Home > One Small Thing(10)

One Small Thing(10)
Author: Erin Watt

The pain in her eyes chips away at more of my resolve. We used to be so close. When I was growing up, she’d take me on an outing once a month, just me and her. I think it was her way of showing me she loved me as much as Rachel, even though deep down I knew Rachel was her favorite. Rachel was Dad’s favorite, too. I guess the firstborn daughter always is. But I didn’t care about being their favorite. At least when Rachel was alive, I had parents who loved me.

I miss that.

“He won’t hurt me, Mom.”

She doesn’t seem to hear me. “What you said yesterday. About...about this being a prison.” She lifts her gaze to mine. There’s so much anguish there. “This house isn’t a prison, Beth. It’s a safe haven. It’s the only place where you’re truly safe. Where nothing can hurt you.”

I stare at her. Really? I am hurt in this house. They’re suffocating me with their fears. They took away my door, my privacy.

She’s delusional if she believes I feel safe here.

About as delusional as me thinking I can pretend I didn’t sleep with the boy who killed my sister.

8

The next morning, I find Scarlett and Jeff waiting by my locker. Scarlett immediately throws her arms around me and whines, “It sucks that you don’t have a phone.”

“I know,” I say glumly.

“Your dad said he took it away because you snuck out to a party?” Jeff prompts.

I narrow my eyes at him. I don’t remember that coming up at all during dinner last night. “When did he tell you that?”

“This morning. I stopped by the hardware store to say hello before school.”

The revelation bugs me a little, but I can’t explain why. Jeff was over at our house all the time when he was with Rachel. He practically lived there. But it’s been ages since anyone has seen him, and Rachel is gone, so this insta-closeness with my family is weird to me.

“Where was this party?” Jeff keeps pushing for details. “Was it just you and Scar?”

“I didn’t go,” Scarlett, the traitor, tells him. “Beth went on her own. With a bunch of kids from Lexington Heights.”

I scowl at her and she shrugs as if to say I didn’t know it was a big secret.

“Lexington kids?” Jeff says with visible disapproval. “All those Lex kids are total trash, Lizzie. Everyone knows that.”

“Not all of them,” I say in the defense of Ashleigh and Harley and the rest of the kids who were nothing but nice to me on Saturday. “I had a good time.”

“Yeah? Doing what?” he says suspiciously. “I’ve heard about the kinds of drugs that float around at those Lex parties.”

“I don’t do drugs,” I say stiffly.

“I should hope not.”

The judgment in Jeff’s eyes grates on me. Who is he to judge? He doesn’t even know me anymore. The last time he saw me, I had a mouth full of braces and a face covered with zits. I don’t think I’d even kissed a guy at that point.

“Anyway, it was fun,” I tell Jeff and Scarlett. I slam my locker shut and shift my backpack onto my shoulder. “I have to go. I want to talk to my Calc teacher before the bell rings. I’m already a day behind because I missed class yesterday.”

I leave before they can respond, waving a hurried goodbye over my shoulder. Truth is, I do want to get to AP Calc early. But not to talk to the teacher.

My heart is racing as I lurk outside the classroom door. Kids stream past me up and down the hallway. Some duck into the classroom I’m waiting by, others dart through the other open doorways in the corridor.

Where is he?

Impatience has me tapping my foot and playing with the straps of my backpack. I search the hall for him, scanning every boy that comes near. I dismiss the ones with dark hair, the gangly ginger-haired one, the one with the dreadlocks and his buddy with the shaved head. I wait in the hall, even after the bell rings, even after the classroom door closes.

And finally, my patience pays off.

Charlie Donnelly appears at the end of the hall. He’s wearing black cargo pants and a black T-shirt, and a harried look on his face. He rakes a hand through his dirty-blond hair as he rushes down the tiled floor. He’s clearly pissed at himself for being late.

When he sees me, he stumbles to a dead stop.

“Fuck,” he murmurs.

“Chase,” I say awkwardly.

I take a step forward, and he takes a very fast one to the side.

His hand shoots out for the doorknob. “We’re late for class,” he says, and his tone is so cold, so aloof, that I frown deeply. He won’t even look at me.

“I don’t care if we’re late. I need to talk to you.”

“Got nothing to say,” he mutters.

“Please,” I beg.

