I almost have to drag myself into school the next day. I don want to put up with the looks from Charlies friends and the whispering. To my surprise, though, when I get to school Charlie is standing at my locker. Normally, after a fight he won talk to me for days, and I have to reach out to him. Hes leaning on my locker looking around, but once he sees me walking down the hall he straightens up. He slides his hand down his thigh. He stands like an awkward freshman on his first day of high school. I get up to him and open my locker. I don say anything and just wait to see what hell do. He stands next to me just staring. ”What? ” I break and acknowledge him.
”Can…can we talk? ” He twitches uncomfortably.
”Fine. ” I grab the rest of my things out of my locker and follow him out to his car. We both get in, but he doesn say anything. After a few minutes I get uncomfortable with the silence. ”Are you going to say something? ”
”I wanted to talk about yesterday. What was that? ”
”Um, that was you being an asshole, and me being tired of it. ”
”I was an asshole? You **ing punched me. ”
”Yeah, and you said this time would be different. So, I guess we both did things we didn mean. ” I turn to leave and he grabs my hand. I sharply turn my head back to him, and he lets go of me.
”I don want to fight with you. Im just trying to understand what happened. ”
”You got pissed because I got my own lunch a few days ago. So you let the young girls flirt and touch you. Thats what happened. What happened is that you
e always trying to set me off or get a reaction out of me. Why can you just appreciate what you have? You spend all this time and energy being sweet and convincing me we should be together. Just so you can turn around and flirt with other girls in front of me.
”I don do that. ”
”Why was she rubbing your leg yesterday? ”
”I didn ask her to do that. ”
”Yeah, but you didn stop her either. Or what about the day after you broke up with me last. You wanted me to hang out and stay by you. You held my hand while you touched another girl. You expect me not to read into that? ”
”Yeah, I do, because Im just being friendly. Im not doing anything. ” I scoff.
”Keep telling yourself that, jackass. ” I get out and give his door a good slam.
”Hey! ” I hear him yell from inside the car as I start stomping away. ”Mona! ” He yells after me.
”What? ” I yell back as I spin around to face him.
e my girlfriend. ”
”Could a fooled everyone else. ”
” He angrily rubs both hands up his face.
e **ing crazy. You
e all over the place. I can have a civil conversation with you. Everything is just some big betrayal in your mind. ”
”Well if its so much goddamn work to be with me. Why don you leave? Break up with me for good. Fucking do it. Scared? Scared that you won find someone to put up with so much of your shit? Are you scared to be alone? Why do you keep coming back to me, Charlie? ”
”Because I **ing care about you, you psycho. ” I smile and give a humorless chuckle.
”You know, I thought this was all a game to you. I figured you thought it was funny to date me and then break up with me. I thought it was just some power trip for you. Now, I see you
e just lonely. You actually think you care about me. ” I start laughing out of pure frustration. My cheeks start to feel wet. ”You care about you. If this is how it feels to have someone, love you then I think Ill pass. You convince yourself that you want me, but I could be anyone else. Its not me. I just happened to be there at the right time. What do you even know about me? ” He opens his mouth, and then closes it. I fold my lips together to stop them from trembling, and nod to avoid his eyes. I wipe my eyes quickly and go back inside.
I hear the whispers now.
Charlie texts me a couple of times throughout the day. I don answer any of them. Im not even mad anymore. I just don know what to say to him. He tells me to meet him in the front of the school after everyones left if I want to talk.
So, at the end of the day I wait a few extra minutes. When I leave, hes waiting on the front steps. I walk up next to him, and he quickly stands. ”Did you want to go to my house? ”
”I have to work. Walk me? ” He nods. We walk in silence for a while.
”Im sorry I called you crazy. ” He says breaking the silence.
”Its fine. ”
”It just seemed like it hurt your feelings. You did punch me after I called you crazy the first time. ”
”I mean I don appreciate being called it. ”
”Are you breaking up with me? ” I stop and turn to him. His shaggy hair falls in his face, and his face is angled toward the ground.
”Should I? ” He makes eye contact with me. ”Why have you been acting like an ass lately? ”
”I don know. Some people have been saying shit and it got in my head. I thought you were lying about your job, and you were actually seeing some other guy. I got crazy and jealous. So instead of talking to you about it, I acted out. ”
”Why would you believe that crap? ” We start walking again.
