Disclaimer: This chapter has themes of depression and attempted suicide. Reader discretion is advised.
I wake up early as I normally do when I stay here, but I don leave. My instincts tell me to sneak out. Georges dad pops into my head every time I move to leave, though. I guess having a sketchy girl you don like sneaking out at 4 am does seem weird. At 6 I finally leave the guest bedroom. Georges parents walk around, quietly making their lunches and drinking coffee. His mom, Mary, notices me and gives me a slight nod. ”Thank you for letting me sleep here. I appreciate it, and Im sorry for putting you two out. ”
I then turn and awkwardly leave for school. While I make my way there, I just keep hoping today is better. Lately, it feels as if everythings going wrong. If there is a way, it could go bad it has. Its been one bad day after another, so toady Im going to make it a good one. No matter what comes my way Im making it okay. I need to.
My attitude quickly changes when I walk into school. There are flyers all over the school. They have writing on the top and a picture on the bottom. Its not uncommon for lists to be posted across the school. We have a bit of a public bullying problem here. I get closer to a flyer and recognize my face. My heart starts beating as I grab it off the wall. The picture of Leo and I moving in together is on the flyer. ”Mona Drift living in an apartment. With another man her age. Why would somebody living in a mansion move to an apartment? Did anybody else know about this? Or anything about her? We all know each other, but do we know her? ”
I crumple up the flyer and toss it into the garbage. My locker is completely covered in them as well. Its not that I care if people know that I used to live with Leo. Its the implications people will connect that too. That I ran away from home or don have a home. One of which is true, but I can let people here know that. Ive been able to keep up this façade that Im one of them for over four years. Rumors spread fast in this school because nobody has anything real to think about. These are also the people with money and power, and they will continue to have that power. Having connections like these when I go out into the world is beneficial.
Im about to go to class when Charlie turns the corner. His eyes grab mine immediately, and they
e intense. I can move anymore. When he gets next to me, he grabs my hand and I let him lead me away. We go into a classroom, but he keeps the lights off. ”Thats Leo on the flyers. ” He says almost as soon as the door shuts.
”Yeah, like I said, we used to be friends. ”
”So, why did you live with him? ” Now is the time Mona. Are you going to keep lying to Charlie about Leo, or are you going to be honest? Our conversation yesterday echoes in my head. He wants us to be honest with each other. I guess our relationship can get better if Im the only one hiding stuff and being dishonest.
”Leo and I have been friends since we were kids. The year before you and I started going out, Leo and I dated. Hes my ex. Yes, I lived with him while we were together. ” I can tell him why I actually started living with Leo, because people with caring mothers don get kicked out. ”Wed been friends for so long in our heads we thought it made sense to start living together. ”
”Why didn you tell me yesterday when we ran into him? ”
”I was about to tell you, but then he interrupted us. ”
”So, you still see him often? ”
”On accident I guess I see him often. We don meet up or talk anymore if thats what you mean. ”
”Whyd you break up? ”
”He treated me badly and said he was cheating on me. Weather he was or just wanted to hurt me, I don know. ”
”Is that why you
e so sensitive about me being friends with girls? ”
”Im not sensitive about you being friends with girls. ” He scoffs and crosses his arms.
e saying you didn get mad that I was talking with the new girls at the table? ”
”Are we going to argue about this again? Im not going to keep trying to convince you that what she did was inappropriate. Are you angry about the flyers, or not? ” Hes quiet for a while, and not just verbally. His face is empty, as if hes never experienced an emotion on it. He stares at me, something going on in his mind that Im not privy too. He breaks the silence with a quick smile, but it feels off. As if its being forced, and not just out of anger.
”No, why would I be angry, babe? You didn post the flyers. You
e the victim of bullying here. I would never be mad about that. ” He puts a weird emphasis on that, but I decide to ignore it. The bell rings above our heads, and he turns and opens the door for me. I go to walk past him, and he grabs my wrist. I look up to his face and see the first glimmer of something in it, but its very intense. ”You
e my girlfriend. Im here to protect you and keep you safe. Let me do that. So, if anything is happening, or there is something I don know that I should. Tell me now. ” I feel almost as if hes not asking but demanding. For a split second I wonder if he knows something. Maybe Im not the only person whos been getting notes. ”Lets go silly we
e going to be late. ” His fingers slide off my wrist, and we leave.
