My weekend at Dad's continued to be utter hell. Of course. It rarely ever went any other way. I don't even think Dad was sober and conscious for a single second those two days. Jewels was Jewels, concentrating on taking care of Seth, my stepbrother, first, but still checking on me and making sure I was alright.
Thing is, Jewels is easily fooled.
I, unlike the rest of my classmates, wished I would have had homework over the weekend. Then, at least, I would have had something to do. The creative parts of my brain just were not functioning at all, so there was no writing or doodling going on, and I wasn't about to ask Dad for a ride to the library. I tried to only go in the car with him as often as necessary.
Going back to high school wasn’t quite as bad as Dad’s, I suppose. It was still hot and sticky in the class rooms because the air conditioning unit needed to be fixed, and of course there was drama, but it wasn’t too God awful bad. I kept to myself for the most part, taking a risk to glance at James every once in a while.
But, like it does every week, Monday morning finally came around. And I had never been so grateful to see five in the morning in my life. I would take bitchy, selfish teenagers over my dad any day (or days) of the week.
“Delilah! Over here!” Violet shouted from across the cafeteria when I got to the school. She really didn't have to yell, because it wasn't that loud, but she did anyway.
“Hey.” I slowly walked over to her, still tired from lack of sleep. I took a sip of my still scalding hot coffee and watched her be all girlfriend-y to Bryan.
Can I just say how weird it is when your best friend is dating your ex boyfriend?
It's really fucking weird.
Especially when said ex boyfriend then acts all buddy buddy with you.
Okay, that part isn't really weird. Bryan and I have always had more of the older brother – younger sister relationship thing going on. Considering we dated when he was twelve, I believe, and I was ten, that's not all that bad. We just kind of stuck a label on our friendship. But in theory it was still weird.
“Hey there, Delilah.” Bryan said, cheesy as ever.
“You just made my morning, Bry. I am now a Plain White Ts song. Don't mind me while I tear up over here.” I rolled my eyes and gave him annoyed smile.
“What, so Vi gets a hug and I don't? I see how it is.” So that's how this Monday is going to go. Great. Freaking fabulous.
“Bryan, I haven't even given Violet her hug yet. We'll see if you get one after that.” I scolded while in the process of stealing and hugging Vi. “Eh, nope. Not today. Sorry, today is not your day. Please try again later.” I made my voice sound automated, making a joke even though I really didn't feel funny.
“I don't take no for an answer.” He said, coming towards me with his arms spread to give me a bear hug.
“How about 'hell no get the fuck away from me before I scream rape'? Do you take that for an answer, asshat?”
“What is an asshat?” He said, momentarily distracted.
I took advantage of his speculation to use the nearest person as a shield. And that nearest person happened to be James.
“Good morning.” I said, giving him a sheepish smile. “Can I hug you?”
“What?” He said, shocked. “I mean, I guess, sure.” He opened his arms to allow me to hug him.
“I know, random question. But I have to take advantage of distraction, especially with Bryan. I am not in the mood to let him be an asshat to me this morning. And the only way to block that...” I trailed off after realizing I was babbling.
“Is by hugging someone else, preferably male.” James finished my sentence, taking the exact words from the tip of my tongue.
That was more than a little creepy.
“Exactly. And when I say exactly, I do mean exactly. How the hell did you do that?”
“Use my exact words.”
“Just lucky, I guess.”
“Okay, James, you're right.” Bryan said, too loudly. He was up to something. “I can see you two working out. This is just adorable. You two are perfection.” Bryan wrapped one arm around me, and the other around James. There was no avoiding it this morning apparently.
But I was less interested in chopping his arm off than in what he said. I raised an eyebrow at James, whose face was turning mildly pink.
“Don't listen to him.” He mouthed, knowing Bryan wouldn't be able to tell what he was saying.
“Ooookayyy...” I said, not believing him even the tiniest bit. There was something about his face that made him seem the slightest bit pleased and smug hearing that comment from Bryan. Which naturally led me to be suspicious.
But I couldn't deny that I wasn't pleased.
Bryan had finally let James and I go, but James still held on to me, just a little too tightly for a friendly hug between acquaintances. His hand had caused my tank top to ride up to show the tiniest sliver of skin on my hip, right where his baby finger rested.