”Cause like you said, I don know you. Ive never been to your house; I don know when your birthday is, and I don even know your parents names. ”
”What does that have to do with you trusting me? ”
”How can I trust someone I don know anything about? I can guess what you might or might not do because I don know you very well. I don know how many people youve dated, and why it ended. I don know if youve ever cheated on someone or been in a situation to turn someone down. I don even know what you do in your free time. ”
”Well, Ive never cheated on anyone. I have one ex, and I don do anything in my free time. Theres not much to know about me. I don know anything about you either. I only found out about your ex because of your mom. ”
”Well, Ive never cheated on anyone, and I had one ex. We dated for about two years then broke up.
” We continue to walk in silence for a while.
”How have we dated for an entire year, and we
e just now doing introductions? ”
”Thats not what we were looking for I guess. ” He stops short.
”Mona, I do want to know you, and I actually care about you. You may think that I don , but I do. I just want you to be honest with me. ” I look at his sad little face and remind myself hes just a sad kid. He grew up with love that was based on accomplishment. Maybe I should be honest with him. I mean whats the worst that could happen. Theres already somebody out there threatening to do it themselves. Why shouldn I get a headstart and tell my boyfriend?
”Honesty. Okay, where to start. My ex, ”
”Leo. ” He puts out his hand that isn wrapped around my neck. His tattoo wraps up his arm, and my patience with today breaks. I shrug him off and move next to Charlie. ”You must be Monas little boyfriend. ”
”Charlie and who are you to her? ”
”Oh, Mona and I go way back. Weve been friends since we were kids. Her, Lil, and I. ”
”Funny, she never mentioned a Leo. ” Leo looks at me and smiles causing the bile in my stomach to rise into my throat.
”Yeah, Mona likes to think shes better than us now. Don you? ”
”Not think, I know. ” He chuckles and shakes his head while keeping his eyes locked to mine.
”How can we help you? ” Charlie says to Leo.
”Well, I was hoping to talk to Mona. Ive been trying to contact her, but somebody mustve gotten a new phone in the last year. Huh? ” My stomach threatens to come up. His eyes hold mine the entire time he talks to Charlie.
”Lets go Charlie. ” I grab his hand. Leo moves so fast neither of us has time to react. He grabs my hand out of Charlies and shoves him. I hardly know whats going on before Charlie yells.
”What the ** bro? Mona, let go of him. ” Him saying my name snaps away the confusion mudding up my brain. I try to get my hand out of his, but he squeezes so hard his finger nails stab into my hand. I let out a squeak of pain and smack his arm while trying to pull my hand out. Charlie steps forward and my heart skips. Not because hes going to stand up for me, but because hes going to die. I can see the smirk on Leos face, and I recognize it. Hes trying to make Charlie throw a hit at him. I see Charlie make two fists, and I react. I lean down quickly and sink my teeth into Leos wrist. He flinches up with a startled gasp and catches my chin. I stumble, but quickly get my feet and grab Charlie. I rush off and hold onto his hand as tightly as I can.
”See you soon babe! Can hide me from him for forever. ” He yells after us. We get to the convenience store and stop moving. My heart beats out of my chest. I don notice that Im still gripping Charlies hand until he pushes me off.
”Oh, Im sorry. ” I take my hand back.
”What the ** was that? ”
”Leos an ass and likes to make trouble. He joined in with some bad people when he got older. He takes it personally that I don hang out with them anymore, I guess. ”
”Im not talking about his back story. Whyd he call you babe? Whyd you stop me? I was going to kick his ass. ” I let out a laugh, but all that comes out is a puff of air.
”You were going to kick his ass? Hes a gang boss. You can kick his ass. You live in a mansion and have never ridden public transportation. ”
”Why was he acting like that with you? ” My brain says I should tell him Leo is my ex, but then I look in his eyes. I don see the sad boy from earlier. Jealousy has taken over as it normally does with him.
”Like he said, we were childhood friends. ” He bites his lip and puffs out some air.
”Ill see you later. Don forget about the party. ” He stalks off to the nice side of town. At least I know hes staying away from Leo. I wait till Charlie is out of sight before I go into the store.
e late, miss I have five minutes. ” Oliver says with his head in a book.
”Yeah, sorry. Ran into some trouble. Ill go change quick. ” I quickly throw on my uniform and go up front. My brain feels like it was shaken up. ”You got any aspirin? ”
”Yeah. ” He puts down his book and looks over at me. ”Oh my god, are you okay? ”
”Yeah, why? ”
”Your hand is bleeding.
