Chapter 34 - Secrets
“Tell me all your secrets / Tell me what I’m supposed to do / Days are getting longer / Nights are getting painful too / I’ve been feeling restless, oh / Feeling like I just can’t sleep / So tell me all your secrets / ’Cause you already know ’bout me” – Secrets, Faouzia
“We’re going on a hike Saturday morning if you want to join?” Diana says to me at our lockers, as we organize them for the day.
“Who’s we?” I ask.
“The girls,” Diana says. “Sarah, Eleanor, and me. So, you in?”
“I start work at 10 am,” I say.
“We can make it an early morning hike,” Diana says, turning to her phone to let everyone know the details.
“I’m sure Eleanor will appreciate that.” I joke.
“She’ll survive,” Diana says, dismissing my comment with a wave of her hand. She looks at me when she puts her phone away. “Arya, there’s something I wanted to ask you about.”
“Shoot,” I say, not looking at her.
“From the party last Saturday,” Diana says, “there was this guy that came up to me. Tall, chestnut shaggy hair, blue eyes.” She’s waiting for a reaction from me, but I give her none, even though I know exactly who she is talking about. “He said he was a friend of yours.”
I turn to her. “And?”
“Something was just off about him, Arya,” Diana says, “he said you guys had a disagreement before you left West Side.”
“There are some jerks at my old school,” I say, “he’s one of them. Don’t worry about it.”
“He told me to tell you something Arya,” Diana says seriously.
“He said, ’Tell her I’m glad she’s enjoying East Side and her new boyfriend James. And that she looked beautiful tonight. I always think she looks best in green.’” Diana says, looking for a reaction from me. He’s letting me know that he’s keeping tabs on me, he hasn’t forgotten me, and that he’s still watching me. He saw me at that party. “He said you were avoiding him.”
“Don’t worry about him,” I say, “he’s nothing.”
“You can tell me, Arya,” Diana says, “I know Malcolm had mentioned a West Side boytoy…”
“No,” I say sternly, “I told you he was talking shit.”
“Arya,” Diana says.
I take a deep breath, I shouldn’t be getting angry with Diana, she’s done nothing wrong. “I kissed…” I think about it, “I made out with the hockey captain at West Side before I left. That’s what Malcolm means when he says ‘boytoy’. It’s doesn’t matter, because it was a one-time thing and it’s over.”
“And this guy that approached you is a completely different guy who is a jerk,” I say. “Don’t worry about him. He just likes to get underneath people’s skin.”
“I’m positive,” I say. “Now, hike Saturday?” Diana gives me a look. “Please, believe me, Diana, it’s nothing.”
“Fine,” Diana says unconvinced. “How was making out with the hockey captain?” Diana smiles at me.
“He’s a very good kisser,” I smile, “but unfortunately for him, I kissed James and now I don’t want to kiss anyone else.” I wink at her.
“You are the luckiest girl at this school,” Diana says, “hockey captain at West Side, soccer star at East Side. Who’s next?”
“No one!” I say, “I just said I don’t want to kiss anyone else. And give me a break, my first kiss was February this year with the hockey captain. I think I deserve a good kiss after waiting so long for it.”
Diana laughs. “Was he trying to get a repeat this past Saturday?”
“Yes,” I say. “He did not take the news of me having a boyfriend too well, but we are in a good place now.”
“Did James beat him up?”
“No,” I say, “they barely spoke. Best to keep them apart.”
“Little player, aren’t we?”
“Uh, no,” I say, “I made out with Lexi at the beginning of February and then started dating James, like, six weeks later. No overlapping.”
“I’m only joking,” Diana says. “We’re going to watch a movie Saturday night as well at my house if you want to join. Unless someone is too busy with a…Mr. Fox?” Diana says suggestively and I just roll my eyes at her. “Come on, Arya!” Diana pleads, “I already told you that I’m living my dating life vicariously through you! You have to keep me in the loop!” I turn to my locker, ignoring Diana and her pleas. “Are your parents home this weekend? Are you going to bring him over for another ‘sleepover’?” Not if James values his life. “Engage in some more heart-racing activities?”
“Diana, stop!” I say in a hushed whisper, trying to silence her, knowing that I have to make her stop before she says too much. I love Diana and I have told her a lot about James and me, the details seem to flow out of me when I talk to her.
“What?” Diana says, “You don’t want him in your bed again, with his perfect body, and wrap yourself around him and dig your claws into him like a savage beast?”
“I beg you to stop,” I say to Diana.
“What about feeling his biceps and running your hands through his hair as he firmly grabs you and presses you into him?” Diana goes on.
“Diana!” I say more loudly.
