Katrena crams her books into her already messy locker, pressing her body up against it in order to get the door to close. “Missed you in homeroom and English. How was the doctor? Was he able to figure out why you have been so sick? Are you pregnant? I swear, if you are, I won’t tell anyone as long as tell me right now. Well, that and who the father is because we both know it wouldn’t be Curtis.”
The door springs open and she slams her shoulder into to, finally getting it closed for good. I have told her time and time again that a little organization would go a long way but, as always, she has not listened.
I frown, leaning against my locker. “Sorry to ruin your hopes, but I am not pregnant. Everything went fine. The doctor thinks I picked up some kind of bug in San Diego, so he sent me home with a prescription of some strong antibiotics. Oddly enough, I’ve been feeling great since Wednesday morning.”
What I fail to mention is that, along with a regular checkup, my mother demanded the doctor run some scans on me after I asked far too many questions about my father on the drive there. I had tried to seem casual about the whole thing, bringing up the idea of seeing him during Christmas break, but subtlety has never been my strong point.
My attempt to figure out if I am truly losing my shit turned into her having my brain scanned to see if I was losing my shit.
Surprisingly enough, everything came back normal. The scans showed my brain intact, no black spots or signs of degeneration.
You would think that having it confirmed by a medical professional that I wasn’t suffering from the same illness as my father would have brought me comfort, but all it has done is caused me to spend the past day and a half wondering what is actually happening to me.
The only bonus of my trip doctor’s visit on Thursday was that my mother felt so bad about our argument that she’d allowed me to miss the whole day of school, meaning I got to avoid Axel and his possible plant-based attacks.
“The worst part,” I continue. “Is that she finally went through with her threat of having me drug tested.”
Katrena laughs loudly, gripping at her sides. “Are you serious? Cassandra has officially lost her mind. Please tell me you’re kidding.”
“Oh, how I wish I was. I told her now that everyone came back as one hundred percent clean, she is permanently banned from ever bringing it up again. I am done with her and all the drama she causes to make up for her lack of parenting.”
She continues to laugh, tears welling in the corner of her eyes. She has met my mother a dozen times now and, much like her own mother, knows how much she wishes I was like her book club friend’s daughters. Thanks to the overly-chatty women there, she will never stop wondering why I don’t wear bright clothes, giggle at supposedly cute boys, and spend hours obsessing over my hair and makeup.
“Oh-oh.” Katrena jerks her head in the direction behind me. “Speaking of things that cause drama, here comes one right now. As much as I would love to stand around and watch this whole scene unfold, I am going to get out of here. I promised Alyssa that I would meet her before her next class, so I’ll catch you later.”
I let out a sigh, turning around just in time to see Curtis making his way through the crowd.
He stops in front of me and I can tell from the look on his face that he is in a mood. “This whole you ignoring my calls and texts thing is getting old. Every week it is something new with you and I am tired of it. Either break up with me or take me back, stop stringing me along.”
“Well, my decision depends on whether or not you are done acting like an immature ass.”
“It was a slip-up. Jesus, Eveline, you are always so quick to hold everything against me.”
“A slip-up? Like when I refused to sleep with you after us only being together for two months and you responded by literally listing off all the girls you could have been sleeping with had you not chosen to date me?” I snap back.
Curtis shakes his head. “No, I am not arguing about that all over again. You act like you are so perfect but I didn’t see you rushing to defend our relationship with your little friend was tearing into me about it.”
“And?” I shrug off his annoyance. “You had it coming. You and Monica took it too far and you know it. Asking about his suicide attempt like that? Really? What did you think he was going to do? Did you think he was going to just sit there and let you harass him like that? Axel defended himself and, from what I saw, he had every right to. I wasn’t going to stand up for you, not after what you said to him.”
He sighs, reaching forward to place a hand on my waist. He leans in with the intention of planting a kiss on my cheek but I back up, not in the mood the faux sweetheart act he is attempting to put on. “Look, Ev, I should have shut Monica up when she started making those comments about Axel and I shouldn’t have gotten pissed and joined when he sat with us. Saying what I said to him about his accident, it was messed up and I shouldn’t have said it. I just couldn’t help it. I’m not perfect, you know. That guy just seriously gets on my nerves. All he does is walk around this building staring down his nose at the rest of us like he can’t believe he has to interact with us on a daily basis. And I am sorry for saying what I did about sleeping with other people, that was wrong too. You’re not like those other girls and I shouldn’t have expected you to be. Can you forgive me?”
Curtis poses one hell of a question: can I forgive him? Or am I going to keep using this as an excuse to keep ignoring him and the question that has been looming over my head since before summer began?
He may have acted like a self-entitled asshole, but he made a good point about my stringing him along. I have come up with any and every excuse I can to not make a decision, even though I know I want to end things. I just, I just don’t want to tell him it’s over and have to deal with what comes next.
“I don’t know, can you j-”
“Maybe now is not the time to answer,” he interrupts. “I can see that you’re still mad about what happened and you have every right to be. Why don’t you take the weekend to cool down and think about it? I can come over Sunday night, make us dinner, and then we can just talk. How does that sound? It will be just like old times. Until then, I will drop it and we will talk about something else. Where were you Wednesday? I called your phone when you didn’t show up at school but it kept going straight to voicemail. I figured maybe you’d taken the day off since you’d been sick but, when I stopped by during lunch, you weren’t there. Where were you?”
“With me,” a deep voice answers before I have a chance to come up with a believable lie.
“Really?” I direct my question towards the ceiling, cursing a higher power that may or may not be messing with me right now. “This is how this is going to go? Ugh, this cannot be happening. Not today.”
