I pulled on my t-shirt, my body still wet with the droplets of the shower. I clenched my eyes shut to figure out how many miles I was able to run during that gym period, loping and jogging laps throughout the class. I distinctly remember running with more ferocity than normal, kind of ecstatic and thrilled with my new status. I was so dumbly stupid from liking Ned that I had become careless.
He was all I could think about.
My classes were slipping my mind as I pined for more time with him. I just loved listening to him spill his guts. I loved how he held my hand so carefully, as if he could break it. I loved the slight lull he added to his words when he was tired, and I loved how exuberantly he greeted me. I loved the way his discolored eyes dazzled in the bright sun, glittering more than the sea under the summer sun. I enjoyed nearly every detail of him.
I shook my head fervently, my wet hair splaying out in several different directions like a dog shaking from a bath. I pulled my jeans above my knees, and then a girl bumped into me. I immediately apologized, despite the whole incident being her fault. I turned my chin up after zipping up my jeans and felt my apology was unnecessary for a girl like her.
Lily wrapped her hair up into a taut bun and ignored her needless aggression. She began to giggle and whisper with another girl in our class—I think her name was Rachel. They both chittered and jibed at the girls in the class like the stereotypical mean girls in high school.
I turned back to combing through my hair with my fingers, thinking perhaps ignoring them was the best I could possibly do. I stared at the taupe foot locker, inspecting if for any of my belongings, but I had shoved everything back into my backpack.
I twisted on the balls of my feet to face the girl who called me, but before I could completely turn, two harsh arms slammed into my shoulders. I fell back and slammed into the lockers. One of the lock holdes punctured my back, and liquid dribbled down from the wound underneath my t-shirt. I could feel it collect just above my jeans.
I turned my gaze up in time for Lily to throw her palm into my cheek, my neck cracking to the right. I returned to my stoic glare and riveted it onto the girl.
She smirked and shrugged her shoulders. “God, a whore and a home wrecker.”
The other girls in our class hesitated to do anything, frozen in shock that Lily Davis actually hit another individual, shocked that Lily Davis was not perfect and composed. My eyes wandered upon each of them, silently begging them to do something, wondering if maybe they would ever move again.
“You should just stay away from people, freak. No one likes you because you just go around and steal boyfriends and kill people. Nothing good ever happens with you involved.”
I held my breath as blood rushed to my face, anger building in my chest. I couldn’t allow for an extracurricular aspect of school to affect my actual education. I wasn’t supposed to let drama get involved or interrupt my learning, but here I was. I ran my fingers through my hair, antsy to get out of the locker room. I began to notice all of the metal lockers and wooden benches, analyzing each and every way Lily Davis could break my neck. I took a step forward to retreat from the lockers.
“No, you stay put.” She shoved me back against the wall forcefully.
Another stipule dug into my back.
“How dare you ruin my relationship? How come you had to sit there and seduce Ned? It wasn’t his fault I had to break up with him. You were, you slut. I didn’t want to contract something from him from you.”
My eyes darted to the floor, speechless. I furrowed my brow and slunk into the wall, sliding down the lockers slowly. I had ruined their relationship, but I didn’t mean to. I didn’t mean for it to happen.
“I bet you gave him something, slut.”
I timidly glanced up at her with my pale eyes and shriveled in my skin. I bit my lip and turned away from her, staring at a freshman in our class. Her hands clasped over her mouth from the excitement, her glasses foggy from the steam of the showers. She had just gotten her braces off that Monday, and I forgot to compliment her.
“You just fuck anything that moves, you repulsive piece of trash.” Lily grabbed my jaw and forced me to look upward to her. I grinded my teeth together and wrenched her hand off of me. An epiphany flickered across her mind as I stood up, gluing my venomous gaze upon her.
I hissed, “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”
The girl threw another palm into my face, whipping my head around. Lily leaned forward, our faces inches apart. The scent of her mint gum overwhelmed me, silencing any of the other stenches of lotion and shower gel. She snarled, “I guess you haven’t slept with him, but guess what? I know a little secret about him you don’t know. He told me something he’ll never tell you.”
My ears perked.
“You sleep with him, too, and you’ll find out yourself.”
I spat in her face.
She clenched her eyes shut after she flinched from my saliva. She exaggerated wiping it away from her eyes, and then her brown eyes came back to life. She murmured, “Guess what? He’s going to do exactly what he did to me. He’s going to find a girl, and he’s going to leave your fat ass.”
“What makes you think he won’t leave you like he did me? People aren’t like seasons—they don’t change.”
I could feel my eyes begin to water as all of these different scenarios flashed across my mind, and I became frantic with the possibility that someone I deeply cared about would also abandon me, leaving me alone and helpless. I cried, “No, he won’t.”
Lily leaned forward, her lips brushing against my ear. She whispered snidely, “Ned left me for you, and we both know I’m the better catch. I’m not a used up doll.”
I choked and whispered to myself, “But he said he loves me.”
