I lean back against the hood of my car and watch as Katrena comes skipping through the crowd towards me, her hair now a vivid shade of lime green. She slides off her thick jacket, clipping her hair back with the skull-shaped pin she always has on her.
“Can you believe how bipolar this weather has been lately?” she groans, tossing her jacket onto the hood of the car to join my own. “And they say global warming is fake. Those naysayers need to bring their asses here for a little bit and they would leave believers.”
She’s not wrong. Even though it is fall, slowly creeping towards winter, the weather has taken a turn for the strange. Some days it is freezing, some days it does nothing but rain, some days it is a saddened overcast, and other days it is hotter than hell.
Basically, the weather is just as irrational and unstable as my moods.
Even the weatherman has given up trying to predict it, letting us know each morning to prepare for any form of weather.
Usually, around this time of year, I am neck deep in sweater dresses and fashionable scarves but today, even the thin colored peach shirt I am wearing seems too thick.
At first, I thought it was another side effect of the whole Reaper thing but, as it turns out, everyone is suffering too. Personally, I don’t know if I am loving the unpredictability of the weather or growing wary with having to see my classmates take advantage of the warmth by wearing shorts so high that they could be classified as underwear.
“At least you are looking better. I guess that doctor was right about you having some kind of bug.”
“Guess so.” I join her on the back of my car, beginning our almost daily routine of waiting until the end of day traffic has thinned out before attempting to head home.
You would think that, by now, the students here would have realized that there is no reason to haul ass out of the building at the end of each day because they are just going to get stuck in the same traffic they always do, but each day the scene is the same and people are sticking their heads out their car windows yelling for the person in front of them to ‘move faster’.
“Heard you were thinking about trying out for track.” She smiles, giggling when she looks over and notices the puzzled look on my face. “Oh relax, my friend Helen has gym right after you and she heard Coach practically begging you to try out a few days ago. I guess he is tired of McCall being ranked the lowest in the state and thinks you could be his claim to fame.”
“Oh, I thought you might have been stalking me.”
She rolls her eyes, elbowing me playfully in the ribs. “You wish, Peak. Alas, I have my eyes set on a much shinier prize and, when I do succeed, you will know because I will be moon-walking through the halls with joy. Until then, my lips are sealed. So, how have things been with you? I feel like, outside of homeroom and lunch, we never see each other. Even then you are either paying attention or mumbling one-word responses while shoving your face with food. Don’t get me wrong, I love this little ten-minute judge-fest we have most days, but it is starting not to cut it anymore.”
I frown, aware that she has a point.
Ever since Lillian let me know that I am living on borrowed time, I have been slowly distancing myself from Katrena and everyone else. I might have been told otherwise, but I can’t seem to shake the fear that I will accidentally hurt someone who isn’t Nexxus when I go full Reaper.
“Things are fine, I guess. I was considering going out for track but I haven’t made a decision yet. Coach thinks it might help me get a scholarship and we both know how much I could use one of those. My grades are alright this year but, even with that and all the extra work I did in the library last year, I don’t think it will be enough to help me. Track might just be the thing I need to get me into one of those tech schools in Utah.”
Katrena scrunches up her nose in disgust. “Utah? Gross. Why leave Idaho just to move to a state just a lame?”
So I don’t lose my shit and kill a bunch of mystical semi-people.
She launches into a spiel about expanding my horizons and applying to schools in New York, which just so happens to be where she got accepted to art school, when a mop of sandy colored hair catches my attention.
“Hey, I hate to do this but I’ll be right back,” I interrupt, my eyes trained on Curtis.
“But I wasn’t finished listing off all of the perks of g-” She stops, following my line of sight to the fast-moving boy. “Oh, yeah. I heard all about what happened in the hall a week or so ago. One, super pissed you still haven’t come out and talked to me about the whole thing. Two, I’ll be right here waiting for you to get back. Three, let me know how it goes.”
I am already off the car before the last word leaves her mouth, jogging across the parking lot and towards my ex. “Hey! Curtis, wait up!”
He stops, flashing me a smile I know all too well. It’s one that I have seen him use on other girls before, right after they catch him doing something he shouldn’t be and he is about to lay on the charm. “Hey beautiful, I was wondering when you’d get around to talking to me again. I know you wouldn’t stay mad at me for too long; you never could. I saw you leaving Bio-Chem this afternoon and I was going to come talk to you, but then I realized that I have been hovering and pushy lately and that you deserve some space.”
