Chapter 5: Start Over
It had been a long time since I’d had anyone’s full attention, like I had with Cari. Every part of her was alert, especially her eyes. She kept looking at me, waiting and almost anxious.
She let me tell her about the biggest secret I had, about the day I died, and she didn’t tell me that I was crazy or sick or delusional. She didn’t say any of that. In fact, she looked rather horrified and interested when I told her.
“You think I’m weird now,” I said.
She shook her head. “No, I don’t. You’re probably the most interesting person I’ve met since I moved here.”
“Yeah, well, at least I got punched in the face and it wasn’t to impress you.” I rubbed my face, the ache from Terry’s giant fist still present.
“I could have stopped them,” she told me, and frowned.
“They would have hit you, too. Terry’s not exactly going to refuse hitting anyone.” Speak of the devil. We see him walking outside with a group of girls. When he sees me, he stops.
“You won’t have your little girlfriend around to save you next time, Davenport,” he said, laughing.
I couldn’t help it, I started laughing, too.
He stopped and glared at me. “What’s so funny?” he demanded.
“You’re an idiot,” I replied. “Have you been hit one too many times with that football? You already got to pummel me before she helped me.”
Around Terry, the girls who had come out with him all started to giggle. One, doe-eyed girl looked my way and winked. When they left, Terry grumbling all the way, I glanced at Cari; she was lying on the grass and laughing so hard that she was holding her sides.
“That was priceless,” she breathed, sitting up. She ran a hand down her face, trying to compose it. She checked her phone. “I’ve got to get to class soon.” When she stood, words flew out of my mouth before I could stop them.
“Would you like to go out sometime?” Good job, asshole.
Cari smiled, pushed some hair behind her ear, and shook her head. “That’s really nice of you to ask, Clay. I’m sorry, I can’t.”
Then she left with no further explanation. I felt defeated, embarrassed, and humiliated. All of those emotions stayed with me for the remainder of the day, until I saw her again in the hall.
She was at her locker, a cup of coffee in one hand, and a few textbooks in her other. She looked like she was having a problem, so I walked over, reached out to hold the door to her locker open so she could put all that junk inside.
She turned her head, her slate eyes narrowed slightly. But when she saw me, she relaxed. “Oh, it’s just you.”
I nodded. “Who were you expecting?”
“Liam,” she responded as she shoved her books into her locker.
My eyes widened. “Liam?” I repeated. “Why would you be expecting him?”
“He needed something from me,” she told me, and raised an eyebrow. “What do you think is going on?”
“Nothing,” I said, biting my lip. “I just don’t know why you’d want to hang out with someone like Liam Callahan.”
“What do you mean ‘someone like Liam Callahan’?” Her tone is a little edger than I expected, and as she slams her locker shut, she tilts her head.
“You really want to talk to a guy who was fake fighting to impress you? He’s an idiot and a jerk.”
“It’s not like he hit you, Clay,” she said. “Terry did, and I don’t talk to him. Just because they hurt you in the past doesn’t mean you can tell me not to talk to either of them.”
“Wait a minute. You’re misunderstanding.”
“Am I?” Cari snapped. “Because to me it sounds like you’re being over protective of someone you just met. Do you know how weird that is?”
“It’s not—” I sighed, dragging a hand down my face.
But she wasn’t listening. She was looking down the hall, obviously waiting for Liam. We both saw him coming, his hair messy and his lip cut from where Terry hit him. I guess they needed it to look real.
“Hi, Cari,” Liam said, smiling. He nodded at me. “What are you doing here, Davenport?”
“Clay was just leaving,” Cari said, glancing at me. “Weren’t you?”
I blinked at her, trying to figure out what her problem was, but then I realized it didn’t matter. I just hoped she didn’t use what I told her against me. I’m fairly sure I’d be branded a freak for the rest of my life if she told Liam about it.
After I left her standing with Liam, I headed outside in the courtyard to light a cigarette. I only started doing it after my mom left, so it’s been about close to a year since I picked up this habit.
I let the smoke fade before I looked back inside and saw Cari and Liam. His hand was around her waist and she seemed, from my view, uncomfortable. She stared at me through the large window, her eyes holding a million types of apologies.
I was so distracted by her that I didn’t even realize I had burned my finger as the cigarette died, until the pain itself reached my brain and sent off a slew of signals to my hand.
“Fuck!” I hissed, throwing the last bit of the cigarette down onto the ground. I didn’t need to stomp it out, so I just held my finger.
“Clay?” a voice said suddenly.
I turned around. Cari was standing behind me looking worried.
“Are you alright?” she asked.
“Fine,” I mumbled. “I just burned my finger, that’s all. What do you want?” I couldn’t keep the annoyance out of my voice.
“Can we start over?” she asked, as she extended her hand. She looked sad. “Hi, Clay. My name is Cari.”
I bite my tongue. I want to tell her no, that I want her to just turn around and walk away. But instead I do something incredibly stupid.
I shook her hand and said, “Hi, Cari.”