Good God, it felt like it was on fire. A smoldering, glowing, delicious fire.
I tried to keep my breathing in check, deep breath in, deep breath out. No shakes. Shakes were bad. Shakes meant something, somewhere deep in your mind, was out of your control. And while there is nothing wrong with that, nobody wants to be embarrassed by their lack of control. In. Out. In. Out.
The bell finally trilled its annoying song and James seemed to realize what exactly was going on. He nearly jumped out of his skin when his eyes glanced at his hand on my waist. His hands were immediately off of me and at his school bag, propping the strap over his shoulder.
“See you later, Delilah.”
“See you later...” I replied, a beat late.
He heard me, though. He turned around and starting walking backwards, giving me a big ass grin. I smiled back… And then he ran into somebody.
Heya, Murphy. How you doing today?
I honestly don’t hate Biology. I really don’t. Science interests me…
Just not first thing in the morning. A science class that starts at 7:50 in the morning is just unethical. Give us something less important at that time. Like history. That I can learn my osmosis. Biology is a subject where I actually have to pay attention.
And my attention span is about three seconds that early. Biology. Is. Painful.
I put my head down on top of my stack of books and rested my eyes for just a few seconds before Callie hit me in the head with her pencil.
“What the hell was that for?” I said, sitting up and uncaringly swatting at her hand.
“No sleeping.” She said, bopping me on the head again.
“Why not?” I grabbed her wrist, daring her to try it again. A dull throb was already starting in the very center of my skull. The pressure was building yet again.
“Because I do believe there is something that you are not telling me, little miss Delilah. Something that almost every one else in this stupid school seems to know.” She sat at the desk in front of me, crossing her legs and propping her head on her elbows. Callie was in full on gossip mode and there was no stopping her.
“Apparently I don’t know it either because I have no clue.” I said, not really lying. I had a feeling I knew what it was, though…
“There is a rumor flying around that you and James are together, Delilah. Confirm or deny, please.”
Damn that got around the school fast, I thought. Stupid wireless gossip. “Deny.”
“Really? Then why did I see you two getting all close and cuddly with goofy grins this morning?” Callie raised an eyebrow. She just threw down the gauntlet and she knew it.
She also knew there was no way I could talk myself out of this one, even though it was completely untrue. “I was trying to avoid a hug from Bryan and James was the closest person. As for the close, cuddly, and goofy grins? You’re imagining things.”
“Want to bet?” She said, pulling her cell phone out of the pocket in her shorts.
No. Nonono. NO. This is not happening. “Why are you getting your phone out, Callie?”
“As if you don’t already know…” She rolled her eyes and showed the screen to me.
Okay, she wasn’t lying about the seemingly close and cuddliness of the situation. It looked a lot worse than it was.
And it was already on the school’s gossip blog.
If it weren’t for the fact that I was able to update my blog at school because the journalism teacher forced her students to run blogs – “It’s the future of journalism” she was always saying – I’d be pissed at her.
But someone was obviously breaking the no-cell phone rule, because I knew who the mysterious blogger was, and they didn’t have access to a computer during home room.
Things were about to go down.
“You want the truth, Callie? This is not it. We hugged. That’s it. Nothing more. Of course some stupid gossip monger is going to make it seem like more, but it isn’t. James and I have no interest in one another.” Only the last part was a lie. I most certainly did have interest in him. How he felt, I have no idea, so it could technically still pass for the truth.
“Well…” She said, studying my face for any sign, any little twitch or flinch that would give me away. “It looks a lot worse than it is, then. But it has already gone viral. Be prepped for damage control.”
“I know, I know… This’ll be a messy one.”
“You got that right. Be careful out there, Cadet.” Callie winked, and then got up to go back to her own seat before Mr. G. took attendance.
“Ma’am yes ma’am.” I smiled my evilest smile back at her. She nodded at me and turned around in her seat.
All I knew was this. Kris was not going to get away with this. Not this year.
I flew out of the door of my Bio class, ignoring the appraising stares of my classmates, and especially of the damned freshmen. I tried to keep both my breathing and my pace steady, but it was a lot harder than I had expected. Long stride, breathe in. Long stride, breathe out. Repeat. Repeat again. Just keep walking.