“Are you telling people that we are still together?” I jump straight to the point.
The smile doesn’t fade and he nods. “Why wouldn’t I? Come on Ev, we both know this little break of ours isn’t permanent. I messed up but trying to push you into something you weren’t ready for and you rebelled by doing something to piss me off, we both messed up. Neither of us is perfect but, if we break up every time one of us messed up, then we are going to spend more time apart then together. All relationships have their ups and downs. I am ready to forgive you and move past all of this.”
“I...Us... We...” I pause, trying to wrap my head around his words. “Excuse me? Last time I checked, I hadn’t asked for forgiveness because I didn’t do anything wrong. I put a stop to ‘us’ the moment I put your hands in my pants, I said ‘no’, you kept going, I had to shove you off of me to get you to stop, and then you listed off the names of the chicks who would have let you keep going. My need to be comfortable with a situation wasn’t as important to you as your need to sleep with me, that is when I stopped asking for forgiveness. You and I were on a break, which means we were not together. I might not have meant for the kiss between Axel and me to happen, but I didn’t cheat on you, so don’t act like what we did is even on the same level of messed up. It was a jerk move to do it, especially after laying into you the way I did, but nowhere near as close to as messed up as what you did.”
“So you don’t feel bad for what you did?”
“I feel bad for when it happened and how you found out, but not that it happened.” The honesty in my words shocks me. “I should have told you after it happened so that you could hear it from me, but I didn’t and I am sorry. I am also sorry that I didn’t end things with you as soon as I realized that I just didn’t feel the way I thought I did for you. Instead of wussing out and putting us on a ‘break’, I should have just let you know that things with us weren’t working. I care about you, just not in the way that I used to.”
“So, that’s it? We are just over?”
“It doesn’t add up, Ev. Things were fine with us before you went to California. Yeah, I stepped out of line and we had that argument, but you seemed so certain that the time apart would do us some good. Then you come back looking and acting like a completely different person, staring hanging out with Axel Browning and his weirdo sister, and now things suddenly don’t work with us?”
“Things haven’t been working out with us for a while now and I am honestly shocked that you haven’t noticed. Oh, and leave Alyssa out of this.” Anger slowly tightens its grip on me and instinctively reach for my water bottle filled with tea, displeased when I realize that I left it in my book bag back on my car. “This has nothing to do with either of them. Look, I had a thing for you since we first met and, for years, all I wanted was to date you. But you’re not him anymore, you’re not that guy I fell for back in the seventh grade and it took me dating you to realize that. I used to think that we had so much in common and now I realized that that changed around the same time you changed. We are just too different now. We don’t want the same things anymore. I just didn’t want to risk losing you as a friend and I think that was why I held on for so long. It was wrong and, like I said, I should have said something sooner, but now w-”
“But now some other guy is showing you attention and you’ve finally found the courage to say something? Now you suddenly realize that you don’t want me?” he accuses.
I let out a sigh, balling up and then releasing my fists at my side in an attempt to calm myself down. “No, but now I see that prolonging the inevitable just made things worse. Things just aren’t the way they used to be. I am a different person now and so are you. We just do-”
“We?” he cuts me off again, laughing loudly even though he has no idea how close he is to stepping on my last nerve and setting me off. “What is this ‘we’ shit you keep going on about? There is no ‘we’ anymore, Eveline. There was a ‘we’ but then you went and ruined it. This, my reaction, may not be how you wanted things to go but, thanks to your actions, that is how it is. God, Ev, if I knew you were going to string me along like some kind of tease and then completely play me, I never would have risked my reputation by dating you in the first place. If I would have known that you were going to spend all summer ignoring me, come back thirty pounds lighter, and then start acting like a whore, I would have fu-”
Curtis is on the ground before he has a chance to finish his sentence, blood dripping from the wide gash in his upper lip. Axel towers over him, chest heaving, and with a set of freshly busted knuckles.
“You son of a bitch,” Curtis growls, struggling to pull himself off the ground.
“Stay down,” Axel warns. “If you know what is going for you because I won’t hesitate to put you back down.”
Curtis, of course, disregards the warning and pulls himself onto his feet, moving so that he is now standing toe to toe with his attacker. “I should kick your ass.”
