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When the last period finally came, I was glad. Today consisted of so much drama, I was ready to go home and relax. Of course, I had to get through cheer practice first but that wouldn’t be too difficult. At least I didn’t have to see Lazarus or that new girl, Raegan.
She was in my Math class. I sat in the back and watched her flirt with two football players. I caught her staring at me a few times, an evil gleam in her cat-like eyes. For some reason, she didn’t like me.
I shared Chemistry with Marianne and Dexter. Surprisingly, they came to sit next to me, planting their bottoms into the two seats either side of me. I plastered a neutral expression on my face and stared at my notes from my last lesson.
Somebody cleared their throat, attracting my attention. Peeking up through my long lashes, I saw Dexter leaning closer to me, a grin on his handsome face. He was very handsome and...cute. Every time I’ve seen him, he had always been smiling. He was a cheerful person. If he hadn’t been at the club that Friday night, I would have thought he didn’t have an intimidating bone in his body. But alas, he was one of the few things I could remember about that night.
“Hey,” He greeted, sweetly. There was a sparkle in his brown eyes. “I have an important question I need to ask you.”
I arched an eyebrow, noting the serious tone in his voice. What did he want to ask me? Did it have something to do with Lazarus?
My heart stuttered at the thought of him and sadness replaced any positive feelings I had. He didn’t want me—I couldn’t compete with Raegan. She was glamorous, confident and so pretty.
But did she want him? She made out with Matt at a party and she’s been flirting with every guy she’s spoken to.
No, don’t think about this.
I frowned, “What do you have to ask me?”
He shuffled closer to me and darted his eyes around the room as if he was making sure nobody was listening in to our conversation. “Do you think Oreo’s and peanut butter are a good mix?”
I did not expect that.
He had a straight, serious expression on his face. He meant business.
The corners of my lips quirked upwards. I tried to not giggle. “Um...I’ve never had that before.”
He gaped at me, shocked. A look of outraged flickered on his face. “You’ve never tried it? What is wrong with you, girl?”
I had never seen anyone act this way over a piece of food. His sense of humor was unique for this small town and I liked it.
“Not everybody eats twenty-four-seven, Dexter,” A hard voice inputted, beside me. Turning my head, my eyes connected with Marianne’s startling blue ones. She was staring at us with boredom.
“I know that nobody loves food as much as me. I’m just saying, she’s missing out on a lot,” Dexter argued, folding his arms over his chest defensively.
Marianne rolled her pretty eyes, “Ignore him, Celeste. I think his mother dropped him on the floor too many times.”
The banter between them was quite funny. I was stunned they were opening up around me. I had assumed they were private people who didn’t mix with strangers. Perhaps they didn’t view me as a stranger because I spent time with Lazarus.
"Ouch, that’s mean,” Dexter retorted, placing a hand over his heart. “And you’ve met my mother and you know she’s very careful. She never dropped me.”
Marianne pursed her lips, “Why do I bother arguing with you? It goes nowhere.”
Dexter beamed, triumphantly.
“I am an unbeatable force. Nobody can win against me,” Dexter boasted, pushing his chest out for effect.
Marianne shook her head in disbelief. “You and I both know that’s not true.”
“Oh, yeah? Name somebody who’s beaten me,” He challenged, confidently.
Dexter paled at the name and directed his gaze to the table.
“Gets him every time,” Marianne whispered to me, staring at Dexter with amusement. “He won’t admit it, but he’s scared of Layton. He nearly peed himself once when Layton challenged him to a fight.”
Dexter scowled, obviously hearing Marianne.
“So how long have you guys known each other?” I asked, curiously. They all seemed really close.
I had to admit, I was curious about why all of them were here. Where were their parents? Why did they all enroll in school if they were only visiting? Where were they staying?
They exchanged a look, communicating with each other silently. I swore their eyes glazed over as they did this but the lighting in this room was very off so it could have been that.
“We’ve known each other our whole lives. We grew up in the same place,” Marianne explained. “Our families worked for Lazarus’ so we always hung out as kids.”
My eyebrows knitted together. Their families worked for Lazarus’ family? What did they do? Was Lazarus rich?
