“Where have you been?” Aria demanded as she slid next to me.
I was sitting staring at my untouched food, going over what just happened before I looked up at her. It had barely registered that someone had sat beside me until her tone filled my ears. I must have looked surprised to see her.
“Oh, so you’re talking to me now?” I mumbled as I chewed on a French fry.
“I was never not talking to you,” she said, frowning. “I was just mad at you for being careless.”
“You mean stupid,” I pointed out.
“Yeah, well, I was trying to be nice. But if you want to be honest about it then that’s your own fault.” She grinned. “So have you talked to Caleb?”
I bit my lip. She was probably just asking because she was curious, not because she was snooping. She didn’t know anything.
“Why would I?” I asked, tilting my head at her.
“Because you rejected him,” Aria said. “I’d be mad at you too.”
“I didn’t reject him,” I said, shaking my head. “I just said that I wasn’t interested.”
“You apparently haven’t been turned down before,” Aria mumbled. “It’s all the same thing. You think we’re bad when we get rejected, look at Caleb. You’re the only girl he’s ever liked.”
“How do you know that? That can’t be true. There are a lot of girls around here. I’m sure he could have his pick of any one of them.”
“He doesn’t want them,” she replied. “What’s stopping you from giving him a chance? Is there someone else you like?”
I stared at my food, even though it was suddenly making me nauseous. I couldn’t look at her because then she would know there was someone. Instead, I shook my head, tipped it back, and laughed.
“Right, like anyone would be interested in me.”
“Oh, I’m sure someone is,” a voice said from behind me. A hand touched my shoulder and I shivered.
Mr. Mills stood between us, smiling.
“Good afternoon, Miss Montgomery,” he said, nodding to Aria. She glared at him but he didn’t seem bothered by it. “How are you today?”
“Fine,” she grumbled. “Can you let Tate go now?”
Above me, Elias let out a low chuckle and released me. Disappointment flooded through me.
“I’m sorry,” he said, his voice gruff. “I didn’t realize she was your property.”
Aria looked at him, then back at me, then to him again. I watched her eyes go wide and she scowled at me. She waited until he left to say something. Of course, it was what I had expected.
“Are you out of your fucking mind?” she hissed, her tone threatening to expose what she guessed. “He’s your teacher!”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Playing dumb never worked with Aria, she was too smart for it. Besides, my avoiding eye contact gave it away.
“Bullshit,” she whispered.
I turned to glare at her. “Nothing is going on! I can’t believe you’d be that horrible to think I’d do something so sick.” I had to throw her off.
Aria hissed, stood up, and slammed her fist on the table. “You know how I said I was just mad at you before? Well my feelings for you have been upgraded.” She moved to leave and I reached for her.
“Don’t!” she snapped. “I hope you’re happy, Tate. You always bitched about feeling alone. Now you know exactly what it feels like.”
She left me sitting there, slouched in the chair, my body trembling as I forced myself not to cry. I dug out my phone from my pocket, and with shaky fingers I dialed a number.
“What do you want?” the voice snapped. “Rejecting me in person wasn’t satisfying enough for you? Here, I’ll hang up and you can leave it on my voicemail.”
“Caleb.” I whimpered. “Please, I need your help.”
“This sounds serious.” Then he laughed. “Have you lost your only other friend?”
I closed the phone. Luckily for me no one was paying attention as I practically ran from the cafeteria. I left the school in a hurry, not even bothering to stop as I saw Elias, and got my keys from my pocket. I heard his voice in the distance, calling me, but I ignored him.
As I got into my car, I slammed the door shut, leaned back against the seat, and screamed. It took me awhile to relax, to get my heart rate back to normal. When I felt better, at least enough to speak, I opened my phone.
I dialed Elias’ number.
“Are you okay?” he asked as soon as he answered. “School isn’t over yet.”
“Not really,” I said, shutting my eyes again.
“Can I see you later?”
He was just telling me his address but somehow I was strangely comforted by his voice. My mind kept going back to us in his classroom, his mouth against my ear, neck, and lips. I shuddered.
“Call me when you’re home,” I said.
“I can’t wait,” he whispered.