Miss Me Not (Page 21)

By the time fourth period ended, I was in agony. My legs and back ached from my stationary posture while all feeling had left my ass hours ago.

Douche Bag's lunch was delivered to him at the end of fourth period, and my eyes never strayed from his as he slowly unwrapped his deli sandwich.

The sudden buzz of his intercom startled me, making me jump slightly.

"Yes?" he said, holding the button down on his phone.

"Ms. Jones is here to see you."

"I'm in a meeting," he said, looking at me.

"She says she has something urgent to discuss with you."

"Fine. I'll meet her in the conference room," he said, clearly aggravated as he stood up from behind his desk. "I'll be right across the hall," he warned, exiting his office, but leaving the door open.

Once he was out of sight, I slumped in my seat, trying to appease my aches. What the hell was I doing? I couldn’t help thinking. I was only delaying the inevitable.

I could hear their muted voices from across the hall, but I couldn’t make out what they were saying.

A few minutes later, the door across the hall was thrown open and Douche Bag stalked back into his office, seething. Whore Cat followed behind him, smiling at me slightly before closing the door behind her.

Studying me critically, Douche Bag sat back down behind his desk, clutching a stack of crumpled papers in his hand. "Ms. Hanson, it has come to my attention that perhaps, though your actions were wrong, you may have been provoked. Do you recognize these notes in my hand?" he asked, holding them up.

Not sure where he was going with his new strategy of questioning, I looked at Whore Cat for clarification.

"It's okay, Madison, you can tell us," she said with kindness that had been absent before.

I wasn't sure what they expected from me, but I took a deep breath and finally answered him. "Yeah, they were meant for me."

"Do you know who they were from?" he asked.

"Yes, I have a box filled with them at home," I answered, relieved to be finally telling someone one of my biggest secrets. I didn’t even care that it was them who I told. It was just a relief to get it out.

"I see. Well, this changes things significantly. Throwing textbooks is obviously not allowed, but neither is bullying. Ms. Jones has pointed out to me that although your grades are not stellar, your behavior over the last four years has been. She also pointed out that sometimes, faced with continuous torment, eventually anyone would snap."

I looked at him confused as a small ray of hope unfurled inside of me. Was it possible that they wouldn’t suspend me, and that Donna would never know?

"Do you know what these notes say?" he asked, indicating the stack again.

"I have a rough idea. They all pretty much say the same thing," I answered.

"I will admit I am appalled at what is written on these sheets of paper. It gives me no pleasure knowing students at my school behave like this," he said, slamming his fist down on the notes. "Bullying will not be tolerated."

I watched his sudden passion in amazement. Where was the guy that had earned the name Douche? The man sitting in front of me almost seemed human.

"I am going to let you off with a warning. As unacceptable as bullying is, violence is also unacceptable. If you are a victim, we need to know, so we can take the appropriate measures."

I could have laughed at his ignorance, but didn't want to push it.

"So, I'm free to go?" I finally asked.

"Yes, but no more flying books," he chastised.

"Yes, sir," I said, standing up.

"And Madison, I'm going to send a recommendation to your parents. I believe counseling will help the situation."

I bit back a groan at his words. That would definitely be a letter I would have to intercept.

"I will also be talking with the young lady who started today's altercation," he said, picking up his phone in dismissal.

Ms. Jones trailed behind me. "Madison, I'm sorry I wasn’t paying more attention. Maybe I could have alleviated the situation," she said compassionately.

"No biggie," I replied, anxious to get away. The fact that she had just saved my ass made it impossible for me to continue with her nickname. If I stood here any longer, I ran the risk of actually liking her.

"My door is always open," she called after me as I hurried down the hall back out to the reception area.

I skidded to a stop when I saw Dean sitting on one of the hard plastic chairs in the waiting area.

"What are you doing here?" I asked as he leapt to his feet.

"Looking for you," he answered, looking harried. "There's a ridiculous rumor floating around about you," he added, grabbing my hand.

"Uh, how ridiculous?" I hedged, not sure what his reaction would be. After all, I had assaulted another student. The fact that I got off on a technicality didn’t it make it any less of a crime.