When I sit down in my seat two minutes late, I feel uncomfortable. Ive never seen Charlies face so empty and cold. Hes been distant and angry before, sure. Thats kind of his mo, but not like this. What is going on his brain that I don know? My phone breaks my uneasy thinking with a little buzz. I slide it into my lap to see Georges name. I open the message, and his answer,
”Wow, can believe it took you this long to message me. I was told you
e staying with my parents right now. Hows that? They still made about that day at the bridge. Lets catch up soon. ” He answered quickly for someone who hasn talked to me in a year. After the trouble I got him into I guess I can blame him.
I laid in bed for weeks. I didn want anybody seeing the bruises including myself. I staid in the guest bedroom and covered every reflective surface. It was more than just the pain it caused thinking about it. I knew Leo hurt people, but I thought I wasn going to be one of them. If not for the fact that he said he loved me, but because weve been friends since childhood. The ache every time I think about what I trusted him with almost kills me, but I can look at myself because I feel ashamed. I don think I could look at myself and go on. The guilt right now is almost unbearable. I may be the one who was hit, but I feel as if its the other way around. Im not even sure what there is to feel ashamed about. I guess the shock of my own stupidity is too much.
Theres a little rap on the door, and then George peaks his head in. ”Surprise to see you still hiding. ” He sits down on the edge of the bed while I keep my head tucked under the covers. ”You should come out. My mom is starting to wonder if theres even a person in here. She thinks I brought home a ghost or something. ” I don give him any reaction, but I push my foot into his thigh from under the blanket. ”Well, I left you a present when you want to get up. ” He walks out, and its quiet again.
I used to hate being alone, because of the quiet. It always felt like it was standing above me, but now it feels like its lying-in bed beside me. As if loneliness is moping with me. I slide my legs out of bed and see the little bag by the door. Its small with tissue paper sticking out of the top. I grab it and crawl back into bed. I slide out my old, crappy phone with a new uncracked screen. It didn even occur to me where this had gone. I hold the power button and turn it on.
A few messages pop up while it updates me on all the things I missed. Theres one text from Lil asking where I am. I message her back and tell her Im staying with a friend. Seconds later she replies with a why. My screen lights up with her face, as soon as I read the text, with a call from her. ”Hey. ”
”Don hey me. You disappeared for weeks without so much as a courtesy message to me. I had to go over to Leos and find out from him that you two broke up, as well as what happened. He hardly told me anything, but he hadn cleaned up the blood all over the carpet. What the hell is going on? ” I take a deep breath to ready myself to talk about it.
”Hes been disappearing lately, so I decided to break up with him. While I was leaving, he came home. He said hed been seeing other girls as well as whatever he was doing when hed disappear. When I tried to leave, he got mad and came at me. George was coming to pick me up, and Leo saw him pop up on my phone. He got mad and attacked me. I didn want to come out with my face all busted up. ”
”Why would he do that? Hes met him right. ”
”I never really introduced them. They
e just so different I didn think theyd be interested in meeting. ”
”So, you were hiding him from Leo. ”
”What? No, I wasn hiding him. He knows I have other friends than you two. ”
”Yeah, but George is a guy. You have to tell him about those kinds of friends Mona. No wonder he freaked out. He probably thought you were cheating on him. ”
”That doesn excuse what he did Lil. Also, he said he was cheating on me. ”
”He told me it was just a little fight. Is he not allowed to be upset when he thinks hes being dumped and betrayed? Do you really think he was actually cheating on you, though? Leo says stuff just to get a rise out of people. He was mad, so he said whatever he thought would piss you off. ”
”He can be mad, but he can beat those emotions into my face. The blood was mine. Are you even curious as to how Im doing? I have a broken rib Lil. Did you call just to advocate for Leo or to see how your best friend is doing? ”
”Best friend? Well, you didn ask your best friend to come pick you up from his place. You didn ask to stay with me till you found another place. ”
”You two are friends I didn want to make it awkward between you two just because we