Lily leaned back and smirked. She shrugged dramatically. “He said the same thing to me, but what did he do? He left me for a dried up, used up, drugged up, wasted whore that killed a guy by sucking his dick too good.”
I threw my fist toward her face.
She moved slightly to the left and hissed, “Mi—“
And I then shoved my elbow into her nose, crunching the bones and cartilage. Crackling and snapping echoed in the locker room. The girls squealed at my sudden violent outburst, and Lily crumpled to the floor. Her hands immediately shot to her face, covering her nose as it expelled an extreme torrent of maroon.
She roared, “You broke my nose!”
My hand shot to my elbow, rubbing the bone as I felt a bruise begin to form. I wiped off her blood on a towel hanging from another girl’s locker nonchalantly, trying to hide my further hatred and loathing for everything I was and everything I still am. My chest heaved up and down methodically as I just stared at Lily as she began to sob, tears streaming down her face as her cronies leaned down next to her and investigated the damage. My heart thundered inside of me, begging to tear through my bone, my cartilage, my flesh so the world could finally see how damaged and broken it was.
“Hey! Hey! What is going on in here?!”
Everyone’s gaze turned to our gym teacher, dressed in a collared t-shirt and shorts she must have bought in her high school days. Her blonde curls billowed underneath a red cap as her brown eyes widened in horror upon the sight of blood. She scurried to Lily’s side and pulled her hands down, evaluating the injury. The coach scoffed and roared, “Who did this?!”
I clenched my hands into taut fists as I watched as everyone’s stunned expressions turn directly to me. I longed to rebel, to tear the faces away from me, to focus all of the attention back on Lily. I curled into myself, hoping to be invisible.
Coach twisted her gnarled gaze to me, baring her crooked, stained teeth. “Sebold, what is wrong with you?! You’re going to Mr. Sir’s office immediately.”
I nodded my head nonchalantly. I pivoted the balls of my feet to begin my trek to the office, accepting and admitting my defeat.
“Coach, Lily hit her first.”
I turned to the meek voice of the stunned freshman who gave me a timid glance before switching her attention to the coach. She sunk back into the crowd, embarrassed she had the gall to ever stand up to upperclassmen. I wouldn’t have.
Lily and I sat in separate chairs next to each other in the principal’s office, staring at the meek little man behind the grand oak desk. He put his hands in his infamous steeple of concern and stared at the two of us for about three minutes before turning the pages of an accident report Coach filled out regarding the incident.
Lily held a bag of ice against her nose, cleaned up and ready to see a doctor after the interrogation. The nurse managed to dispel most of the blood on Lily’s clothes and face, giving emphasis to the immediate black eyes forming. She would occasionally whimper helplessly as if perhaps pity would seduce the principal and let her go because of who she was.
Mr. Sir finally inquired, “What is this about? One of my most wonderful students active in several extracurricular activities? One of our former student athletes? I never would have guessed.”
He gave a lengthy silence behind his chastising as if to emphasize she and I had absolutely no business to be involved in this whole situation. I ruffled my hair and turned my gaze back to my wrists, bruises from yesterday’s episode blatant.
“Sebold, look at me.”
I slowly locked eyes with the principal as he leaned across the oak desk. He hissed, “Why would you do such a thing?”
I shrugged and tore my gaze to his bookshelf to my right. Volumes of several encyclopedic series lined the shelves—he bought each volume individually. I resisted the urge to pet the soft, worn leather on one of the earliest editions of the books.
He turned to Lily and murmured with an apologetic tone, “What happened, Lily?”
Lily cried, “She just hit me out of the blue. She just came up to me and said some homosexual comment. I thought she was going to rape me.”
I rolled my eyes and crossed my arms, sliding down the chair until my feet could touch the ground. Thoughts bombarded me with defenses and slurs to use as weapons, but I knew if I fought the way I fought at home, I would undoubtedly lose myself. I hissed, “Like I would have a crush on you.”
“She has a crush on half the class. She’s just obsessed with me.”
Mr. Sir placed his hands on the desk and confessed, “Lily, I highly doubt Sebold is of the homosexual variety” – he turned to me—“although that is perfectly acceptable. I’m not discriminating against the queers.”
I leaned forward across from Mr. Sir and whispered sarcastically, “Why don’t you ask her to tell the truth? Better yet, make her swear on the Bible that way she’ll spontaneously combust if she lies.”
Lily hissed, “Devin, stop being so melodramatic.”
Mr. Sir cocked his brow and waved my awesome idea away. He transitioned back to Lily and inquired, “Will you please tell me why you proceeded to attack Sebold today?”
Lily sniffled and pulled the ice bag away from her swollen, crooked nose. “You must know her reputation.”
“I know of the rumors, yes.”
“I’m here!” hummed a melodic voice.
I glanced over my shoulder and then turned back to my lap, allowing my blonde hair to cascade over my face. Embarrassed for shattering the girl’s nose, I buried my face into my hands and released a resigned sigh. I shook my head as I felt a hand collapse on my shoulder.