"That you threw a book at Katie and broke her nose," he said, looking at me critically. "Did you throw a book at Katie?" he asked.

"Um, yeah, I guess," I said, suddenly not proud of my actions at all.

"Why?" he asked, pulling me out of the office. "Are you suspended? Is she going to press charges against you?" he said in rapid succession.

I couldn’t tell if he was pissed or not.

"No, I'm not suspended, and I don’t think she'll be pressing charges. Douc… I mean, Mr. Wilson, is going to call her parents. He has evidence that shows I was provoked."

"What kind of evidence?" he said in a calmer tone, sounding relieved.

I debated telling him. The notes were my secret. They were the things that were supposed to keep me centered, but suddenly everyone was finding out about them. "She said some shit and was throwing stuff at me."

"What kind of stuff?" he said in an even tone that I recognized as his pissed-off one.

"Just some stupid crumpled up notes. It's nothing that hasn’t happened before. I was more pissed off at the crap she was saying about you. I really didn’t think about it before I threw the book. I just knew I wanted her to shut up."

"Madison, what did she say?" he said, halting my steps and dragging me into an empty classroom.

"Just stupid stuff. What does it matter? I told you I would ruin your reputation," I said miserably. "It's one thing for them to say crap about me, but it's a whole other thing for them to drag you down too."

"So, let me get this straight, you threw a book at Katie because she was trashing me?" he asked, placing his hands on my shoulders to still the pacing I wasn’t even aware I was doing.

I nodded, not meeting his eyes.

"I'm glad," he said, lifting my chin with his fingers so I could see his eyes. "Not because you did it for me, but because the bitch deserved it for tormenting you. Was this the first time?"

I laughed sarcastically. "Not even close. I have a stack of notes at home, courtesy of her," I said without thinking.

His eyes narrowed at my words. "Please tell me you really broke her nose?" he finally said, exhaling.

"Um, it was definitely sitting on her face differently," I answered, cracking a smile.

"Good girl," he said, dropping a kiss on my upturned lips. "And you're sure you're not in trouble?"

"Positive. I was convinced I was doomed until Ms. Jones sailed in and saved the day. I guess I owe her, big time."

"It'd probably be a nice step if we didn’t refer to her by your nickname anymore," he said, smiling down at me.

"Truth," I said as he pulled me in for a more appropriate celebratory kiss.

Chapter twenty

My textbook-throwing incident was the main topic of conversation at school for days afterward. Katie returned to school with her nose in some kind of splint and both her eyes black and blue. She glared daggers at me, but kept her mouth closed. Her cronies sympathized with her, but I noticed they gave me plenty of space. I was no longer invisible or a shadow. Now I was the crazy, book-throwing freak, which turned out not to be all that bad when I realized that half the student body now seemed afraid of provoking me. I could have reassured them they were safe, that it had taken four long years to break me, so they were at least safe for another four years, but I enjoyed their silence, so I let them continue thinking I was one comment from throwing a book at them. Dean enjoyed my new reputation and often called me "Rocky." I wasn't a fan of sports movies, so I didn't have a clue what he meant, until he made me sit down with him one Saturday afternoon and watch all the films back to back. The movie marathon torture taught me one thing. I hated sports movies for a reason.

The three weeks leading up to Christmas break seemed almost dull in light of my book incident. My days with Dean flowed along, seeped in normalcy as we spent as many waking hours as we could together. Most days, he picked me up for school in the morning, and didn’t drop me off until late in the evening. Dinners at my house became obsolete as I dined with the Jackson family every evening. Luckily for me, they seemed to enjoy my company. Sarah would sit talking with me for hours at a time. Her conversations were always insightful, and always left me pondering them hours afterward.

The days would have been classified as picture perfect if they weren’t marred by the loss of my friendship with James. A couple of weeks following my outburst in class, I told Dean I couldn’t meet him for lunch because I needed to make sure James was okay. It had been weeks since I had talked to him, and the guilt was slowly eating me from the inside out.

I sought James out at our normal meeting spot a few days before winter break. "Hey," I said, joining him at the metal ramp that had been our refuge for so long. It felt different sitting here now. My days on the ramp had been filled with despair and plans of escape, now it seemed lonely and depressing.

