Then You Look At Me

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I Got You

~I don’t mind spending every day, out on your corner in the pouring rain. Look for the girl with the broken smile, ask her if she wants to stay a while. And she will be loved~ Maroon 5.

Chapter Theme Song: 'She Will Be Loved' by Maroon 5.

°°

Rainey

I watch Principal Cameron’s expression morphs into all sorts while she watches the video from Olivia’s cell.

Jace can barely open his left eye, a dark contusion encircles it while half of his face is swollen. The nurse tended to his bruises before sending him into the office; he’s fortunate to not have ended up bedridden after that beating he got.

Ansel hasn’t said a word since we came inside Mrs. Cameron’s office. He’s still enraged about the confrontation, and although he’s wearing his glasses to school today, I can easily sight the look of venom in his eyes. I fear he may attack again, and I don’t want him getting into trouble. Especially because of me.

That side of him which I saw today was intimidating and unstoppable. I’ve never seen him that mad before; the sight was terrifying.

Mrs. Cameron shakes her head. "I cannot believe this."

“Ansel was just trying to help me, that’s all.” I cajole, attempting to maneuver her future decisions. “Please don’t punish him, he was only looking out for me.”

Ansel looks at me, and I smile at him sadly. I feel bad, he potentially ruined his reputation to defend me.

I see how the rage slowly disappears from his eyes as half his lips turn up. His smile is so angelic and sweet, you wouldn’t think he could handle himself so well in a fight.

Looks surely can be deceiving.

Olivia looks from him to me, then scoffs once again. “You are so full of yourself. Ansel would look out for anyone, even a fly. That’s just Ansel. Get over yourself, Jeezus.”

“Be quiet.” Principal Cameron bores holes through Olivia’s face from beneath her thick glasses. The look of disappointment is clear on her features as Olivia presses her lips together, picking at her nails instead.

I catch Ansel as he glances at Jace, who turns his face away quickly, wincing at the pain from his sudden movement.

“Jace, I can’t believe you entered a female restroom, threatened her, and then attempted to put your hand on her.” Principal Cameron throws the cell phone onto the desk, shaking her head in disgust.

Jace tries to sit up in his chair, pressing the icepack to his wounded cheek. “As you may have-ah…” he groans. “As you may…have seen, she hit me first. She punched me in the nose, Aunt Linda.”

“Don’t call me that at school.” Principal Cameron points her finger at him. “I am so embarrassed to be your aunt. You are such a disgrace! I saw when you shoved her against the wall in that video!”

“Y-yeah…yeah, I did that, but she made my nose bleed! There was blood every…” he closes his eyes, sighing in pain. “Everywhere. It was one hell of a punch. She hits like a man for Christ’s sake.”

“Well, you deserved it. What you did was insolent and distasteful. I am embarrassed to be your aunt. And Olivia? You’re a female, how could you urge him to put his hand on her? Are you even my daughter?”

The last statement prompts my head up, as I look between the principal and Olivia in surprise. She’s her daughter? So, doesn’t that make Olivia Jace’s cousin?

Olivia sighs. “Mom—”

“Save it. You both are disgraceful. And Lisa—”

“I didn’t do anything!” Lisa quickly defends, panic lacing her tone as her eyes widen in fear.

“Exactly, you didn’t do anything. You just stood there and watch them without putting a stop to it. You all are despicable! Jace, I am calling your father, I am sure he didn’t raise you to use force on a lady when she says NO. No means no.” She reaches for the telephone on her desk.

“Wait, Aunt Linda…!” He winces at his sudden movement, settling back in his chair. “D-don’t call him. I was just messing with her. I didn’t genuinely want to go out with her. I was just following orders.”

I narrow my eyes in his direction while Ansel glares at him. Jace shifts uncomfortably under his stare as Principal Cameron squints her eyes at him.

“Whose order?”

Olivia looks at Jace strangely, but he doesn’t look at her, instead, he lowers his eyes to the penholder on the desk.

“Jace, if you won’t talk. I am calling your father.” Mrs. Cameron promises.

Jace massages the bump on his face, refusing to utter another word. Principal Cameron nods her head in finality.

“I am calling your parents, you are getting suspended, as of today—”

“No, no, no, no!” Jace jolts to the edge of his seat, reaching out his hands in hopes of stopping her. “Okay okay, wait, I will talk, I will talk, alright. It’s Olly—” Olivia snaps her head in his direction. “Olly told me that she needed my help. She said I should try to get the new girl to go out with me, or sleep with me, so she can stop hanging around Ansel, please don’t call my Dad, he’ll block my credit cards.”

Ansel and I narrow our eyes, and Olivia gasps at him in disbelief. “J-Jace? How could you—”

He sighs. “Sorry, Olly. My dad will take my car, and I can’t live without it.”

“Well tell them what was in it for you, you said you would do it if I got you a date with Lisa…at your house, alone!

Lisa makes a face. “You two bargained on my name?”

“Is that true, Jace?” Mrs. Cameron questions.

