Kevin Ryan wouldn’t make eye contact with me in the halls anymore since Abrahem kicked him out of the store that day. I was terrified of what he was telling people. Of what they were saying about me. I’d been avoiding the gas station that I used to go to all the time. I was really avoiding Abrahem, although part of me would really like to see him again. And I had no idea why. He was the first guy to turn me down. Ever. And he made fun of my achievements. He’d really freak if he knew why I wanted to go to college.
Mrs. Winters handed Monday’s exams back and a big red 62 stared up at me. I sighed and turned the sheet over, so no one saw my pathetic grade. In truth, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, but it wasn’t going to make getting into a decent school past the application deadline any easier. I tucked the sheet into my trapper keeper and pushed the binder into my backpack.
After school I went to the hospital to see Caleb. Rumors started on Monday about him being hit by a car and his Arabic angel pulling him out of the street, so he didn’t get hit a second time. I thought she was just full of crap. Then I saw something on the news about a local teen being hit by a car, and Farrah called to say she had time to hang out since Josh was at the hospital with Caleb. Her boyfriend was best friends with Caleb, but he usually didn’t ditch her the way Caleb ditched me. I figured I could at least stop by to show I care.
This was the first time I’d been in a hospital since Dad and I picked up Jackson from Walter Reeves after he was thrown from that Hummer. I hated it as much now as I did then. The scent of industrial cleaners and lemon perfume burned my nose. I hoped Caleb didn’t look as bad as Jackson did. I didn’t think I could handle that.
I knocked at his door before entering. A low moan came from the other side, which I took as an invitation to come in. Caleb lay in a hospital bed. His face was black and blue, and tubes sprouted from his arms and hands. Tears stung behind my eyes. He was always so strong. I never thought I’d see him like this. And what hurt worse? I’d known him most of my life, and he didn’t even bother to call me.
“How—how are you?” I asked, fighting back tears. It was a stupid question, but it was a place to start.
“Fine,” he snapped.
My legs were about to fall out from under me, so I sat down in the chair beside Caleb’s bed. “Can I get you anything? Is there anything I can do for you?”
“So when do you think you’ll get to go home?” Judging from the way he looked it was going to be a while, but I was trying to stay upbeat. He didn’t need to hear that.
“Well, I see your girlfriend’s not here.” God, why did I say that?
“She’s not my girlfriend, and she was here all night Sunday.”
“I don’t really know what you see in that Arab chick.”
“I—we’re working on a project together. Do you have to call her that?”
“You were working on a project at Pizza Hut?”
“What do you want? We’re not together anymore.”
I laughed for a minute, because he knew exactly what I wanted. My boyfriend back. And the life I had before this chick showed up. The fall from glory started when Caleb broke up with me, and since his Persian Princess arrived, it had only gone downhill. “The next time you see Miss Arab, tell her I said hi.” I had no idea if she’d seen the garage or not, but if she had, a message from me through Caleb would make her think what I needed her to. “Well, I have to run. Ciao.”
I gave Caleb a sexy half smile and blew him a kiss on my way out the door. I paused in the doorway to flip my hair, letting him know how unmoved by this whole scene I really was. Then as quickly as possible, I shuffled to the elevator, staring at my feet the whole way. I bit back all kinds of tears. Tears because I never wanted to see Caleb Miller hurt in a million years, and he lay broken in a bed. Tears because I wasn’t the girl he wanted, and it was obvious from hello. And because my life plan was to be with Caleb. I had dreams, but being with him was more important. I put them on hold to follow his dream. Now, I was going to graduate in a little over a month, and I had no idea what came next. My stomach flopped as the elevator sank, and when the door opened, I shot out of it and ran for my car. I squeezed the fob to unlock the doors as I flew across the parking lot. The door handle was hot against my fingers when I yanked it open. I sank into my leather seat and cried.
I picked up my phone. When Abrahem drove me home that night, he said if I needed to talk I could call him. The way he wanted to kill Kevin for grabbing me in the store on Monday made me feel bad about calling him to cry over another guy, but he was the closest thing to a real friend I had right now. So I dialed his number.
“Hello?” his mellow voice free of any expectations reminded me of that kiss when he brought me home. It was nice, even if he did break it too soon. In all the times he kissed me, Caleb’s hands never cradled my face like that. They usually roamed.