~I had given up, I didn’t know who to trust. So I designed a shell, it kept me from heaven and hell~Sia
Chapter Theme Song: ‘Dressed in Black’ by Sia
“Water for you.”
“Thanks.” Ansel takes the bottle from my grasp, immediately taking a drink.
I plop down across from him, tucking my legs beneath me and lifting off the already opened lid of my beer.
He watches as I enclose my lips on the rim of the bottle and a small smile pulls at his lips.
Removing the beer from my mouth, I use my knuckle to wipe away the residue. “What?”
He shakes his head, his smile unchanging while he averts his eyes back to the worksheet.
“Nothing. Uhm, so while you were downstairs, I worked on the first question, this is what I got.”
He slides his Math book to me before resting the water bottle on the tiles of the floor.
“Not bad, let me give it a try.” I reach for my notebook and attempt to work the same problem myself; however, the solution I end up with is far different from his.
I make a face. “This has got to be wrong.”
Ansel chuckles. “Let me see.”
He leans over to see what I have. His face is unintentionally close to mine that I can feel his minty breath slapping my cheeks.
“Oh, I think I know what the issue is,” He takes my book and shifts so he sits directly beside me. I try to ignore the weird feeling his knee touching my thigh gives and focus on his explanation.
“So, the issue is that you didn’t rewrite the power as an equivalent expression.”
I blink my eyes cluelessly. “Huh?”
He tries to suppress a smile. “Okay, so the thing is, whenever the power contains a negative exponent, you rewrite the power as an equivalent expression with a positive exponent by taking the reciprocal.”
I have no idea what he just said.
“Do you understand?”
I smile a little. “I guess.”
He laughs. “That’s a ‘no’ then. I’ll show you.”
He grabs his pen and his book and begins to show me an example of what he just said. After a well-detailed visual, I catch the hang of it, and we move on to the next questions together.
We are almost at the end of the worksheet when my door thrusts open. Ansel and I pull our gaze in the direction of the doorway.
Jeff stands there. His expression is hostile, and he crosses his arms against his chest, leaning against the door jam while he glowers at us.
“What’s going on here?”
Ansel looks from Jeff to me and I roll my eyes, shifting my focus back to the worksheet and deciding to ignore his presence. “Anyway, I got a negative five for this part, Ansel. I am not sure if it’s-”
“Rainey, I am talking to you!”
“Could you please fuck off?” My brows bump together in a frown as I shoot him a hard glare. “I told you not to open my door without permission, but you do it anyway.”
“You have no fucking respect, I waited all evening at the school’s gate for you and here you are, sitting in a room with a boy doing Lord knows what!”
“What on earth are you talking about? We are doing an assignment and I do not need to explain that to you so get away from my room door. Furthermore, I told you not to pick me up anymore. I don’t want to be in the same space as you. Just leave me alone, you have no say in what I decide for my life!”
“Yes, yes I fucking do Rainey Slate, whether you like it or not!”
I exhale heavily while Ansel attempts to mind his own business, but I can tell he’s itching to input, judging by the way his fingers are tapping on his knee.
“I will make sure to tell your mother that you have a boy in your room. You think you’re so ‘grown’, don’t you? Well, when you start paying the bills then you can do whatever you feel like!”
“Just go fuck yourself,” I mumble.
“Let’s see how your mother deals with your insolent ass when I tell her what the fuck you’ve been up to!” He pulls my door up fiercely.
Angry footsteps stomp away and down the stairs. I sigh, returning my focus to the equation at hand.
“Wow. Your Dad sure is passionate about you.” Ansel remarks.
I push my hair back from my face, attempting to get rid of the fury raging my emotions. Keeping my eyes on the worksheet, I barely mumble a response.
“He’s not my Dad...”
Ansel narrows his eyes, his chin lifting in confusion. “He’s not?”
I shake my head, reaching for the beer on my bedside table and taking a hard swig. He watches me quizzically while I put the beer back into its spot. Lowering my eyes to my fingers, I satisfy just a small portion of his curiosity.
“He’s my Mother’s boyfriend.”
“Okay...” His tone is one of bafflement, but my eyes aren’t on him to know what his expression is like.
“Well. He sure ′cares’ a lot for just being your mother’s boyfriend.”
I sigh. “You have no idea...”
I glance at him. I can tell from his expression that he still has probing questions but I rather focusing on the Math problems instead.
