Some people use sleep as a way to forget things temporarily, as a way to escape reality for a while. I indeed use that method as a way to block things out, to stop my brain from thinking and overthinking and planning my next move. But there was a small and torturous problem with that: every time I woke up, all the problems that I left unsolved when I went to sleep didn’t magically solve themselves. Everything was still there, waiting for me to give them my full attention.
Once I woke up in the community room, the first thoughts that came to my mind were the things I said the day before. The things I said undoubtedly traced my path, and now with the headaches from the scotch hitting me, I was feeling their impact more than ever.
I told Anna the truth. I told Harry I loved him.
Both of those confessions could only be described as a relief lifted off my shoulders. Although the confessions were very different from each other and had completely opposite outcomes, I didn’t regret neither of them.
Regarding Harry, there was no point in continuing punishing him for something that, as I reflected, wasn’t that bad. Besides, I couldn’t and wouldn’t throw the only person who truly cared for me away. I was not going to dismiss the best thing that had happened to me in years. I was not ungrateful.
The thought of Harry by itself made my stomach flip. The thought that I had him all to myself, that I was the only person that he waited for all day to be with, that I was on his mind constantly, made all of my problems seem so insignificant, so unworthy of my time, of our time.
I had to remember that, but it was so difficult to do so since all of my friends had turned their backs on me. I had to keep in mind that I had the best human being in the world by my side, supporting me and loving me, and if I did so, I would never feel sad ever again.
I got up from the couch and tore a page from the middle of one of my lined notebooks. I grabbed a pen that was on the floor and wrote:
It’s not the amount of friends you have that will determine your happiness, it’s the amount of love you get.
I folded the paper and put in inside the front pocket of my shirt, happy that I had finally realised what Harry have been trying to tell me all along.
I got dressed quickly, the anticipation of going to see Harry building up. My hair somehow looked presentable, although my clothes needed to be ironed. As I made my way out the door of the community room with my bag in my hand, a group of girls suddenly stopped in their tracks once they saw me. I recognised one of them as being Genevieve, a girl I talked to once or twice during the Winter holidays. We looked into each other’s eyes, and I couldn’t stop remembering how she had helped me. A smile grew on my face, but she didn’t reply the gesture. Soon enough, the girls continued walking while whispering things to each other, Genevieve looking away.
That was when I realised: Anna told everyone that Harry and I were together. Genevieve’s reaction to seeing me confirmed so.
My hands went jittery, my head was pounding and I was once again feeling that need to hide somewhere, to go back to sleep.
I made Anna angry, I made her feel revolted. I made her swallow every single word she said and told her what she didn’t want to hear, mainly because I wanted her to be furious, I wanted her to feel the anger boil inside her, the anger I had felt when she talked so harshly and untruthfully about Harry. I should have thought better because now as revenge for what I said to her, she told everyone my secret, because she knew it would make me miserable.
That hatred the students had against Harry came from long ago, from deep in their hearts. They would not only take this as a betrayal, but they would also feel like I was doing it on purpose, just to spite them, like it was all some sort of game.
My life just went from bad to worse in a matter of hours, and once again, I could do nothing. I was helpless.
I left the building since I ultimately had no other choice. I had never felt so nervous in my life. I couldn’t feel the cold air hit my face, I wasn’t conscious of my feet stepping on the ground, I couldn’t hear the leaves dancing in the wind or the birds singing. All I could feel was the pounding of my heart and my heavy breathing.
Too soon I reached the main building and I opened the great door to enter. Everyone was in that building, some in the canteen and others in the entrance hall where I stood, waiting for my death sentence. Curiously, no one averted their attention to me, and the ones who looked my way didn’t even bother staring for too long or look twice. What the hell was going on?
That was when I noticed Harry at the end of the hall, wearing the same confused expression as I did. He met my gaze, and signalled me to follow him through the back door.
It made no sense. Didn’t Summer tell Anna last night that we were together? Wasn’t everyone supposed to know it by now? Weren’t people supposed to be talking and gossiping and gasping in unison at the shock of such atrociousness or whatever they chose to call it?
I hadn’t slept very well the night before. The few hours I managed to close my eyes couldn’t even be called sleeping. I was so worried about Summer, worried that the girls that all slept in Hall A were already saying shit to her. I had been worried for no reason because apparently no one knew our secret. If they did, I was absolutely sure it would be the freshest news in school and everyone would be talking about it.
As I stomped outside, I could feel Summer’s presence near me, and once we shut the door, blocking us from the eyes of the students inside, I wasted no time in getting things straight.
