|What Doesn't Kill You
Author: hybridmoments PM
Sixteen year old Eve Cantos has lived her entire life in the shadow of her drug addict mother. When her mother unexpectedly commits suicide, Eve is thrown into an adventure that unfurls on the streets of East Los Angeles to the salty beach of Santa Monica, holding on to one piece of knowledge she learned the hard way - that what doesn't kill you, only makes you stronger.Rated: Fiction T - English - Drama/Romance - Chapters: 30 - Words: 81,542 - Reviews: 73 - Favs: 19 - Follows: 14 - Updated: 03-10-13 - Published: 06-04-12 - Status: Complete - id: 3029267
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
I spent the weekend doing what I do best – online school. I was almost done with all of my classes. Two assignments left in English, three assignments in Spanish, and four left in Geometry. I was getting stuff done, finally. Last week, I'd focused entirely on my classes – I was up to date in everything. And now, here I was, reading my first of two final English "reading selections" on virtual school.
"You're doing well," Emeline commented as I made a kitchen stop to get some OJ. My grade was emailed to her every time I finished an assignment. "Almost done, right?"
I listed off the numbers as I spread cream cheese on a strawberry bagel. She seemed impressed, and that made me happy. I was glad I was impressing them. Might even be making them proud.
I went back upstairs. Once I was finished, I'd have the weekends free to do what I wanted – whatever that was. Maybe I could find a "thing" to become interested in.
What's your thing? All I could think of was maybe getting trashed with a bunch of Mitch's skinhead friends. That was hardly something worth talking about, though. I grabbed a scrap of paper and a pencil from the top right desk drawer.
I clicked out of the English assignment. I was officially done with tenth grade AP English Composition. Hurray, I thought jokingly, topping off the piece of paper with the words "Things" underlined twice.
I liked vintage records. That was something, right? I wrote it down. Cooking and reading went on the list, as well as taking walks. I preferred cherry blossom soap and almond shampoo. Green tea scented anything immediately made me sick.
"This is stupid," I said flatly, putting down the pen. Who was going to care about what kind of soap I liked? None of that mattered. I was a blank canvas – I did whatever you told me to. Emeline could burst into my room and tell me to start doing jumping jacks, and I'd probably do it.
I looked around the room. It was just as blank as it was the day I'd first moved in, save for the mess and a lonesome Elvis Presley poster that hung over my desk. Elvis, I wrote down.
I licked cream cheese off my finger. Bagels. Outside, I heard a basketball bounce off of concrete. I looked out of the bay window, and there she was – Nordic hair glinting, standing too-tall in summer cutoffs. She shot the ball it landed perfectly in the net, as if it were magnetically attracted to it.
After what we talked about yesterday, I didn't know if I should go down and hang out with her. Maybe we both needed time to adjust to the fact that we had opened up to someone else. I glanced back at the computer screen. Geometry was waiting for me.
Torn, I glanced from the window to the laptop. I sighed and opened up the math assignment. I'd see her tomorrow at school.
Gibson was on a Hawthorne kick. She handed out battered copies of The Scarlet Letter, raving on symbolism and hidden meanings. I sighed and rifled through the dog-eared copy of the novel, fingers running over the worn pages.
Usually, I'd enjoy reading a book like this. But the way Mrs. Gibson taught usually made me want to tear my ears off. She insisted on spending a whole day reading one thing - chewing it, digesting it, then throwing it back up.
Beside me, Raeanne leaned back in her seat, holding the book in one hand as she read the first page. Mrs. G had been especially nasty to her since last Monday. Today was no different.
"No reading ahead," Gibson said, slapping a thick packet of worksheets down onto Raeanne's desk.
Tonguing the inside of her chin, Raeanne spoke in a sickly sweet voice. "I'm sorry, Mrs. Gibson. You know I'd never want to disobey you."
I snorted, digging through my backpack for a pen. The wiry English teacher sat a packet down on my desk and trotted off to the other side of the room to pass out the remainder of the papers.
"That lady," Raeanne said. "is the reason why I hate English."