I knew he had to be quite wealthy because he owned a new BMW.
“What does Lazarus’ family do?”
They shared another look.
“The Ward family owns quite a few companies and small towns. My father was the second in command.”
"Was?” I pried, nosily.
“Yeah, Lazarus’ older brother, Layton took over the business. He and his mat—er—his wife Alison oversee everything. They run it with Layton’s best friend, Jimmy.” Dexter elaborated, coughing awkwardly.
In my peripheral vision, I could see Marianne glaring at Dexter. Was she mad he nearly said something else?
I pretended I didn’t notice his slip up.
“Oh, okay. That’s cool,” I replied, trying to act normal.
Marianne cocked her head to the side, studying me. “How did you meet Leah?”
My throat tightened. Leah. The library. Him.
“I—um, did she not tell you?” I diverted instead.
They both shook their heads.
“She didn’t say much. I think she wanted it to come from you.” Dexter answered, softly. There was a tender look in his eyes—he knew something bad had happened.
“Uh...I was at the library—the library she works at. A—A man attacked me, and she saved me,” I revealed, quickly. I hated talking about him.
My mother sent me to counseling after the attack in the library. She was worried because I didn’t want to talk about it. She thought a professional might be able to help.
They didn’t. They thought they knew me—understood me. None of them knew. They couldn’t understand what I was feeling.
I visited five counselors before mom finally gave up. It didn’t stop her from trying to talk to me though.
“I’m so sorry,” Marianne muttered, sincerely. She rested her soft pale hand on my arm, gently.
“It’s okay, it’s not your fault,” I reasoned, shrugging my shoulders. I wanted them to see it didn’t affect me. I wanted to believe it didn’t affect me. I wanted to be strong.
The way Marianne stared at me; it was as if she could see right through me. It unnerved me.
It turned out we had to do a practical in Chemistry. All three of us paired up and conducted a series of tests with the Bunsen burner. There were a few times when I got worried Dexter was going to burn his own handoff.
“Woah, careful!” I yelled, yanking his hand away from the glowing flame.
He simply laughed.
“Don’t worry about me, dear Celeste. I laugh in the face of danger,” Dexter declared, dramatically.
Marianne snorted, “Sure, whatever you say.”
I used the tweezers to pick up a cloth coated with acid and place it over the flame. It turned a dark red color.
We kept doing this boring practical until the bell rang, announcing the end of the lesson. Taking the huge goggles off my face, I gather my belongings and smile at both of them. “I’ll see you guys tomorrow.”
“Do you have cheer practice now?” Dexter asked, just as I was turning around.
I glanced over my shoulder at them and nodded my head. “Yeah.”
“Do you think we can watch? Marianne has always been fascinated by it.”
Marianne slapped Dexter on the chest, glowering at him. “I’m not the one fascinated by it.”
Dexter raised his hands in a surrender motion, “Alright, you caught me. I like watching it.”
“Well, you can watch from the benches. You’ll be able to watch us and the football team train.” I told them, casually. Noise from the hallways filtered into the classroom. “I have to go.”
At that, I hurried to my locker and grabbed my bag. Everyone was already on the field, talking to each other. Chucking my bag on the ground, I headed over to Georgia and Ellie and started stretching.
I noticed Marianne, Dexter, and...Lazarus strolling through the field and sitting on the seats overlooking the field. Their eyes were trained on us. Dexter was blabbering on about something whilst Marianne kept doing a sweep of the area. Lazarus couldn’t stop looking at me.
“Okay girls, let’s go through the routine again!” Georgia commanded, clicking play on the speaker. The song blasted through the field and we all got into our starting positions.
Inhaling, I closed my eyes and forced a smile on my face. We all started dancing and doing the tricks. I also hated tumbling—I once fell and bruised my whole arm.
When it came to the stunts in the air, nervousness washed over me. I was a flyer. The three girls held me in the air and allowed me to do a trick in the air, landing in their arms safety.
I wanted to take a quick peek at Lazarus and see if he was watching me. As soon as my eyes landed on him, I regretted it. Perched on the bench next to him, twirling a strand of her white hair around her finger was Raegan. My eyes couldn’t look away from them.
