About five minutes before the bell for first period rang, time I was spending cuddling on the floor with Eli, my phone buzzed in my pocket. It was dad, he’d replied to my text. With a sinking heart, I read the words I’d dreaded he’d say.
You should’ve thought of that
before you snuck around behind
our backs. Come straight home
after school or there will be
I swallowed back the emotions I so didn’t want to feel at the moment and texted him a one word reply. As I put my phone away, Eli noticed the change in my mood.
“Talk to me,” he requested gently.
I laid my head against his shoulder, lump in my throat.
“Dad’s not letting me go to rehearsal tonight.”
“What?! That’s so stupid! We need you! You’re the best set designer we’ve ever had!”
I shrugged, hands facing palms-up in a gesture of ’what are we to do?’ and stared afterwards at my hands now back in my lap.
“Honey,” Eli murmured, stroking my hair (which felt amazing), “I wish I could help.”
The bell rang just as I was about to answer. Now out of time, I merely told him I knew this, kissed him, said I’d see him later (though would I??) and stood up.
I stopped and turned back towards Eli who walked over to me, put his arms around my neck, and kissed me again. So badly I wanted to just freeze time and allow myself to get lost in this feeling coursing through my veins, but reality was far too cruel.
I placed my hands on his shoulders and eased back, trying like hell not to give in to the immediate screaming inside my head to resume kissing him.
“We need to get going,” I told him softly.
He held a hand to my cheek and I leaned my head into it, going all soft at his touch.
“Luke, I can’t leave you knowing you’re upset.”
I met his crystal blue gaze.
“There’s no choice, Eli. I will not be the reason you’re late for the first time in your high school career. Go. I’ll be fine.”
I’ll admit it sure felt incredible having someone care like this.
He kissed me once more and then reluctantly went on his way to class. I had a feeling today he’d be eating lunch with me. At least, I hoped so. I think today was going to be a long one.
I wasn’t wrong. By the time lunch rolled around, all I wanted to do was grab Eli and just run away. So many kids had attacked me, as per usual, over my relationship with him. The director was furious that I wouldn’t be there tonight, lecturing me on how all my actions have consequences and how I really needed to start thinking ahead so things like this didn’t happen, about how now they’d have to find another set builder because as of that moment, I was fired.
Then there was Sam, who slammed me into the lockers whenever we passed in the hallway, or roughly shouldered me as he passed. His friends thought it’d be especially funny to spend the day knocking my books out of my hands every chance they got. Some teachers made fun of me for being unable to focus. Some teachers punished me for not being able to focus. There were taunts and teases and a few people had decided to take to throwing balls of paper at me ’cos, yeah, guys, that’s just so hilarious.
All of this was before lunch so by the time lunch rolled around, I was beaten and battered.
Broken had yet to come
I spent most of the period alone, which I had expected, honestly. It was when I came back from taking my tray over to the window for the lunch ladies to take care of that I discovered my booth was no longer empty. A kid I sort of recognized was sitting there, though I couldn’t place his name. He was one of Eli’s friends, though, so that meant automatic distrust.
“Hi, do you want me to move?” I asked him.
He shook his head. “No, I wanted to talk to you.”
Austin! That was his name. If memory served correctly, he was one of the ones usually on the outside of the group. I mean he was a part of the group but they never really actually involved him in any conversation, if that makes any sense. Basically, he was on the outside looking in. I think, though, he usually had a buddy by his side, also on the outside looking in. There was no hope of me remembering that guy’s name, though. Eli’s group of friends was one very large group, and I absolutely sucked with names. Plus I pretty much hated them, so I kind of didn’t really give a shit what they were called anyway.
Warily, I slid into the booth on the same side I’d been sitting earlier. While it was true that Austin didn’t actively bully me, he was still one of them so I couldn’t trust him worth a damn.
“Austin, right?” I asked him.
“Isn’t there normally two of you?”
Austin shot a glance off towards the general area where Eli was sitting with his friends, around the corner out of our line of sight. You could hear his friends, though (they were usually the ones being the loudest).
“He’s with them. They don’t actually know I’m over here. They think I’ve gone to my locker.”
Oh. Okay. What was I supposed to make of that?
“Uhm, no offense but why are you here?”
Austin leaned forward with a look of…was that concern?
“I’m here to let you in on a secret of theirs, a secret that’s about you that they don’t want you to know.”
I squinted, getting increasingly suspicious.
“You want to…help me? …Why?”
Did Eli know of this…secret?
“Because. They treat me like they treat you. Well, not as bad as they treat you, but they never listen to me when I speak, always speaking over me the second I try to say something. They never let me do anything with them. I’m basically an outsider and I’m sick of it. I see the way they treat you and I just…I feel really bad about it and I don’t know…I want to help.”
I had a bad feeling about where this was going, but at the same time, I needed to know. You know?
“What’s the secret?”
“You’re not gonna like this, but you’re a good guy and you deserve to know the truth. You know your relationship with Eli?”
