“May I go to the nurse, ma’am? I’m not feeling well,” I inquired quietly of my teacher after she finished our lecture for the day. My eyes had been observantly watching the clock tick by for nearly two hours, anticipating the retrieval of my booty. I leaned across her desk and held my stomach as if I would expel vomit all over her papers. The frail women immediately shooed me away, and I had to put effort into not smiling or smirking based on my acting skills. Though I guess it helped I did not sleep at all the night prior, too busy staring at the wall and listening to my own thoughts to actually fall asleep.
Having thoughts can be a complete buzzkill sometimes.
Out of vodka, and out of any way to distract myself from reality, I had to look myself in the mirror unfortunately and finally admit that I was losing a battle with my own mind to maintain sanity because I found myself constantly thinking about Ned. The guy I was supposed to be loathing, I found myself missing his company and his sharp banter that stumbled awkwardly. Unfortunately, I wish he would avoid me in my mind the way he avoided me in reality.
Leslie stood in front of his locker quietly unlocking it gingerly as if he was not about to become a drug-dealer again. I always expected him to have a moment of drowning in his doubts and casually asking me to go do something else instead of pester him for the pills, but he never did. It was kind of nice knowing I did not have to get my drugs from a real, authorized pharmacy but just to a source with access to a real pharmacy. I strolled across the hallway and positioned myself to his left as he continued to rifle through his locker nonchalantly as if he was just rearranging his folders.
“Do you have the pills?” I whispered to Leslie as he opened his locker methodically.
He started at my sudden presence and reassured, “Jesus, yeah, I’ve got them right here. God, try harder to give me a heart attack.” His hand slid into his locker, and his eyes searched around the empty hallway during first block to get the pills.
We had agreed upon a time the previous afternoon to meet at 9:56 to give me the pills so students would be in class, too busy to bring unneeded attention to us as we traded our specialties. An orange pill bottle fell into his hand from a pocket in his locker he usually used to hide extra money in case he needed some. He pulled the bottle out of the locker and gently popped off the cap and counted again systematically.
“It’s fine, just forget about counting it.”
“No, I probably should in case I didn’t give you enough.”
“It’s ninety pills—it’s going to take you a while.”
“Hey, what are you two doing?!” roared an administrator.
I turned to talk my way out of the hands of yet another grounds of expulsion… until I heard a bottle clatter to the marble floor.
My eyes widened as long tablets splashed against the floor like a sea of white, splaying out in all different directions as if repulsed by each other like magnets. I fell to my knees suddenly and found myself rushing to shove them all inside the bottle, and Leslie stared blankly at me, the white child-safe cap still clenched in a ragged claw.
The administrator thunderously began running towards us, and I thought of the only thing I could do to save my stash. I grabbed handful of the pills and put them in my mouth, sticking them inside my cheek like a chipmunk, my cheeks swelling up with each fistful.
I felt a swift heel of a hand snap into the back of my neck, and I was forced to spit out all of the tablets. The powder residue remained in the inside and outside of my mouth disdainfully, and tears swelled up in the corners of my eyes as I continued to gag up the rest of the pills I had managed to slip into the back of my throat.
“Oh shit,” Leslie said before we were both escorted to the principal’s office VIP style.
“Edwin Mortis, you are needed in the principal’s office,” my math teacher groaned after lazily hanging up the phone onto the wall. His belly rubbed against the chalkboard, streaking white chalk across his purple polo just like every other day. He immediately swiveled on his heels and began to sketch out another problem hastily as if my absence had little to no effect to his lesson (seeing as there were only five of us who attended the class on a regular basis, everyone else was too busy making memories before graduation).
The sketchy guy beside me who always managed to sneak in one inappropriate joke about the teacher’s breasts smacked my butt like a touchdown celebration. I whipped around to see him give me a thumbs-up. “Heard you and Sebold hooked up, man. She’s gotten super hot recently—mind if I join in next time?”
I politely told him, “Fuck off.”
The teacher froze and barked without turning away from the board, “Go to the office, Ned.” He then continued writing.
I gave the kid a rude hand gesture as I stomped out of the room angrily. I assumed this was another meeting regarding yet again my reasons I refused to fight back against Dev or why she would not say what the argument’s subject was or why it even occurred. Mr. Sir was too bored to deal with real matters of the school and felt the need to stick his long, crooked nose where it was not needed.
I found myself in his office within a few moments after passing the water fountain that broke my freshman year and was yet to be fixed in any amount of work or inspection. Public schools literally get no funding. Mr. Sir sat with his fingers in a steeple formation as he stared intently at the two chairs in front of him.