Jace gets tongue-tied. “W-well…”

“Yes, it’s true, Mom. He wanted to sleep with her, so he took the deal, you’re such a rat!”

“Okay, enough!” Mrs. Cameron closes her eyes, raising her palms. I see the deep disappointment in her eyes as she looks at her daughter. “Olivia, I am very disappointed in you. You and Jace, as well as Lisa, will be having detention for the whole week, plus you will be here this weekend to clean the school.”

Olivia gapes, blinking her eyes. “That’s not fair, I have dance practice on Saturdays, and you know—”

“I don’t care, I will call your instructor and tell her you won’t be coming.” She finally shifts her eyes to Ansel, giving him an asymmetric smile. “You are normally so quiet, dear, and you do well in school. You managed to top first place since seventh grade, and I am proud of you.”

Ansel smiles a little and Jace’s jaws drop. “You’re supposed to be scolding him, how come—”

“Be quiet.” She glares at him. He looks away in anger while she continues to speak to Ansel.

“You also topped first place in Science, Math, English, and Geography in the whole country, and you have many scholarships lining up for university. Your character is commendable, you don’t talk much, and you have respect for your teachers; they all speak highly of you in the staff meetings. Your dad also assisted the school with building our Auditorium, free of cost, and we are so grateful; I can tell the generosity runs in your family. With that being said, I am certain, without a doubt, that Jace was the one who propelled you to do such a deed.”

Jace gapes, sliding to the edge of his chair. “Aunt Linda, how can you—"

“I will let it go this time, Ansel King, simply because you are a great student,” she continues. “But next time, please report to me if Jace is being a pest. Violence is never okay and it’s never an option.”

Ansel nods. “Yes, ma’am.”

“However, you’re not completely off the hook, I’ll need a two-page essay on why violence is wrong and should never be used in schools. I’ll need this tomorrow.”

He nods again. “Okay.”

Mrs. Cameron exhales heavily, waving her hand dismissively. “You are all dismissed, please go to your class.”

I begin to get up from my seat when she shakes her head quickly, gesturing to my chair. “I’m sorry, not you Slate, I need to speak with you.”

I look at her curiously and Ansel glances at me. “Should I wait for you?”

I shake my head. “No, it’s okay.”

He nods his head then leaves the room.

°°

Ansel

“Ansel, wait.” Olivia grabs a hold of my arm as soon as we step out of the principal’s office. Jace glances at me, but when he sees my hard glare, he looks away fast as he limps down the hall.

I turn to face her, hauling my bicep from her grasp. “What?”

The gesture makes her forehead puckers, but she swallows hard, dropping her gaze to the floor.

“Look, Ansel...I am sorry. I did it because...I have liked you since you came in the second term of seventh grade...and I know it’s crazy to have gone that far...but I have really strong feelings for you and—”

“So?”

She lifts her head, confusion etched on her face. “H-huh?”

“Yeah, you like me...so what? Am I supposed to like you back?” My brows furrow as she fidgets under my glare.

“Ansel.”

“You think because you like me that somehow I am automatically yours and so you have all the right to hurt someone I care about?”

She reaches for my hand. “I am sorry, Ansel, I truly-”

I pull away, shaking my head at her. “You’re selfish.”

Her gaze softens, her lower lip quivering as tears foam in her eyes. “Don’t hate me...”

She’s about to cry, and I am not sure I can handle that right now. My knuckles are pained, and I am still mad at the fact that Jace touched Rain, so I sigh and begin to leave.

“Ansel, please—” She calls after me, but I keep heading in the direction of my math class. I am extremely exhausted.

°°

Rainey

“Rainey, I know it was Jace who provoked you, but violence is never the right way.” Principal Cameron begins, while I stare at a piece of lint on my skirt.

Being lectured by her feels like Deja Vu. I’ve been to the principal’s office a few times at Freetown. They tend to smell of paper and ink and there is always a deafening silence with only the sound of the clock at each pause between lecture. It’s unendurable.

I simply nod my head, biting down on my lip.

“And considering what happened at Freetown, I know very well that you’re a little…short-tempered,” she continues. “All I ask is that you close your eyes and count to ten…”

“It gets hard,” I mumble.

“Sorry?”

“It gets hard. I am tired of people taking advantage of me. I have dealt with that a lot when I was younger.” I lament.

“I know, but we all have dealt with that one way or another. I am not saying you’re wrong to have defended yourself against Jace, but I am just saying…you should try to work on your temper. I don’t want to use your past to judge you…and what you did to that girl at your former school was—”

“Have you ever been victimized?” I raise my head, finally meeting her attentive and…hypocritical eyes.

“Yes, Slate. We all have.”

I nod. “Sure. But after being taken advantage of repeatedly, it gets tiring. It gets annoying, and I shouldn’t have to apologize for feeling that way.”

“You don’t have to apologize, but I think there are plenty of ways you can get rid of that anger. For example, extracurricular activities. We have a great volleyball team here; you could try out.”

