It's a Cruel World, Sir

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06 | Lecture

The alarm goes off, wailing so loud my ears are cringing. I reach over Lesley to hit the top of the clock but end up accidentally knock it off the nightstand.

“Shoot,” I mutter.

Austin, whose spread over my legs, rubs his eyes, burying his face in my comforter. “Sissy, stop the noise,” he whines.

“Workin’ on it,” I grumble, skillfully crawling over Les without waking her.

As soon as my feet hit the white, nylon carpet, I pick up the noisy contraption and unplug it from the wall, letting it clatter to the floor again. Kaleigh and Les stir, Kay throwing an arm around Les and nudging Austin with her foot. Austin whines softly, slapping Kay’s foot without any strength, before snuggling deeper in the comforter.

So cute.

I smile a little, kissing them on the forehead.

The sound of Cassadee’s alarm pulls me back to reality, and I groan softly, dreading hearing her voice so early in the morning.

Quickly, I head to my dresser, grabbing a pair of pastel pink skinny jeans and a dark grey, off-the-shoulder shirt. I change in the bathroom, slipping out of my cow pajamas and into the outfit in my hands before fixing my make-up. I settle with a thick line of eyeliner on my top lid, letting it trail out to the corner of my eye in a wing, and a thin line of black on my waterline, putting on some Soft Lips ChapStick just to moisten my lips—thankfully, the stupid cut from Noah has healed mostly, not even noticeable now. When I’m finished, I leave my room, going downstairs.

No one’s in the kitchen yet. The mess from last night is still plastered everywhere—lasagna sauce painting the walls, dirty dishes piled in the sink, even portions of last night’s sandwich are on the floor. Mother must have passed out before she could order some poor cleaning company to take care of the chaos. Unless she expects me to do it, but there’s no chance in hell that’s happening.

Shaking my head, I pull a water bottle out of the fridge and go to the living room to scrounge for my brush. It’s on the arm of the plastic-covered couch, I notice, beside the black leather jacket Mr. Kingsley had lent me. My fingers trace the smooth fabric, absently remembering Friday, before I grab my brush.

“Where’s breakfast?”

I ignore her, raking it through my hair.

“I said: where’s breakfast?” she repeats, more impatient this time.

I turn to see Cassadee standing on the last step, face scrunched in irritation, hands on her hips expectantly.

Her hair is going in all sorts of direction, defying gravity as she flips it out of eyes. The giant t-shirt she’s wearing isn’t covering as much as I wish it would, one sleeve hanging off of her shoulder, the end of it barely covering her underwear, and I can’t help but cringe at the sight.

“Haven’t you ever heard of pants? Jesus Christ.”

“I want breakfast,” she demands, glaring at me. “Where is it?”

“It’s in the kitchen, waiting for you to make it,” I snap, eyes glancing out the window for the familiar truck. “Where else would it be?”

"Excuse me?” she hisses.

I roll my eyes. “Really? We do this every morning, Cassadee. I’m not your dog; I don’t jump when you say jump. My job isn’t to make sure you’re happy and all your needs are taken care of. You’re an adult, you know.”

“Your job is to make sure mom’s happy, though. And she won’t be too happy if I wake her up because you won’t make me breakfast—it’s been your job since you were eight,” she says smugly.

I snort. “What? Are we children again? Go run to mommy-dearest then. Wake her up. I’m not eight anymore, Cassadee, you can’t just pull the mom-will-beat-you-again card and expect me to bark at your command. Or have you forgotten?” I step to her, getting in her personal space, making her tense. “I’m not scared of you two anymore.”

“Wow,” a voice says at the door. “That was pretty hot, Cupcake.”

Cassadee and I turn our heads to Calvin, who’s leaning against the door paneling like he’s meant to be there. The door itself is hanging wide open, letting in dim, morning light. He’s dressed in the usual: dark jeans, Nike’s “Just Do It” shirt, and Converse.

“What are you doing here, Calvin?” I ask, momentarily forgetting the princess in front of me.

“I told Leon I’d pick you up today,” he says matter-of-factly. “Good thing I did too, ’cuz he never would’ve came in to see such a sight. Must say, the whole I’m-no-longer-as-weak-as-I-was-when-I-was-little thing was sexy as hell.”

I roll my eyes. “You’re an idiot.”

“But I’m your idiot.” He winks.