Ned leaned over the head of my chair, and then he caught Lily’s injury. He cringed, shaking the chair, and turned back to Mr. Sir. “What’s up?” His thumb began to massage my skin softly, as if he was trying to calm me down.
Mr. Sir scoffed, “This honestly cannot be about a boy. You girls are more mature than this.”
I bared my teeth and released another heavy sigh. All of the anger I built up and allowed to build up inside my chest from the stresses of life threatened to explode. My heart crawled up my throat and my intestines threatened to fall from my ass. My arms began to shake uncontrollably.
“Heath, I’m serious.”
“Not with a question like that.”
“You don’t think I’m a slut, do you?”
“Why would you ever think that?” He gave me a peck on my forehead and then pulled the sheets over his shoulders as his naked back faced me. “Hmm?” he hummed.
“I just do.”
“I mean these words when I say it,” I hissed.
Mr. Sir interrupted, “Sebold, remain quiet while I interview Lily and Ned about the situation.”
Lily roared, “This skank stole my boyfriend after screwing half the class, and I swear to God, someone needs to make sure she is quarantined. We don’t need her at Jefferson-Polk, Mr. Sir. She’s a poor example of our school—“
“I’ve never slept with anyone in our class.”
“What about Reynolds and Troy and Butcher? Huh, Devin?” Lily whipped her gaze to me and hissed, “You don’t belong here. You don’t belong with him, either.”
“I’ve never slept with anyone at this godforsaken school!” Everyone cringed at my volume, but I also wonder if Ned cringed because he did not Lily’s story to be the truth.
“Come on, let’s go home, Devin.”
I glanced up at Ned for reassurance. He patted my shoulder lightly and took my hand, intertwining his fingers within mine, and he pulled me out of the chair. The boy inquired of Mr. Sir, “Do you mind if we take half a suspension day today and come back tomorrow?” I stumbled at his side and turned to Mr. Sir.
“That’s appropriate. You are dismissed.”
Lily yelped, “Are you freaking serious? She’s the cause of all of this. She forced my boyfriend to cheat on me, and she’ll do the same thing if she isn’t punished.”
“Lily, go back to class. We don’t have any unbiased witnesses to deny or claim that Devin or you started this altercation, so I’m forced to suspend Devin for half-a-day. You will serve a week of detention with her as well.”
Lily jumped to her feet and pivoted on her heels. Her brown eyes nailed into me as she leaned forward, her lips brushing against my ear again. I shuddered away from her, leaning into Ned as she whispered, “Sleep with him, and find out the secret.” Her shoulder slammed into mine as she walked by, forcing me back a step before she hustled back to class.
Ned drove me home, and I combed my fingers through my hair as he drove. I occasionally glanced at him, and he never made eye contact despite him obviously noticing me. I just repetitively glanced at him and absorbed his beautiful profile, but Lily’s comments still haunted me. I threatened to say something, but Ned came to it first.
“What happened?” His eyes never peeled away from the horizon.
“I don’t know, honestly.”
He slapped the wheel and yelled, “Devin, just freaking tell me.”
“I don’t know.”
I finally lost it and roared, “What are you hiding from me?!”
He finally glanced at me and then turned back to the road. Baffled, all he could muster was, “What?”
“Lily said she knows a secret about you, and she says I won’t ever know about it. I won’t ever be able to gain any traction in this relationship if I don’t know what’s going on.”
“Devin, you have to be kidding me.”
“What did you do that you can’t tell me?!”
“Devin, calm down.”
“No! No! Tell me.”
He rolled his eyes and pulled up to a four-way stop. He put the car into park and then turned to me. He place his hand on the back of my chair as he easily confided, “Don’t you think she would lie to you about me?”
Ashamed, I tore away from his eye contact.
“She’s lying to get back at you. I’m not lying to you, and I’m definitely not hiding anything. Here, you want to know a secret no one else knows?”
I nodded my head sadly.
“My favorite movie is Great Gatsby because of the pretty colors.”
I sat up and smiled. “You liar.”
“No, I’m dead serious.”
I shook my head and playfully slapped him.
“No, don’t break my nose! Oh my God!” he balked, waving his arms in the air with faux alarm. He then put his hands in his lap and gave me a toothy grin.
“Why do you like Great Gatsby so much?”
“Because… I honestly don’t know.”
I nodded my head and stared at his discolored eyes, his strange, strange eyes. They were beautiful each in themselves, but the addition of each other’s beauty expanded beyond measure. I lost myself in the brown flecks of his sea foam green and the grey speckles of his navy blue. “I understand.”
“I don’t know why I like you.”
I smiled, and then it faded away. I searched for any hesitation or lies in his eyes. I whispered, “Ned?”
“You don’t think I’m a slut, do you?”
Shocked, Ned kind of cringed at the word and stared at me with wide eyes. He murmured, “Why would you ever think that?”
“I just do.”