“I am not a fan of sports.”

“Okay, then is there anything you enjoy doing?”

I don’t offer a response, and she sighs exasperatedly. “All I am saying is, to avoid what happened at Freetown repeating itself I’d suggest you have some positive ‘fun’. Get out and get involved. It’d kill some of that anger…”

“You wouldn’t understand why I did what I did to that girl,” I say, looking straight at her. “And I don’t expect you to; I don’t expect anyone to.”

She sighs, tilting her head to the side. At this point, I am at my wits’ end with this discussion. My feelings aren’t something I like to share, especially with someone who doesn’t genuinely care.

“Could I please be excused? I have math class…”

She nods. “Okay, Slate. We’ll talk next time, alright?”

I get up from my chair and leave her office, hoping that there will not be a 'next time'.

I was a lot younger when I discovered that people do not genuinely care about you, they all just want to know your secrets, your fears, and probably use them against you in the long run. Which is why I stay in my shell, it’s where I feel safe.

°°

“Slate, you’re late again.” Mrs. Forbes points out the obvious as she jots on the white board. I stroll up to her, gripping the straps of my bag.

“I am sorry, I was at the principal’s office,” I inform. Ansel looks up at me from his notebook, and a few kids are inquisitively staring.

Without meeting my gaze, she waves her marker in my direction. “Fine, go sit down.”

I stroll down the aisle and find my seat at the back. I grab my math book, then sift through my bag to find a pen. I frown when I am unsuccessful and turn my head to Ansel, who’s grimacing while flashing his knuckle.

“Uhm, do you have an extra pen?”

“Yeah, sure.” He reaches for his bag willingly.

I observe the bruise on his hand as he pulls the zipper of his knapsack. It looks painful. I hate the fact that he injured his knuckle to defend me. What have I ever done to deserve his kindness? He has always been there for me, treating me with such generosity and defending me when I am being victimized. I haven’t done anything great for him in return, except buying him a pair of tyres. That surely cannot measure up to everything he has done for me.

He hands me the pen and I tell him thanks. I am about to turn around, but I am itching with concern.

“Uhm, is your hand okay?” I grip onto the backrest of my chair, half my body positioned in his direction.

He nods, flexing his palm. “Yeah, it’s nothing severe.”

I press my lips together. “I am so sorry.”

“For what?” His brows knit.

“Your hand,” I whisper, staring at him remorsefully.

“Don’t apologize. I am the one who should be sorry, I came a bit late to protect you.”

I shake my head. “You didn’t. You were right on time… like a real superhero.”

He chuckles softly, and I beam, straightening my spine. “You know, if it hurts to write, after class I could lend you my notebook, or you could even snap a picture of my notes…” I suggest.

His eyes glisten. “Yeah, that’s a great idea, thanks, Rain.”

I smile.

“Slate?”

I shut my eyes at the sound of Mrs. Forbes’s voice, then whirl around in my chair. She glares at me rebukingly, crossing her arms against her chest.

Darn.

“Since you have so much to say to Ansel, could you please answer number eight?”

I purse my lips. “Uhm, okay…sure…”

She perches against her desk, her glare sharp and reprimanding. I swallow hard when I spot the allotted question. I have a feeling she chose the hardest equation.

“Should I come to the board or—?”

“No, just tell me the answer from where you’re seated.”

“Okay…” I twist my lips, squinting my eyes as I stare at the board. I have no idea how to find a solution to the problem. I am good at Math, but I still find difficulty in a few areas, polynomial algebraic expressions being one. The silence stretches as I nibble on my lower lip, sifting my brain for the answer.

Mrs. Forbes begins to get impatient. “Any day now, Slate.”

“I’m still thinking about it.”

“Well, think fast.”

Instantly Olivia appears at the door, her knapsack hanging off her shoulder. Mrs. Forbes’ rolls her eyes at her tardiness, pressing a hand against her wrinkled forehead.

“Why is everyone so late to my class?”

She moves toward her. Olivia’s eyes are red and swollen as if she has been crying, and it catches my attention for a bit until a gentle nudge in my side causes me to look down. Ansel has a small paper between his fingers and I discreetly take it, looking up to see if Mrs. Forbes saw the gesture. Luckily, she didn’t.

I quickly unfold the note and my lips form a smile.

Answer: = 6 b + 5

“Slate?” Mrs. Forbes speaks again as Olivia moves down to her seat. I look up and she places her hand on her hip, tilting her head to the side. “Are you ready to answer the question?”

“Uh, yeah,” I crumple the paper in my palm. “It’s 6 b+5.”

She stares at me for a while, then nods slowly, stepping back. “Great job. Okay, class please copy these from the board and get started on them, I want them by the end of the class…”

I reach for my pen and uncrumple the paper, scribbling a response.

Thank you 😊

I secretly pass the paper to him then begin to take down the assignment from the board. Although I can’t look back to see what his facial expression is like I can tell he’s smiling.

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