Leslie sat in a fold-up chair to Mr. Sir’s right beside a leather chair occupied by an exhausted Devin. Her dull eyes and cheeks sunk into her grey skin somberly as if she had yet to see the sun in years. Her full lips succumbed to a white hue that unsettled her petite features, a powder framing one corner of her lips. Even though her eyes were dull, she still managed to hold a sharp rebellion beneath the calm seas with furrowed brows causing wrinkles to form. Her blonde hair wildly wrapped around her shoulders like a shawl. Her finger nails dug into the arms of the leather chair, and I noticed her index fingernail tearing the skin off of the cuticles on her thumbs—a nervous habit. A frown stretched across her lips, jowls forming as if to accentuate her animated expression.
Leslie was her polar opposite. His brown hair was combed nicely to the side, and his ember eyes stared widely at Mr. Sir, begging for help or mercy. His hands settled in his lap calmly as he meekly rubbed his palms together anxiously. One would have thought he was on trial for murder.
My eyes caught movement in their periphery, and I jumped to realize Esther was standing directly beside me, close enough to touch my hand. An expression of desperation shrouded her normally cherub-like features. Her full cheeks fell as she scoured for a correct response to anything said by Mr. Sir. And then I realized by her body language that she was in the defensive, and I raised my brow to realize all three of them were up to something.
Mr. Sir’s eyes fell upon me, and he inquired, “Do you know the reason you were called in, Mr. Edwin?”
“Of course he doesn’t know because he isn’t a freaking part of this,” Devin hissed angrily. Her hand slapped the rest as she pulled herself off of the chair. Part of me hoped she would turn to me and meet my eyes and realize how desperately apologetic I was. Another portion of my heart wished she never turned around to make eye contact with me again.
Mr. Sir glared at her and snapped, “Be quiet.”
Devin scoffed boisterously as her sister kicked her chair to get her to shut up. Devin sat back down sluggishly.
Without turning away from Devin’s glare, Mr. Sir asked again, “Do you know the reason you were called in, Mr. Edwin?”
“No, sir, Mr. Sir.” I was fluent in the ways of charisma regarding teachers and principals after my mother persuaded me it was best to be on their good side at all times. Authority figures are always willing to give a kid a break if they do not disrespect an authoritarian, as much as the kid hated them internally.
Mr. Sir nodded his head and motioned to Leslie, “Please state your testimony, Mr. Leslie.”
Leslie persuaded, “It was a simple misunderstanding, Mr. Sir. I was giving Devin her prescription pills from my dad’s office because she couldn’t make it to the pharmacy yesterday, so I said I would get them for her.”
“The prescription bottle did not have her name on it.”
I stared at the back of Devin’s head incredulously. I knew she abused the occasional drink, but I had no clue she was into prescription drugs. How could she have hidden this other habit for so long before being caught?
“She couldn’t pay for it.”
Esther squealed, “What do you mean she couldn’t pay for it? Dev, what about Whacko Taco? I thought you said you had everything under control.”
Devin monotonously said, “I got fired last month.”
Esther and I stood aghast, unable to compute the whole equation, but Leslie did not seem surprised at all, staring directly at Mr. Sir. Devin failed to mention this for nearly a month, and she confided only in Leslie, who until now nearly wanted nothing to do with her.
“You got fired? Devin, you got fired?!” her sister questioned, begging for this to be untrue.
“Yeah, I got fired.”
“Oh, Dev, come on.”
“What was I supposed to do?” She whipped around in her chair, sitting on her knees as she stabbed her sister with a ferocious glare. “This guy offered me a tip after hearing about me from some other guy, and then he harassed me. I got him off of me, but it is frowned upon to have a physical altercation with a customer no matter what.”
Esther stood silently, stunned from the words that poured out of her sister’s mouth.
“I’m sorry about the altercation, but that has nothing to do with this incident. I warned you after your second incident that I would be forced to suspend you for any unnecessary behavior, but this is grounds for expulsion.”
Leslie blurted, “I wasn’t doing well in chemistry, and my dad would have killed me if my GPA dropped anymore because I wouldn’t maintain my scholarship for my pre-pharmacy school. Devin is really good at chemistry, so I offered to get her prescriptions if she tutored me. She really needs her medicine, and I really need a better grade. We made a deal; that’s the truth, Mr. Sir.”
Mr. Sir took out an orange pill bottle from his desk drawer and placed it on the table. His eyes met mine, and he declared, “I know you and Miss Devin were once involved with one another. Did you see her take any prescription drugs while you were with her?”
Esther spat, “She hides it really well, Mr. Sir! She doesn’t like people thinking she is frail and hurt or handicapped. She’s as stubborn as a mule and doesn’t want people to feel sorry for her. She wouldn’t even take it in front of me when she was living at home. She used to hide them in her sandwiches and meals, so my family didn’t know when she took them. She honest to God needs them and is prescribed to them.”