” He grabs my hand and gets the first aid kit from under the counter. Theres four long red scratches on my hand. They
e bleeding a lot more than I thought they would for finger nail scratches.
e not that bad. I don need bandaids; just aspirin. ”
”Im putting a bandage on this. You
e dripping blood all over. ” Oliver gives me the stool he was sitting on and wraps my hand in some gauze. Easier than four bandaids he said. ”What happened? ” He asks once he starts wrapping my hand.
”Some guy grabbed my hand and wouldn let go. Mustve scratched me when I bite him ”
e biting strangers now? ”
”Well, I technically know him. ”
”Your life is too busy, you know that? ”
”Yeah, I know. ” I can muster anything but tired in my voice. He starts to pack up the first aid kit and hands me aspirin.
”You have a bruise on your chin. ” I touch my chin and feel the dull pain of a bruise.
”He hit you? ” I see his jaw clench slightly.
”On accident. I scared him when I bit him and he reacted. Its not a big deal. Couldve been worse.
e quiet for the next few hours. Oliver looks annoyed, and I feel bad for putting him out. I start to get uncomfortable with the silence, ”Im going to go stock. ”
”Ive got it, just stay sitting. ” He gets up and goes to the back. Hes gone for about an hour, and I help three people. I start to wonder if hes avoiding me when he finally comes back up front. ”Hey, I know its none of my business, but do you have a safe way to get here? Or to get home? You got hurt coming here today from school, and the day I met you as well. Do you have someone who can bring you here? Its not very safe around here. ”
”Well, my boyfriend doesn 100% know that I work here exactly. So, I can really ask him. ”
”The guy you were talking to before you came in. Is he your boyfriend? ” I nod. ”Why didn he do anything? ”
”He was going to, but I grabbed him and left. This guy is the boss of a gang. My preppy little boyfriend can not fight anybody thats part of a gang. ”
”I wouldve still tried. ” He mumbles under his breath as he opens his till and starts sorting it.
”Want to study? ” I ask hoping to get our minds off the topic. He helps me catch up on my physics this time. I don understand almost any of it still, but Im not completely lost. I insisted on moping again since he continued to baby me all night. While I mop. he reads the next chapter in my English book. His voice is very soothing to listen to.
”My legs tell me to give up, but my brain tells me to keep going. If I can reach her, then I don deserve her. She deserves somebody who will hike the world, not somebody who gives up when it gets too steep. I will be that man. I have to. The sun tries to burn me off the map, but the moon cools me down and roots me on. ”
”Have you ever thought about narrating? ”
”What do you mean? ”
”I don know, reading for a living. You have a really nice voice. ” I dump the mop water out and grab the keys from the back.
”Thanks, but not really. I don think thats a job. ”
”There are audiobooks are there not. ” We go out the front. and he locks the doors. ”You didn have to baby me all night you know. It really doesn hurt. ” He glances back to me then goes back to locking the door.
”I didn think it hurt. You seemed stressed, and I mean who wouldn be after being attacked again. Im guessing its the same guy from before. I assume you have some kind of hit on you from him, and that seems scary. So, I thought Id let you relax. Its not like theres much to do here anyway. ” He turns around and gives me a little smile.
”Oh, well thanks I guess. Im really fine, though. ”
”Okay. ” He says with a single nod. ”See you at the party? ”
”Yeah, this weekend. ” I smile and we wave goodbye. The days are getting colder, and the nights are double that. I get to the front of the apartment and see strobe lights coming from our windows.
When I step into the apartment, its like a club. The apartment is filled wall to wall with people. I can even open the door completely. The music is so loud my brain gives up on thinking ever again. I try to make my way to my room, but am stopped. ”Mona! ” My mom holds onto my wrist. ”Where have you been babe? I was going to invite you to the party, but here you are. ”
”Well Im staying here, remember? ” She gives me a little smile, but I know she didn hear anything that I said.
”Guys! This is my daughter. ” She yells to everyone; I guess. A couple people hoot back to her, and she starts laughing.
”What happened to your hand? ” Asks a deep voice next to me. I look at Frank standing next to me. We all look down to Terrys fingers digging into my bandaged hand.
”Oh, some guy grabbed my hand and scratched me. Made me bleed. No big deal. ”
”Well good. ” Terry quickly grabs my other hand and drags me into the crowd of people. ”Bill! This is my daughter. ” A younger man turns around and smiles at us. He looks to be in his twenties with long black hair.
