I folded the sheet of paper that I wrote it on, creasing it unnecessarily tightly, and put it through a crack in Jeremy’s locker. If he knew what was good for him, he’d listen to me. It’s not that I’m still mad at him—I’m much better now—it’s that if he ran, then Jared would most surely find him and commit criminal acts. I couldn’t imagine too-nice-for-anyone-Jared doing that, but he did promise me that he’d stop Jeremy from hurting me again.
I love Jared, he’s great; but sometimes his concern comes across the wrong way. Now though, he shifted uncomfortably next to me. I could tell he didn’t like being here.
“Can we go?” he complained. He flicked his head so that his black pixie-fringe hair swung out of the way of his eyes. I had to look up at him; he was taller than I was, and thicker around. but then again, I was pretty darn skinny, and he was a boy.
Jared McGrady was one of my best friends, having met him in Grade Seven. He had this black hair that was cut in a down-flowing fringe, and everything about him right down to the eyes seemed to smile. He had a kind of refined humor you would find in a book. Often though, Jared was worrying, especially lately. A lot of things had happened to him over Christmas break.
“Yes, yes,” I said, starting down the hall. He followed right after me; towering like some hulk over little tiny me. It’s no fun being short and scrawny, but it gives people like Jared some incentive.
“So what’d you write on it?” he asked me as soon as we turned down the stairs to the first level.
“Just that we needed to talk,” I replied. “And soon, too.”
“That’s it?” He seemed a little dumbfounded, and he looked at me with that same expression until we reached the doors. He was prodding me. Mr. Romney the egg-man passed us on the way—I swear that man hates kids. While we weren’t kids, we were younger than he was.
“Yeah, that’s it,” I said with the push of the door. Bitter cold wind rushed in, but I pushed the door the whole way through, surprisingly quickly…. I looked up and saw a much longer arm holding the door open. Oh. Well, I had my moment.
“No problem,” he said unsolicited.
Though it was appreciated, and the thought was probably brought on by me standing against the cold wind, I’m not four years old. What happened to independence? I was okay now, couldn’t he see that?
“I’ll see you later,” he called before he closed the door.
“Yeah, bye,” I replied, barely audible.
History class was going to prove to be a complete snooze fest. So was probably the rest of the day except for French, which I at least had a good class in. I hate this semester! Last semester was so much more fun—I had drama which more than made up for all the other boring classes. And even in those other classes were nearly all of my friends, so I was never bored.
This semester though, I had chemistry, history, French and then math, which is probably all four of my worst subjects. That thought, that reality, danced around like a gremlin in my mind while I trudged around outside in the snow. Damn me for forgetting to get my coat, damn me even more for wearing something so damn thin. The now-familiar red portable loomed in the horizon menacingly, like it was…well, history class. I can’t really think of much worse things.
I purposely dragged my feet along the ramp to the classroom. I made a quiet sound of disgust as I opened the door.
“Good morning, Ms. Watson,” Mr. Roseland said when I entered the room.
“Morning, sir,” I said. He always called students by their last name, inserting a “Ms.” or “Mr.” right before it. I bet he thinks it makes us sounds more like equals rather than student and teacher. I took my usual seat in the back of the room, bypassing Jeremy and his group of boyfriends.
When they saw me approaching, they immediately stopped talking and instead started whispering among themselves. “Here she comes” and “How much you wanna bet she tears your head off, Jeremy?” were among the things I heard. I cast them one sidelong glance, and that was enough to shut them up for now. I dropped all my books on the desk at the very back corner and tried to drown everything out until class started.
Soon more people came in, taking seats wherever they were last week. I didn’t want to look at them, it was just another reminder that I had pretty much one friend—s girl named Kayla I’d known for some time now—in this class, and I couldn’t even talk to her because she sat on the other side of the room, not even noticing me. It was pretty sad, but last semester made me depend on my friends being in all my classes. I got much too attached to that.
“Alright, class,” Mr. Roseland said, standing up at the front of the portable. “Welcome back to Grade Twelve History. I hope you had an easy time adjusting to the new schedules. Making a transition must be hard on you, what with being used to your last semester classes and all.”