e not friends anymore. I also thought youd try to convince me to stay with him. I wasn interested in my mind being changed. Ive had it with him. ”
”You think so little of me that youd rather hide it from me. We
e friends Mona; I want whats best for you. I would have asked for an explanation, but I wouldn try to disvalue your feelings. ”
”It wouldn be the first time you convinced me to stay with Leo. ”
”Yeah, because the other times I knew you were just overreacting. You know Mona; you have a real high opinion of yourself. You put yourself on this pedestal as if you
e a **ing queen, but do you know what you really are? ”
”What am I? ”
”A liar. You tell everybody you have money when you
e just another poor kid. When people ask where you live, I let you use my house. You pretend to be the opposite of what you are. Did you even tell the truth about your fight with Leo? ”
”Wow. Are you really going to turn on me because I didn ask for your help? You
e so insecure that I can have other friends. Just because I asked George for help and not you doesn mean I don care about you as a friend. I asked George because he has a car, and his parents will let me stay for an extended amount of time. ”
”Mona, I really don care what you do. ” She loudly interrupts. ”You can have fun with all your poor friends, and Ill have fun with my rich ones. ” She hangs up the phone, and Im left shocked. I really lost my best friend because I dated an asshole. I set my cellphone on the bed and get dressed. I can keep hiding out in here. I need air or something. I throw a hoodie on and some clean sweatpants and leave. I don take my phone or my wallet. I get outside and I just walk. Im not even sure where it is, Im going. Theres not a lot of places left that I can go.
I slowly trudge down the sidewalk just following one crack after another. Anytime I pass somebody I lower my head a little bit. I don know what my face looks like, but I assume its still **ed up. I get closer to the middle of town and suddenly know where I want to go. I head to the bridge.
My dad took me there a few times when I was a kid. Wed go on walks occasionally when mom would be having an episode or had a relapse. Dad tried to hide that stuff from me as much as he could. Not that it mattered later in life. Him dying was traumatizing enough for moms relapses to be nothing. When wed go, we would crawl up on the hand rail. Wed stick our legs between the cement bars and dangle our feet over the bridge. The water below was far down, but it didn matter. Even from so far away you could almost feel the water. The cool air it wafted through the whole area. The sound of the angry water was almost too loud all the way at the top of the bridge. Dad used to tell me how water has a mind of its own. It does whatever it wants, and nobody can control it. Hed talk about how the water down there would sweep you away before you even realized you were caught in the currents.
As a kid I was terrified of being swept away by the currents. Now, as I look down at the rushing, crazy water. I can help but feel like it would be nice to get swept away. The water would just float you away to somewhere else. Water doesn have problems, and it doesn have stress. It just flows however it wants, and whenever it wants.
I crawl up onto the railing and stick my legs through the bars. I stare at my feet dangling from the bridge. The water rushing below them. It almost feels nostalgic for a minute, but then I notice the size of my feet. The pieces of the railing that have crumbled away. There are gang tags spray painted on the bridge now, as well as garbage thrown down by the water. Im also alone. There isn a second set of feet hanging from the bridge with me. Just my beat up, off brand sneakers.
I grab hold of the railing and pull my legs out of the bars. Im almost standing on the railing, and Im about to jump down to the road. Instead, I completely stand up. My feet sit where my legs had just been resting. When I get to my full height, I finally feel the wind from the water. Its gotten higher, but I found it. It hits my face, and my heart feels lighter. I raise my arms up to the sides and feel the wind hit all of me. The water calls up to me, and it feels freeing. My eyes slowly drift shut. Ive heard its better with your eyes closed. Then all you experience is the wind and the feeling of free falling.
I feel my center of gravity start to shift forward. A hand jerks me back by my wrist, and I almost fall off the railing. I wobble and catch myself on the cement above my feet. I open my eyes to George huffing and gripping my wrist. I should feel embarrassed that he saw that, but Im not. Why would anybody not want to be down in that water? ”What are you doing over here Mona? ”
”Getting some air. ” Is the only excuse I can come up with.