“Hey, Diana!” James says happily, coming up from behind Diana to stand with the both of us, with a huge grin on his face, obviously from the conversation that he’s just overheard. Diana is so shocked by seeing him and looks at me to give me apologetic eyes. I respond with eyes that sarcastically say, ‘It’s perfectly alright that you discussed me making out with my boyfriend and he heard you.’ “Sorry to interrupt your conversation,” James says as if we had been discussing something important and he wasn’t just standing behind Diana to soak up the compliments while I begged her to stop.
“Didn’t interrupt anything,” Diana says, still in a slight state of shock which rarely ever happens to her.
“Good,” James says and then turns to me, “I was just coming to ask if you wanted to come over for dinner tomorrow night? Grace and Rachel have both been asking when you are coming over next.”
I’m glad to hear that Grace and Rachel still like me coming over to the house. “Of course!” I agree.
“Great!” James says to me, “I’ll pick you up at 5:30 pm.” And then he turns to Diana, “I’ll see you in Biology, Diana. I hope me sitting in front of you won’t be too much of a distraction.” And then he winks at her before walking away.
Diana leans back against her locker, closes her eyes, and slowly bangs her head against it. “It wasn’t that bad,” I say to her.
She turns her head towards me, still leaning it against the locker, and opens her eyes. “I said, ‘dig your claws into him like a savage beast’.”
“He won’t tell anyone,” I assure Diana with a friendly hand on her shoulder, “He’ll never let you forget it, but he won’t tell anyone.”
“Kill me now!” Diana shouts to the ceiling.
Even with our busy schedules, James and I always made sure we made time for our friends. Surprisingly, these couple of weeks of us being together is probably the most time James has spent hanging out with his friends in the past two years. Instead of making excuses to not hang out with them or bailing on them, he continually seeks to spend any free time he has with them, as limited as his free time is. And I continue to hang out with my friend group as well, always making time for them and always saving Friday night for game night with them, which James has joined in on twice so far. One thing James and I agreed on is that we would always have lunch with our friend groups, which seemed to be a perfect balance. It seemed perfect, like a dream you didn’t want to end.
“My mom made fudge for anyone that wants a piece,” Teddy says as he lays out a block of fudge cut up into squares at the center of our table. Everyone greedily goes in and grabs a piece and quickly starts eating it.
“So good!” Eleanor says, licking her fingers.
“I’m going to grab my water bottle. Forgot it in my locker.” I say, getting out of my chair, “Be right back.”
And then I run into her in the middle of the cafeteria.
“Arya!” Lisa shouts, “Just the girl I’ve been looking for!”
I give her a weird look, confused as to why she would want to talk to me at all. “Why?” I ask.
“I just found out some very interesting news about you,” Lisa says with a smile on her face.
“And what would that be?” I ask, curious to see what she says, crossing my arms.
“I know why you left West Side,” Lisa says in a whisper so that no one else can hear, not that anyone is listening to us.
“You think you know, do you?” I ask, trying to be confident in myself. There’s no way she could have figured it out. Who would have told her? It can’t be what I think. Someone must have lied to her. At least that’s what I hope. I want her to tell me a lie, a rumour that someone came up with so that I can deny it because I couldn’t bear it if the truth came out of her mouth right now.
“I do,” Lisa whispers smugly. “So should you tell them, or should I?” Lisa gestures to the entire cafeteria.
“If you’re just going to blather on about some rumour that you heard about me then I suggest you save your breath and the embarrassment and get out of my way,” I whisper back, glaring at her.
“So I guess I’ll tell them then!” Lisa says in a loud voice, drawing the attention of everyone in the cafeteria as they all turn around to look and see what is about to happen. “So I’m sure many of you are wondering why Arya Secord, a former West Sider, switched to our school halfway through Grade 11.” I guess she’s really doing this. “I was always curious as to why you decided to switch schools, Arya.” I bet you only became curious when James started taking an interest in me. “And it turns out, no one, not even anyone at West Side knows why you left. There one day, gone the next.” I feel his presence before he even says a word.
“What do you think you are doing, Lisa?” James says, coming up beside me.
“Does James know?” Lisa asks me. “Does he know what you did?” and I just glare at her, “Of course not. There’s no way he’d stay with you if he knew the truth.” I can feel James look at me for a second as I continue to glare at Lisa. I never told him the truth, I can’t, and I know he is now thinking in his mind why. “Last chance, Arya,” Lisa says to me. Please don’t be what I think it is. “Fine. I found out from a reliable source why you left West Side Academy. And I found out the reason no one knows why you left is because the principal tried to cover it up. They recorded that you left because of issues with one or more students, but it was far more than that, wasn’t it?”