”Hey, Mona right? Your mom told me all about you. ”
”Oh, whatd she tell you? ”
”I told him you go to a fancy school.
” She interrupts getting too close to my face.
”I also told him you
e smart, and pretty. Also, he has a room open at his apartment. I told him you were looking for a place. ” She nods as if I just asked her a question. I look her in the eyes, and they
e completely gone. Her pupils are almost her entire eye.
”Okay, thanks Terry. ” I pat her shoulder and speak to her like shes a little kid. She smiles and wanders off already yelling to someone else. I turn back to the so-called Bill. ”Sorry about her. ”
”Oh shes alright. We actually hang out a lot. Are you not looking for a place? ”
”I mean kind of, kind of not. How much is your rent? ”
”I mean we each pay about 100 a month, but you wouldn have to pay. ” He suddenly looks shy.
”What do you mean? ” I say with a smile trying not to come off with an attitude.
”Well Terry said you
e in the business. So, we were thinking we could do business with you. We just wanted her to introduce you to us tonight. ”
”Business? ” I feel my heart pumping in my brain, and my face flush.
”Yeah, are you not? I didn mean to be too upfront, or insulting. We just thought it was a win, win situation. ”
”Theres a lot of different business in this neighborhood. What did she say? ”
”She said whore.
” I can hold in my scoff any longer. I start looking around for her.
”Hey, we still have a room available if you
e interested. ” I look back at him with my mouth a gape.
”Thanks, but never. ” I push past people trying to find the bitch. I see her little head bobbin through the crowd, and Franks annoyed face following behind. My arms shove people as I rush through the crowd to get to her. ”Terry! ” She turns around the third time I yell her name.
”Hey hun! Did you talk to Bill? Pretty good deal huh? ” Her face actually says shes excited for me.
”You told your friends I was a **ing prostitute. ”
”No, no I didn .
” She pleads in an innocent voice.
”I told them you
e a nasty whore. ” Her voice switches to a lower octave, and there she is. My mother. She gets next to my ear, her hand gripping my arm. ”I don want you in my apartment. So, either you do what you
e good at, or you can live on the street. I don care either way. As long as you get out of my house. I was nice enough to find you a place with an open bed. If you think you
e too good for that then go find another one. ” She leans back with a smile and gives my cheek a few taps. ”Bill will be here for another hour. Mingle! ” She starts chewing the gum in her mouth and walks off into the crowd.
”You okay? ” Frank calls down to me.
”Fuck you, both of you! ” I yell up toward him and storm out the front door. I knew she was **ing crazy, but I never guessed shed go so far. Why wouldn I see that coming? She tried to trade me to her drug dealer just a couple days ago. My mind races with pure rage till Im standing in front of Charlies house. I look around a little shocked. I wasn really paying attention to where I was going, or what to do next. The air goes through my clothes and my skin prickles. I suddenly realize how cold it is tonight.
I take out my phone and call him. The phone rings a few times, and then his voicemail starts. I look up to his room and the yellow lights he has in there. I text him asking if hes busy. I wait for about six minutes before I leave. His yellow light stays on the entire time I walk away.
Georges parents are still up when I knock on their front door. His mother looks slightly disappointed when she opens the door to me. ”Im sorry to ask this, but is it okay if I stay here for a little while? My mom, um, kicked me out. ” I stumble out. She nods and opens the door a little wider. She hasn spoken to me in almost a year, but I never feel like she wants me to die. So theres that. I go upstairs and crawl into the guest bedroom.
Theres a knock on the door, and I tell them its clear. Georges dad stands in the door like the large, awkward pole he is. ”Hey, my wife wanted me to let you know you can stay here as long as you need. That shes not going to throw a child out onto the streets. She also said you should stop sneaking out so early in the morning. It makes you look suspicious. ”
”Oh, Im sorry. I just didn want to inconvenience you two in the mornings. ”
”Well, take a shower if you want. She put soaps in the guest bathroom for you. ” He grabs the door handle to leave, but stops short. ”Have you spoken to George recently? ”
”No, he doesn really text me anymore. Why? ” He shakes his head and leaves. I grab my pajamas and go to head to the bathroom. I quickly send out the text before I can think twice about it. I leave my phone on the bed and take a shower. Hopefully, George will answer. ”You alive? Message me. ”