I grinned, and she grinned back. It was the first thing she'd said to me all day. I wanted to ask her how she was doing, if her Mom was going crazy, but I refrained. I'd just have to ask her some other time.
We spent the class period tearing apart every sentence on the first page of the book and writing down our "thoughts" on the "hidden meaning." By the time Mrs. Gibson told us to pack up our stuff, I was ready to jump out of the window.
"You think there's still time to transfer over to Remedial Reading?" I asked Raeanne, tucking my English binder into my backpack.
"If you do it, I'll do it," said Raeanne, folding down the corner of a page in the middle of the book. "Wait, did you actually sit there and read with her?"
"Well… yeah," I said. "Isn't that what you're supposed to do?"
"Oh, Eve," she shook her head, laughing. "Playing by the rules."
I brushed my bangs out of my eyes. "Isn't that what you're supposed to do?" I repeated, confused.
The bell rang before she could speak. We walked down the hallway together. "What class are you going to?" I asked Raeanne, digging in my pocket for my tube of chapstick.
"Good Ole' Winterbottom," she said, grinning. I ran the chapstick over my bottom lip. "What about you?"
"Ericson," I said, smacking my lips. "Good Ole' Ericson."
She grinned, heading towards the stairwell. "See you at lunch, East LA."
"So how was the game?" Amy inquired as I sat down at our usual stone table outside. Like always, she had food – today it was a muffin and bottle of lemonade.
I shrugged. "It was okay. We won."
"No, dumbass," she slapped my arm. "How was the game?" She wiggled her eyebrows, mouth full of muffin.
Her eyebrows dropped back down to their normal place. "Did you see Raeanne and the blonde?" she asked flatly.
I shook my head. "No," I said. "I didn't."
"That's a shame," she shook her head, taking a long sip of lemonade. "Well, we still have the whole week. There's bound to be something going on."
I wondered if I should just tell her the truth – there was no blonde, I was just gleaning information from her. Chewing on my pinky nail, I contemplated, but thought better of it. Amy seemed like one of those people you couldn't trust with things like that.
"What?" she asked, wiping at her face nervously. "Did I mess up my makeup?"
"No," I shook my head hurriedly. "I was just thinking."
Raeanne sat down at the empty seat, cracking open a soda. "You guys talking about me?" She raised her eyebrows.
"No," Amy spoke too quickly. Raeanne's eyebrows rose higher.
"Amy was talking about how delicious that lemonade is," I intervened, pointing at the bottle Amy held.
"Yes," she nodded. "It's amazing. Wonderful. Mouthwatering."
Raeanne snorted. "I'm gonna go get some lunch. Wanna come?" she asked, turning to me.
I nodded. "Sure."
"So, what's her deal?" Raeanne elbowed me in the side, holding open the door to the cafeteria for me.
"Who, Amy? I don't even know," I said, hoping it came out cool and nonchalant. "She's just weird."
Raeanne laughed. "Yeah," she said. "She is. She's convinced I'm in love with Layla McCall."
My heart skipped a beat. To hide my shaky hands, I grabbed two lunch trays, handing one to her. "Who's that?"
"She's on the basketball team," she said. "Just this girl. I'm barely even friends with her. But Amy thinks we get down on the weekends or something."
I made a disbelieving face. "Hey, maybe you guys do," I joked. "I bet it's the truth."
She shook her head. "No way," she said. "I mean, Layla is hot, yeah."
"So why not?" I asked, trying to place the weird sensation I was feeling. I picked up the salad tongs and grabbed a few of the waxy leaves, drenching them in ranch. Was it jealousy?
Raeanne shrugged, taking a slice of pizza off the warming tray. Yeah, it was definitely jealousy. "Well, to begin, she's straight," she said. "And, not my type, anyways."
I wondered what Raeanne's type was as I took a soda from the machine and paid for my lunch. Maybe I was her type. Doubtful - I was nobody's type. Nobody wanted a girl as plain as me.
"Why, are you and Amy conspiring behind my back? Trying to set me up with Layla?" Raeanne asked jokingly.