“Tell me about it,” I muttered to myself. I took another look at the class, trying to confirm who was in it. I never had a good grip on the people in my class during the first couple weeks—
Oh, gross. As if my class wasn’t bad enough. Looking over now, I saw there were four heads of equally-painted blond and black hair. They may as well have been attached to the same head. These girls, all similarly named Cassie, Jenny, Katie and Ashley. How did things like that work out? Cassie Maguire and Jenny Nelson, and Katie Sutherland and Ashley Kim were easily the cut from the same bolt of cloth—or made from the same mold of plastic.
I turned away from them. To be honest I was now dreading the fact that they were in the same room as myself. “Stiff upper lip, Hanna Watson,” my dad always said, and now would be a good time to try that out.
It wasn’t as bad as I expected it to be; most of them, the girls, never even acknowledged my existence, I don’t think. But those guys were really some piece of work. They kept making stupid bets on and on and on and on; “Hanna’s gonna get Jared to beat you up,” and “Hanna’s gonna do something really bad when you least expect it,” and they had the bloody nerve to even suggest that “Hanna’s gonna hook up with Jared”. I swear if I didn’t sit somewhere inaccessible—I was on the other side from them, surrounded by a ring of kids I didn’t know too well—I would reached over and make one of their bets that I’d do something bad very true.
Just outside the door, when class was over, waiting for me there was Christian Blanchard. Christian was really one in a million—he liked to stand out, rather than mix with the crowd, that is. But he wasn’t a once-in-a-lifetime kind of freak who dressed in like clown makeup. I jumped over the rail to meet him.
“Hey, Hanna,” he said when I landed on the snow.
“He—aah!” I could barely finish before I sunk ankle-deep into it; cold shocked my legs and traveled right up and down them. Oh my God! Did that ever sting!
Christian took my hand and pulled me out. Though his long blond hair covered a lot of his face, I could tell he was fighting a smile.
“Shut up,” I laughed, taking another step onto more solid snow. We started walking down between the portables; oddly enough in silence until we reached the pavement. One sidelong look at him told me that something was wrong. I couldn’t see past his hair, but something was definitely up with him.
“So what classes have you got this semester?” I asked him, breaking the silence.
“Math, English, biology and art,” he replied. Still nothing.
“Cool. In that order?”
“Damn, we’ve got no classes together.”
“I know! That really sucks.”
“Who’s in your classes?” I asked him next.
“Hmm…well in math there’s that Danielle girl,” he said.
“Oh that’s good. Danielle is really nice.”
“Maybe. I don’t know her that well. And then in English I’ve got Sarah and that girl who’s always with her and is really annoying.”
“Yeah her. I really hate her guts.”
“Same here. I don’t know where she gets off thinking we’re her friends just because we’re friends with Sarah.”
“Yeah. In art there’s like nobody I know. They just had to take art because they needed an art credit for this year. It sucks.”
“Aw, well that’s okay. I’d have taken art if I didn’t take drama….” Yeah right, I can’t draw to save my life.
“Yeah, but it’s okay. I kinda assumed Jared would be in art, too.” Didn’t fail to notice the catch in his voice there.
“He had it last semester. First period.”
“Oh, okay. And in bio there’s a couple people I know, not very well though. And there’s also Emily Hopkins. She’s nice, I guess.”
“Yeah, I like Emily too. Wow, what a fun semester you’ve got this year.”
“Best of all time.” I could tell he was rolling his eyes. Eventually we had gotten as far as the atrium before he started to make a turn up the stairs.
“So I’ll see you later then…” I said as he started to leave.
“Yeah,” he replied. “I’ll see you.” He took off unnaturally quickly, with nothing else than saying that. Which was really odd; normally he would have stayed a little longer, anyway. I lost sight of him as he went up; running, almost. Weird.
Next was lunch. Now that was extremely perplexing. Why didn’t he stay with me when we could have both gone upstairs? I just shook my head, disbelief totally present in my eyes, while I went up the same way he did.
