That video was everywhere! And by tonight, there wouldn’t be one person in Shelburne Falls who hadn’t seen or heard of it.
Jared. My head was splitting trying to take in the betrayal of what he’d done. He’d been patient and clever and waited for his revenge. He’d ruined me. Not just in high school but forever. I’d always be looking over my shoulder now, wondering who would discover that video on some sordid website and when it would happen.
And I loved him. How could he do something like this? My heart felt like it was tearing in two.
Oh, God. My stomach hollowed out, and I couldn’t hold back the sobs anymore.
“Tate,” a voice panted.
I stopped and looked up, my tear-filled eyes meeting Madoc’s. He’d just come up the stairs, and I saw his phone in his hand.
“Tate, Jesus.” He reached for me.
“Stay away from me!” I hurled at him angrily. I should’ve known better. Madoc would be just like Jared. He’d fooled me, too. And I couldn’t trust either of them. I knew that now.
“Tate.” He reached for me again, slower, like he was approaching an animal.
I wanted him away from me. I couldn’t listen to any more painful insults or degrading innuendos. No—scratch that—I wouldn’t listen to any more.
“Just let me get you out of here, okay?” Madoc inched towards me.
“No!” I cried, the tears blurring my vision. I slapped his hands away and caught him in the face with my palm.
He quickly stepped in front of me and wrapped his arms around my body, holding me tight as I struggled and cried.
“Stop it.” He jerked me a couple of times. “Just calm down.” His voice was strong and sincere. “I’m not going to hurt you.”
And I wanted to believe him.
“They saw everything,” I sobbed, my chest heaving from the heavy breaths. “Why did he do that to me?”
“I don’t know. For once, I don’t know what the hell’s going on. We need to talk to him.”
Talking. I was f**king done with the talking. Nothing I tried to do with Jared this year helped me. Nothing made my life better. In the end, his bullying had ended any hopes I had for happiness.
Somehow I’d been wrong when I thought he really cared. When I thought he really loved me. I believed every stupid lie he spewed. Maybe he was never abused. He probably didn’t even have a brother.
He’d finally pushed me so far down that I only wanted to escape now. Escape into something other than hope, love, and all that other bullshit.
My anger and pain were molding into something else, something harder.
Whatever it was, it felt better than what I felt a minute ago.
I took a deep breath and sniffled. “Let me go. I’m going home.” My voice was hoarse but steady when I pulled away from Madoc.
He released me, and I walked away slowly.
“I don’t think you should drive,” Madoc called out behind me.
I just wiped my eyes and kept walking. Down the stairs, through the empty hallways, and out the front doors.
I’d parked next to Jared that morning, and when I saw his car I let out a hard laugh. Not from amusement but from the look on his face when he came outside to see what I’d done.
I grabbed the crowbar out of the back of my truck and ran the sharp-cornered end along the side of his car as I walked to the front of the vehicle. The shrill screeching of metal on metal sent a warming high right to my veins, and I smiled.
And brought the crowbar down dead center on his windshield.
The impact splintered the glass into a hundred different cracks. It sounded like a fat roll of bubble wrap popping all at once.
After that, I went crazy. I pounded dents into his hood, doors, and trunk. My hands hummed from the vibrations of the blows, but I didn’t stop. I couldn’t. With each wallop, I got higher and higher. Hitting him where it hurt made me feel safe. No one could really hurt me if I could hurt them, right?
This is how bullies are made. A voice in my head whispered. I shook it off.
I wasn’t becoming a bully, I told myself. A bully has power. I didn’t wield any power here.
I slammed the crowbar across his driver’s side window, shattering it. Bits of glass rained all over his seat.
Before I could get the crowbar raised to bust one of his quarter panel windows, I was grabbed from behind and turned away from the car.
“Tate, stop it!”
I twisted out of his grasp and whirled around to face him. He held up his hands as if to calm me, but I was already calm. Didn’t he see that? I was in control, and I didn’t care what any of these people thought.
Madoc stood behind Jared with his hands on his head, surveying the damage to Jared’s car. His eyes were so wide that I thought they would pop out of his head. The school’s windows were nearly spilling with bodies anxious to get a glimpse of the display.
“Tate…” Jared said timidly, eyeing the weapon in my hand.
“Stay away from me, or it’ll be more than your car getting busted up the next time,” I warned.
I didn’t know if it was my words or my flat tone that surprised him, but he hesitated.
He stared at me like I was someone he didn’t know.
I’d gotten out of there before anyone had a chance to torment me more. Once I jumped in my truck and sped off, my phone started lighting up with calls and texts. K.C. dialed every thirty seconds, and I got nothing from Jared.