It's a Cruel World, Sir

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19 | Selfish

Canty’s not off about my friends pounding on the door—by the time I manage to get it unlocked and opened, Nikki looks like she’s debating whether or not to break it down.

“Oh, thank god,” she breathes, relieved. “I thought he was holding you hostage or something.”

I stiffen, but manage to snort. “Your imagination scares me sometimes.”

“As if he wouldn’t do it. Did you see the way he looked at us?” She shivers. “I haven’t felt that threatened by a scowl since the glare you gave me your second day here.”

I roll my eyes. “That’s only because you kept annoying me.”

She laughs. “Yeah, I know, but still. That guy gives me bad vibes all around—I can’t wait until you’re out of his class.”

“Me either,” I mutter half-heartedly.

Linking our arms together, she steers me towards Chase’s class. “What’d he want anyway?”

My jaw clenches, and it takes all of my willpower to keep my muscles relaxed. I’m too wound up to put up a front; I need to get it together. “Lectured me about you guys following me to class,” I lie.

It’s her turn to roll her eyes. “That man, I swear,” she grumbles. “I should’ve ignored Leon and told that shriveled dick exactly what I thought.”

I smile at her, but don’t say anything—mainly because I think it might’ve made it worse, especially if she scared him—and sigh instead, thinking.

Even though I can’t tell the others about Canty, there’s no reason I can’t tell Chase. Not only would Gibson believe him, those brownie points he earned when he took me home would make Gibson want to act fast just to impress him, which would cut out the chances of Canty failing Whit and Leon. It could even gives us a chance to—

Nikki yanks me aside just before we walk into Chase’s room, pulling me from my thoughts.

“So, are you going to tell Chase or not?” she demands.

I blink, wondering if she somehow read my mind. “Tell him...?”

“That you and Darestin aren’t a thing, obviously,” she says, rolling her eyes. “What else would I be talking about?”

“I don’t know,” I mumble. Thanks to everything that’s happened with Canty, I completely forgot about the whole Darestin thing.

“Have you at least figured out what you’re going to do about it?” she asks.

“No,” I answer honestly. I don’t really know what I’m supposed to do in these types of situations—I’ve never been in one before—but Chase would prioritize this thing with Canty over a little misunderstanding, right?

She sighs. “Well, you might want to figure it out quickly because we have class with him, and things are just going to get worse the longer you let him stew in the idea that you and that Darestin guy are a thing.”

“I know,” I say, returning her sigh. Explaining things about Darestin is important, but right now, Canty’s the priority, and Chase is my best bet at help.

I must look pretty hopeless because Nikki pats my shoulder. “It’ll be fine, Cupcake. I’m sure he’ll understand. Let’s go see what the situation is before we panic, okay?”

I nod, heading into the classroom first.

Chase is writing something on the whiteboard, barely glancing in the direction of the door as I walk in. I do notice that when Nikki walks in shortly behind me, though, he nods to her, but I try not to dwell on it too much.

“Welp, he’s certainly not happy,” she mutters when we sit down.

I sigh. That’s an understatement.

“What’s with the long faces?” TJ wonders, plopping down in the desk in front of me.

“Trouble in paradise,” Nikki says, sighing. “Chase is a bit upset with our Cupcake here.”

TJ tilts his head. ”Chase is upset? How’d she manage to piss off the one person I didn’t think would be phased by anything?”

“She’s completely and utterly clueless,” she says, as if that answers everything.

“Ah,” he says, nodding. “Got it.”

“Excuse you?” I bark, glaring at both of them. “What does that have to do with anything?”

They just snicker in reply as the bell rings, bringing everyone to their seats. Nikki keeps the smug smirk on her face as she props her feet up as usual, and TJ shakes his head with a smile of his own as he turns around to give Chase his undivided attention.

I grumble, leaning on my hand.

Stupid, smug friends.

“Today, we’re going to move on from the 16 personalities to personality disorders,” Chase announces, moving away from the whiteboard. On it, Cluster A (Odd), Cluster B (Dramatic), Cluster C (Anxious), and Not Specified are listed across the top. “Before that, can anyone tell me the definition of the word ‘personality?’ From a psychologist’s perspective, of course.”

Several hands shoot up, but I almost groan, resting my head on the desk.

I bet Chase is furious, Nikki had said this morning. Now, as he walks along the front of the room, picking people to answer questions without so much as a glance in my direction, I get that she was right: he is furious. Even if I didn’t have the dark green color of his eyes to tell me, I can tell by the way he’s walking, the way he’s purposely avoiding turning his body in my direction.

There’s no way for me to tell him about Canty when he’s this angry.