“Delilah!” James said, breathless, grabbing on to my elbow when I got to my locker. With the way he was breathing, I assumed he was trying to catch up with me for a while. Which meant he’d either seen or heard. “You’ve heard what they’ve been saying about us already, haven’t you?” He asked, reading my mind. He smiled sheepishly at me, almost as if it were his fault. Which I knew it very well wasn’t.
“Sure have. I’ve seen it, too. Callie showed me. It took about two seconds for that to go viral… Good God, I hate Kris and that stupid Cane You Believe It? blog of hers.” I said, tossing my Bio book in my locker and grabbing my Spanish text.
“Wait, Kris is the Cane You Believe It girl? How do you know this? And there’s a picture of us?!” I could tell James didn’t know what shocked him more, or which question to ask me first.
“To answer those in order, yes, she is, I know because I’ve seen her working on it during Computer Apps, and yes. One that makes things look like they’re really true.” I slammed my locker door shut and turned to face him.
“Whoa… For some reason that doesn’t surprise me. Kris would be just the kind of person who would run a web site like that. And, like, how bad is bad?”
“It looks like we’re very much in love. And in the center of attention.” I started walking away, towards the cafeteria slash stage area, where my next class was held. He trailed behind me within seconds.
“Do you have a plan on how to deal with this, Delilah?” He sounded panicky. Of course he would with this kind of situation.
I rolled my eyes at him. “Yes. I’ll let them think what they think. Do what all of the greats do and ignore them. It’s high school; there will be a much juicier story by lunch. It’s not like any of these people matter.”
“For a teenage girl, you sure don’t care about your reputation.” He said, surprised.
“No opinion matters more than my own. People have called me every name in the book – and agreeing with whoever is calling you those names gets them back more than just serving an insult right back to their face. It means they have failed. I’ll see you later, James.”
I hurried off to my acting class, leaving him standing there, wide eyed and slack jawed. He was shocked by my reaction, that much I could tell.
But he couldn’t even tell I was lying.
It was absolutely official. Acting class and my Algebra Two classes were the only thing that made my days here at Wilmington High School bearable. And even there, gossip spread like wild fire.
“Delilah, is it true?” One of the girls asked. She was a sophomore, and annoying as hell. Clingy, and I never even tried to put up the illusion that she was my friend. But now, now she just looked pissed.
“Is what true, Mandi?” I asked, playing stupid and giving her my most innocent expression that some how managed to fool her into thinking I really had no idea what was being said about me. I always knew what was being said about me. Callie, Vi, and Bryan always called it a sixth sense of mine.
“Oh, you poor thing. You don’t know what every one is saying about you? About you and James?” She said, the wool completely pulled over her eyes. Idiot.
“Me and James? What could people be saying about me and James?” I said, using the same inflection she did on his name.
“First it was pretty innocent, just that the two of you were dating, blah blah blah. But, half way through first period, I got the chance to look on Cane You Believe It? and The Cane Girl said that the two of you had been having a secret relationship for months and that you had just told him you were pregnant.” She rambled on and on.
WAIT A SECOND. Rewind. “Wait, what?!” I said, actually shocked now. This is what I get for not reading the captions beneath of pictures!
“The Cane Girl said you were pregnant. With James’ baby.” All sympathy was gone from her voice, and apathy and hate filled her eyes.
“I’m not pregnant. I can tell you right now that I am still a virgin and that there is nothing going on between me and James.” I said, managing to stay calm somehow.
She rolled her eyes. “Oh, Delilah. Sweet, sweet Delilah. All pregnant girls claim their virgins and every one knows that they for sure aren’t when they say that.” Condescension dripped from her voice.
Oh, I hated her so much that moment.
I made sure my clenched fists stayed at my sides and I dug my finger nails in to the palms of my hands. I was for sure going to get called to the principal’s office any way today, and I didn’t want to make that trip any worse.
“You want to know what other people call girls who say what you just said, Mandi?” I said, my voice sugar sweet.
“Gossip monger whores.” I smiled and then turned on my heel to walk away.