Chapter 38 - Torn
“I thought I saw a man brought to life / He was warm, he came around like he was dignified / He showed me what it was to cry / Well, you couldn’t be that man I adored / You don’t seem to know, or seem to care what your heart is for / But I don’t know him anymore” – Torn, Natalie Imbruglia
“One more round,” Lincoln says to me as I gather up all the cards. We have a substitute for History and since Lincoln and I have finished all our work, we convinced her to let us do readings to get ahead in the cafeteria. Of course, we are just playing cards instead because there are plenty of Grade 12 students on spare that are doing the same thing. We are on a window ledge seat, me sitting cross-legged with my back against the wall while Lincoln sits in the middle of the window ledge, with one leg dangling over the edge, facing me.
“You’ve already beaten me three times,” I complain.
“Then we can play a new game,” Lincoln suggests, taking the cards from me and shuffling them.
“I’m done.” I say, “No more.”
“Is there something you want to talk about instead?” Lincoln asks, still shuffling the cards to keep his hands busy. Lincoln was right when I first met him, he’s always been good at reading people, it’s like a sixth sense to him.
“What do you think of James?” I ask Lincoln. I never sought out his opinion on James before because I just fell for James immediately and it didn’t matter what anyone said about him, I would have still dated him. I did what James asked of me and stayed away from him and his friends, but it was hard. You can’t just switch off feelings. I keep hoping that James and I can work it out somehow.
“I think he’s a good guy,” Lincoln says honestly.
“Lincoln…” I say, tilting my head to the side.
“I think he feels a bit betrayed right now, Arya,” Lincoln says, “he shared everything with you, but you didn’t do the same for him. Like you were hiding a part of yourself from him that he had to learn from Lisa of all people.” We both smile at each other about that.
“What do I do then?” I ask, “I tried talking to him. He says I’m not telling him the truth, that I’m hiding something from him.”
“Is he right?” Lincoln asks.
“Good people do bad things sometimes,” I say.
“Fine. Keep your secrets. He’ll come around though.” Lincoln says, “Just give him a bit of time.”
“And if he doesn’t?” I ask.
“He’ll come around.” Lincoln says with more emphasis, “I told you I’m good at reading people. Trust me on this.”
“How did I end up with such good friends?” I ask, “All of you have stuck by me throughout all of this, even when I tried to shut you out.”
“We’re not just going to give up on you or shut you out when you hit a low point, Arya.” Lincoln says, “True friends wouldn’t do that. When you are at your lowest point is when you need your friends the most.”
“I don’t deserve you guys,” I say.
“Oh, you definitely don’t,” Lincoln says jokingly and I slap him on the shoulder in mock anger. “But you are stuck with us.” He smiles at me, but then asks, “You still okay? After what happened?”
He’s talking about the attack from last week. The story around the school is that I went crazy and kneed a guy, who I’ve come to learn is named Eric, in the balls and he got pissed at me, threw me in the bathroom to try and fuck me, but then Alexander and Sebastian, my new favourite football players, stopped it before anything happened. I talked to both of them later. They told me they acted on impulse, but looking back on it neither can believe that no one else in that hallway moved a muscle. It was only by chance that they were turning down the hallway and saw what happened in time to do anything.
“About as okay as you can be,” I say.
“Always here if you want to talk, Arya,” Lincoln says.
“I know,” I say. It’s just not something you want to just talk about. I told Diana the full story, but that’s it. I don’t want anyone else to know the details. I wonder if James knows what happened when he left that hallway? Even if he hates me, it would kill him. I hope he never finds out.
“I heard you guys won your game yesterday,” Lisa says to me as I look through the microscope, trying to make notes to identify the different slides I put underneath. She’s standing to my left with her microscope, while the rest of the class is a mixture of students at their desks and on their microscopes for today’s lab.
“Yes,” I say, not looking up from my work.
“You guys have been doing well this season.” Lisa says, “Three wins in a row!”
“Yup,” I reply, hoping that she can take a hint that I don’t want to talk to her. But it hasn’t worked for the past two years, so why should I expect anything different now?
“And then you guys play West Side next Tuesday,” Lisa says, “That’ll be a big game.”
“It will be,” I say.
“Are you nervous about the game?” Lisa asks.
“Would you two please be quiet?” Diana says irritated as she stands to my right with her microscope, “Some of us are trying to do work and need to concentrate.”
“You’re already done, Diana,” Lisa says, “You’re just double-checking your work because you make mistakes. You know, it’s easier if you just do it right the first time.”
Diana turns from her work to glare at Lisa beyond me. “We all make mistakes, Lisa. It doesn’t hurt to double-check your work. You should try it sometime.”
“Is that why you only got a 97% on the last Biology test?” Lisa says, “By double-checking your work?”
These girls will be the death of me. “Guys, can you please stop,” I say, and I see them both glare at each other before going back to their work in silence and I continue mine. But it only takes two minutes for that silence to be broken.
“I hope they let us out for your game next week.” Lisa says, “Would love to see you play again, James.”
I hear Diana slam hear pencil on the table. “Would you stop?” she says angrily.
“What’s your problem, Diana?” Lisa says, “We’re just having a conversation. Can’t you just mind your own business?”
“Seriously? You of all people are telling me to mind my own business?” Diana says. “You’re the pathetic one that was so jealous of Arya’s relationship with James that you had to ruin it.” Diana’s talking as if I’m not here, listening to every word she says, “Well congratulations Lisa! You ruined their relationship and guess what? James still doesn’t want you.” Lisa’s face is filled with outrage and I snort a laugh at the two of them. “Don’t think I’ve forgotten about you, Fox.” She turns her anger towards me.
“What?” I say, genuinely surprised that she is upset with me.
“You just gave up on Arya, even when she’s tried to reach out to you.” Diana says, “You abandoned her when she needed you most when the whole school turned against her, you were the first one. You made it okay for people to be cruel to her and to judge her.”
“She doesn’t trust me,” I say.
“This isn’t about you!” Diana exclaims, “She hasn’t told me anything, but it doesn’t mean I turn my back on her. She is lucky that she has me and the rest of our friend group that has stuck by her through this because you have been a terrible boyfriend. I expected more from you James,” Diana says, disappointed in the person before her. “I expect cruelty from people like Lisa, but not you James.”
I reflect on what Diana has told me. “Have people really been cruel to her?” I ask. The words just fall out before I can stop them, and I know that I have said the wrong thing.
Diana’s nostrils flare and her eyes turn even angrier if that’s even possible. “Just open your eyes, James. Think about someone else other than yourself for a change. Think about what she must feel like right now. If the kind, popular James Fox turns his back on his girlfriend, why shouldn’t everyone else? You made it open season on her. You are lucky she has thick skin.”
“I’m sorry, Diana…” I begin.
“Don’t listen to her.” Lisa says from behind me, “She tried to ruin a guy’s reputation and got kicked out of West Side. She kept this from you with no intention of ever telling you, so what does that say about her?”
“You don’t know anything, Lisa!” Diana yells at her.
“Ms. Bathory, Mr. Fox, Ms. Warrior.” We hear our Biology teacher, Mrs. Binns, call from behind us and we all turn to face her. “I hope you are finished with your lab,” she asks.
“Yes, Mrs. Binns,” both Lisa and Diana say in unison.
Damn these girls. “Mr. Fox?” Mrs. Binns asks.
“Almost, Mrs. Binns,” I say.
“Then please stop talking to these girls and get back to work.” She says and turns her attention to another student.