She whispered something into his ear whilst placing her hand on his arm as if she owned him. She was staking her claim.
I turned back and did the final stunt—the pyramid. The three girls holding me walked me over to the other’s where we would join together. I rested my leg onto Dalia’s thigh and lifted my hands up. No matter how hard I tried to not look in his direction, I couldn’t fight it.
He was staring at her, his face hidden from me. She was smiling seductively, no doubt managing to seduce him.
I don’t really remember the next part. One minute ago, I was in the air, a fake smile spread across my face. The next minute, I was lying on the ground awkwardly, groaning in pain. All of the girls surrounded me, gasping in worry.
Somebody yelled for the school nurse.
“Celeste, can you hear me?”
“Are you okay?”
“Somebody call an ambulance!”
Voices spoke around me, all of them filled with concern.
Somebody pushed their way through the crowd and knelt beside me. It was Lazarus and he stared at me with so much pain, as if he was the one that was hurt.
“Celeste,” He murmured, eyeing my body. “Are you okay?”
I liked having him worry. And I would have relished in his presence if Raegan hadn’t stumbled through the crowd as well at that moment, pretending to look upset and worried. I don’t think anyone else noticed the sinister glint in her eyes.
With a great amount of effort, I moved my head away from him, peering up at Georgia instead.
“Can you move?” She asked, gently.
When I tried to move my leg, a jolt of pain spread through my body. Yelping in pain, I squeezed my eyes shut tightly and fisted my fingers together.
“No,” I choked out, my eyes welling up with tears. This pain was excruciating.
“Where does it hurt?” She queried, flickering her eyes around my body.
Lazarus did the same, but I paid no attention to him. I felt betrayed.
“My leg,” I wheezed out. The school nurse came rushing out at that and barged through the crowd.
“Give her some space,” She snapped, lowering herself to the ground beside me. Lazarus and Georgia remained where they were whilst everyone else dispersed. It felt better without them crowding around me.
“Honey, I’m going to need to move your leg.” She said, softening her voice for me.
She placed her hands under my right ankle and slowly lifted it up.
I felt so much pain.
I gritted my teeth together, trying not to scream in pain.
The school nurse examined my ankle and stared at my face. Her face morphed into one of sympathy.
“Oh honey, I think you sprained your ankle.” She revealed, lightly. Her thin lips tugged downwards. “I think you might need to get this checked out at the hospital.”
“How did this injury happen?”
I glanced at Lazarus quickly, “I was doing a stunt and I got distracted and fell onto my leg.”
She nodded her head in understanding. I was not the first teenager who had hurt themselves doing cheerleading. It was a dangerous sport.
“Okay, I’m going to need a wheelchair. Do you mind getting it?” The nurse asked Lazarus sweetly. Lazarus jumped to his feet. “You’ll find one in my office.”
He ran off, speedily.
“Honey, I’m going to take you to my office, give you some painkillers and call your parents. They’ll have to take you to the hospital to get that ankle checked out.” The nurse informed me.
Lazarus came rushing back, wheeling a wheelchair. He positioned it next to me, looking ready to help out.
“My mother. You’ll have to contact her.” I croaked, “My dad’s dead.”
Pity flashed in her kind eyes. I hated it.
“Young man, can you help me get her up?” The nurse asked Lazarus.
He speeded to my other side and wrapped an arm around my waist. Sparks flew on my skin and ignited every bone in my body. It felt thrilling.
I stiffened and dropped my gaze to the ground. Lazarus practically lifted me off the ground, carrying me as if I was weightless and gently placed me into the wheelchair. He managed to do it without hurting my ankle.
Georgia started walking beside me whilst the nurse pushed me. Lazarus remained in his spot, watching me disappear with a look of longing in his eyes. He wanted to come with me, I could tell but I felt uneasy around him.
He made me feel things I shouldn’t feel. Not so soon. Not when I barely knew him.
I was also angry at him. I wanted to blame him for paying attention to her.
Leaving him felt like I was leaving a piece of me behind.
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