What should I do now? If I so much as whisper Canty’s name to Leon, he and Whit will end up failing. Canty wasn’t wrong when he said Whit’s mom beat her—the last time Whitler’s mom found out she was failing, Whit had to be hospitalized for a broken collarbone, two cracked ribs, and five broken fingers. The woman literally broke each finger individually to get the point across. And Leon’s father...

I groan and sit up, pinching the bridge of my nose. Nikki throws a quizzical look my way, but I ignore her.

What’s the big deal anyway!? It was just a stupid kiss! I didn’t even ask for it; Darestin forced it on me, dammit! Chase’s supposed to be the adult here, right? What kind of adult gets bent out of shape about a kiss?

How could you cheat on Chase!?

I grumble under my breath, resting my head on my hand as I glare out the window. It’s not even like that. Nikki’s just too much of a hopeless romantic—she doesn’t even realize there’s nothing between us. I mean, hell, if she’d just think clearly for five seconds, she’d know that it’s basically impossible for anyone to care about me in that way, let alone Chase of all people. She and Leon, and Darestin for that matter, need to get their shit together—this whole situation is just because Chase’s pissed that something happened to a test subject, which is immature as hell!

“Ms. Tyler,” a voice calls out.

I’m actually irritated to see Chase looking at me.

“Is something wrong?” he wonders.

My jaw twitches and I open my mouth, tempted to tell him that he’s what’s wrong, but Nikki sends me a look, and I notice that the entire class is staring at me, waiting at the edge of their seats for something to happen.

“Nothing,” I grouse out.

“Then please refrain from growling under your breath,” he tones, a trace of a smirk on his lips.

Fuck this.

I shoot up, slamming my hand on the top of my desk. “You want to know what’s wrong, asshole, because I’ll—” I start, but Nikki and TJ are out of their chairs just as fast. In one movement, Nikki has my hands behind my back, pinning me to her, and TJ has a hand on my mouth to keep me from saying anything.

“Cupcake, calm down,” Nikki says.

“It’s just Chase,” TJ agrees.

I rip away from both of them, fuming. What do they know?

“Ms. Tyler, if there’s something—”

“Shut up,” I bark, brushing past him.

He grabs my wrist, though, stopping me. “Class isn’t over yet, Ms. Tyler. Sit back down.”

“Oh, now you’ll talk to me?” I hiss lowly—just loud enough for him to hear. “Too late now. Let go of me.”

“What happened, Vix—”

“I said: let go,” I repeat.

This time, he does as I say, conflicted and bewildered. Out of the corner of my eye, Nikki and TJ share his look, but I don’t care, heading out of the room without bothering to look at them.

To think he’d have to nerve to smirk as if nothing was wrong just because it suits him! I spent hours rolling out how to talk to him yesterday, how to make him understand, and he has the audacity to pretend like nothing’s wrong moments after ignoring me just because it’s interrupting class! Who does he think he is!?

My eyes burn, making me rub them. Something wet is on the side of my hand, though, blurring my vision.

I stop, completely shocked.

I’m crying? Why—there’s nothing to—I haven’t cried since dad...

I grind my teeth, finally getting it.

It’s not that I’m angry. Frustrated? Definitely. Annoyed? Always. But angry? No.

I’m disappointed.

God, how long has it been since I’ve been disappointed in anything? How long has it been since I’ve trusted anything enough to even risk being disappointed? My expectations are always low, even when it comes to Nikki and them. It’s not that I think they’d do anything horrible; it’s just that I don’t know how to expect things from people. If something needs done, then I do it myself. Simple.

But, do I actually trust Chase?

I cover my face with my hands, groaning again.

That’s it, isn’t it? It’s not that he’s the only option or the best choice or whatever else: it’s just that I wanted him to come in and save the day, like he did with the poison, like he did when he took me home, like he just keeps doing, as if it’s second nature to him. I want to tell him what’s going on because I want to see his stupid, collected smirk telling me that it’ll be okay. I just...

I just want him to be on my side.

Hot tears fall, and I wipe them away violently, trying to stop them.

This is ridiculous. It’s not like I need Chase! Canty or Noah or anyone else can’t do anything that hasn’t already been done, and even if they can, it can’t be worse than what would happen to Leon or Whit if they failed, so—


I stiffen at the sound of Chase’s voice, suddenly realizing that he’s standing in front of me. When the hell did he even open the door?

“Vixen, what’s wrong?” he repeats, a hand reaching for me.

I look up at him, angry and sad and frustrated and feeling as if the walls are closing in on me. Everything’s threatening to come crashing down, and for the life of me, I can’t breathe.

His eyes widen, stricken, and the hand reaching for me falls back to his side.