Close, but no cigar. "I wouldn't even be able to pick Layla out of a crowd." I said.
We sat back down at the stone table. Amy had vanished – probably off with some of the Theater kids.
"So, how were things at your house over the weekend?" I asked, chewing on a leaf of lettuce.
She shrugged. "So so. She's sleeping off the binge right now."
I nodded. Raeanne glanced over at me, munching on pizza. "Did you do something to your hair?"
I shook my head. "No."
"It looks good."
A compliment. I smiled to myself, promptly flinging a piece of lettuce across the table. "Whoops," I said, blushing.
Raeanne snorted, swallowing a bite of pizza. "God," she said, wiping her mouth. "I don't think that's how you eat a salad, Eve."
I blushed even deeper, ducking my head. "It just didn't want to go in my mouth." Oh my God, that came out so wrong.
Raeanne threw her head back, laughing. "Stop," she said, holding up a hand. "I'm going to choke."
I wanted to bury my face into the pile of ranch-soaked lettuce on the tray before me. "Don't make fun of me," I said, swatting her arm. "Stop laughing at me!"
"I'm not laughing at you," Raeanne said, still chuckling. "Okay, maybe I kind of am."
"Stop," I said. "I'm getting embarrassed, and that just isn't cool."
"Alright, alright, alright," she said, taking a bite of her pizza. "I'll stop."
"Thank you." I took a sip of my soda."Hey, aren't tryouts today?" I asked, hoping to steer away from the subject.
Raeanne nodded, her mouth full of pizza and fries. She swallowed. "Yeah," she said, taking a long sip. "I can't give you a ride until afterwards. Sorry." The apology seemed genuine.
Adam had practice today, didn't he? I thought for a moment. Soccer practice every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Damn. I shrugged. "It's okay," I said. "I can walk."
"I'm one of those chivalrous bastards who can't let a lady do that, though," Raeanne said, smirk dancing on her lips. She had tomato sauce on her chin; I fought the urge to wipe it away. What the hell is wrong with you? Why are you acting so damn goofy?
"A lady?" I laughed. "C'mon, really. It's not a big deal. Plus, it's getting cooler, so I won't be as sweaty and disgusting."
Raeanne stared at me for a moment. "Are you sure?"
Why did she care? "Yeah, I'm sure."
"Hey, maybe this is God's way of saying try out for the team," she nudged me with her elbow as she wiped her mouth. "Don't you hear him? He's telling you to do it."
I raised my eyebrows. "You're off your rocker, Connors." I stood and went to the trashcan to throw away my tray of half-eaten, congealed salad.
She wasn't the one off her rocker, though – it was definitely me. The memory of the jealousy when she told me she found Layla attractive nagged at me like a thorn in my side. Why in the world did I care? And why was I still thinking about it?
I sat in fifth period Euro History listening to Mr. Grissom chatter his way through a section on Greece's geography, raising his voice a level every few words as the jocks in the corner joked and spoke over him. I wondered how long it would take for him to snap. I wondered if he'd do it today.
I copied down the notes he had on the projector – the outline of the Rome and Greece dual test we'd take this Friday. I liked the fact that Grissom actually took the time to review us – I'd noticed that most teachers had a penchant for springing tests on us at strange times, save for maybe Mr. Ericson and Mrs. Stratsfeld, the Health teacher.
Mr. Grissom sighed, running a hand through his wiry black hair. He'd be pretty attractive if he was taller. Not that the height really mattered, anyway.
"Boys," said the short History instructor, addressing the group up front. "I'm sorry to break up your rousing conversation, but there's a class in here that you're disrupting."
The jocks sniggered, turning around to face the front. Mr. Grissom continued with his lecture, putting a map of Rome onto the projector.
Luckily, he was able to get through his speech without any more interruptions from the Peanut Gallery. He left the paper on the projector and sat down at his desk, warily eyeing the jocks before opening a folder of papers.
This class was like a ticking time bomb. Every day, I half expected Grissom to just lose it and punch someone. He was a nice man, but you put him in a room with kids like those up front and there was only so much he could do.
