Chapter Thirty Four
“I—” I started to speak, before my throat just about closed up with fear. I took a deep breath, and was about to speak again before a phone started ringing.
Ethan dug through his pockets to fetch the device, scrunching his nose when he read the screen.
“Uh, I’m sorry but I have to go.” He didn’t say another word as he walked out of the room, shutting the door before putting the phone to his ear.
Dread filled me, as I realised I would be having this conversation more than once. Only next time, it would be with him.
Xavier scowled. “Have fun with this conversation,” he said harshly before leaving, taking the same path as Ethan. I was left standing with my mouth open.
I looked towards Jordan and Blake, who stood there with intrigue and slightly confusion on their faces due to Xavier’s little outburst.
I sat down in one of the seats, and they followed me. They looked.. normal. I couldn’t do this.
But I had to.
“When I was younger..” I began, not having the guts to look them in the eye. “I got diagnosed with a disease. A bad one.”
That was how I started, and then I told them of my childhood adventures in hospitals as they sat quickly and listened. The room was silent except for my explaining, and I felt like my voice was breaking with every passing second. Blake had stopped looking at me, resting his hands on the back of his head.
After I had caught up to the present, having only given the information regarding my illness, it was more quiet that it ever had been with both of them in one room.
“I’m so sorry,” I said, my voice cracking for the millionth time. I had gone numb after that, preparing for a reaction similar to Xavier’s. Disappointment and hurt, with a side order of guilt served by me.
Blake stood, nodding to himself. I had never seen it before, but Blake wore a completely blank and emotionless expression. It was shocking to see.
He walked out with no sounds or words, shutting the door behind him. I looked down, tears flooding into my eyes as I clenched my fists, causing my nails to dig into my skin.
“You..” Jordan suddenly spoke. “You are.. you’re gonna be.. I...”
I stood up, wiping my eyes. “I should just go, right? Save you from storming out,” I bitterly joked, making myself more hurt in the process. I turned around, and suddenly Jordan’s arms were wrapped out me.
The tears came back again, and I turned around and hugged him back tighter than ever.
“You’ll be fine... you’ll be fine... right?” he was whispering in my ear, causing me to bury my head into his shoulder. “I don’t know how this all.. works, but you’ll be okay.. yeah?”
His voice was so small, and so painful that I couldn’t answered him with my own. I just nodded numbly before he squeezed me tighter. I didn’t care, I was just happy that I still had a friend.
“Yeah,” I said, sniffling hardcore. “I’ll be fine.”
Jordan had left shortly after, needing to go and find the others. I asked him not to tell Ethan because I knew I had to tell him myself. He went off to find Blake, and I had to work up the courage to go home. I didn’t want to be left alone with my stupid thoughts that only made me feel more regret. I wanted distractions and other things to plague my mind.
I, unfortunately, got my wish but in a misconstrued way that wasn’t very beneficial at all.
I had been walking out of the school, when I felt someone tap me on the shoulder. I turned around, confused, and then my face turned incredibly sour towards the person standing there.
Veronica stood, smiling smugly at me as she held some books and papers. “Poor little Stephanie, got a bit of a sickness? It would be a shame if everyone found out.”
“What the fuck is wrong with you?” I asked her, suddenly a bit of courage making it’s way to my brain. “You are a really stereotypical bully, and I didn’t even think they existed like you do! I did nothing but hurl some harmless insults at you!”
“You humiliated me in front of everyone,” she snarled back. “And I don’t allow anyone to damage my pride. How would you like if some rumours damaged yours?”
“Are you threatening me?” I stepped forward, ready to rip her skin off and make it into a blanket. Oh, dark moment there. Bringing it back down to appropriate.
“Yes,” she admitted, surprising me a little. “Piss off out of my life and out of this school, and I won’t make you the laughing stock of this school and town.”
“And how exactly would you do that, Miss Genius?” I snapped back with a bucket load of sarcasm.
“I would expose your sickness of course, as well as spreading a lot more nasty rumours that could potentially ruin your high school life, hence goodbye college and uni,” she laughed.
“I’m surprised you even know what ‘hence’ means.”
“I have your whole reputation in my hands,” she grinned and batted her eyelashes annoyingly. “Want me to do it? Want me to make you the worst person to ever enter this town?”
As much as I wanted to reply with a snarky statement, I couldn’t. I was stumped, and I was frozen for words. She had me in a box, and I couldn’t get out unless I did what she said. She could ruin my chances of getting a good end of year score, as well as determine how shitty the uni I was getting into would be. My last name could be associated with this, affecting my parents’ reputations as well.
I didn’t want to submit to her stupid threat, but I had to. I didn’t want this. No one would.
So, I said, “Fine. I’ll stay away from this school, fucking happy?”
“Very, and now I won’t have to use my secret weapon,” she said.
I narrowed my eyes at her. “What ‘secret weapon’?”
“You’ll know when I use it,” she said, giggling to herself as she walked away, her heels clicking as she did so.
I wasn’t even going to school anymore anyway, so the price to please her was small. I wasn’t angry that she was making me stay away from here.
I was angry that she had the audacity to oppose me.
“I need to talk to you,” I said on the phone to Ethan while biting my nails nervously. “As soon as possible.”
“Alright?” he said, seeming unsure. “We could meet up somewhere?”
“How about the park?” I said, looking outside. It was still sunny outside, and it was even getting hotter by the minute. I blew out a breath of air in an attempt to cool myself down.