“Lisa, you need to stop,” James says. Even though he doesn’t know the truth, he doesn’t want me exposed like this, or maybe he’s just scared of what she is about say?
“You need to know more than anyone, James.” Lisa says to him and then turns to me, “You falsely accused a guy at your school of rape.” Everything goes silent at the word rape. I continue to just stare at Lisa, knowing that everyone is looking at me, knowing that James cannot believe what she has just said. I feel my heart racing in my chest. “You spray painted ‘RAPIST’ on a boy’s locker and they caught you before anyone at the school saw it. But he didn’t rape you. You falsely accused a boy of raping you and to protect him, they covered it all up and then forced you to leave West Side. That’s why you’re here, Arya. It was more than just having issues with another student, you committed a felony against another student, trying to ruin his reputation.” Lisa stares at me. Who told her? How did she find out? Who would betray this secret? “Am I just blathering on about some rumour, Arya?”
I just stand there, not knowing what to do or what to stay. I’m in a state of shock. I never thought this would happen. I knew Lisa didn’t like me, but I never thought she would go this far. What lengths did she go through to get that information?
I hear his voice in my head from that day. ‘If anyone ever finds out about why you left, you will tell them…’
“Arya,” James says beside me, interrupting my thoughts, but I don’t want to look at him. I don’t want to watch that face fall apart when I answer the question I know he’s about to ask me. “Arya.” He says more sternly, grabbing my hand and forcing me to turn to face him. I look into his eyes and see the concern, the fear, and I know I can’t do this. I pull away from his grip, away from him and all these people staring at me, trying to get out of the cafeteria as fast as I can. But James runs around a table and cuts me off, staying an arm’s length from me, knowing that I’m fragile and not wanting to get too close to me. “Tell me what’s going on, Arya.” He says as if he were talking to a frightened deer in the forest, trying to calm it down.
I feel tears starting to fill in my eyes and he comes up close to me, unable to resist protecting me. “Arya, just tell me the truth.” He says so quietly that no one else can hear, “I will believe whatever you tell me.” I look into James’ eyes and they are waiting, searching for the truth because he can’t believe what Lisa said is true. He can’t fathom it.
“I’m sorry, James,” is all I say, not wanting to repeat what Lisa has already said about me.
“It’s not true.” James says, not believing it himself, “It can’t be. Just tell me she’s lying. You don’t have to explain everything, just tell me it’s not true.” His eyes are pleading with me to tell him it’s not true, that Lisa really hates me so much that she would make up some horrible lie about me.
“I can’t,” I say. “Everything she said is true. I’m so sorry, James.” And then he lets me go, he lets me walk past him, leaving him in a disbelieving state. I go to the girl’s bathroom because it’s the only place to get away from all the judgmental eyes and hushed whispers. Going into the last stall I let out the tears I was holding in, not wanting to shed them where people could see.
“Arya!” I hear a familiar voice call, “Arya, we know you’re in here!” It’s Diana. She knocks on the bathroom stall. “Arya, please tell us what’s going on.” I stay silent because there are no words.
“Arya, please.” I hear Eleanor’s voice say. “We are your friends.”
“Arya!” a voice shouts having just walked into the bathroom and I recognize it immediately. “Arya, it’s me.” Mia slams her hand on the bathroom door. “Please come out and talk to me.” Rubbing the tears from my eyes, I come out and see Diana, Sarah, Eleanor, and Mia all standing in front of me. Mia immediately hugs me, hoping that her hug can at least help with some of the pain.
“It wasn’t supposed to happen like this. This was supposed to be a fresh start. A getaway.” I say, hardly able to speak.
“I know,” Mia says, still holding me.
“It’s all ruined,” I say into Mia’s shoulder.
“It’s not,” Mia reassures me.
I pull away from Mia. “I’m so sorry, Mia. First West Side and now East Side. I’m ruining everything for you.”
“Don’t say that. Arya,” Mia starts and searches my eyes, “He’s the one that ruined everything.”
“But I’m the one that lost control,” I say to Mia, knowing the other girls are listening. “I spray painted ‘RAPIST’ on his locker out of anger, wanting to ruin him. They forced me to leave West Side to protect both of our reputations, covering up everything so that no one would know what I did. And then Mom and Dad forced you to transfer with me.”
The girls all look at each other, surprised by what I’ve said, and who could blame them? Will they even want to be friends with me anymore?
But Mia stays looking straight at me. “Arya, you did it...”
“I went overboard.” I say sternly, “And I can live with it. I was the one who lost control and let her emotions take over.” And then I walk out of the bathroom, not wanting to face the people that care about me the most because I have let them down. I think about something James said to me when we first met, about trying to outrun your problems. ‘No matter how fast you run, they always seem to catch up with you’.