“Penny, what the hell were you doing with Lor?” Don shouted.
“I-I... we hugged,” I stammered out as he approached.
“Hugged? You’ve been out here for nearly fifteen minutes!”
“It was a really long hug,” I said lamely.
Don stopped inches away, and folded his arms, one eyebrow raised.
“I’m telling the truth,” I insisted. “But, Don, there’s something you should know.”
“What’s that now?”
I looked to the ground where one foot was pawing anxiously.
“Lor and I ... are in love.”
I looked up to see Don frowning.
“We’re in love,” I repeated. “Something happened - while we were hugging - and ... yeah. We’re in love.”
Don’s frown deepened and he shook his head.
“Sorry, angel, that this has happened. But you’re not in love with Lor.”
“I... I’m sorry?” I asked, amazed. Was he deluding himself to stop the pain?
Don sighed. “It’s what he does. He has such a ... physical presence, and such good looks that he’s a magnet.” I flinched as Don reached out and stroked my shoulder. “I’m sorry, Penny, but you’re just under his spell.”
“What are you talking about? We’re in love - he told me he loved me.”
“So you’re going to believe every guy who ever tells you that?”
“No! I just believe Lor.”
“You don’t know him.”
“I hardly know you.”
Don sighed again.
“Look, this has happened before. Two years ago Lor had a girlfriend. They got together because she thought there was something special about him. He told her he loved her too. But two weeks into it she was bored and disappointed. There wasn’t anything special about him after all. I just know the same thing’s going to happen with you. So why leave a relationship you enjoy to be heartbroken?”
“Lor won’t break my heart,” I said firmly. “I’m sorry but I love him more.”
Don’s eyes flashed and he grabbed my arms.
“Hey!” I cried. I knew that there was absolutely no chance that I could like him after this. I was shocked by Don’s behaviour and ashamed at myself for ever having fallen for him.
“Look, angel,” he said angrily. I looked. His intent green eyes seemed to have lost all power over me. I found myself remembering previous instances of captivation with revulsion. “Do you know which one out of me and Lor is stronger?”
I shook my head.
“Do you want to find out?”
I realised he was talking about a fighting.
“Then nothing happened. You understand?” He was threatening me? Really threatening me?
“Don, I love him.”
His grip tightened painfully.
“No, you don’t. Now say you understand or I’ll go find Lor and punch him.”
He was serious, I realised in dismay. And something told me that when he said ‘punch him’ he meant ‘beat him to a pulp’. I imagined Lor hospitalised, because of me. I swallowed hard.
“I... I understand,” I said quietly, finding myself without a choice.
Don let go of my shoulders and his expression relaxed - as if everything was okay.
“Good, Penny. Now we can do all those things we talked about - go to town, have you sitting on my lap, kiss in private places, and go out partying.”
I felt like slapping him. Instead, I said dully, “Sure.”
And then he had the nerve to take my hands in his and kiss me. When I didn’t respond he pulled away and looked at me sadly.
“Don’t do this to me, angel. Don’t treat me like I’m nothing.”
“You’re nothing to me,” I said softly.
Don sank to his knees, his expression woeful.
“Please forgive me,” he murmured. “I just want to keep you. You’re so wonderful. I’m sorry for hurting you.”
“You think I appreciate it?” I asked, disgusted.
“No. But Penny, I’m protecting you. If I just let you leave me, Lor would make his move. I can’t watch him hurt you.”
“He’s never seemed violent,” I remarked.
“There are worse things than physical pain.”
In the distance a bell rang.
“I have to go now,” I told Don. “I’ll see you when I join the school.”
“I’m sorry, Penny,” he said quietly. His words had absolutely no effect on me. I felt cold inside and barely looked at him as I pulled my hands out of his and walked back to the academy building.
I found my way to the main teaching corridor. Mrs Steel was waiting outside the detention room so I knew where to go.
“Hello, Penny,” she said warmly.
I put on a smile and responded with a simple “Hi.” And after everything, and even with my cold heart and sense of betrayal, I found that I still wanted to attend the school. I still wanted to have classes in Music Appreciation and Moon Child Law and just learn more about werewolves. I hoped I could have a friend in Ed if Lor hated me for the act I was going to put on with Don. Though it might be a comfort just being near Lor, even if we didn't talk, even if he thought the worst of me. Better than not seeing him at all... And perhaps Dave would talk to me... He was clever: maybe he'd realise something was up and help me out... Oh, the situation was completely unknowable. But if I didn’t take this opportunity now, was I really sure I would find it again? No.
‘You’re mad,’ I told myself. ‘Utterly mad.’ But there it was.