“Sure. Ten minutes?”
“You got it,” I said, hanging up the phone. I rubbed my face with my hands, my heart rate accelerating by the minute. Here we go again, for the third time, that would most likely result in one of two possible reactions. 1. A Xavier/Blake reaction. 2. A Jordan reaction.
Why did I have a feeling that he would react like Xavier? That he would storm out like Blake?
My stomach was in knots, and I got up from my bed before walking downstairs. I put a jacket on, to appease my parents, even though it was hot outside. People were driving home from work on the hot afternoon, wanting nothing more than to enter a cool home.
I locked the door behind me, starting to walk towards the park. I kept my eyes down as I neared it, finally looking up to spot Ethan leaning against a pole with a white T-shirt on. Damn, he looked like a snack.
I almost backed out when he looked at me with those fucking gorgeous eyes, and how his features seemed to light up a little when he saw me. He pushed himself off the pole to embrace me, pecking me on the lips.
“There are children here,” I pointed out, inclining my head towards the playground near us.
“I think we better make our hardcore then,” he suggested, earning a light smack on the chest from me.
We started to walk, my mind already mapping out the park and figuring out which place was the best spot to explain everything. I was panicking, again. My brain was tired of this, but I had done it to myself.
He walked with me, slinging his arm around my waist as we followed the footpath. “So, what did you want to talk about?”
Oh no. My brain hadn’t anticipated this, and now it was a full code red. I hadn’t expected to jump right into this, and now I had gone blank.
“Actually, wait,” he said before I could say anything. “I have a question for you first.”
I raised an eyebrow. “Yes I will be your girlfriend.”
His jaw dropped a little. That damn jaw. “How in the fuck did you—”
“Honestly, it was a guess,” I said. “That would’ve been so awkward if that wasn’t what you were—”
He cut me off by kissing me, which I happily accepted as a distraction for what I would have to do next. Even now, I couldn’t comprehend how happy this felt now. The calm before the storm, the happiness before the pain.
I pulled away. “After what I have to say, you might want to rethink your question.”
He scrunched his nose in confusion, looking adorable. Fuck, this was too hard already. “What?”
“I have to tell you something,” I said. “Something that I have told the others.”
“Okay,” he said. “Go ahead.” We had sat down at a park bench now, far away from the playground and other people who hadn’t already gone home.
“When I was younger..” These words were familiar now. “I was diagnosed with a form of something called acute myeloid leukaemia. I could rattle off the explanations to what it does, but I won’t. I managed to battle and beat it before, however this year it fought it’s way back into my body and I have been dealing with it for months now. If I hadn’t been re-diagnosed early, I would already be in an ICU by now.
“I go through treatment, usually chemo, and I have to suffer the symptoms until it is completely eliminated from my body. That part hasn’t happened yet. Xavier had the hunch first, and then I told the rest of them,” I said all in one go. “You will hate me for keeping it to myself, I know that.”
I decided to stop talking then, and to perceive his reaction. He had stopped moving, and he had plastered a familiar expression onto his face, one that I hadn’t seen since we had basically despised each other. That hurt. He was stoic and stern, yet also angry and somewhat hateful. I didn’t know what to do, and I didn’t want to make it worse. I shut up, something seemingly unfamiliar to me.
"Why wouldn’t you tell me something like that?" he said in a dangerously low voice. “Did you ever even think about how much this would hurt me?”
Oh god. It was a Xavier reaction. “I just—”
“Do you have any idea how many people I am at risk of losing? And now you? You were the one person that always brought hope and humour to any situation, and the one person I’ve ever invested my heart into.” He stood up now, his facade almost cracking under pressure. “You were the most beautiful girl in the world to me. And.. and.. now you’re fucking leaving me!”
“It’s not something I can control!” I responded hopelessly. “I wanted—”
“You were the kindest, and had the biggest heart out of anyone I’ve ever known.” He was getting more worked up by now. “Do you even know how long I liked you for? How unusual it was for me to open up?”
“I’m sorry,” I said, the words feeling ugly and repetitive in my mouth. “It was my decision, and it was my fault. I understand if you’re angry.” I only felt numb now.
“I am not angry,” he said quickly. “I’m disappointed, and at a loss as to what I’m supposed to do now. What would you do if one of the most important people in your life suddenly left?”
“I’m still here!” My voice rose. “I’m not dead!”
“But you could be!” he said. “Weeks, months, and I didn’t know! I should have fucking known!”
I said nothing, shaking my head as I stared into my lap. I opened my mouth again to speak, looking up. But before I could, I saw that no one was there.
He was gone.
I hadn’t spoken to anyone from school in weeks. Not even Jordan. It still hurt, a lot. All of my friends, gone because of my stupid mistake.
I did nothing but lie in bed and complete school work that I was missing, plus go to work, and luckily I was keeping up thanks to the dedication of my teachers. Next week, I would have to go in and speak with the career officers about my university situation. I dreaded that, as it wasn’t something I thought about often.
So, I was researching universities. I was seeing which ones I needed to apply for as soon as possible.
That had been filling my thoughts for days, almost distracting me from what had happened in the span of a few weeks.
And as the halfway mark of semester two approached, I went and prepared myself for life beyond high school. I did not, however, prepare myself for the shitstorm that accompanied me returning to school in order to do that preparing.