“So, this is the guy you’re whoring around with?” Cassadee intervenes, disgusted.

Calvin raises an eyebrow, daring her almost.

“Are you paying her with actual money or just pretending to be her friend?” she continues.

“Cassadee, I think it’s time you shut up.” I grab the leather jacket in one hand and Calvin’s arm in the other. “Come on, idiot, let’s get out of here.”

He follows me obediently, eyeing the jacket but not saying anything as we get to his Honda Civic.

“Be sure to give him extra tonight since he came all the way to the door!” she shouts.

Calvin stops, hands paused on the door handle. He looks up at me, waiting for permission, and I shrug, opening the passenger door. He snickers and turns, heading back to Cassadee. She backs up a bit, worried that he’s going to hit her, but before she can close the door, he snatches her wrist, pulling her against him. Just as she’s about to scream, he seals her annoying mouth with his, snaking his arms around her waist. I watch with amusement as she goes from shoving at his chest to gripping his shirt in her fists. Calvin tilts his head, getting a better angle, and deepens the kiss a little, to the point that when he pulls away, she actually tries to chase his lips with her own.

“That’ll be my payment, sweetlips,” he says devilishly, smirking at the dazed look on her face.

She blinks, eyes widening, the blush rushing to her cheeks. “How gross!” she shrieks, running in the house and slamming the door.

He laughs as he walks to the car, wiggling his eyebrow when he slides in the seat. “So easy.”

“Yeah, yeah. Just get me to school, Casanova, before Mother comes out here.”

“Yes, ma’am.” He grins.

As soon as he starts up the car, Owl City’s Good Time plays over the speakers loudly, causing me to raise an eyebrow.

“What?” he says innocently. “Everyone likes Owl City.”

I smirk, shaking my head.

He pulls out of the driveway and speeds down the hill, eyes shifting more from playful to serious as we get farther from my house. It makes me remember Friday night again, the fight I got into and the look in his eyes when he realized where the blood actually came from.

We manage to get out of my neighborhood before he brings it up.

“Cupcake, we need to talk.”

Ah, shit.

“About what?” I dodge.

He throws me a look. “You know what.”

I sigh. “What do you want me to say, Calvin?”

“I don’t want you to ‘say’ anything. I want you to stop,” he says, voice forceful. “If things are shit at home, come to my place, go to Nikki’s place, hell, go to fucking Leon’s place for all I care, just don’t do it.”

“You know I can’t do that. If I were to leave the kids there alone, they’d be tormented,” I reason. “Besides, I have it under control. You don’t need to worry so much.”

“Under control? Really?” His hands tighten on the steering wheel, knuckles turning white. “Cupcake, you have fucking gashes on your wrist that you did to yourself and you think you have it under control?” he fumes. “Don’t treat me like I’m stupid. I’m a man-whore, not a dumbass, remember?”

This is bad. Calvin’s not one for losing his temper, and he’s not really a fan of cussing, so the thought that he’s angry enough to cuss scares me.

“I’m sorry,” I amend, trying to show him that I mean it. “I’ll... I’ll try. But that’s the best I can do.”

He looks at me, sees that I genuinely mean it, and sighs, long and tired. “I guess I’ll have to live with that. But the moment those people are gone, you’re coming to my house. And don’t even try to get out of it or I’ll tell Whitler about your relapse.”

I cringe at the thought of Whit’s face if she found out.

“And don’t think I’m not checking from today onwards,” he adds, tone lighter this time, the smirk definitely fighting its way. “I like to be thorough when checking too, just warning you now.”

I roll my eyes. “Keep dreaming.”

“Hey, your sister seemed to enjoy my kissing skills. Why don’t you try it out sometime?”

“Maybe in another lifetime.” I smirk, thankful for the change in topic. I guess if there was anything good about Calvin, it would be his inability to stay mad for too long. He hated fighting, especially with his friends, preferring to solve things with his looks (like that thing with Cassadee) or words.

“So, who’s jacket is in your hands?” he asks casually, eyes treading to the leather jacket in my hands before going back to the road. “Looks like a guy’s.”

I snort. “And how do you know what a guy’s jacket looks like?”

“I’m a guy, Cupcake, and I’ve been around enough girls who enjoyed flaunting their boyfriend’s clothes at me.” I snicker at that. “So, who’s the guy?”