Fear seized my breath. Oh, no. No. Please…please…don’t be that…anything but that…(I fucking knew it’d been too good to be true!)
Austin read the emotions raging in my eyes. He looked so sad, so sympathetic.
“It happened because Zach,” that’s sort of the leader of the group, second most popular in the school, “made a bet that Eli couldn’t get into your pants before prom.”
Tears sprung in my eyes, though I tried my damnedest to fight them off.
“He wouldn’t…do…that,” I whispered.
“I’m sorry, but he did agree to that bet; I was there. Nathan can also confirm if you want me to get him.”
There was this tearing sensation in my chest, and more than anything I felt the urge to scream. The pain…oh, the ripping, shredding, explosive, agonizing pain…There weren’t words.
Tears ran down my cheeks as everything within me became wrenched apart.
“He got into your pants last night, didn’t he?” Austin guessed gently.
I could no longer speak. I could no longer breathe. There were gaping holes where my heart and soul had been; excruciating, searing, desolate holes.
Austin took his cue and got out of the booth.
“I’m really sorry, Luke. I thought this whole thing would be over in a few months, it usually is. I guess he dragged it out because of who you are.”
“Just go,” I snarled, staring at the table before me and not really seeing it.
Austin, his back to Luke now, began to smile as he sent the text to Nathan, whom, sitting next to Zach at the table, gently nudged the guy.
Zach, upon feeling that nudge, did everything he could to prevent the grin from appearing on his face. All that was left now was to send Eli Luke’s way and let it all unfold. When the dust settled and that bitch Lucas Sullivan was out of the picture, Eli would remember; he would find his way back to his proper place. With his head cleared, he would reign stronger than ever, just as he once had.
At the moment, Eli was sulking as usual and Zach was all too eager to watch everything blow up.
“Alright, fine, Eli, go see your stupid lover. Jesus.”
Eli looked up with shock. “Wait, what? You’re letting me go?”
“You really need help.”
Eli ignored this as usual (which went right according to plan), got up, and hastily made his way over to his beloved.
I had just gotten up to find a place to be alone for the last twenty minutes of the period when I heard Eli calling my name. He sounded eager. Of course he did; the fucker was a good actor after all.
I turned towards him so he’d see the pain and know he’d won. He stopped short at the sight, the smile fading from his face. What seemed like genuine concern crossed his face but I knew now that this was all a façade, all fake, all just some sick joke to him. I didn’t say anything after that, just took off at a brisk pace. At least the tears had stopped…for now.
I found myself standing outside the side entrance. Nobody else was around. The air was cool for May, effectively cooling the heat on my face. It surprised me none when the door opened and Eli walked through, looking profoundly worried. I felt my heart yearn to believe that the emotions I saw upon his face were real, but I wasn’t going for it anymore. Now I knew better; hell, I knew what I should’ve known all along.
“Luke, what’s wrong?” He went to touch me; I was having none of that and shoved his hand away.
“Don’t fucking touch me!” I hissed at him.
“Luke!” Bewilderment. God, this guy was good. I couldn’t believe I’d fallen for it, hook, line, and sinker…and yet…I could believe I had; I was that easy.
I turned to face him to confront him instead of just walking away again because I really needed to know.
“What in the hell makes teen shits like you so eager to fuck over teens like me?! I mean, really, Elijah, what in the hell is wrong with you?!”
“Luke, what the fuck are you talking about? Why are you attacking me?!”
“Oh, come off it already! I know the fucking truth! Austin told me! You can cut the damn act now, you jackass! Secret’s out!”
“What secret?!” his voice was getting louder; me thinks he doth protest too much.
The tears from earlier came back and streamed down my cheeks. I didn’t care if this gave him satisfaction. I didn’t care about anything anymore. He’d thoroughly stolen everything that ever meant a damn to me. Well…I guess not everything; I suppose I should be grateful for that.
“Did you really think I wouldn’t find out about the bet? Hm?? I can’t believe I fell for your damn act! I fucking knew better, too! But no. Stupid ass ol’ me had to go thinkin’ you deserved the benefit of a doubt! Well, congratulations, asshole, you fucking won! My falling in love with you must’ve been a real nice benefit that you and your shitfaced friends no doubt made endless fun of these past six months! Did you have fun ruining me like this? It’s only worth it if you had fun, Elijah! Come on, tell me! DID YOU??”
Elijah stood there with his mouth hanging open, looking totally bowled over. Yeah, I bet he was shocked. Shocked that I had found out!
“Do me a favor and go fuck the devil, you rotten cunt.” I roughly shouldered my way past and headed back inside. I found a space under the stairs in the lowest level of the building. For a lot of the twenty minutes left of the period, I cried into my knees.
Part of me had always known it’d come to this. After all, Elijah was the most popular kid in the school. Of course he’d never actually be into me. I’d been a god damn fool to have ever thought otherwise.