Going Under

Page 31

“That’s not true.”

He was ready for an argument. “It is true and I wouldn’t be much of a friend if I didn’t call you out on it. She knows you don’t come from family with money and she doesn’t care. She was so upset about what ever happened on Saturday night that she had me drive her around for over two hours looking for you because you wouldn’t man up and take her calls.”

“You don’t understand.”

“Try explaining it to me because you’re right-I don’t understand. You love her. She loves you. It’s pretty simple to figure out in my book.”

There wasn’t a way to make him understand without telling him what was going on. “It’s way more complicated than that. I come from something you couldn’t begin to imagine,” I explained.

“How is your family so different?” he questioned.

Something happened in me and I felt like I would snap if I didn’t tell someone what was going on with me because I was sick of living this lie. “Dane, I grew up watching my mom deal drugs for a living. This summer, a man shot and killed her in front of me because he thought she was ripping him off and she probably was. He thought he killed me when he put a bullet in me and all of this happened while my two little brothers hid in a closet in their bedroom. Now, I live with the grandmother that taught my mom how to deal and she is forcing me to deal in exchange for a roof over my head. In the meantime, I have two little brothers in foster care that I have to figure out how to get back and take care of, so don’t try to tell me I left Claire so it would be easier because nothing in my life is easy.”

He stopped running and stared at me.

“I don’t want anyone to know. Especially Claire,” I warned.

“I wouldn’t tell anyone, but you can’t keep doing that, dude. It’s illegal. You could go to jail,” he said like I didn’t already know that was a possibility.

I tried to defend myself and my actions. “Well, right now I need a roof over my head, so I don’t have much of a choice, but that’s not the end of it. Believe it or not, it gets much worse.

He looked at me like it wasn’t possible for it to get worse. “After I was shot, my doctor thought I needed psych counseling so I was referred out for possible post traumatic stress.”

When his eyes grew to the size of saucers, I knew he was putting it together. “Say it isn’t so.”

“Yep, it’s so. Mrs. Deveraux was my counselor. I couldn’t get discharged from her until I started talking so she knows everything about me and I do mean everything. I could have died when I walked up in Claire’s house and saw her on Saturday night. She pretended we didn’t know each other, but only because she didn’t have a choice. She told me to break it off with Claire, so what was I supposed to do?”

I could see his wheels turning, trying to find a solution for me. “Dude, I’m really sorry, because I know how much you love her, but we need to get you away from your grandmother. You can stay with me so you don’t have to deal for her anymore.”

“No, I can’t. I know it sounds terrible to you, but it’s what I’ve known my entire life, so I’m use to it. It’s not so bad and I only have to do it until I graduate. I’m going to get a full time job and find a place to stay until fall semester starts, then I’ll live on campus wherever I go to school.”

“That sounds like a great plan and all, but what if you get caught and go to jail in the meantime?” he proposed.

“I know how to be careful, but I was serious about not telling anyone. You feeling me?”

“I’ve got it,” he promised.

I went back to running and he followed. “I’m sorry, man. I shouldn’t have dumped all of that on you, but I felt like I was going to explode if I didn’t talk to someone soon.”

“I’m glad you trust me enough to confide in me, but I think you should explain everything to Claire. She loves you unconditionally. I saw that on Saturday night.”

“No! She can never know.”

* * *

I wasn’t ready to face Claire, so I didn’t go to school on Tuesday and because it was so easy to not face her on Tuesday, I didn’t go on Wednesday either. I was afraid I might not be allowed to play on Friday night if I cut school more than two days, so I reluctantly returned on Thursday.

I purposely waited until the tardy bell rang before I went to Calculus because it was easier to take the tardy than have the ‘how could you do that to her’ conversation with Payton. I kept my eye on my watch while I waited for the bell to ring and somehow managed to dodge her after class.

I sat in Humanities dreading the moment Claire entered class because I wasn’t sure I could handle seeing that hurt look on her face. The bell rang without a sign of her and Mrs. Tanner said, “Jessie, I’m glad to see you’re back and recovered from whatever put you and Claire out of school this week, but it looks like she isn’t going to make it back today. Do you know if she is doing any better?”