Mr. Sir read the bottle aloud, “‘D.P. Jones’ is not Devin Sebold’s name.”
Esther’s jaw dropped, and then I knew her sister had been abusing someone else’s pills. I turned to see the sisters stare at each other, Esther flabbergasted and Devin unamused. “Devin, what the heck?”
Leslie cut in, “I had to put someone’s name on the pills or else the subscription wouldn’t run through, so I just made up a name. See, their birthday is the same date, just a different year so no one would question it. I was afraid my dad’s pharmacy would see the deficit and think someone was stealing the pills. I was paying for them to pay for Devin’s tutoring sessions.”
“Is that where you’ve been every afternoon, Leslie?” Esther asked, staring at her sister intently. Devin tore away from her gaze and stared at the principal maliciously.
Leslie slowly nodded.
Mr. Sir sing-songed, “That doesn’t mean anything about the prescription pills. Mr. Leslie, I am ashamed you were caught in the middle of this. What is the use of this ‘gabapentin’?” The principal sounded out the syllables again of the medication before turning to Leslie.
“It is for se—”
Devin interrupted, “They’re muscle relaxers.”
Esther grabbed her sister’s wrist and spun her around in the chair. She warned, “You tell him what those are really for. You tell him why you take those damn pills or I swear to God I will tell every soul in this school on the intercom.”
“Miss Esther, please do not use such coarse language.”
My eyes snapped from Esther to Devin and back to Esther as if I was watching a tennis match. Devin’s eyes met mine suddenly and then fell back to her sister. She ripped her arm away from her sister’s grasp and pulled it to her lap. She hissed, “I use them recreationally.”
Esther roared, “You tell him the truth for God’s sake. Tell him the Goddamn truth!”
“Miss Esther Sebold!”
Leslie cut in, “They are not for recreational use! She was actually prescribed them, but she can’t afford them without insurance. She’s not on insurance anymore, so I used mine to get them as a discount and counted them out myself to get her the pills. She needs them, Mr. Sir—“
Mr. Sir threatened, “If one more person speaks out of turn, I’m suspending all of you. Now, Miss Devin, are these your pills?”
“Yes,” she slurred.
“Are you tutoring Mr. Leslie?”
“Are these pills from Mr. Leslie’s father’s pharmacy?”
“I believe so.”
“Are these pills prescribed to you for a particular purpose?”
Her aquamarine eyes glanced at her sister and stayed there. She mouthed, “No.”
Esther scoffed and marched out of the room, slamming the door. She stood outside the office and screamed angrily, and then I presume she walked to class because we did not hear from her again.
Mr. Sir continued, “What are these pills used for exactly?”
Leslie spat, “No, they are not; just tell him, Devin. Just freaking tell him.”
“You are dismissed, Leslie. I am not going to punish you for administering this drug habit because of your blind desperation.”
“But, sir, I—”
“You are dismissed.”
Leslie pulled himself off of the chair and marched out of the room back to class.
I turned back to Mr. Sir. “Am I dismissed, Mr. Sir?”
He ignored my inquiry and continued with Devin’s interrogation solemnly. “Ma’am, are you abusing these prescription pills?”
A silence fell amidst all of us as we anticipated her somber confession, her somber admission of guilt and poor decisions. Her somber revelation that she was not the ideal girl with perfect flaws and imperfect perfections I thought she was.
Time stood still as she declared, “Yes.”
My heart fell to the bottom of my chest, and a sour taste overwhelmed me. Part of me tried to persuade myself that she was correct in admitting to her abuses, but I was also finding myself trying to analyze every reason she was not abusing the medication. Because nearly all of my soul believed she was not abusing these drugs.
“What are you going to do now?” she asked.
Mr. Sir shook his head and mumbled, “You’ve got a week before graduation. You finish class in In School Suspension, and you do not walk across that stage. You will receive your diploma in the mail.”
She put out her hand.
Stunned, I could not believe she was asking for the drugs.
Mr. Sir roared, “Do you think this is cute, Sebold? Are you serious?!”
The hand slid away. “May I be dismissed for the day, Mr. Sir?”
Devin stood up from the desk slowly. Her eyes crawled up my legs to my face and remained intently on my face. A small smirk spread across her lips, and I stepped out of the doorway so she could pass me. She closed the door with a sharp click, the lock folding into its shell and back out upon impact with the door frame.
“Do you know what is going on with her, Mr. Mortis?”
“I would ask Mr. Frey normally in this situation, but because of dire circumstances…”
I left the room without him finishing his sentence because I was afraid he would see past my façade and see the monster that birthed Devin’s demons, the cause of her current feral behavior.
I should have known I was merely flattering myself.