James only acknowledged me with a brief flickering of his eyes.

"So, long time no see," I said, trying to ignore the uncomfortable awkwardness.

He remained still, not even looking up.

The silence felt oppressive and suffocating, so I filled it with chatter that was completely out of character for me. I didn’t know if I was trying to make up my absence to him or justify it. I let everything I had been up to for the last seven weeks pour out of me. I held nothing back as I told him about my feelings for Dean, the kindness his family had shown me and how liberated I felt after smashing Katie's nose in. As uncharacteristic as my new chattiness was, it didn't seem to faze him. I wasn't sure where my sudden desire to fill him in on all the details I used to keep bottled up came from. Maybe I was trying to show him there was hope, not only for me, but for both of us.

The bell rang, ending lunch as I finally ran out of steam. James plucked his bag up and walked away without saying anything.

"James, I'll be here same time tomorrow," I called after him. He didn’t look back, and I wasn’t even sure if he heard me, but I would keep my promise. I would slowly drag him into the new life I had discovered.


My promise unraveled into a nightmare before it could ever be fulfilled.

I had just sat down at my desk in Ms. Jones’s class the following morning when Mr. Wilson came over the intercom with a single morning announcement. Another student had committed suicide. He was saddened to inform us that James Isaac Garrison III had taken his life at approximately five p.m. the night before. I sat in shock, trying to digest his words. Déjà vu swept through me. Seven weeks ago, he'd announced the death of a student that would forever change my life. This morning, he made an announcement that threatened to destroy it.

Without a word, I walked out of class and didn’t look back.

I didn’t acknowledge Ms. Jones calling after me, asking if I was okay.

This was my fault.

Death had trumped me.

He was the ultimate bastard, stealing from me without a backward glance.

Chapter twenty one

I walked home completely numb, not thinking, not feeling. I reached my house and pulled out my key, realizing that I had left my backpack in Ms. Jones's class. Closing the door behind me, I walked up to my room and pulled out my bottle of Jack.

With each sip I took, I reminded myself that this was my fault. I had abandoned James when he needed me the most. I had left him alone with our pact. I didn't cry. I couldn't. I was too numb. I just wanted Jack to make me forget, to rewind time.

Fogginess filled my head as I drained the last of the bottle. I vaguely heard pounding on our front door, but ignored it as I dropped the empty bottle on the floor and curled up in a ball on my bed. I fell into an alcohol-induced sleep and the pain momentarily slipped away.

My sleep was interrupted by the insistent ringing of the phone. I dragged the pillows over my head, blocking it out. The day passed in a sleepy haze as I drifted in and out. Each time I woke, I was acutely aware that I was to blame.

Darkness fell and I never moved from my bed. Having slept the day away, I was now unable to rest. Even after I heard Donna come in for the night, I remained awake. I wished I had another bottle of Jack so I could escape my demons, but instead, I lay there, playing every conversation James and I had ever had through my head over and over again. It was an endless loop that I couldn’t turn off. By the time morning rolled around, I felt like the walking dead.

At least Christmas break had started and I wouldn’t have to face anyone. I spent the day moving my room completely around. Once all my furniture was situated in new spots, I decided I didn’t like it and moved it all back to where it originally sat.

Dean tried to get a hold of me throughout the day, but I stayed closed up in my room, ignoring his countless calls and knocks on my front door. The passing hours felt meaningless from moving furniture and my unsuccessful attempt at sleep the night before. I forced myself to stay awake long enough to shower and Google the time for James's memorial service the following day.

The bright shining sun woke me the next morning, which somehow seemed fitting. James had lived in darkness for so long, he deserved the light. I was dressed hours before the service, anxious that I would be seeing Dean soon. I wasn't prepared with what I would say. What could I say, that I was a murderer? I may not have actually done the deed, but I sure as hell didn’t do anything to stop it. I was the one who had come up with the pact in the first place. I was the one who had discussed it for hours and then abandoned it in the blink of an eye. This was all on me.

I waited until Donna had left for work before I made my way down the hall and opened the front door. The air was brisk as I stepped outside and saw the vehicle in my driveway. I wasn’t surprised. I knew he would be here, just like he knew I would leave the house today.