“We just have a few questions left...We are almost through with the worksheet...” I refocus on the assignment, attempting to change the topic but Jeff’s grouchy voice downstairs is a barrier to my train of thoughts. He’s yelling cantankerously, and I can tell he’s speaking on the phone, to my mother perhaps.
Ansel sighs, reclining onto his palms.
"Heart melts in despair, as taunting voices approach my doorway. Gasping for air, my soul greys and burns like flares, as my ashes fall onto misty air."
I hold my breath as each word leaves Ansel’s lips. With wide eyes of disbelief, I turn my face to stare at him. He just recited a few lines from the poem I had idly written earlier on the loose page from my Math book. The fact that he somehow memorized that is puzzling, but the more probing question is how did he even see it in the first place?
“H-how do you know that?”
He sits upright, resting his elbows on his knees as he looks me in the eyes. “I happened to see it when you gave me permission to fetch your Math book from your bag.”
I swallow hard, biting my lower lip while lowering my eyes to the flower-patterned sheets of my bed.
Why did he have to see that? Those words aren’t just ‘words’, they are my secrets, jotted down on paper. Secrets I wish not to share.
“I’m sorry I ended up seeing that.” He continues.
I shake my head, shifting in my spot but refusing to meet his eyes.
“Why did you write that?”
I press my lips together, a painful feeling pulling at my emotions.
I don’t want to talk about this.
I shake my head again. “Its nothing, it’s just a poem…”
“Are you sure?” His eyes dip to my quivering hands, as they grip tightly the hem of my skirt.
“I don’t believe that.” He states calmly. “You’re shaking...”
I meet his eyes. They appear to hold genuine concern. But I am not a weak person and pity is one of the things I detest.
“I am fine. I was just bored at the café and wanted to occupy my time until you were done.” I half-shrug, attempting to bring forth an unperturbed expression.
Ansel stares at me for a while. His eyes search mine, and I can tell he doesn’t believe me. But lucky for me, he decides to let it go and respect my reluctance.
“Well, you’re talented.” He smiles. “I think I know the best place for you. Friday night we are having a talent show at ′Club Naked’. It’s right in town, you should drop by. They’d love to hear talented people like you.”
“I don’t write to perform for people,” I reply. “I don’t think my work is that good, I don’t think I am that good...”
“Are you kidding?” He narrows his eyes. “You’re amazing.”
I smile a little. I’d be lying if I said those words didn’t touch somewhere deep within.
“I don’t know...” My body raises in a shrug. “I’ll think about it.”
“Please do.” He smiles.
We stare at each other for a while before Jeff’s voice followed by my Mom’s echoes from downstairs.
I groan, rolling my eyes skyward. “Great.”
“Where is she?!” Her tone is already furious, and she hasn’t even heard my side of the story. She will always believe Jeff’s words over mine, and I’m her daughter.
Heels click against the wooden stairs then speedily approaches my doorway. She knocks on the door. “Open up Rainey Slate!”
I sigh, pressing a hand against my forehead. “Come in.”
The door pushes open and she storms in, filling my room with the smoke of the rolled cannabis between her fingers.
“What the fuck is this I’m hearing about-” She pauses when her eyes land on Ansel’s.
For some odd reason, she seems partially embarrassed. She puts the joint behind her, smiling bashfully before clearing her throat.
“Hi. Uh, when I heard she had a boy in her room, I wasn’t expecting someone this...decent." She refers to Ansel, who tilts his head to the side, narrowing his eyes.
“We are working on an assignment; I have no idea what Jeff told you.” I sigh.
“I am sorry for my indecent behavior...” She smiles at him. “It’s just that my daughter is not well-behaved like other kids. So, we need to keep an eye on her. She’s hard work.”
I exhale hardly, looking away.
I am always a bad person in her eyes.
“She’s not hard work.” Ansel begins, and I bring my eyes up to look at him. “She’s smart and talented but she’s not ‘hard work’. I think that choice of adjective is unfitting.” He offers her a tight-lipped smile and she shifts her weight awkwardly.
“Oh. Okay well, have you eaten though?”
“Uh no. I was about to finish this up and leave-”
“No please stay for dinner.” She beams at him. She hasn’t smiled like that to me in a while. She must like Ansel. “I am going to prepare something nice. So, you both can finish up and then join us in the dining room, okay?” Without awaiting a response, she sashays out of the room.
Ansel looks at me and I force a smile, lowering my eyes to my fingers.