“Excuse me?” Curtis addresses Axel, who has been standing behind us for I don’t even know how long.
Axel smirks manically and I just know this is going to be bad. “Eveline, she was with me on Wednesday. Oh, and she was with me some of Tuesday night as well.”
Curtis cuts his eyes at me and I feel my insides begin to braid around each other. “Is he telling the truth?”
I have never been good with confrontation and I seriously believe this has to do with the fact that, in the past, all confrontations ran the risk of ending with someone being stabbed with a butter knife.
“Yes.” I nod, swallowing hard even though my throat feels drier than the desert. “But it isn’t the way he is making it sound. I was running a fever that night and, because my mother wasn’t home to keep an eye on me, I wandered out of my house and through the woods. Axel found me wandering around and because my mother couldn’t be bothered to come back, his mother offered to let me stay the night. I spent most of the day sleeping off the sickness.”
“And that was all that happened?”
“Well, there was also a kiss,” Axel answers for me again and I begin to wish I had a butter knife to stab him with. “Though, I think calling it a kiss might be downplaying it. A kiss implies a quick peck and what Eveline and I did was more of the prequel to what most people do before they find themselves without clothing and in some very compromising positions. I wasn’t expecting that kind of aggression from a girl like her but, damn, I can’t say I hated it.”
Curtis swings but, instead of hitting his intended target, ends up slamming his knuckles directly into the locker behind where Axel was standing. Axel moves swiftly, ducking under the second oncoming blow by simply side-stepping out of the way.
How many times has he done this?
“Whoa, man, no need for all the hostility,” Axel laughs, leaning back as Curtis swings again. He points a finger at me. “You and I need to have a conversation.”
“No, what you need to do,” Curtis gets out between heavy breaths, now ceasing his useless attempts to hit Axel. “Is stay the hell away from my girlfriend.”
“First off, last time I checked, she has decided to take a possibly extended vacation from being your girlfriend and, if something changed between Tuesday afternoon and Tuesday night, the fact that she shoved her tongue down my throat makes her a very bad girlfriend. Looks to me like, regardless of what is going on, her allowing me to kiss her in the very dirty way that I did is pretty much the sign you have been looking for on where she stands on your two’s relationship.”
Curtis turns on me, eyes narrowed in anger. “Tell me he is just screwing with me. Tell me he tries to kiss you and you shoved him away. Tell me anything other than that he is telling the truth.”
“I... I... I...” I stutter, wondering if this is how it feels to have a heart attack. “I didn’t mean for it to happen. We were j-”
“Save it, I’m out of here.” Curtis shoves past me, stopping to turn back towards me once he is halfway through the crowd of bystanders that have surrounded us. “This is seriously screwed, Eve, and you know it. You made me feel like a complete tool for accusing you of messing around with that asshole and, come to find out, I was right. I’m done with this. And you. Don’t worry about giving me an answer, I don’t want one.”
Axel watches Curtis storm off, chuckling to himself.
All hell is about to break loose because I am to snap.
I whip around to face the laughing boy, shoving him hard. “What the hell did you do that for?”
“You had your mother lie and tell me that you weren’t home when I stopped by yesterday?” The same challenging look he was wearing in the woods returns. “Really, Eveline? Did you honestly think I was just going to let it slide and pretend nothing happened?”
I toss my bag over my shoulder and begin to walk away from him. “Yeah, because nothing is exactly what happened. I woke up, we talked, we made out, and then I went home. Now, leave me alone.”
“Can’t do that.” He increases his stride to match mine. “I told you, we need to talk.”
“No, we don’t, because nothing of any importance happened. We can just pretend the whole making out thing never happened and, if it never happened, then that means there is no reason for you to be following me around.”
“So you’re telling me that I am supposed to pretend that your eyes didn’t turn into giant black holes?” he suggests, speaking in a tone much louder than I was expecting him to. “You want me to pretend that you didn’t explode a bunch of roots and then haul ass back to your house at record-breaking speeds? I am not sure I can do that, Eveline. In fact, I know that I can’t.”
I veer out of the hallway and into the gym, making sure that no one is around to hear or see what might be about to go down.
The familiar twinge of fury pulls at me, warning me that I am o the verge of losing my temper, and I don’t need any witnesses around should my eyes go dark again. I need to figure out what to do about it before I have to figure out how to handle other people seeing it.
“I don’t have the faintest idea what you’re talking about, Axel.”
Something inside of me snaps and, with it, so do I. “Why can’t you just leave me alone? Why won’t you just let this whole thing drop?”
“Because you’re dangerous.” The fact that he seems much calmer than he did a few minutes ago bothers me. “You might not have realized it yet, or don’t want me knowing that you are not as naive as you are pretending to be, but you are a danger to everyone. Not just to me and my sister, but to every single person around you. And things are only going to get worse for you, Eveline, because you are just going to keep getting more and more dangerous. If you are being honest and you really don’t know what is happened, then we seriously need to have a conversation about what happened.”
“Or we could not. Instead of talking about what happened the other day, we can pretend it didn’t and you can go back to avoiding me like the plague.”
“I can’t do that,” he answers grimly.
The air in the room grows thin and my chest begins to feel tight, like it did the time in summer camp when I fell into the pool and couldn’t reach the surface. It is like I can breathe, but there is nothing left to fill my lungs.
My knees hit the floor.
“I’m sorry, Eveline,” a kind, but familiar voice says from the corner of the room and I turn my head towards the sound, watching Alyssa step out from the dark. Her face is riddled with sadness. “I really am, but Axel said this was the only way to get you to listen.”
The room tilts around me and my hands hit the ground, the world ripped out from beneath me seconds later.