“So he just took off, like that?” Sarah asked me, intently looking into my eyes like there was something she’d find. We were eating lunch at our usual table; usual for winter, anyway. Any other season we would eat outside. Since the table was two-sided, we kinda had this whole seating plan going on. I sat next to the garbage can; Sarah sat across from me, Jared sat beside her, Emily sat beside me. Beside her was Nash Jordan, and beside Jared was Danielle.
“Yeah,” I replied to Sarah. “He seemed distracted by something.”
And then normally, sitting beside Nash would be Christian. But he hadn’t been showing up lately. It wasn’t that every day for the past week he had stood me up like he did, but he just hadn’t been showing up to lunch. Today was the first time he left really early.
“Maybe he’s just got other friends he wants to hang out with,” Jared suggested.
“Or he’s got a girlfriend now!” Sarah said; she turned to Jared with a huge smile.
“Bite me, O’Leary,” he said, putting his hand up between their faces.
It was no big secret—among my friends and I, anyway I hope—that Jared had a massive crush on Christian. He’s not gay, no, he’s bisexual. He likened himself to Tila Tequila, which I thought was gross ‘cause Tila is disgusting, but at least he wasn’t faking it for attention. And besides, he said it only once…. More than enough.
“It is a possibility,” I said lightly, staring at my sandwich. From the corner of my eye I saw Jared make that pouting face he made whenever we do something like that. I smiled guiltily.
“But why do you think he’s leaving so much?” Sarah said, probably wondering aloud.
“Maybe he does have a girlfriend,” Emily, who had only joined in now, said. “I mean, in bio, I see him writing something in his binder all the time. It could be a name. And some of the stuff he draws in that binder kinda looks like hearts, too.”
“Really?” I asked, interested now.
“Yeah, I sit behind him. He’s always hunched over his book. Mr. Clark doesn’t really care though, so it’s all he does all class.”
“I think you should steal his binder sometime!” Sarah said with a wide grin.
“That’s mean,” Jared said pointedly.
But I was awfully curious. I didn’t wanna side with Jared or Sarah; either one of them would get too much satisfaction from it, but I really wanted to know. Even if it’s something he wouldn’t tell me. It must be really good—or bad. I had considered all that in a second, and so I turned to Emily with a decision firmly in my head.
“Do it, Emily,” I told her. “But show me first.”
“You sure?” she asked. “I’m not sure if I can, I mean, he really holds onto that thing.”
“No, don’t steal it,” I said. “Just read what he wrote on it and then tell me afterward. Get a good look at what he writes.”
“No problem,” she said.
“That’s an invasion of privacy,” Jared said mildly, not allowing an emotion to show through.
“Oh, blah on you,” Emily said. “You’re like his mom or girlfriend sometimes!”
“Just saying,” he said in that same blank tone.
“So I’ll try to read what he says later in bio,” Emily said to me, with her right hand doing the whole oath thing.
“Marvelous.” And then I laughed like an evil villain in some old movie. Was I though? Jared could be right; it is an invasion of his privacy; I certainly felt like a villain, anyway. I really want to know. And as long as it isn’t me, it’s all right, right? It felt a little criminal, I admit, because maybe he didn’t want me to know it. But I had to find out.
I barely paid attention during French, not that I did before, anyway. But I was looking way forward to when Emily left that biology room and came straight to me with what she found. Hopefully she found something, anything at all about what Christian was writing. I impatiently waited for the last few minutes of class to tick by and for that wonderful bell to ring; so at the very least, my stupid curiosity would die down.
It seemed they were passing especially slowly, just to irritate me. I tapped my fingers on the desk, tapped my feet, fiddled with my hair, my glasses, tugged at my clothes, tapped some more, pulled at my hair—
“You’re fidgeting a lot, Hanna,” somebody beside me said. I turned to him; it was some guy named Tyler I’d known for all my life, but I didn’t exactly like him so much.
“Sorry,” I said pointedly. Couldn’t that stupid boy see I was busy? Some people.
