Cole leaves later in the evening. I try to disregard the image of Christian in handcuffs that keeps coming to the front of my mind. I feel awful for thinking about it while I'm looking at Cole's beautiful face, and I feel bad for caring. I said I wouldn't care anymore and I should stick to my word.
Before Cole left, he laid down with me and we talked, just like I imagined we would. I didn't know what he was saying most of the time and he would laugh when I wouldn't respond to his questions.
"You're not listening," he said with a smile. He ran his fingers down the side of my face.
"I am, just not the words you're saying. I love your voice," I admitted.
He smiled again and kissed me for what felt like hours, years even. I felt his hand on the small of my back, but it was somewhat tense. He didn't know what to do with his hands or how to properly react. It's understandable for not having a girlfriend before me. The thought makes me feel warm inside. I'm his first kiss, his first anything in a relationship.
He gave me one last kiss on the porch and I watched him drive off into tomorrow.
"When can I start driving?" I ask my mom when I'm back inside. My dad looks at me from behind the newspaper. That's all he does nowadays when he's home.
"I didn't know you wanted to," my mother responds.
"I'm like the only senior that doesn't drive. Besides, I feel bad that Cole has to drive me around everywhere," I add. That's a half-truth. I do feel bad about it.
"I'm sure Cole doesn't mind, sweetheart. He's a nice kid." She gives me her smile of approval. My mom never knew about Aaron, so to her this is my first boyfriend ever. Well, technically it is, but not really. "But if you really want to start driving, Dad will be glad to teach you."
"That sounds like sarcasm," I say skeptically, inspecting my father.
"If you really want to drive, you can. I'll teach you, sarcasm or not," my dad says.
I hug both my parents. "You guys are awesome."
"I can take you to start off in the parking lot at the mall. Top floor, there's usually no one there. Want to go Saturday morning?"
I nod my head excitedly. Dad just smiles and returns to his paper. I run up the stairs and count the days until Saturday.
Everyone is talking about Christian when I get to school in the morning. Cole and I pass clumps of people, them whispering about how it all went down. It seems that no one knows the whole truth; gossip spreads around this school so fast it becomes distorted once it reaches an end. I don’t even know what to think about the whole situation. It’s so overwhelming I just want to avoid it.
But of course there’s no escaping gossip when your best friend is Kelsey.
She runs up to me, frantic, talking a million miles an hour.
“Slow down!” I say, steadying her with a hand on her arm. I lead her to a lunch bench, Cole right behind me. He kind of follows me around like a lost puppy, but I don’t mind. Kelsey sits to my left on the bench, Cole on the right. “What are you trying to say?” I ask Kelsey, turning towards her.
“The freshman looks awful! I saw him yesterday. Everyone says he almost died! Can you imagine that, Mel? Someone dead at our school!”
“Everyone would be mourning, even those that didn’t know him,” I say. “I certainly would.”
“Why did Christian hurt freshman?” Cole says, placing his elbows on his knees to look directly at Kelsey.
Kelsey shrugs. “Apparently Christian has been picking on him for a while. He’s such a bully.”
“I’ve always wondered why he is the way he is,” I wonder aloud. Cole looks at me, eyebrows furrowed together. He consoles me with a hand to my knee.
“Have you heard how much his bail is?” Kelsey asks, wide-eyed.
I shake my head.
“Who has that kind of money? His parents? When is he supposed to get out of juvy?”
“I heard next week, but he’s been expelled from school.”
My jaw drops. Expelled? That seems a little much, but who am I to judge his punishment? My opinion won’t matter to anyone. None of this should even matter to me. So why am I so concerned about him? I wonder how he’s doing, if the other inmates are torturing him like they do in television shows. Is it cold there? Does he have to wear those hideous orange jumpsuits? Are they feeding him, or just shoving a tray through a mail slot that tumbles to the floor? What is he thinking about while he’s lying there on a bed made of metal? I wish I could know…
“Kid’s parents must be sad,” Cole pipes in. His voice startles me out of my thoughts. I only nod and give him a sad look. I’ve seem to upset Cole; he can tell that nothing he can say will make me happy right now.
There’s only one thing that can.