“Then one day, out of the blue, I lost you, too. The hurt returned, and I felt sick when I saw you hating me. My rainstorm was gone, and you became cruel. There was no explanation. You were just gone. And my heart was ripped open. I missed you. I missed my mom.” My voice cracked, and I didn’t wipe away the tear that fell.
“What was worse than losing you was when you started to hurt me. Your words and actions made me hate coming to school. They made me uncomfortable in my own home.” I swallowed, and the knot in my chest lessened.
“Everything still hurts, but I know none of it is my fault. There are a lot of words that I could use to describe you, but the only one that includes sad, angry, miserable, and pitiful is “coward.” In a year, I’ll be gone, and you’ll be nothing but some washout whose height of existence was in high school.” My eyes were still on Jared, and my voice got strong again. The ache in my face from trying to hold back tears eased. “You were my tempest, my thunder cloud, my tree in the downpour. I loved all those things, and I loved you. But now? You’re a f**king drought. I thought that all the ass**les drove German cars, but it turns out that pricks in Mustangs can still leave scars.”
Looking around the class, I noticed everyone leaned in and quiet. One girl was tearing up. I finished wiping a tear from my cheeks and grinned. “And I’d like to thank the Academy…”
Everyone started laughing, coming out of their trance from my serious and sad story, and began clapping and cheering. My head fell back to look up at the ceiling before I took a dramatic and sarcastic bow making my classmates giggle more. The deafening applause distracted me from the wobbliness in my legs.
This was it. Jared could push me, hurt me, take what he wanted, but showing him that he had hurt, but not broken me, was how I won. Euphoria settled in my stomach as waves of contentment washed over me.
“What was that monologue from? Mrs. Penley, she made people cry! How is anyone going to live up to that? And we’re allowed to swear?” One of the girls from my compass jokingly complained.
“I’m sure you’ll do fine, and Tate, that was wonderful. You really set the bar. I don’t remember that one on the list, though, so I trust everything will be in your essay?”
I nodded as I headed back to my seat, figuring I’d deal with that part later. The bell rung and people started for the door, ready to be done with the day.
“Great job, Tate!”
People I’d never spoken to patted me on the back and offered compliments. Jared drifted out of class, like the fuse on a stick of dy***ite. Only this time, I was free from the explosion. I let him go, not even sparing any effort to make it look like I didn’t care.
I’d bared my soul up there, and now the ball was in his court.
“Tate.” Ben walked up to my desk as I grabbed my bag. “That was great. Are you sure you want to waste your time on medicine and not go into theater or something?” He took my bag off my shoulder and hung it over his own.
I headed for the door as he followed behind.
“Are you okay? You were crying.” He sounded genuinely concerned.
I turned to face him and plastered a no-effort grin on my face. “I’m great. And I would love to go to the race with you this weekend.”
He looked surprised by my change of subject, but his eye lit up as he grabbed my hand. “Okay! But…you know you have to wear a really short skirt, right? It’s kind of a uniform for the girls.” He teased, and I could tell he was being flirty.
“Well, I’m a rebel, or didn’t you know?”
We pushed through the door, hand in hand. My eyes shot to Jared, who had his forehead leaned into the wall. He turned around, and I noticed that the whites of his eyes were red. Hands tucked into the front pocket of his black hoodie, he was breathing like he’d just run a mile. Other than that, there was no emotion. He didn’t look upset or happy. Nothing.
“See ya, Jared,” Ben called out as we passed, oblivious to what had just passed between Jared and me in the classroom.
Jared didn’t reply but kept his eyes focused on me. For once, there was no anger or cruelty in his stare.
What was happening in his head?
And would I ever find out?
I twirled around, stunned out of my celebration, and met my grandma’s expectant stare.
Whoops. I wondered how long she’d been standing there.
I ran over to the CD player and switched off AFI’s Miss Murder. “Sorry. Just getting my groove on.” I smiled sheepishly. After a practice where I could’ve run at least another hour, I returned home with energy to spare. A weight had lifted off of me, and I felt like celebrating.
I’d decided to shelve my homework—since nothing was due this week, anyway—and forge a whole in my carpet with some horrendous dance moves.
“Well, you left your phone downstairs. K.C. called.” She tossed me my cell, which I caught. “And it’s almost seven. Are you ready to go eat?” Grandma waved her hand towards the door.
“Absolutely.” I grabbed my black cardigan and black Chucks. I’d changed into jeans and a t-shirt after I’d come home to clean up following practice. Since Jared’s locker room intrusion, I’d opted to shower at home.
“I’ll be down in a minute. I want to call K.C. back.”
Grandma nodded and walked out.
The idea of apologizing to K.C. caused my stomach to roll. She was dating a guy that treated me badly, and it hurt that she could turn a blind eye to that. But, I also realized the she and Jared were using each other. In time, probably sooner rather than later, this fling of theirs would be over. As long as she wasn’t teaming up with him to treat me like shit, then I’d decided not to give him what he wanted.