“You told Anna our secret,” I stated
“Yes,” she confirmed, although she didn’t need to.
“Then please explain to me what I’m missing because I have no idea what’s going on.”
“Me neither,” Summer added.
“It’s the only logical thing to do, to tell everyone right?” I thought out loud.
“Are you even questioning if she told everyone? Of course she did-”
I cut her off “Well, I don’t know if you noticed but people are acting like they don’t know anything, and trust me, if they knew this secret, they wouldn’t shut up about it.”
“Are you saying they don’t actually know? That Anna didn’t tell them?”
I nodded. It was the only explanation, although it only made me have more questions.
“But she had no reason to keep the secret all to herself. Harry, after what I told her she was furious, as if I had personally insulted her! I could tell she was ready to tell everyone straight away.”
“I know, that is what makes the least sense of all,” I said, sighing at the end and placing my hand behind my neck.
We stayed in silence for a couple of seconds, both of us lost in our thoughts.
“Why didn’t she tell them then?” Summer asked in a soft voice.
I looked at her, and for the first time that morning I took in her appearance. Her hazel eyes were shining, as if honey, and although she wore a worried expression, she still looked mesmerising.
“I think she still cares about you,” I managed to say, despite the total lack of sense. She took a step back as if I had said something absurd, so I developed my answer “I mean, she clearly didn’t give a shit about you when you most needed her, and that’s fucked up, but maybe there is something that stopped her. Conscience perhaps, or maybe she didn’t want to carry the load of being the one to tell the secret. The reasons are endless if we think about it.”
She just stared at me, taking it all in “Wow, you are really smart. How is it possible that you are failing at literally every single subject?”
I chuckled at her sudden randomness “I just don’t give a damn about school, that’s all. But back to what I was saying, maybe she is saving it to drop the bomb later, or even to use it as blackmail-”
“Nah, she doesn’t have the guts to do that,” she met my gaze “You really think that she was, what’s the word...? Merciful?”
“I wouldn’t say merciful, but yeah, I think she did it to protect you or something.”
The idea of Anna trying to “protect” Summer was utterly repulsive. It was like she was messing with her feelings on purpose, making her feel like shit only to give her false hopes. But there was no denying that it was the only possible explanation.
The look of relief on Summer’s face when we reached a conclusion made me feel relieved. It was strange how her happiness determined mine. I had never felt like this before, having someone else’s happiness matter before mine, and I somehow liked it. Instead of spending the whole day feeling sorry for myself for being dumped in that prison, I spent more time thinking of her, making sure that she was okay.
This was how I knew I was completely in love with her.
Without warning, I placed both my hands on her waist and pulled her closer to me. She was taken aback by my sudden action, but it soon melted away once our lips met. I had no intention on deepening the kiss, I just let our lips linger for a couple of seconds before pulling away, the sparkle in her eyes calling for my attention rather than her lips.
I just stared into them for what felt like an eternity, just taking her beautiful features in before the words I had been dying to say utter from my mouth.
“I love you,” I said so quietly only someone who was up close could hear.
She looked at the floor as she smiled.
“I love you, too,” she said, and all the butterflies in my stomach woke up. It was the first time we exchanged those cliché words like two people who are in love do in films. Again, that feeling of foreignness, of stepping into a new territory, of adventure. I couldn’t get enough of it, even though I had no idea of what I was doing or what I was exactly feeling.
Many times I had wondered if I would have opened this deeply to someone rather than Summer. Would I have been able to swallow my pride and admit my feelings? Probably not, and that was one of the reasons why I loved her like I did: because there was no such thing as an explanation of how she made me feel. That was quite extraordinary.
“I think we should go,” I said, breaking the bubble we were in “We still have a long day ahead of us.”
“At least it’s Friday!” she exclaimed as we made our way to the back door of the building “And we can be together for the entire day tomorrow!”
“Exactly,” I smiled at her, her enthusiasm evident in her voice. It felt amazing to know she wanted to be with me too.
As we walked inside, a voice from the end of the corridor called Summer’s name. Everyone was already inside the canteen having breakfast, so the only source of the deep voice that echoed through the room could be Hansen’s. Summer looked at me, as if asking why he was calling her, which I obviously had no idea why.
We walked silently to his office, Summer tugging at the end of my jacket, a sign she was nervous. I entered Hansen’s office with her, not really caring if he wanted me there or not.
Hansen looked immediately at me, a dumbfounded expression on his face.
“Harry Edwards, good morning,” he said, his tone matching his features.
“Good morning,” I said quite bitterly, but not too much so Summer wouldn’t notice. After all, she knew nothing about Hansen and my mother.