I copied down the stuff on the projector and put it away once I was done. That's what I liked about this class – I always had time to kill. I could start on my homework, or just sit and stare out of the window until the bell rang.
Raeanne plopped down into the empty seat beside me. "Mind lending me some of those answers?" She asked, sticking her tongue through the gap in her teeth as far as it would go. "I have awful eyesight."
"Too vain for glasses?" I handed her my finished notes.
She laughed softly, beginning to copy from my paper. "Nah," she shook her head. "Just never got around to getting any. Same way with the braces," she pointed at her gap.
I didn't even think she needed braces. Glasses, maybe. But not braces. I pulled out The Scarlet Letter and started in, hoping to finish the first chapter.
"No reading ahead," Raeanne said, mimicking Mrs. G.
I stuck my tongue out at her and began to read.
After PE, the last class of the day, all of the basketball team hopefuls filed into the gym, waiting on Coach Ford. I hurried out of the girl's locker room, hoping to slip past unnoticed. Ford usually got pissed off if she found people hanging around after the bell.
Raeanne waved at me from her spot on the bleachers. She wore basketball shorts and a tank top, lacing up her sneakers.
I waved back. She gestured for me to come over. Tentatively, I approached the bleachers. "Make it quick," I said. "I'm going to get in trouble."
"Wanna hang around? I can give you a ride after."
I thought for a minute. No one was home at this time. Jonathan got home at seven, Emeline picked Adam up on her way to the house, two hours from now. Would it really hurt? Probably not.
Regardless, I told her I couldn't. I don't know why I necessarily said it – it probably would have been fun to watch her compared to all the other girls.
Raeanne shrugged. "Your loss," she said, grinning. "You'll miss out on the gun show." She flexed her bicep, grimacing and grunting threateningly.
"Please," I said. "I think I want to miss out on that."
Coach Ford walked towards the bleachers, staring at her clipboard. "Alright, ladies," she called.
"Gotta go," I said.
"Catch you later." She joined the line that formed in front of the bottom row, standing next to a tall blonde girl. Layla? Raeanne turned to talk to the girl. As the girl laughed, her golden hair shimmered.
I hurried out of the gym and started on my way home. To the left, on the field, I saw Adam and the soccer team warming up. They had another game next Monday.
Maybe I should have stayed. It definitely would have beaten the walk. My thoughts went back to earlier today at lunch, making a complete idiot out of myself. Why was I like that? What was going on with me?
I edged the zipper of my hoodie up a little higher and stuffed my hands into the front pockets. Ever since Amy had told me Raeanne was a lesbian, I'd been so weird around her. Did it bother me that she was gay? Not really. Then why was I acting like that?
Sighing, I hurried across the intersection of Pico and Neilson Way. Walking home always reminded me of living in East LA – I walked everywhere. A lot of the times then, after school, I'd just walk around until it got dark, sometimes staying at Mitch's or sleeping in a park. Anything to stay away from home, anything to be by myself.
Did you do something to your hair? It looks good. I smiled to myself. She complimented me. Wait – why did that make me happy? I crossed Hollister. I didn't get that rush whenever anyone else complimented me. And I doubt that if Amy told me she liked my hair that I would have ended up slinging lettuce around.
Something was up with me. It was making me act ridiculous – and it only happened when I was with Raeanne, or thinking about her.
Then it hit me, like the Mac truck that just barreled down Neilson Way beside me, flinging a gust of chilly air in my direction like rice at a wedding. I liked Raeanne. It explained all of my bizarre behavior – the blushing, the goofy looks, all of it. I liked Raeanne, and it was making me insane.
"Great," I said, walking down the Hart sidewalk. "This is just effing great, Eve."
And now I was talking to myself, to boot.
I sighed and pushed my hair out of my eyes. It looks good. Did it really? I stopped to look at my face in the window of a parked car. Eh.
I had to do something to make myself stop liking her. Dating your friend was never a good thing. It always ended badly. Right? I didn't know. But I had an inkling.