By Lauren Brice
I sit on the steps outside the school, knees hugged against my chest, teeth grinding into the fleshy skin on my lip. I shift my fingers across my forehead to check the cut. It feels gummy against the callouses on my fingers. I glance back at the looming mahogany doors; they swing both ways, keeping them in and me out.
I wonder what is happening inside the stuffy office only ten steps from those doors. I stood inside there not too long ago. Today, it smells like beeswax candles and waffles and burnt coffee spilled on the rug. Monday morning. And only partly my fault.
When the doors start to shutter open, I burrow my face further into my legs. I muffle my ears with my sweater sleeves, but I can still hear the clammer of footsteps. There is a whole herd of people migrating over one boy, a prison march. I lift my head only when I hear their footsteps recede. They don’t notice me.
He’s watching me, with his crystal, owl eyes, and he doesn’t flinch when I meet them. They’re glassy, brimming with tears that don’t belong. His brow is furrowed, and his lip quirks to the side. He’s not mad at me, only confused. That makes it so much worse. His bangs fall back in front of his eyes, and I notice how limp he is, like Jello. It’s unnerving. He’s too strong to be hunched over, too prideful. His head whips back around towards one of the men wearing a stiff suit, holding firmly to his bicep, like a prison guard. He’s already through me.
I realize no one is holding me down yet. My hands press off the damp cement steps, and I start to fly off across the football field, in the opposite direction of the chaos. The blood throbs in my veins, revolting, my heart tries to keep up with my two legs. They strain forward, fleeing the grass and the building and the boy and the past. Especially the last hour. But I had never been a strong runner.
The icy, spindly fingers of the past gripped at my shoulders and made me curse how boney they are, how tiny I am. It only took one yank to catapult me backwards. I soar through the entry doors down the hall and out the back door, landing on my butt outside the gym doors. I grabbed hold of the grass with both hands into root myself to the ground.
When he walks out the clanging metal doors, I try to shut my eyes to stop the vertigo. I already know what is coming. But that’s not how reliving the past works. She walks right up to him. I watch as he takes her arm and guides her around the corner of the gym to right in front of where I’m sitting. And then he kisses her. I hear the alarm bells in my head all over again. Not again. Not again. Not again.
I had said I was okay, but I’m a liar.
Bells, chimes, screams, and “you’re too good for me,” echo through my head with alarming clarity as my body jerks forward from the grass heads toward the school building. I can barely see, my vision is clouded by red and his face and my own and all his empty promises. My muscles seem to think there is only one thing to do. So I go for it. My brain is paralyzed, useless to stop them.
I march past my locker and stop at his. The senior hallway is deserted just like before. No one has hallway duty when everyone is at PE. I clasp my hand around his lock. 2-2-3-7, I twist. The lock clicks open. He never kept enough secrets; he never seemed to think about the future. Maybe, when he gave me his combination, he hadn’t thought he would cheat on me. When he cheated on me, he probably never thought I’d find out.
He still didn’t know I did. I’d let him break up with me.
Likely, he also wasn’t thinking about the future when he admitted that he stole from his mother’s medicine cabinet. First, only a few pills, a test. Then more and more till he’d swipe whole bottles and tell her the pharmacy lost her prescription. And she fell for it. I wasn’t even the only one he told. No one was shocked. He didn’t understand how stupid he was, not just for breaking the law, for breaking himself.
Today, there are two bottles prescribed to Molly Perkins sitting in his locker. I grab the first one and shake it like a maraca before sliding it into my bag. Then I take off in a sprint again. My steps get more jagged. I throw myself into the rows of metal lockers, making terrible clashing and clanging noises. I am a pinball on my own course, collecting points through blooming bruises. I only stop when my forehead slices against a locker vent. The pain is sobering, and I check the cut with the back of my wrist. My knees give, and I sink down against the lockers.
The loss of momentum jolts my brain to life. What am I doing with the orange bottle? It isn’t my place to teach this lesson. I should throw it in the garbage and be done. But I can feel the bottle glowing through the fabric of my bag. It radiates heat, burning. It has to get out. I have to finish the plan. My muscles begin to twitch again, taking back control.
My body is a spastic impulse. I am flying towards Mr. Wexler’s office. It presents the pill bottle, and tells him there’s one more sitting in his locker, waiting for the drug dogs to find. It has been theirs to find all along.
Mr. Wexler spills his coffee across the desk, he’s so desperate to get on the phone. The campus police are there in moments. Too fast. Too slow.
The man in blue asks what happened to my head. I run. Down the dark paneled hallway and out the two looming doors. I’m barely strong enough to push them open. I throw myself down on the stairs, and my body is released from the chains of the past, from the explosion in my veins. My brain takes back over. What did I just do? I got him expelled. On the last day of senior year.
I ruined his life.
I wonder if he knows it’s me. I wonder if they told him already. I wonder if they ever will. If he saw me now, he would know. The scent of the office has a way of seeping into your bones.
When he looks toward me, we both know the answer. It’s undeniable. He looks so confused. He never thought I would betray him. I wasn’t the first to lose my mind a few second too long, but I will be the one that gets remembered for it.
I run, towards the field again, though the past wants nothing to do with me this time. I am running from myself, my actions. I tumble into the dirt, losing control of my two sloppy feet.
Laying in the dewy grass, I check my head one more time. The cut feels less wet, gummy, fresh. I knock the scab off.
This needs to leave a scar.
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About The Author: Laine is an author, book blogger at Reading, Writing, And Me and the editor of Fireworks In The Night which she created to share her own work and that of others who have a story to tell. To read more of her work, click here