”It looks like you were about to get a lot more than that. What are you doing up on the railing? ”
”My dad and I used to sit up here. I just wanted to feel close to the water again. ” His eyes still stare at my as wide as can be. I look away not able to hold his gaze. The water doesn look at me like that.
”Why don you get down, and we can go to the lake or something? ”
”No, I like this water. ” I try to slide my hand out of his grip, but it just gets tighter. I sigh and slide my legs back through the bars and sit down. He then lets go of me and comes over to my side. We don say anything for a while. I can tell he wants to, but I don . ”I was always surprised he didn do it here. He hated the apartment, so I don know why that was the last thing he wanted to see. ”
”Maybe he just didn want to ruin it for you or anybody else in the future. ” We go back to silence, but not for long. ”What were you thinking Mona? ”
”Nothing, for once I was just doing what felt natural. ”
”Thats natural? ”
”Yeah, I just lost both of my oldest friends. One of which hurt me in a way I never thought he was capable of. I don have a mom or a dad. I don have a place to live, and I don have anything in my future. If I can even graduate high school, it won do me any good. Im still poor and have no skills or ambitions. ”
”Mona, ” I interrupt him.
”I don want you feeling bad for me or trying to convince me of all the good things here. I don need any of that. Im aware that everything isn bad, but its never felt like that. I didn grow up with parents like yours. Nobody made me breakfast every morning and they weren happy to see me after school. I have a mom who hasn been sober since I was born. My father couldn make it past my tenth birthday. I get it, not everything, is bad, but honestly, I don care. It feels bad. ” He doesn say anything to that. We sit for a while, until a loud, crappy looking car drives past us. They slow down to almost a stop.
”We should probably get out of here. ” I nod, and he starts helping me off the railing. Before they get out of their car, we hear a whoop from behind us. They quickly drive off, but the cop car doesn follow them. We watch the two cops get out of their flashing vehicle. I swear under my breath, and George asks why.
”They are going to think were taggers. ”
”We can just tell them we
e not. We don even have spray paint. ”
”You don know how cops work around here. ”
”What are you kids doing on the bridge? ” One asks when they get close to us. I finally get my legs off the railing and on to the ground.
”We were just sitting watching the water sir. ” George says with the confidence of a middle-class citizen. The two cops look at each other and shake their heads.
”Why don you guys just give us the paint and tell us who you
e tagging for. ”
e really not tagging sir. ” I almost stop him, but I know it wouldn matter. ”This paint is dry; we don have anything on us. ”
”Do you really think Im that stupid? Ive seen her with the brink side gang before. With the looks of it, she got into some trouble recently. ”
”Which is why shes not associating with them anymore. ”
”No, that means she owes them something. Give us the stuff like we said or were going to have to take you down. ” George opens his mouth to tell them the same story, but I stop him.
”The car that took off before you got here. They had the stuff. ” They nod and take their cuffs off their belts.
”You two coming easy, or hard? ” George is incredibly quiet when they put us in the back of the squad car. I go to say something, but he speaks first.
”Why did you lie? We wouldve been fine, but no. ”
”They were going to arrest us either way. All their going to do is take us down to the station to scare us. After a few hours theyll let us out. ”
”You may not care about your record or future, but I do. I have things I want to do, and places I want to go. ” The cops get into the front and drive us to the station. When they offered us a phone call George freaked out and called his parents. They came and bailed us out for a couple hundred dollars. They yelled at us, and George didn say anything to me. They drove away, and I stood in front of the precinct. After a few minutes of feeling bad about myself, I started walking. I went back to my moms apartment. When I walked in, she was sitting at the table. There was a flash of surprise, but it dissipated quickly after.
”The ** are you doing here? ”
”Can I stay here? ”
”What happened to the place youve been staying at? ”
”Leo and I broke up. So, I need some place else. ” She squints her nose at me angrily.
”You have four months. I can handle you for four, but thats it. ” She got up and went into her room. Within that time, shed constantly change her mind. Tell me to get out and my four months were up when they weren . I had a bed at the very least. He forgave me and started talking to me in time, but we never really talked about it. Thats kind of my mo. If you don bring it up maybe the other person will never notice it.