I fiddled some more. Finally, at the end of all of that—my fingers had turned all red and sore—the bell rang at last. I almost sprang right out of my seat and ran to the door.
“Whoa, whoa, Hanna,” Mr. Marchelle said, stopping me at the open entrance. “Have you got somewhere dreadfully important to be?”
“Sorry, monsieur,” I mumbled, and then ran right through the door. Not many people had left class yet; I eagerly ran through the hallway to get to my locker. Which was inconveniently placed on the other side of the hall—so I had to do some running to get there as fast as I could.
When I got there—uninterrupted, too—I saw Emily hovering about the general area of my locker. She had popped eyes and was fidgeting a little with her pen. This must be good.
“What did you get?” I asked her, a little breathless.
“I couldn’t see the names he was writing in his binder,” she explained quickly. “But there was a letter in the back cover on a piece of paper. Addressed to a ‘Melanie’. He wrote something about getting help, relationships in shambles, life falling apart.”
“Oh wow,” I replied, shocked entirely. I never would have expected this. “It’s addressed to a girl named Melanie? Who do you think Melanie is?”
“No idea, but by the way he wrote it, she kinda sounds like an ex, or someone he’s about to break up with.” It was obvious she didn’t know, but Emily and Christian weren’t exactly friend-friends just yet.
“Good Lord,” I said, playing along with her misconception. “Must have been a bad split if his life is falling apart. Poor guy.”
“Yeah,” Emily agreed. “He must have liked this Melanie a lot.”
“She did something bad, I’m guessing.” I started to open my locker, taking out my books for math, which I was already dreading. Math isn’t much fun, and neither do I have a good class. Emily and I started walking again, in the general direction of the portables, once I got my stuff. She already had hers.
“I didn’t get to read very much though. I think he saw me reading it, because he closed his book really quickly after I read some of the first paragraph.”
“Ouch.” Passing the stairs, I saw Jared again, but he was surrounded by a huge group of Sarah’s friends. I couldn’t say hi to him; they were all a lot taller than me. Emily and I went down the spiral of stairs, avoiding the huge people-traffic. I took just one step off of the next landing….
And who should I meet at the bottom of the stairs than Jeremy Young. He was leaning against the concrete wall, holding my note in his hand. I could tell it was my note because I had used blue stationery paper, and it was unfolded the same way I had folded it. He looked up when he saw Emily and I and put on that casual smile he had when he was around me.
I didn’t fall for it. I put on a decidedly displeased face.
“Jeremy,” I said simply.
“Hey Hanna,” he said. “So, um, what is this note about, babe?”
“Don’t call me that,” I told him. Babe. Come on. “Didn’t you read it? It very clearly states that you talk to me after school.” I stood there, completely confrontational. People walked past us up the stairs, but I could tell they stopped to look if even for a second.
“Aw, come on Hanna, you know I’ve got hockey right after school.”
“So you’d rather go to your stupid practice? You know, you said you still cared about me when we quit. Don’t you still care now?”
“Hanna…please don’t be difficult. This is important.”
“And so am I. Listen Jeremy, we are going to sort this out totally and fairly. Later, after school. It won’t take long if you please just cooperate.”
“There’s an important practice—”
“If you don’t come I actually will let Jared loose on you. You know what he can do.” Right then some of his stupid friends—the same ones in history class—came by, and then they started their stupid talking into that permanent circle they had. I ignored them—but wow, what timing!
“O—okay, okay. I’ll go. Just don’t…get that guy to come and kill me. I mean come on, Hanna he’s freaking huge compared to me.”
“That’s just my point. I’ll see you later.”
“Bye….” And with that Emily and I turned away, with just one minute left before the bell. I heard him crumpling my note, but I didn’t care. He knew what he had to do. When we were a good distance away, Emily started giggling and she grabbed my shoulder.
“Nice job pulling out the Jared card on him,” she said.
“Yep.” I beamed at her. “He’s so scared of the guy. I have no clue why!”
“Jared’s way too nice to beat anyone up. Is he really that strong?”
“Supposedly he is. I mean, all those kids like Rob and Dale think he is. But I don’t want to find out first hand.”