“You could try.” Axel does not flinch, he does not falter, and he does not show one ounce of fear. “But then I would have to put your sorry as back on the ground like the piece of trash that you are and risk breaking my fingers on your shit talking face. Instead, how about you do us both a favor and get the hell out of here before I change my mind about letting you off lightly for what you just dared to call her and jump straight to the part where I break your jaw?”
Curtis stands there for a moment and I can see him debating whether or not he could win a fight with Axel. He has him in the weight and muscle department, but Axel has proven himself stronger and faster from their past two interactions. After a moment of hesitation, he turns his head and spits, the bloodied saliva landing no more than a half inch away from Axel’s mud crusted sneakers. “Whatever, bitch isn’t worth it.”
“Um, that was beyond intense,” Katrena observes, jogging up to us and tossing my book bag to me.
I catch it, damn near ripping the thing open so that I can pull my water bottle out and chug the contents of the water bottle inside. Katrena regards me with a look of pure confusion while Axel shoots me a sympathetic one and, while I am certain he knows that I am currently struggling, he has no idea how much I want to lash out at him right now.
“If I would have known I was about to miss a show,” Katrena continues. “I would have pulled out my phone and recorded it. You have one hell of a left hook, Browning. What was that all about anyway?”
“Nothing,” Axel mumbles. “I have to go. See you both tomorrow.”
I follow after him, leaving a still confused Katrena behind. I grab onto his upper arm as he power walks through the parking lot, letting go the moment my body tells me that it is about to cause him some undeserved pain. “Hold up. You didn’t have to do that.”
“I know.” He opens the door to his Jeep, tossing his bag inside. “I shouldn’t have either.”
“Then why did you?”
“I wasn’t thinking. It’s just that... I just can’t... You make me want to...” He lets out an aggravated groan, reaches forward, pulls me to him, and then kisses me. It is brief, the contact still sending electric buzzes across my skin, but it is over before I realize what is happening. “I need to stay away from you. You need to stay away from me.”
Then he is in his car and I am staring at his tail lights as they drive away.
“Is he always that much of a weirdo?” Katrena asks when I return to her side.
“Did he seriously just kiss you?”
“I am thinking now is the perfect time to tell me what is going on between you two. When I heard about how Curtis had yelled at you in the hall, I had also heard it was because of something that happened between you and Axel. Now, I have been patiently waiting for you to come to me about it because I have learned to let you do things on your own time but, after what I just witnessed, I don’t think I can do that anymore. What the hell did Curtis say to him? Whatever it was it must have been pretty harsh because, one minute he was just strolling past the two of you and, the next, he is punching Curtis in the face.”
I can’t believe I didn’t notice Axel walking up on us. As of lately, my body has been letting me know whenever he or his sister is nearby. Usually is it something small, like a tightening in my chest, but I guess I was too engrossed in my argument with Curtis to pay attention.
I shake my head. “It wasn’t what he said to him, it was what he said in general. Someone told me that Curtis was telling people that we were back together and I was just reinstating to him the fact that we weren’t. I, I’ve been putting it off for a while but I couldn’t keep pretending to be happy with him. He’s not the same guy he used to be when we were younger. He’s changed and I guess it took me a while to accept that. Anyways, I was telling him exactly that and apologizing for being such a wuss when it came to ending things, but then he got pissy. He started yelling at me about how it was my fault things didn’t work out. Then he called me a whore and Axel came out of nowhere and punched him in the face. I don’t even know why he did it, we are barely friends.”
“Barely friends?” She raises a brow. “He just kissed the hell out of you five minutes ago but you’re claiming you two are barely friends?”
She laughs. “Maybe someone should tell Axel that because, from what I just saw, he might not have gotten the ‘barely friends’ memo.”
“That’s funny because he’s the one that sent it.”
“Was he? Meaning that you tried to be more than friends?” She questions and, when I choose to shrug instead of answer, rolls her eyes. “I get it, you don’t want to talk about it right now and, because I love you I am going to drop it, but we will talk about this eventually. Okay?”
For a brief moment, I almost break. I almost tell her everything. I almost tell her about my father, who I thought he was, what he did to me when I was growing up, what he really is, and what is happening to me.
But how would I start? How do you tell someone who hasn’t dealt with an eighth of the weirdness that I have dealt with in my life that you are a supernatural creature?
The answer is you don’t. You deal with it alone because, at the end of the day, that is all you are.