I raise an eyebrow. “How do you know it doesn’t belong to someone we hang out with?”

He laughed. “Come on. Could you even picture Trent wearing something like that? You know he hates things that stick to his skin. Leon? Only if Nikki asked him to or Whitler dared him. TJ might, but he’d be wearing it himself. Plus, no one gave you anything Saturday.”

“That’s pretty perceptive of you,” I say, impressed.

“Who is he, Cupcake? Someone you met at the club the other night?” He sounds genuinely curious, if not too demanding.

“Relax, child; it’s only Mr. Kingsley’s,” I assure him. “He ran into me at Circle K and offered me a ride home. I figured since Preston’s after me, and it was so dark, it wouldn’t hurt. He had his top down, though, and gave me his jacket because it was so cold.”

“Oh.” He eased, the tension in his shoulders that I hadn’t known was there now gone. “Does he live near you?”

I blink. “Huh. Not sure.”

He looks at me incredulously. “You mean you didn’t even ask him why he was at the convenience store in the first place?”

“Well, he got cigarettes and some candy. I figured he just ran out and needed a new pack or something.” I furrow my eyebrows. “Why does it matter?”

“It’s weird.” He shrugs. “He was at a convenience store in the richest part of town after two in the morning; seems a little strange to me.”

“You sound like Leon now,” I mutter, rolling my eyes. “How do you know he wasn’t thinking the same thing about me? I was there in the middle of the night too. For all we know, he woke up in the mood for a cigarette, realized he was out, and went out to get some.”

“Guess you have a point.”

The parking lot is pretty bare when we arrive, even the professors’ cars scarce. I notice Leon’s truck tucked away in the corner, slightly hidden behind branches of a weeping willow. Nikki’s sitting on the bed of it with Leon between her legs, hands in his hair. Neither notice Calvin and I until we’re right in front of them.

Nikki doesn’t bother dropping her hand, playing with Leon’s hair. “Hey, Cupcake. How did the weekend go with the Creator?”

“Hell,” I say. “She and Cassadee are on my ass, trying to get me to do their jobs.”

“Awesome,” she says dryly.

“Yeah, she and Cassadee were at each others’ throat this morning,” Calvin interjects, leaning on his side against the truck.

“Do I need to stay the night tonight?” Nikki asks.

“No,” I say, waving her off. “I’ll be okay. They’re just having a hard time adjusting to doing things themselves.”

“I’ll say,” Calvin mutters.

It’s quiet for a few minutes, and I start mindlessly running my fingers along the jacket.

“Whose jacket is that?” Leon wonders.

“Mr. Kingsley’s,” Calvin says.

“Oh, crap,” I grumble. “I almost forgot all about it. I’ll be back, guys.”

“Wait, Cupcake! Why do you have Mr. Kingsley’s jacket?” Nikki shouts after me.

“I’ll tell you later,” I yell back, opening the door. “I wanna get to him before all his crazed fans get here.”

“Good point,” I hear her say as the front door shuts behind me.

It’s quiet in the hall, a strong contrast to the usual chaos it has. The janitor is sweeping the floors, picking up small pieces of paper in preparation for more paper to be thrown on it when the students get here. Not many professors are in their offices; just a few like Mr. Canty and Dr. Sandy are sitting at their desks, filling out paperwork and stuff. I see the dean but manage to avoid him, taking a sharp left towards Mr. Kingsley’s room.

Mr. Kingsley is standing, eyes drawn to something on his desktop. He’s concentrating, the serious look on his face making my stomach flip uncomfortably.

I knock on his door, causing him to look up at me, surprised. Quickly, though, it turns to a smirk.

“It’s unlocked, Ms. Tyler.”

I walk in, leaving the door wide open. “I brought this with me.” I hold out his jacket.

“Ah. I was wondering if you were going to return it or not.”

“Shut up,” I grumble, hands falling to my sides. “I forgot I was wearing it until Les pointed it out when I got to my room.”

He tilts his head to the side a bit. “Les?”

“My little sister,” I explain. “Well, half-sister, but same thing. Her name is Lesley, but I call her Les.”

“You really like nicknames, don’t you?”

I roll my eyes. “My grandmother liked being called Les; it’s just a habit. Besides, Lesley likes it more.” I put his jacket on his desk. “At any rate, thanks for the jacket.”

The smile is cunning. “Don’t worry about it.”

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