Trust(8) read online free by Kylie Scott
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Trust(8)
Author: Kylie Scott

Normally in this situation, I would be able to feel my heart punching hard in my chest, hot embarrassment burning my cheeks. There was nothing. My heartbeat stayed firm, my breath slow. The titter of the assembled crowd felt as detached and irrelevant as crickets chirping on a summer night.

Kara looked smaller than I remembered her. Lightweight. Chris would have found it easy to throw her around. To stick a gun between those sharp white pretty teeth.

“Move your hair, Free Willy,” she ordered, stepping toward me with her hand outstretched. “Let’s see.”

Like hell she’d be touching me. I’d been touched against my will enough for one lifetime, and by someone a lot scarier than Kara. My thumb curled beneath my fingers and I swung hard and fast, lashing out. Bam, my fist smacked into Kara’s face. The crack of the bone, the sound of her nose breaking, was amazing. Pain tore up my arm, my thumb throbbing in agony. Dammit, it hurt.

Kara was crying and carrying on. Her screams filled the hallway, blood gushing down the front of her uniform. People were running everywhere, putting as much distance as possible between themselves and this mess. Even Kara’s gal pals had deserted her, the cowards. I stood alone, leaning against the lockers, cradling my hand. Totally worth the possible broken bone.

Not the return to school I’d imagined, however. Mom would not be impressed.

“Holy shit,” whispered Georgia, slowly stepping up beside me. “Edie, are you all right?”

“I’m fine,” I said tiredly.

Her mouth opened, then closed. She looked so lost.

I don’t know. Maybe I should have forgiven her regarding the media blitz and shit talk about John. Neither of us were rolling in money and they’d probably offered her a sum for selling me out. Or at least, I sincerely hope they had. Georgia was here on a scholarship. She had big dreams. All of those interviews were just a step toward her making contacts in the entertainment industry—getting her one step closer to becoming an actress. Her texts had explained all of this and more. From a certain point of view, it was perfectly understandable. But that didn’t mean I had to like or accept it. Life was too short for fair-weather friends, and she’d broken my heart.

“You should go to class,” I said. “You don’t want to be late.”

She took a step back. “Okay. See you later.”

I nodded, letting her go for good.

“Hey, kid.”

“Hey, Bill.” I sat on a stretcher in emergency care, swinging my legs back and forth. Mostly trying not to fixate on the all-too-familiar sounds and smells. Hurling on the floor would be bad. “What are you doing here?”

“Just getting a cut checked out, home-renovating accident.” The EMT from the night at the Drop Stop smiled. “The kitchen sink attacked me.”

“And I thought your job was dangerous.”

He just smiled some more. “How you doing?”

“Fine.”

“Why are you here?” he asked, leaning against the opposite wall. He looked to be about forty, fit, with a shaved head. Hot if you were into middle-aged people. Bet my mom would like him.

“Dislocated my thumb.” I showed him my bandaged hand.

“How the hell did you do that?” he asked, crossing his arms, getting comfortable.

“I punched a girl at school.”

A frown darkened his face. “Did she deserve it?”

“Oh, yeah. Big time. She’d been bullying me for years.”

He shook his head. “Picking on other people, putting them down to make yourself feel big, is bullshit behavior at any age, frankly.”

“I couldn’t agree more.”

“Give me your left,” he said, holding out his hand.

He held up his palm like a stop sign. “Let’s see that punch. Hit me.”

I punched hard into his hand with my left. There was a loud slapping sound.

“Okay, there’s the problem,” he said. “Good news is that you’re rotating the fist and punching through the target. You’re a natural. Bad news is that thumb.”

Gently, he rolled my fingers over, then stretched my good thumb out along the bottom against my palm.

“Like that,” he said. “Thumb on the outside backing up your fingers, okay?”

“Okay.”

“You want to hit with those two bad boys right there,” he said, tapping my front two knuckles. “Anything else will just get you back here again with a dislocation or fracture. Got it?”

“Got it. Thanks.”

“I didn’t show you that.”

“Of course not.” I smiled. “Say, you single? Like girls?”

“I’m a little old for you.”

“I was thinking more of my mom.”

“Ha.” He laughed. “I’m seeing someone. Sorry, kid.”

Couldn’t blame me for trying. “Good to see you again, Bill.”

With a shake of his head, he took off. There was a job I couldn’t do, being an EMT. Imagine picking people up, trying to put them back together long enough to get them to a doctor. The things he must have seen. Why, even that night, at the Drop Stop . . . and there was a thought leading nowhere good. My stomach tumbled queasily in agreement.

I needed out of this place. The sights and smells, they were all too reminiscent of that night. Thankfully, Mom had finished talking to the doctor and was heading my way.

“Come on,” she said, marching straight past me toward the doors. She was not wearing her happy face. Guess she’d heard back from the school about the disciplinary action.

Principal Lee had lectured both me and Kara while we waited for our parents. Fortunately, Kara the douche had chosen to attack me within view of a security camera. Had to love an idiot for making things easy. The fact that she’d obviously started the spectacle and reached for me first had been a big help, bless her. Due to the whole punching thing, no one was labeling me a victim, but still.

Outside, the summer sun was shining bright, the birds were singing. Despite my mom’s downer of a mood, I was feeling fine. The doctor had given me painkillers.

Mom still wasn’t smiling. “I just got off the phone with your principal. You’re suspended for a week. Given recent traumatic events, she decided to let you off easy.”

“I’m not going back there.”

“What?” Mom halted, glaring at me across the roof of her sedan.

“I never fit in and I never will,” I said, meeting her eyes. “Especially after this. That place is survival of the richest—you have no idea what they’re like. Kara will be out to make my life a misery and I’m not up for it.”

“Honey—”

“I’m not going back,” I said, voice clear. No doubt, no hesitation. My boundaries were all too clear to me these days. “I’ll go to the local high school instead.”

Mom frowned. “No. You won’t.”

I felt like shit fighting with her. Usually, we made big decisions together. Being a single parent, having to drop out of college to have me, Mom hadn’t had it easy. She’d sacrificed. Grandma eventually came around and helped out, but it took time. Time during which Mom was utterly and completely alone. I didn’t like to make things difficult for her. This time, however, I couldn’t compromise. I couldn’t back down. More than enough monsters were already in my head, feasting on my sanity, feeding my insecurities. Kara and co were officially too much.

“Edie, this is your education we’re talking about,” she said imploringly. “Your future.”

“I know. And I can learn as well at the local school as I can at that place.” I leaned against the car, resting my hands on top. “Better probably. Grandma will get over it.”

“I’ll talk to the principal about keeping this girl away from you. I’ll make sure from now on you’re protected.”

“That’s a nice idea, but it’s not going to work, Mom.”

“I’ll damn well make it work.”

I gave her a most dubious look.

“Honey, she will not bother you again. I promise. But also, think about it this way. There’s going to be people you don’t get along with wherever you go. It’s an unfortunate part of life, having to share the planet with a billion or so others,” she said. “People just can be jerks. I know you’ve been through a lot, more than I can possibly understand. But running away every time there’s conflict isn’t the answer. It sets a very concerning precedent for you.”

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