I grab his hand before he can turn the knob. He flinches as if I’ve burned him with a hot iron. Hurt trembles in my belly. A few days ago, he was begging me to touch him. Now it’s like he can’t stand the sight of me, the feel of me, the—

And why the hell do I care? A wave of anger and self-reproach washes over me. This guy hit my sister with his car and went to jail for it. I shouldn’t give a flying fuck if he isn’t into me.

“Well, I have something to say,” I grind out. “And it doesn’t matter if we’re one minute late or five minutes late—late is late. So you might as well give me a few seconds of your precious time.”

His hands drop to his sides. He’s still making a very obvious effort to not look at me. Those blue eyes focus on a spot a few feet above my head. I feel stupid talking to his chin, but I do it anyway.

“You’re going to school here now,” I start.

“Are you asking me or telling me?” His gaze swings briefly to mine before sliding away.

“I’m stating a fact. You go here now. I go here. We have classes together.” I awkwardly jerk my hand at the door behind me. “So...yeah. Given that this is the situation we’re in, I think we should...clear the air, I guess.”

His dumbfounded gaze collides with mine. “Clear the air.” He makes a choked noise. “I...” He wrenches his gaze away again. “You’re Rachel Jones’s sister.”

My heart clenches. “Yes.”

“So there’s no air to clear, Elizabeth.”

“It’s Beth.”

He ignores me. “Move away from the door.”

“No.” I stubbornly plant my feet on the ground and cross my arms. “You can’t pretend I don’t exist. You can’t pretend that we didn’t have se—”

“Shut up,” he growls.

My eyes widen.

Almost instantly, his features twist with distress. “I’m sorry for snapping,” he says roughly. “And I’m sorry for the other night...” He trails off, and I realize that the dark emotion swimming in his eyes isn’t quite remorse.

It’s shame. He’s ashamed of what we did, too.

“You regret it,” I mumble.

This time, he looks right at me, and his stare doesn’t waver. “Yes.”

I can’t explain the wave of hurt that crashes into me. “Because I’m her sister?” I have to ask. My voice shakes wildly with every word.

“Yes,” Chase says again.

That gives me pause. “But if I wasn’t her sister...” I draw a quavery breath. “Would you regret it?”

He eyes me for a long moment, those blue eyes sweeping over my face, then shifting lower. “No,” he finally admits.

It’s my turn to feel ashamed. That one tiny syllable—no—brings a flash of relief, a flicker of happiness. Nausea burns my throat and I want to throw up at my response to this guy.

While I stand there immobile, Chase gently moves me aside and opens the classroom door. He disappears inside without another word.

I turn and watch his broad back as he makes his way to his desk. He folds his tall frame into a chair and stares straight ahead.

At the front of the room, Mrs. Russell is talking about Mathematical Practices for AP Calculus, or MPACS, that will dictate our course of study this semester. She notices me in the doorway and a slight frown creases her lips. She glances at Chase, then at me, then says, “Beth, why don’t you take a seat? There’s an empty one in the back.” AKA as far away from Chase as possible.

I trudge into the classroom, making a pointed effort not to look at him. Our conversation was too short. I have more to say to him. I’m not entirely sure what, but I do know one thing. Chase and I have unfinished business.

I check my watch. Our next class together is Music History. That gives me two hours to plot. Even a stone can be worn away by a constant drip of water. Well, watch out, Chase. Here comes a flood.

9

I haven’t passed a note since the fourth grade and that was to Scarlett asking her if she wanted to learn how to skateboard. I’d watched a YouTube video of some girls in Afghanistan burning it up and wanted to be as cool as them. Scarlett had said no.

We need to talk. Meet me at my house. Midnight, I scribble while Ms. Dvořák talks about the dead white guys we’ll be studying in Music History. I’ll be sneaking out.

Eh. I erase the last part. He doesn’t need to know that. Besides, it’ll be kind of obvious. I fold the notebook paper and glance over my shoulder. He’s two rows over and one row back, staring intently at his textbook. How do I get his attention while not creating a spectacle of myself?

I cough lightly.

“You okay?” Scarlett hands me a water bottle, but Chase doesn’t move.

I wave her off. I tap my pencil on my desk. Ms. Dvořák pauses in midsentence. I lay my pencil down. Still nothing from the boy in black. Isn’t it kind of clichéd of him to wear all black? Is he trying to announce that he’s a bad guy? He has a record and everyone knows it. He could wear white every day, and half the school would still mark him down to star as all the villains in the school play.

I wiggle in my seat, trying to make it squeak.

   
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