“Yeah.” Emily laughed once again, and then with just a minute left, we rounded a corner and were off to our classes, separating at the junction in the hallway.
Upon entering the math room, I took my usual seat at the back and let my thoughts drift away from Jeremy. That would come later. I instead latched onto that name I had all but forgotten—Melanie. Who is Melanie? What’s her relation to Christian? Melanie, Melanie, Melanie…I mentally wrote her name in my head, so I could ask Christian later. Of course he’d tell me.
As class progressed I found myself more and more engrossed in trying to put two and two together. I’ve never known a Melanie, nor has Christian ever talked about somebody with that name. Automatic assumption: some girl he was having a bad time with. I found myself fidgeting a little.
Finally, though, I looked at the clock and it was suddenly just ten minutes until the end of class. I’d been so engrossed in trying to figure out who this mystery lady Melanie was that I had paid no attention at all. What was for homework? Whatever, I didn’t care. I paced myself more calmly to get out of math, so I wasn’t stopped at the door, but then I just launched myself up the stairs like there was no tomorrow. At my locker I quickly got all my stuff and briefly said bye to Emily; I was back down the stairs.
The moment of truth—or the start of it—was outside, in the waning cold.
Or, I thought it was, until I had waited five minutes and Jeremy didn’t show up. What was his damage? Did he really want to get hurt? I shook my head and fought back tears which I knew were going to come. I wasn’t disappointed, I was angry, and that emotion was automatically linked to the waterworks. My glasses were fogging; I took them off and wiped them on my shirt, and then I continued to stand there like a sitting duck.
What a stupid sitting duck I made. A couple minutes later and he still didn’t show up. What was wrong with him? Maybe he only pretended to be scared of Jared, and I had used that stupid threat to his advantage. I crossed my arms; keeping myself together. Stiff upper lip, damn it.
I got tired of waiting after the tenth minute passed. With a heavy sighed I turned back toward the school to the office; I had to call my dad now.
But at the front door I saw Jared staring outside. Had he been watching me?
“Jared?” I said, opening the door.
“Oh!” he said, looking genuinely surprised. “Hanna. Didn’t see you there. Are you staying for something?”
“No,” I said, going over to him and thrusting myself in his surprised arms. “He didn’t show up. I should have known better than to trust him.” His embrace around me grew tighter; angrier.
“Really?” he said with a surprisingly light voice. “What a jerk. Look, I can give you a ride if you want. I was supposed to give Sarah a ride but she already left.”
“Sure,” I replied, sniffling now. He led me by the shoulder to the left parking lot, not seeming to care that the front of his shirt was stained with my tears. Though strangely, by peripheral vision, there was a strange smile on his face. Accomplishment? Happiness? It was hard to tell.
Eventually he took me outside through the side door.
Not only did cold wind hit me in the face, but so did reality, regret, anger and an almost bloodthirsty need for revenge, all in one wide-palmed slap. There was Jeremy, and in all his manwhore glory, he was locking lips and sucking face with some girl I think I’ve seen before. Didn’t matter who she was, though; they were both guilty.
“Hey, Heather,” Jared said with a huge smile.
“Oh, what the fuck?” the girl exclaimed, breaking off from Jeremy. “You? What the fuck is going on here? Are you gonna pay up?”
“Nah, I’ve already seen the show,” Jared said. “Just came here for show and tell. Okay Hanna, so what I’ve brought today here is a typical manwhore, and a typical easy-to-spread slut! Make comments all you’d like.”
No doubt Jared was endlessly amused by this; I was equally as pissed. I stood there trembling, seeing nothing but red, wanting to just tear off his head and make his bicycle eat it. Finally I took a step towards him.
“Wow, I’m leaving,” the girl said. “You people are fucking twisted. And we’re done, Jeremy, bye.” She took a sauntering step and walked away angrily in one direction.
“Heather!” he called after her.
“Heather?” I echoed with anger coloring my voice.
“Yeah, Jeremy, Heather?” Jared asked, voice all mocking.