Without answering him, I turn away and run out of the front door, nearly collapsing on the concrete outside.

Jesus Christ, what is wrong? Why can’t I breathe? I need to get away before Nikki and TJ follow after me, before Chase sees—

I try to stand up, but my legs feel like jello.

Of course I realize this crap when things are starting to spiral. Even without the whole Darestin thing, I wouldn’t be able to tell Chase about Canty, not with all this grey area hanging between us. How did we manage to get here? When did I—

It doesn’t matter! First and foremost, the most important thing right now is Leon and Whit. I definitely can’t tell Leon and the others. Whitler’s beatings would rival the worst abuse cases, but Leon’s dad... Leon’s dad would do more than just beat him. The only thing Senator Reid cares about when it comes to anything regarding Leon is his grades—that’s it! If Leon so much as gets a B, his dad makes him spend hours working out—full-on military boot camp workout—but that’s not the worst of it: Nikki said that the one and only time Leon got a D, his father made him go a month without real food (feeding him health shakes and nutrigrain bars and vitamins like they were candy), but still expected him to endure rigorous training.

That’s the reason Leon’s the best fighter out of all of us: he’s been put through US Navy SEAL training since he was eleven.

Can you imagine what his father would do if he actually failed his senior year? The amount of meals and hours of training he’d have to endure just to get his father to ignore him again?

I let out a body-wracking sob, wrapping my arms around myself.

I’m so stupid! Why don’t I get it yet? Why haven’t I figured anything out? It doesn’t matter what happens to me! It doesn’t matter that I want Chase there! It doesn’t even matter that Chase isn’t talking to me. The only thing that matters is that Leon and Whit are fine! How could I forget something so basic? Why am I always so selfish!?

You’re a good person, Vixen.

I laugh bitterly. I’m disappointed in Chase? He’s the one who’d be disappointed to see me acting like this.

I hiccup, nearly choking, and stand, forcing myself to breathe.

I need to get myself together. No matter what happens, I can’t let Leon or the others find out about what’s going on.

I cough, clearing the thickness in my throat.

It’s fine. I’m used to doing things on my own. I don’t know why I panicked, but it’s fine.

It’s not like it matters.

The walk to my house is hazy. One minute, I’m standing in front of the school, the next I’m in my bathroom, staring at the mirror.

No wonder Chase looked like he saw a ghost: I look like shit. The eyeliner and mascara I had on is now down my cheeks, black, murky lines all the way down my face—some of it is even on my neck and shirt. My eyes are swollen and red, like my lips, making my face look ashen.

Disgusted, I turn on the shower and strip, hoping to clean whatever breakdown that’s left on me off. The water is still comfortable even though I know it’d probably scald me on any other occasion, but I don’t think about it. I don’t think about anything, really.

I feel numb, like a TV caught on static, like I should be worried about TJ and Nikki bursting through my door, but I can’t seem to bring myself to care.

I just want to sleep.

The water runs cold before I decide to get out, mindlessly grabbing a towel and drying myself off. Most of my make-up has come off and almost all of the color in my face has returned by the time I pull on a pair of sweatpants and tank top. Before I can jump in bed, though, I hear Cassadee’s screeching voice.

“Vixen!” she yells. “There’s someone here for you!”

I sigh. I thought they’d wait until after lunch at least—they usually give me time to get together before they bombard me—but I guess it is the first time in a while that I’ve lost it so badly, so maybe they’re just shaken up.

I’m such an idiot.

With another sigh, I walk down the stairs, coming face to face with a sneering Cassadee.

“Can you at least keep your clients from showing up at the house when I’m home?” she demands, arms crossed. “I don’t give a fuck what you do with the house when you’re by yourself, but have some respect for me. I don’t want to be exposed to your diseased friends.”

I don’t even bother acknowledging her, opening the door.

But it’s not Nikki or TJ. It’s not even Leon.

Ronnie is standing in the middle of the walkway, a cigarette in one hand while the other plays absently with a knife. His mess of red hair is pulled back by the stereotypical bandana, a stained white shirt really pulling the whole “old school gang” look together. On either side of him are two goons: one with naturally dark skin, and the other looking as if he decided to invest in a knock-off spray tan.

“Long time no see, little Vixen,” Ronnie says, taking a drag. “How’s about you and I catch up?”

“I’m really not in the mood today,” I say evenly, putting my hands in the pockets of my sweats.

He tsks. “C’mon now. I don’t wanna get rough. Been given strict orders not to harm you, ya see, so let’s just do this peacefully, yeah?”

I roll my eyes. “I said no thanks. Or did you already forget that the last time we had a disagreement, you ended up carted off by the police?”

