. He asked me to. He's been parking his limo in Chad's driveway for years; everyone knows that! There's nothing wrong with that, but when you make the choice to hook up with a well-known slut, you at least give her the dignity of telling people how amazing she was. Regardless of if you were actually into it or not. Which, he wasn't. But that's not the point, because neither was I. That's the last charity case I do.
The sound of something rustling in the bushes next to me cut my inner monologue to a bitter end. I took a long drag from my ciggie and threw the pills I had just dug out of my pocket in my mouth. I shifted nervously from my perch on the windowsill behind the dumpster, resisting the urge to rub my knee. Our school has a lot of issues, but the aesthetic view from our many walls of windows is not a primary concern at the board meetings. I happened to know that the window I perched on belonged to the cafeteria ladies, who care even less about what happens in this place than the janitors do. Besides that, they were busy. It's still lunch hour. Our school also doesn't let us dine out in the perfectly usable courtyard, which makes it the prime area to … unwind in. In other words, I'm totally alone.
Unless, of course, some fucking creep lurks in the bushes next to you. I watched with wide eyes as a tall gentleman donning a black leather jacket emerged from the thick hedges and came to a dramatic stop just a few feet from me, his feet shoulder length apart as he seemed to present himself like god's gift to the world.
We stared at each other a moment, each waiting for the other to say something. The silence stretched on, sprinting way past awkward and straight into suffocating fight-or-flight instincts. I raised my cigarette to my mouth and washed the pills down with a nice mouthful of smoke.
"That's a bad habit." He finally spoke up, and I blew my smoke purposefully in his direction.
"Funny, I was just about to say the same to you. Lurking around your old high school to prowl on underage girls is a particularly … nasty habit, wouldn't you say?"
The heavy scowl on his face flickered, but before I got the chance to decipher it, it disappeared. "Who said it was a habit?" As if I'm the special exception. Insert mental scoff. Right, that's a good one.
"Who said this was?" I smirked, wagging my eyebrows at the white, smoking cigarette as I took a final drag and winked at him. I looked down and stubbed it out on the windowsill. "What do you want, Derek?"
"Do I know you?" He frowned. I ignored him and masked the wince on my face when I stood from the sill.
He straightened up. "I can help you."
"Oh, god," I said with disdain. We both knew he didn't mean helping me to stand. Stubbornly, I forced myself not to brace my hand against the sill and started past him, covering my limp as best as I could.
"I do know you, Savannah." I ignored him and continued past him. "I don't know how you know me, but I know your pills are more than just for show. And I know you're tired of people pointing out your problems to you," He latched onto my arm and I snatched it from his grasp. I stumbled slightly, but righted myself before I could topple over. "You don't have to be in pain anymore." Derek moved so that he was inches from me. He changed tactics, gently placing his large hand on my shoulder. "No more hiding that limp under all your attitude. No more pretending," I swallowed, his words soaking in despite myself. I clenched my jaw and shook his hand off.
"Whatever you're selling," I stepped away from him. "I ain't buyin'."
"It's not for sale." He continued, suddenly appearing in front of me. I came up short and raised a hand in defense. What the fuck? "It's a gift…"
I backed away slowly. "Well, that's real sweet of ya, but I don't accept candy from strangers…"
"Yes you do." He tapped the pocket of my jean vest, which rattled slightly. I scowled at him.
"Those aren't candy."
"Neither is my gift." He countered. I jerked my jacket away from his reach.
"Well, I'm pretty set on that front. And they weren't from a stranger." I patted my pocket and tried to side step him, only for him to move in my path.
His eyes were a startling red. Under better circumstances, I would say that their glow was entrancing in a pleasant way. But given the current state of affairs, they're really much more… unsettling. I wondered why I didn't notice them at first, but as my head slowly began to swim, I realized maybe those pills I just took could've waited. Should've waited.
I opened my mouth to comment on that, but what happened next stole my breath away. He bore his teeth at me – which sported an impressive set of canines. I swallowed heavily, my eyes blinking slowly like I was fighting sleep. "Uh," I managed. "I think you… should get those checked out." He tilted his head and stepped forward. I stumbled back. A quiet rumble purred from his chest, and the hairs on the back of my neck stood at attention. "Seriously," I squeaked. "You can keep your gift! Whatever it is, I don't want it. Did I mention I hate surprises?"
"But, you do love the easy route, don't you?" He circled me like a predator closing in on its prey. I followed his every move, my leg trembling with effort as I stood stock still. "Easy everything. That's Savannah Carmichael's way, isn't it?" His nose brushed my hair as he sniffed – yes, sniffed – it. "Easier to numb your senses to pills. Easier to just let every guy have their way with you. Easier to pretend you don't care. Easier to let everyone assume the rumors they hear are true, even if it's something like you being a lesbian. Or, worse… a killer." I flinched. "Easier to push everyone away. Easier to pretend none of it matters, because if it did…" he trailed off, but it was more for effect's sake than anything because we both knew how that sentence ended. If it did matter, it would hurt too much. "I can help you. I can make it all… effortless. That's the missing piece for you," He stopped right in front of my face, touching a clawed finger to my chin. He raised it up so he could lock eyes with me. "What's better than easy? What's the next level? Effortless." I blinked, and I knew that my facial expression betrayed me because he smirked. "I can give you that."
"I…" My voice was barely above a whisper. I let my eyes trail down to his teeth and raised my hand. He noticed it happening a beat too late. I jerked my chin out of his pinched fingers and jammed my fist into his lower abdomen, just above his hips, and cut loose on my stun gun that I pressed deeply into his stomach. The sounds of electricity clicking through the stun gun filled the silent courtyard, and Derek's entire body seized up. A strangled grunt came from his throat, his eyes wide with shock. He managed to utter out an unintelligible syllable before he hit the ground.
I gulped in a frantic breath, leaning down to look him in the eye. He stared powerlessly up at me. "No such thing," I panted, and tapped his nose before spinning into a faltering sprint across the grass.