Home > One Small Thing(12)

One Small Thing(12)
Author: Erin Watt

So even though it makes me sick to my stomach, I force myself to type two words.

I’m late.

???

My period. I should’ve gotten it yesterday.

There’s a prolonged moment of silence.

C u at midnite.

I feel a bit guilty about lying to him, but not as guilty as I feel about losing my virginity to Charles Donnelly.

I delete our text exchange, run down to Dad’s office, and stick the phone back in its hiding place. I can’t figure out how to relock the drawer, so I leave it, hoping my dad thinks that he left it open.

Mom comes home at five-thirty, bringing with her burritos for dinner. Dad arrives shortly after, like they planned it. We sit down to eat. Mom asks questions. I refuse to answer. Dad makes unhappy grunting sounds. As soon as dinner is over, I escape outside to the swing until night falls and Mom calls for me to come inside.

I get undressed in the bathroom because my bedroom has zero privacy. Once I’m in bed, I pull on leggings under the covers, along with a Darling sweatshirt. Then I curl over on my side with a copy of The Great Gatsby, which we’re reading for AP Lit.

The hours drag on. Time moves more slowly than a snail crossing a river rock. Gatsby keeps staring at the end of the dock at the green light, waiting for his green light. I’d like my own go sign. I keep reading until, finally, it’s five to midnight.

I slide out of bed and creep down the hall toward the stairs. The lights are all off. Dad’s snoring can be heard from the kitchen. The lock on the back door makes an overly loud sound as I flip it to the open position. I freeze for a moment. Hearing nothing, I pull open the door and sprint outside.

When I reach the swing, my heart’s pounding a thousand miles a minute, but there’s no one there. The swing hangs empty. The night’s so still. I don’t even hear crickets or cicadas. I twirl in a circle and see nothing.

Disappointment crushes me. He didn’t come. I had so much to say to him and he didn’t come!

“Argghhhhh!” I quietly scream, hands fisted at my sides. Angrily, I kick at the grass. Fuck him. Fuck him. Fuck my parents. Fuck the school. Fuck everything.

“You come off a little spoiled sometimes, you know?” a voice near the tree says.

I spin toward the sound and see a dark form peel away from the shadows.

“Chase?”

“Yeah. It’s me.”

He steps forward into a pool of moonlight. My breath catches. He looks like a fallen angel, glowing from the night’s light.

“You’re late,” I manage to say.

“That’s my line,” he replies grimly. “Have you gone to the doctor? Is there one you can go to?”

Shame tightens my throat. “Oh. I...” I swallow hard. “I lied about that. I’m sorry. I really am, but it was the only way to get you here.”

“Right.” He looks away, showing off his perfect jawline. The stubble sparkles where the moonlight touches it. Then he says, “I take that back. You’re a lot spoiled.”

He starts to leave.

I panic and grab his arm. “Please, wait. We need to talk.”

“About what?” He shrugs me off. “What happened at the party? We both know that was a mistake. If I knew...” He trails off. He clears his throat and continues, “If I knew you were Elizabeth Jones, I would’ve never touched you.”

My heart squeezes tight. “Why? Why does that matter?”

He cocks his head. “Did you hate your sister or something?”

His words strike me in the gut. I stumble back, blinking back hot tears. “I didn’t hate her. Why would you even say that?”

“Because if the guy who killed my sister was standing in front of me, I wouldn’t be looking at him like I wanted to rip his clothes off.”

I gasp in shock. “I...don’t want to do that.”

“Yeah, you do.” He rakes me from head to toe in one cool, dismissive gaze. “You think you’re the first chick who’s thrown herself at me since I got out? I spent three weeks in Springfield after my release, stayed with my uncle because my dad wants nothing to do with me, and trust me, all the girls I grew up with were suddenly all over me. Now I’m the bad boy everybody wants to tame.”

His dad wants nothing to do with him? Is that why he had to move to Darling and live with his mom? I want to ask him so many questions, but he’s not done.

“Grow up, Beth. In the real world, bad boys are actually bad. They aren’t heroes. It’s not dope to hook up with them. Your home life problems aren’t solved with my dick. Bad boys do bad shit and eventually drag everyone around them into the same hell pit. Go home to your bed and forget about me. I’ll be doing the same about you.”

With that, he turns and disappears into the night, his black-hoodie-clad form swallowed up by the dark.

10

On Thursday morning, a mere five minutes into AP Calc, Chase gets a new nickname. Troy Kendall, the football player from Dvořák’s Music History, calls it out as he’s passing back a worksheet Mrs. Russell produced.