His face hardens for a moment, but he cools it. “That’s why I brought some friends with me this time.”

The two guys stalk towards me, going for intimidation, but I just raise an eyebrow, waiting. The one with darker skin attacks first, going for my waist, but I knee him in the nose, a pleasant crack as soon as it makes contact. The other one snarls, angry, and whips out a knife, holding it defensively in front of him. I roll my eyes and crack my wrists. With another snarl, Spray Tan comes at me headfirst, but I manage to duck out of the way, grabbing his wrist in the process. Before he can recover, I bend it back, threatening to break it.

“This is why I hate gangs,” I mutter out loud. “You guys rely too much on numbers—there’s no real skill there.”

Suddenly, the front door opens, Cassadee stepping out with an exasperated look on her face. “What in the hell are you doing?” she demands. She looks between the guy I’m holding and me several times before snickering. “Oh, I get it now. A pay-plan gone wrong, huh? Good thing your dad was dumb enough to teach you how to defend yourself. How disappointed do you think he’d be if he saw you using it to rip people off?”

“Cassadee, get in the house,” I order.

She scoffs. “And who do you think you are, telling me what to do?” she demands, letting the door shut behind her. “You might want to remember your place, bitch, because even if you can fight me off, I’m still in charge around here.”

“That’s not the point, Cassadee. Just get inside.”

She rolls her eyes, looking at Ronnie, who’s only ten paces in front of her. “You guys can take her for all I care. I won’t call the cops or anything. Just get her out of my sight.”

I can practically see the moment Ronnie gets the idea, like a light bulb turns on in his eyes. Before I can do anything, he snags her by the arm, the knife in his hands going to her neck.

“Wait, what are you—!”

“Can it, bitch.” Ronnie hisses. When she stops struggling, he looks at me, a malicious grin on his face. “We know all about you, you know. Little Miss Vixen Wren Tyler, a quiet but troubled 19-year-old outcast. Learned self-defense from your dad when you were only eight thanks to an attack made by a crazed man. After his death, you moved in with your mother who was only after your dad’s insurance money. Were beaten for years yet never fought back. Well, not until your mother tried to hit your little brother and sister, right? Broke her arm in eight different places to keep her from smacking them, didn’t you? So noble.” He laughs, long and boisterous. “So what will you do now? This bitch is your half-sister, right? Are you going to give her up to save yourself, or are you going to give up and let her live?”

I stare at him, eyes hard. Three is easy to take down—I’ve had worse odds—but keeping Cassadee from getting hurt... that’s another problem. Ignoring the fact that by the time I can get to her, he could have already slit her throat—she’s never once been in a legit fight. Plus, she’s in heels and a pencil skirt—not exactly ideal for escaping at the drop of a hat.

“I come with you and you let her go?” I check, watching him.

“Of course,” he says instantly. He’s not lying.

I’m sorry, guys.

“Alright,” I agree.

He looks dumbfounded for a minute, like he can’t actually believe it, before he snaps out of it, the sick smirk back on his face. “Hands where I can see them, and don’t move. If you so much as move a finger out of place, I’ll cut this bitch’s mouth wide open.”

I let go of Spray Tan’s wrist, hands in front of me. He rubs his wrist, glaring at me, and lands a punch in my gut.

I had half-expected it, but without being able to defend myself, there isn’t much I can do. It doesn’t necessarily hurt—like I said, gang members are more for intimidation than actual fights—but it does knock the wind out of me for a minute. Without waiting for me to recover, he grabs my arms and forces them behind my back. He doesn’t just zip tie them at the wrist, though, taking extra care to zip tie them at the elbows as well. When they’re satisfied that I’m not going to be able to do anything else, Ronnie releases Cassadee, practically throwing her to ground, and comes over, yanking me up with unnecessary force.

“Let’s get her back to Preston,” he says to his friend, but I’m not paying attention to him.

Cassadee has wide, horrified eyes, shaking like a leaf.

“Guess my antics have led me here,” I say casually. Her expression doesn’t change, so I continue, “It’s just like you said: this’s what happens when you whore around, right?”

Ronnie jerks me away, escorting me to a beat up Ford, and I let out a breath, preparing myself.

Hopefully, Leon and them never find out about this.

I’m not sure if I like this or not. I struggled with pacing this week—certain parts of the beginning of this chapter seem to go a little too fast for my liking—so I’ll probably go back and edit this when I get the chance, but, for now, this’ll do.

Tell me what you think as always~ Next chapter will be the bonus chapter of this chapter, since it’s extremely important to see Chase’s PoV of this one.

Happy reading, my little cupcakes~<3(:

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