Home > Trust(10)

Author: Kylie Scott

An older woman walked into the room, taking everyone in with an iron glance. Silence fell hard.

“Good morning,” she said, then turned toward the door. “Welcome back, Mr. Cole. Take a seat.”

Agitated whispers circled the room at his entrance. Excellent. Someone to divert attention from the new girl. I couldn’t have planned this better.

He strolled in, face down and backpack half hanging off his shoulder. Light brown hair had been tied back with a rubber band. He was tall, lean but not lanky. You could see it in the way his T-shirt stretched slightly over his shoulders, the muscles in his arms. He headed for the vacant seat at my back. Like me, his jeans had a hole in the knee, some fraying along the stitches. Unlike me, I’d bet his came from actual wear.

Holy shit. It was John. My fellow hostage and eventual savior from the Drop Stop. The familiar green Converse (happily minus the blood) were a big clue, along with the bandage peeking out from beneath his sleeve.

Mouth open, I gaped at him.

His bored gaze swept past me, then swiftly doubled back, eyes narrowing. He had blue eyes and the expression in them didn’t seem particularly happy. I guess a Drop Stop reunion hadn’t been on anyone’s wish list. No other indication of recognition was given. He didn’t say hi, I didn’t wave, and the moment passed.

Without a word, he slid into the seat behind me and I wrestled my attention back to the front of the class. I was probably just being paranoid, but it felt like his gaze was glued to my back. Bet he hated me after all the shit Georgia had said on TV. A couple of people were watching us with interest, but I ignored it, staring at my desktop.

The teacher started talking, but I had no idea what she said. My mind was a mess, all of my attention on him. Of course he had to go to school somewhere. And presumably somewhere local. And with his friend Isaac. Duh. It just hadn’t occurred to me it would be here. But then, I hadn’t wanted to think about him at all, or anything else to do with that night.

John. Wow.

We’d probably continue to ignore each other, pretend we’d never met. It would be for the best. Maybe.

Christ, the cafeteria was loud. I doubt Green’s had been any quieter; my nerves were just closer to the surface these days. A book sat open on the table in front of me, along with a can of soda. I looked at no one. I needed no one. Alone was best.

“You made actual sustained eye contact with John Cole.” Hang slid her tray onto the table, her smile wide. “You realize that’s my lifelong dream.”

I just shrugged, feeling all kinds of awkward. Again.

Behind her followed two others, a Latin girl with curls I’d kill for and a redhead gnawing on an apple.

“Oh,” said Hang. “Edie, this is Carrie and Sophia.”

“Hi.” I smiled.

Both girls smiled back, taking seats at the table. Instead of eating alone, reading my book, I was suddenly surrounded. No cause for alarm. I could handle their curiosity; it was perfectly normal for people to wonder about a new kid in school.

“Back to John Cole, king of the hotties,” said Hang, poking a finger at her less-than-crisp-looking salad. She settled for picking out the tomato and cheese. “Honestly, that face of his is just made for sitting—”

“And staring at?” finished Carrie.

Hang didn’t even blink. “Exactly. Yes, that’s what I was going to say.”

“Thought so.”

“John who?” I slid a bookmark in to flag where I’d been up to, because only an ignorant, soulless monster doomed to burn in hell for all eternity would dog-ear a page.

“Don’t even try,” Hang groaned. “You nearly fell off your chair when he walked in. Which is a totally fine response to his manly beauty, no shame in it at all.”

“My chair was wonky,” I said, surprised to find myself smiling and genuinely enjoying myself. “I’ve broken chairs before. There’s a lot of joy weighing me down.”

Carrie laughed, taking another bite of apple. “Bullshit,” she said. “Hang said he looked at you.”

“You’re probably mistaken,” said Sophia. “Don’t look at me like that. I’m not kicking puppies or being mean. None of us are cool or hot enough to get his attention.”

“Or vapid enough,” said Carrie.

“Or easy enough,” threw in Sophia.

“Speak for yourself,” said Hang. “I’d be easy for that.”

“There’s nothing wrong with liking sex,” said Carrie. “Don’t slut-shame.”

Sophia bowed her head. “Amen. My bad.”

“Holy shit. I’ve got it,” said Carrie, interrupting their banter and staring at me with an almost comical look of surprise. “You’re that girl. The one from the robbery he was involved in.”

“Oh,” said Hang, finally seeing the tension on my face. “Shit, Edie . . . I got John-fixated and didn’t think.”

“It’s okay. John wasn’t involved in the robbery,” I said, voice a touch sharp. “He was just there by coincidence, like me.”

“Still, no wonder he looked at you.”

I frowned and kept my face down, hoping no one nearby had heard.

“The girl . . .” Sophia’s mouth fell open. “Oh my God.”

“I thought you went to Green? You know, you’re much prettier in real life,” said Carrie. “That photo the news was showing didn’t do you justice at all.”

“Thanks,” I said, avoiding explaining the change in schools.

“Sorry,” mouthed Hang.

Carrie and Sophia stared at me in stunned silence. Which made it time for me to run and hide.

“You might as well relax and deal with it,” said Sophia. “It hasn’t been that long. We’re not going to be the only ones to recognize you.”

She probably had a point. Didn’t mean I had to like it.

“Word will definitely get around,” confirmed Hang, sipping on a soda. “John Cole is infamous around here.”

“Infamous?” I asked.

“Oh, yeah.” Hang pushed her tray aside, giving up on the salad. “He’s the go-to local greenery guy. Best weed available, if you’re into that. Even the jocks respect him. They need him for the weed, and apparently he’s got connections to a great grower. Plus he’s badass. His brother, too. Dangerous guys. They live together; the parents are out of the picture.”

“You know a lot about him,” I said, mildly perturbed. “And I thought marijuana had been legalized in California.”

“I may have once had a small crush on him. Don’t judge me. As for the marijuana,” Hang shrugged, “everyone’s underage, so it might as well still be illegal.”

“I heard John’s closed up shop,” said Sophia. “Pretty much dropped out of school society. Just spends all his time out at the old skate park.”

Carrie nodded, twirling a strand of her long hair around her finger. “Yeah, I heard he’s stopped selling too. Ever since the robbery.”

“All the police attention, probably,” said Hang.

Of course, the fact that he’d even vaguely known Chris had made him dubious. But if he hadn’t talked to Chris, kept him calm, I might not be alive today. At the very least, I owed the guy a huge thank you.

“I’d appreciate it if you kept me being part of the robbery on the down low, for now,” I said, trying out a smile. It didn’t quite hold, didn’t fit right. “I just . . . I can do without the attention, you know?”

“Of course,” said Hang, giving my hand a reassuring pat.

Carrie and Sophia both nodded, though their eyes were skeptical, with a touch of excitement. Whatever. Besides wearing a paper bag over my head, there wasn’t much I could do if someone recognized me. Hopefully other people in the local area were busy doing stupid newsworthy things and all memories of the Drop Stop would soon be forgotten.

“Thank you.” I sighed, doing my best to relax, to trust.

He never made an appearance in the cafeteria. Not that I was waiting.

Either someone talked or someone recognized me. Whatever. It was beyond my control.

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