I had news for her. I was no where near recovered and wouldn’t be anytime soon. “No, ma’am. I haven’t talked to her.”

She looked confused as she said, “I hope she is alright.”

She looked at me, waiting for my response, but I couldn’t give her something I didn’t have, so I stared down at my desk and waited for her to take the hint.

I suffered through the hour, then made a second attempt at avoiding Payton when I got to history, but wasn’t so lucky this time around. She sat in front of me in history, then turned around and got in my face. “I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt and listen to your mansplanation before I go postal on your ass.”

I looked down at my notebook because I was afraid she might see what I was trying to hide from her. “I don’t have to explain anything to you.”

She slapped her hand on the desk to get my attention, not caring if she called everyone’s attention to us. “Uh, yeah…you do. I encouraged Claire to pursue a relationship with you all based on what you led me to believe, so you do owe me an explanation.”

It was time to get her off my trail. “I played you and I played her-pretty well I might add. It was always about taking her from Forbes, but when she wouldn’t sleep with me, I was done with her because I have better ways to spend my time.”

She wrinkled her forehead as she looked at me. “I don’t know what’s going on here, but I don’t believe you.”

“What are you? A human lie detector?” I laughed.

She stared me down and said, “When someone tells a lie, the grimace that accompanies it always tells the truth and that’s a fact, Jack.”

Mr. Buckley ended our showdown when he began class and I couldn’t have been more relieved. That girl was too perceptive for her own good and if I wasn’t careful, she was going to crack this case wide open.

29 What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger


I was surprised my mom allowed me to cut school for three days. She knew how hurt I was, but when Friday morning came, she came into my room and told me I couldn’t avoid life forever and the time had come for me to return to school.

I knew she was right, but that didn’t mean I didn’t dread going. I didn’t want to see Jessie because I wasn’t sure I could without completely breaking down.

Although my mom flipped my bright light on, I laid in my bed and thought about how Payton had called me after school yesterday and told me about her conversation with Jessie. She insisted something was off-that he seemed more affected than he should have been for an asshole that used me like that, as she put it delicately. I reminded myself that she didn’t see the look in his eyes when he grabbed my face and told me how he had used me to get back at Forbes, all while he was sleeping with Gretchen.

I felt nauseous thinking about them together. I remembered the intimate way we kissed and touched and was sickened when I began to wonder how many times I had primed him up so he could go to Gretchen after he left me.

How could I been so stupid? I thought of how I ended things with Forbes for Jessie and I imagined how the whole school must have laughed when they found out about the demise of our brief romance. I bet they all thought I got exactly what I deserved after dumping Forbes. It was absolutely humiliating, but I reminded myself I had done nothing wrong except follow my heart for the first time in my life. Look at what a disaster it had turned out to be.

I closed my eyes to shut out the harsh reality and I heard my mom knock on my door. “Claire, you’re going to be late if you don’t get up and get ready.”

She was right, but I couldn’t bring myself to reply. I dragged myself out of bed while she stood by my door watching me, ensuring I got up and didn’t continue laying there feeling sorry for myself. I went into my bathroom and out of sheer habit turned on my favorite playlist before I got into the shower. I stood under the falling water wishing it would wash away the events of the last few weeks, but unfortunately found it to be unsuccessful.

‘Stronger’ began to play and I listened to the lyrics, reminded that I wasn’t the only person in the world that ever felt this way if there were songs written about the pain following a break up. I wondered why I had spent the last three days thinking the only solution to this was to lay down and die. I was not over because he chose to be out of my life. I wasn’t going to allow what he did to me to kill me. It was going to make me stronger.

I felt a surge of strength I hadn’t had in days and I hurried to get ready, excited about facing the reality of what had happened and showing the world I could stand a little taller. I put on a little more make-up than usual, in hopes of hiding the visible signs of what the last few days had left under my eyes, and put on one of my sassiest dresses and boots.

Looking in the mirror, I felt confident. Who could look at me dressed like this and think I wasn’t so completely over Jessie Boone?

After homeroom, I met up with Payton at our lockers. She took one look at me and said, “Well, somebody looks quite well after not leaving her bed for three days because of a certain unnamed asshole.”

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