“Don’t cut yourself, Williams,” Troy says as he passes the papers behind him. “Manson over here might get turned on by the scent of blood.” Troy smirks at his own joke and exchanges a hearty high-five with another jock.

Half the room gasps. The other half laughs. Manson, as in Charles, the serial killer, Manson. What an awful joke. I can’t help but look at Chase to see how he’s taking it. Then I realize everyone’s staring at him, waiting for him to react. I wince in sympathy. I know just how uncomfortable it is to be the center of everyone’s attention, except I was the focus of pity while he’s the subject of scorn.

It’s a lot worse for him.

Our eyes meet and I swear I see a hurt betrayal in them. A whole lotta et tu, Brute is swimming in those blue eyes of his. But what does he want me to do? Stand up and defend him in front of the entire class? Last night he told me to grow up. He told me to mind my own business, so that’s what I’m going to do.

I break the eye contact and spin toward the front and fixate on Mrs. Russell instead. Her back is turned to the classroom. Either she’s intentionally tuning us out or she didn’t hear Troy’s comment.

“Manson’s the perfect name for him,” Scarlett says next to me.

“Manson was a serial killer,” I mumble.

“Yeah, and I bet Charlie’s had more than one road rage incident.”

“It wasn’t road rage,” I say, feeling suddenly tired. Why am I even bothering to explain Chase’s actions away? He made it perfectly clear that he wanted nothing to do with me.

“I can’t wait to tell Jeff,” Scar continues as if I hadn’t even spoken. Maybe I hadn’t. Maybe it was all in my head.

With Mrs. Russell not paying attention to us, everyone else is talking, too.

“You got a basement over in Grove Heights,” Troy says loudly. “Maybe stashing a few bodies down there?”

“He used to live in Lincoln before his mom married Mayor Stanton,” volunteers a girl in the back. “I read it in the paper.”

“Someone should go dig up his old backyard.”

“Oh my God. He should go to jail while that’s being done instead of sitting here with us.”

“What if there are bodies back there? Can he be tried again? What about that double-double thing?”

I can’t take it any longer.

“Shut up!” I roar at my classmates.

Silence crashes over the room. At the front, Mrs. Russell turns around in alarm.

“Elizabeth,” she says in a soft tone reserved for hysterical children. “Please sit down.”

Sit down? I didn’t even realize I was standing. I guess I jumped out of my chair. Everyone is staring at me. Except for Chase. He’s staring straight ahead at Mrs. Russell. I swear I see a tic in his jaw, though, as if he’s trying very hard to keep his composure.

Scar’s hand reaches for mine. “Shut up, you guys. You’re making this harder on Lizzie than it already is.” She tugs. “Sit down, Lizzie.”

She thinks I just yelled at the entire class because their whispered gossip and accusations were upsetting me.

I yelled because the whispers were upsetting him.

Helplessness lodges in my throat. I let Scar pull me down to my chair and then clasp my shaky hands together on my desk. “I’m sorry,” I tell Mrs. Russell. “I’m fine now.”

She eyes me for a moment before nodding. “Let’s focus on our assignment, everyone. Since you have so much energy, Mr. Kendall, you can come up and do the first problem.”

Looking sheepish, Troy gets to his feet and walks over to the blackboard. The class quiets down. For the rest of the period, I don’t pay much attention. I just sit there and try not to cry.

* * *

The moment AP Calc is over, I go to my locker even though I don’t need anything from it. But my next class is Physics, and Scarlett’s in that class, too, and I don’t want to walk with her. She gave me so many sympathetic looks and arm squeezes this past hour that I need a break.

I rest my forehead against the locker and wonder how and when my life got so out of control. Well, when Rachel died, obviously. Three years of dealing with my helicopter parents have completely worn me down. But I feel like in these past days, I’ve been more powerless and upset than in those three years combined.

This is what I get for trying to rebel. I wanted one night. One fun, amazing night before summer ended and school started. One night where I didn’t have to think about my dead sister or my overprotective parents. One night where I could be whoever I wanted to be without the dark cloud of my sister’s accident hanging over my head.

Well, I got what I wanted. I went to a party where nobody knew me, nobody knew Rachel. I got away from my parents and could finally breathe, even if it was only for a few hours. I had fun. I met a boy. I liked that boy. I really, really did.

And now everything is a big fat mess and all I want to do is bawl.

I draw a deep breath. I won’t cry. I’m stronger than that. I’m just going to go to class and—

   
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