She knew nothing, although I knew everything about her, even her darkest secret.
“If you would excuse us, I want to talk to Summer in private.”
“He can stay,” Summer interrupted. Hansen’s eyebrows rose in astonishment, but he said nothing to oppose her wishes.
“Very well then,” he paused as he circled around his desk to stand in front of Summer and I “You’ve been missing lessons, is that correct?”
She looked at me, then at the ground as she spoke “Yes.”
“I told you not to do it again. If there is something I cannot tolerate is being disobeyed.”
He did not raise his voice, but it was how deeply he spoke that sent shivers down anyone’s spine.
Summer did not answer as she fixated her eyes on the floor.
“On top of that, your Maths teacher came to talk to me. I saw your most recent test, and I’m not happy. No, actually, I am ashamed. You did not only disobey me after I warned you, but also put at stake your own academic success. That is not okay, at all.”
“I’m sorry-” she managed to say, but it seems like her words only made Hansen angrier as he rose his voice.
“In this school my students work hard, they don’t fool around!”
Summer’s face went pale, and I stood frozen in place, not knowing what to do.
“I hope you learn your lesson,” said Hansen, “Your name is going on The Book.”
Fuck no. Not that. Anything but that. I knew how much it would destroy her if her name when on The Book of Judgement, especially in a time when her life was so messed up. She was already being judged by everyone, she didn’t need any more judgment.
“She didn’t go to class because she was helping me,” I managed to say, although it sounded very much like a lie.
Summer went behind me as if hiding from what would follow between Hansen and I. It was an intuitive action, but Hansen noticed it and he instantly understood what was going on between us, I could tell. He was not stupid, or blind.
“Why did she help you?” he decided to ignore what he saw and concentrate on what was happening.
“I asked her to go downtown for me, since I couldn’t go.”
He exhaled sharply. He looked at Summer, his cheeks red from anger.
“Leave. Now,” Hansen said between gritted teeth. Both of us turned around but soon enough he said “You stay Harry.”
Summer didn’t protest this time. She was too scared to even stay there a second longer, so in a flash she was out the door.
Hansen was furious. I had never seen him like that before, and if we took a step back to look at the big picture, it wasn’t such a serious matter as he made it look like. There was something else that was bothering him, something about Summer, and I suspected I was part of that anger.
“What the hell are you doing to this girl?!” he asked, taking a daunting step closer to me.
“It’s none of your business,” I responded quite aggressively.
“I just hope you don’t do anything you’ll regret. I may not be able to punish you severely, but I sure can punish her, and trust me, I won’t have mercy.”
“What the hell?! You are going to punish her for nothing just to get to me?! Is that what you’re saying?!”
“I’m just telling you to be careful with the choices you make. They may cost you a lot.”
That was a clear warning, or as I interpreted it, a threat. He wouldn’t be soft on us. As long as his school kept its high status and he continued having a lot of students at Hudson paying fees, nothing else really mattered. He only cared about one thing, and that was his reputation as a respectful headmaster. That was why he paid John’s family to keep quiet, because if such a scandal came out about a student of his school, he was finished, not because he wanted to protect me.
I looked at him up and down. I had had enough of that man.
“Do whatever you want. Just don’t put Summer’s name in The Book. It was my fault.”
It took me all the strength I had to sound polite, but I did it and my point came across. I didn’t really care about anything else, only that Summer’s name wouldn’t go on that stupid piece of paper.
I left instantly after, not willing to stand in that man’s presence for any longer. The first thing I noticed once I stepped out of Hansen’s office was the amount of noise that had settled. Everyone was leaving the canteen to go to lessons in their usual chaotic fashion.
I couldn’t find Summer anywhere in the middle of that crowd. She was nowhere to be seen. Maybe she went to eat something or she was so freaked out by Hansen’s lecture that she went straight to lessons. Either way, I was relieved she wasn’t there or else I would have to explain what happened and it was better if she didn’t know.
As I scanned the hall, my eyes involuntarily found Anna standing in the middle of the crowd. She held a troubled expression, as if she was hiding a secret. She was biting her lip, pressing both her hands close together on her lap, scanning the students around her.
Our eyes met, and she gasped as soon as he realised who I was. From across the room, the tension between us could be felt, but neither of us looked away.
I hated her, she hated me, no doubt about it, but in that moment we shared some kind of complicity that was hard to explain. Even disliking each other mutually, I silently thanked her by nodding my head. She pressed her lips firmly in a tight line, and in a matter of seconds, she joined the group of disorganised students going up the stairs.