“Look, she was a one time thing,” Jeremy defended himself.
“One time? Yeah right, you dirty shit. You were doing the whole shebang with that tramp even while you were with Hanna. And you hoped nobody would find out.”
“How the fuck do you know that?” Jeremy’s eyes were wild with some primal kind of fear now; like he would just take off and run away at any moment.
“Because you were stupid enough to tell your friends. And God knows you can’t trust people like you, because they’ll spread glue on posters with that kind of shit and put it all over the walls.” Jared took a step in our direction. “Ah, the wonders simple money can buy.”
“You mean you got Heather to come here by bribing her?” Jeremy sounded appalled. I curled my left hand, flexing and extending my fingers.
“You shut up,” I said, slapping him with all the force I had. He reeled back, dazed. “You’re no better than him. He only had to do it that one time and unlike you he didn’t take some sick pleasure in it.” I stopped; tears were flowing openly down my face now and I turned around to catch a breath. “Didn’t you at least feel guilty?”
“Well…” He hesitated, rubbing his face where a huge red mark now was. “No…to be honest…I mean, I didn’t think you’d mind it so much if I dropped it to you the right way.”
“Wouldn’t mind?” I was screaming now. “You are some other kind of idiot! Do you think I wouldn’t mind my boyfriend making out with someone behind my back? And then you don’t even have anything to say for yourself to save your sorry ass? What kind of sick fuck are you?”
“Hanna, why do you care so much? We broke up weeks ago.”
“I care so much because this has been going on while we were still together! Of course I’m not gonna take this lightly!”
“Just for your information,” Jared said with that amused tone; “he was also doing the horizontal monster mash while you were together. Isn’t it fun sharing interests?”
That was the straw that broke the horse’s back and killed all its family.
“You’re pushing your luck, buddy,” Jeremy said in a weak threat.
“Try me, you celery stick.” Jared cracked his knuckles menacingly.
“You’re some other kind of low,” I said. “I’ve no more things to say to you, you’re just…wow.” I put my hand to my forehead, as if to stop the tears from flowing so freely as they did now. “You’re just pathetic. If you can’t find love and have to take pleasure in sex with some easy ride like her, and you can’t even appreciate me and what we had, then I see you’re just a mistake.” I backed away from him, not wanting to be in his presence anymore. “This was a big mistake. Jeremy Young, I hope you just lie down and die.”
And then I started to cry. Bawling, like a little baby, and I didn’t care. I didn’t care that the former love of my life was right there, exposed for what he is. I didn’t care that Jared, who was probably right now my best friend for bringing me out of that darkness, was holding me and rocking me back and forth like a child. I felt like such a spoiled child. A spoiled idiotic child that should’ve suspected more.
“It’s all right, let it out…” Jared was saying. “And you, get out here before I feel the need to pull a brick out of the wall and smash it into your skull.”
“Hanna,” Jeremy said weakly, ignoring that death threat. “I’m sorry…”
“Sorry came too late,” Jared said before I could. He took the words I couldn’t speak right out of my head. “Now go away.”
Those last two words were particularly menacing, and by the quick footsteps I could tell that my mistake was taking off to avoid a brick in his head. Jared and I stayed like that for a couple more minutes, until the world started to come back into view. My head was a little clearer now and I could feel my own two feet on the ground again. But I felt weak, exhausted, frail.
“Come on,” Jared said quietly. “I’ll…I’ll drop you off.” I nodded into his chest, and he led me to his car. I felt completely unattached as he led me by the hand like a frightened little girl, lost at the park. I was put into the backseat and I lay down, totally frail now. The engine started and we were out of the parking lot.
I felt like a fool, just lying there, watching the colors in the sky go by. Those last few moments felt like a badly-written novel, where parts were taken out to make it more concise and the plot less obvious. Like I was just dragging through them by way of some strange powerful force. I was a doll, yes; I was played like a marionette with all the strings up in Jeremy’s dating game. I was like a little plaything in that relationship, hardly equal. The way I was just carried around for the last fifteen minutes—yes, I was a puppet.
I was a puppet.