Home > Trust(11)

Author: Kylie Scott

The first person who approached me after lunch was my new lab partner in Biology. Caleb drummed on the table with two pens, putting on quite the skilled performance. Beside him had been one of the only spare seats in the room.

“Hear you’re tight with John,” he said. “Could you do me a favor?”

I stopped fussing with my stuff. “No, I’m not, and no, I can’t. Sorry.”

“Don’t be like that.” He gave me a slimy smile. “What was your name again?”

Groan. “I’m telling you the truth. I don’t really know him and I can’t help you.”

At that, he mumbled, “bitch,” picked up his stuff, and moved to a different table. Funny, just like what had happened with Kara, the words didn’t carry the usual sting. Having a gun held to your head helped sort out the big things in life from the little. So, some stranger’s opinion of me given in the form an uninspired insult? Not a big deal.

Fact was, lacking mutant mind-control powers, I couldn’t affect people’s behavior or what they chose to talk about. If I was doomed to infamy for a while, so be it. New school, new mantra, new me—and I had no fucks to give.

A moment later, a tall black girl climbed into the seat at my side, giving me a friendly smile. She introduced herself as Marie, and at no time during the class did she mention John or hit me up for drugs. Much better.

The next John Cole-related encounter came at my locker at the end of the day.

“The natives are restless,” said Hang, a wary look in her eye. “People have been talking about you.”

“Yeah. I noticed,” I said.

“With the whole John thing, you’re too interesting to be ignored right now. Sorry.”

I shrugged.

“I swear it wasn’t me, Carrie, or Sophia. I threatened them both with physical violence if they said a word to anyone.”

“Thanks.” I smiled. “It’s okay. Probably inevitable.”

A boy on a skateboard pulled up alongside us with a hopeful smile.

“No,” said Hang, going into beast mode. “She doesn’t know him. Go away. That stuff kills brain cells, don’t you know? Ask yourself, can you really afford to lose any? No, I don’t think you can. Good-bye.”

The smile fell from his face and he got gone.

“John was the guy with the connections around here.” Hang sighed. “But they’ll get the message eventually that you can’t help them with getting weed out of him.”

I nodded.

“You don’t talk much, do you?” Hang hugged a Trig textbook against her body. “I guess I wouldn’t either if I’d been through something like that. It’d seriously have to mess with your head. Not to say that you’re unstable or anything. Just being exposed to that kind of violence right there in front of your face must really screw up the way you look at the world, right? I’ve never seen a dead body. I mean, my grandfather died at home, but my mom wouldn’t let me go into the room and then the paramedics arrived and he was gone. So . . .”

I didn’t want to think about her words, so I said nothing, concentrating on closing my locker. No blood, no bodies, no nothing. I was fine.

“Right, well. Good first day,” Hang said, getting the message and backing up a bit.

“See you tomorrow.” I attempted a smile, hefting my bag over my shoulder. “And thanks for showing me around and everything.”

She gave me two thumbs up. “Later.”

Like any sane school population, most of the students took the first opportunity to flee the premises. The parking lot was two-thirds empty by the time I wandered out. Someone had stuck a flyer under one of the wipers on my car. No, it was a piece of paper ripped out of a notebook. My shoulders tensed, preparing for the usual round of “you’re fat and ugly, we don’t want you here, blah, blah, blah.” Oddly enough, there was none of that. Instead, I had an invitation to a party that weekend. A girl by the name of Sabrina really, truly wanted me there and if I could bring John, all would be great.

Yeah, no.

I scrunched up the paper, throwing it onto the passenger seat. The mid-afternoon sun felt good on my face, a warm breeze blowing. Someone was staring at me from a couple of rows over. More eyes were directed my way from among a group hanging by the front stairs.

The ones on the steps, I could do without. But the boy standing beside the black chunk of old American metal held my attention. God, what a car. It looked like a baby-making machine, an environmental disaster, a threat on four wheels. Any money it was a Charger, a GTO, or one of those. No way could my sensible, economical white hatchback compete.

Sunglasses covered half his face, but I knew it was John. I’d known it before I turned around. Seemed there was something inevitable about his presence, as if we were bound somehow. I don’t know. It might have just been more of the weirdness I’d caught from the Drop Stop. A braver girl would have gone over and explained about the Georgia-on-TV debacle. But my feet stayed put.

John’s sun-glassed gaze passed over me without the merest hint of recognition, apparently more interested in the couple of other students loitering near us.

“JC!” A tall boy jogged out, bouncing a basketball. “Save me, JC. Deliver me from this evil.”

They bundled into the black car of doom, engine rumbling to life, and off they went.

So much for inevitability.

I got in my car, went home, and told Mom how great my first day had been. How much more relaxed I felt there and how I’d already made a couple of new friends. She was hugely relieved, ecstatic even. Making Mom smile was its own reward. We made dinner together and watched some TV before she had to go to work. On the whole, not a bad first day.

Though it wasn’t over yet.

I was lying on my bed listening to Lorde, doing my best to think of nothing and mostly succeeding. Right up until a face appeared in my open bedroom window. Screaming, I bolted upright, yanking out my earbuds. Yet again preparing for death, or whatever.

“Hey,” said John.

“Holy shit,” I said, hand pressed against my chest, trying to catch my breath. Just as well I hadn’t thought to reach for the knife I now kept in my bedside dresser. “You nearly gave me a heart attack.”

“Knocked at the door but you didn’t answer.” He made himself comfortable on the window ledge, coiling his legs against the frame in an easy mix of flexibility and balance. But a hint of a frown creased his forehead.

“I didn’t hear.”

A nod.

Slowly, my bodily functions returned to almost normal. There remained the issue of John Cole sitting on my windowsill, however.

I turned off the music and sat there in front of him in a black tank top with a shelf bra and loose cotton sleep shorts covered in little rainbows. Way too much skin on display.

What was it about this guy always catching me in my pajamas?

In my defense, the clock read almost midnight. I grabbed a pillow and placed it across my lap, reducing the amount of thigh exposed. Next, I smoothed a chunk of hair across my forehead, tucking it in place behind my ear. Hopefully covering the ugly scar.

He, of course, despite the unusually warm night, looked cool. Blue jeans, a gray shirt, long hair hanging loose. I’d never had the opportunity to really observe him up close before. The man/boy was intimidating. Hang had been right about his face. It was something special with the sharp angles of his jaw and cheekbones, the smooth high forehead, and those damn perfect lips. John Cole was stupidly beautiful, in that he was so beautiful it made me stupid. Not that I was staring or anything.

“Sorry about not going to Isaac’s funeral,” I blurted out. “And the stuff my ex-best friend said on TV about you, if you heard it. We both know things didn’t happen like that. I never said—”

“Ex?” His voice cut across my babble of an apology.


Leaning his head back against the window frame, he nodded thoughtfully. “Sorry if I surprised you,” he said. “Showing up like this. I wasn’t going to come, but . . .” His voice broke off and his eyes flitted around my room. Thankfully, I’d insisted the hot-pink walls and matching lacy princess bedspread go a few years back. I’d painted my room a pale blue-gray and begged a fancy old-style white iron bed out of Grandma. Books were still everywhere; some things would never change. But Barbie’s mansion was long gone and only my favorite soft toy remained on display, a battered old bear called Sugar. I refused to be embarrassed. In my younger days, Sugar had seen me through all sorts of trials and tribulations.

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