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Author: Cora Brent








Back in high school…



I’ve now had half an hour to think about my crimes.

And I’ve decided what sucks the most is that I was minding my own motherfucking business, eating a severely overcooked cafeteria pizza square and reading Harry Potter fan fiction on my phone.

That’s when Abby Pressman, who has been walking around with a bug up her ass ever since losing out on volleyball team captain, made a bad choice to saunter her skinny, spray-tanned legs over to my table for the sole purpose of rubbing my nose in shit.

“Hey Marchenko, help settle a debate. When Conner Wiseman popped your cherry, was it a charity case or did you pay him off with your mobster father’s pimp cash?”

Abby laughed.

Surrounding tables laughed.

The cafeteria workers laughed. (Not really. But the humiliation felt epic just the same.)

In her moment of triumph, Abby propped her hands on her bony hips and swung her shiny hair over one shoulder as if I couldn’t choose to rip it all out at the root anytime I pleased.

As for the rest of the assholes who were snorting with glee in their plaid prep school finery, ninety-nine percent of them aren’t even worth a glare.

I tried to leave.

Abby blocked me.

I shoved her.

She threw a punch.

Too bad no one ever taught her how to hit.

Extra too bad that I’m blessed with good aim and a solid arm.

Instant bedlam ensued.

High school fights are always like blood in the water but girl fights are a special brand of red meat. People leapt over tables like they were running toward a pile of money. They trampled each other for the best view of the action and bayed like wolves. Somewhere in the din my sister shouted my name.

And I guess Abby never saw her own blood before because she started shrieking as if she’d been shot when her nose gushed like a fire hydrant.

I’d made my point. I had no plans to hit her again.

But absurdly strong hands grabbed my shoulders anyway, yanking me backwards like I needed to be stopped from murdering poor, helpless Abby.

Twisting away, I discovered that my captor was none other than the boy who remains infuriatingly clueless about how much heartbreak he has caused.

“Haven,” he said.

“Fuck you,” I replied.

“You already did!” someone shouted.

“HAHAHAHA!” screamed the rest of them.

Ignoring the whole psychotic mob, I snatched my backpack and ran out of the cafeteria, bowling over spectators along the way, and forgetting that I wouldn’t get far because Lita has the car keys today.

My journey was cut even shorter when the football coach seized me by the elbow and dragged me to Director Dick Sucker’s office with orders to stay put.

I’m still here.

West Emerald Preparatory Academy might be best known as the gilded cage for wealthy teen spawn but its highbrow reputation is protected with a strict set of behavioral rules.

Today isn’t the first time I’ve broken those rules. I doubt it will matter much who started the fight. What matters is how I ended it.

As I stare blankly at the glass wall overlooking the main campus corridor, a trio of sophomore girls pause in the middle of their stroll and elbow each another with smirks. One of them raises a phone to snap a photo of me sulking in here with dark spots of blood decorating my school uniform.

The blood isn’t mine. But right now I’m not amused by anyone’s giggling interest. Slowly, I roll up my middle finger as a warning.

The three of them lower their heads and hustle down the hall. Smart girls.

Meanwhile, there’s been no sign of life coming from the school director’s office and the minutes just keep ticking by.

“Does anyone know I’m sitting out here?” I fire the question at the office assistant, who has been stapling papers at her desk while humming with terrible pitch.

She stops her humming and stapling but doesn’t look at me. “I’m sure the wait won’t be much longer.”

The humming resumes. I think it’s a song from Grease but I don’t have a great ear and she can’t carry a tune.

The chair I’m sitting in is the worst. High backed with no cushion and as uncomfortable as a Puritan church pew. I can’t even slouch and my ass is numb.

My phone has been buzzing at irregular intervals, insistent as a begging dog. It stays in the backpack by my feet. Either my mother or my sister will be on the other end. I don’t need to be reminded that I fucked up. I’m very aware.

The door to my right finally cracks open and Brett Halloway steps out with his hand on his fly. I had no idea he was in there. He’s a senior. They always are, the boys who emerge from that office with smug grins on their horny faces after a private counseling session with Director Dick Sucker, who has earned her nickname for a very obvious reason.

Brett looms over me and rubs his crotch with a smirk. “Still warm. You can have the next turn.”

“Asshole.” I kick him in the shin.

The humming from the reception desk gets louder. This time it’s ‘You Are My Sunshine’.

Strange choice.

I used to love that song when I was a kid. My grandmother would sing it to me and Lita. We even made up our own private lyrics. But my grandmother’s been dead for ten years and my twin sister and I don’t sing songs together anymore. We hardly speak.

Brett makes an obscene gesture, pokes his tongue into his cheek and then shuffles to the door.

I fucking hate this place.

The bell rings and within ten seconds the hallways fill up. I’m starting to wonder if I’ll be stuck in this goddamn chair until Christmas.

But Oliva Davison (a.k.a. Director Dick Sucker) has finally decided to slither out of her cave. Her eyes drift right over me and her high heels click over to the counter, where ‘You Are My Sunshine’ has abruptly stopped.

I don’t know how the hell anyone walks in heels like that. They are practically stilts. Personally, I think someday scientists will dig up stilettos and think they were torture devices. Lita owns a vast collection of heels but you’ll never catch me wearing that shit unless forced.

My phone buzzes in my backpack again. I ignore it again.

Olivia recites a series of boring administrative orders. There’s no mention of my name. Maybe no one would notice if I stood up and left.

From here I can see all the way to the courtyard, which has become a hive of activity as students travel at varying paces. My longstanding habit is to scan crowds for Conner and I’m not shocked to see him. His favorite hangout is out there beside the courtyard fountain and he’s rarely in a hurry to get to class.

As usual, Conner is flanked by his two cousins, Micah and Gage. It must be nice to have cousins you actually like. My own cousins are a vile basket of macho excrement. I avoid them.

Conner looks kind of glum right now. His arms are crossed over his broad chest and he says something to Micah, who wears his usual pissed off scowl, like he’s one insult away from committing homicide. Gage stands on Conner’s other side but for a change he’s smiling, which probably has something to do with the pretty brunette clinging to his arm.

Things seem to come easy for that girl. I envy her for that.

Dani Gallagher has some kind of hard luck backstory and no parents. She lived with her author uncle in a shitty neighborhood until the guy struck it rich and then married Micah’s ditzy mother.

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