The small grace period given to me by Kenzie's absence shatters the moment I open my phone to give Jonah my number. My in box, usually barren of activity, is piled with tests, all from the same sender. I try not to grimace as I close down my notifications, handing my device over to my new friend. Jonah doesn't even blink at my nearly empty contact list, quickly punching in his information and handing the device back.
I text him a simple Hi, and pocket my phone. He grins. "I think I got a text," he jokingly pulls out his phone, looking over the message. "Look, it must be from you. I'll text you later, yeah?" He pockets it again, before running a hand through his hair. We're almost at my house.
Jonah lives on the other side of town, but the bus stop he needs is right passed where I do. As we turn onto my street, dread settles into my gut. My phone vibrates. Kenzie couldn't... but sure enough, his car is in my driveway, the ignition cutting as I reach the walkway.
"Company?" Jonah asks, squinting to get a glance at the figure in the car.
I give a little head shake. "Kenzie," I correct.
"... Want me to get rid of him?" Jonah asks, removing his hands from his sweater pockets. Fame gave up after half an hour of chasing us and let us change back. Jonah wanted me to keep the sweater, but I refused.
Hanging out with Kenzie apparently does have it's perks- I've become a better liar than I ever planned on being.
I've become such a good liar, in fact, that other people want to back up my lies. The biggest one being Mackenzie himself.
I push my glasses up a bit to rub the bridge of my nose. "No, I can handle it," I say, watching Kenzie climb out of his car. I guess he got fed up of waiting for a textual response. "I'd rather face him here than at school anyway."
"Well, okay, if you're sure," Jonah hoists his backpack a little higher on his shoulder. "Text me if things go sour, yeah?"
As if on queue, Kenzie spots us, giving a little wave and a weak smile. Beautiful asshole. With a squeeze to my shoulder, Jonah is on his way, leaving us alone. As soon as he's turned the corner, Kenzie's face falls. "You weren't answering your phone," he says, glancing in the direction Jonah went. "The guy from lunch?"
"... is it so shocking that I have friends?" I ask with a frown, going to unlock the front door. It is, actually, but I don't need to remind him. I call out for my parents, and am thankfully rewarded with silence.
"Not in?" Kenzie steps in behind me, eyebrow raised. I ignore him, heading into the kitchen. There is a pot of what looks like soup, and a note.
God, I hope it's soup. "Want some?" I ask with a sigh, getting a nod in return. I turn the stove on and get down some bowls. "Anyway, why are you here?" Why is he really here. Considering his opinions of me from before, I'm having a hard time believing he simply wants to be friends, or that he's gotten over our differences so quickly. The words he used were more than harsh- they were destroying. And they were meant to be.
"I told you already, didn't I?" He looks at me like I'm the stupid one, pulling up a stool at the breakfast bar. He looks for all the world like he belongs sitting here- like this is his kitchen, not mine, and I simply happen to be the one preparing the food. To top it off, this accusatory look spreads his face, making my frown even deeper. "You weren't answering your phone, so I came looking for you."
I sigh. "Did it cross your mind that maybe I don't want to talk to you?" I ask, teeth grinding together. I'm not too doing to well at hiding the irritation from my voice- not that I care if he notices. I was hoping I could go a few days without having to deal with him again. Apparently, those hopes were in vain- and I realize just how much when I flip open my phone. Fuck, twenty seven new messages? I didn't even know my phone could hold that many.
"If these all say, 'call me',..." I growl, leaving the unsaid threat in the air.
"Just look at them!" He throws his arms up in frustration. I wonder if he'll do it again if I put the phone down... but now isn't really the time to be testing that. I want to get him out of my house as soon as possible. The sooner he's content, the sooner he's gone.
The first four messages are as expected. they're all of the, I'm sorry, please call me, variety. Somewhere around the fifth they turn into simple I'm sorrys, and around the tenth they turn more urgent, the sentence structure from before degrading into call me, call me, for god's sake, fuckingcallme. Someone has no patience.
I continue scrolling, my frown creasing lower and lower with each message. I'd be amused by his desperation if it wasn't just that- desperation. What the hell could be so urgent? Hell- what the hell could it be that it would warrant twenty seven bloody messages. "If you're so eager to be forgiven-" the words catch in my throat.
She spread that we broke up because you cheated.
I hit the newest text message. Shit. Crap. I- what the- fuck!
"That doesn't even make sense!" I sputter, curses dropping from my lips like nuclear bombs, nearly demolishing my kitchen as I smash the drawers about, trying to get us some spoons and some bread. I'm seeing red, hardly registering Kenzie as I slam our meal together. This will not compute well on an empty stomach. I might throw up right after the conversation, but at least it'll help me thinking until the shock catches up to me. Christ- I don't even know enough people to have someone to cheat on him with.
Last week, no one wanted to even associate with me. Now, the entire world apparently wants into my pants. Of course. This must all make sense on some level- I'm clearly just so intelligent I can't see it! Stupid bloody teenage idiots.
"Does this make sense to you?" I ask, violently shoving the food onto the breakfast bar, "Because I must be seriously blind to have missed the obvious line of suitors outside waiting to fuck me." Kenzie says nothing as a pull up one of the stools beside him, forcing my hair over my shoulder and starting to attack my food. The soup is lukewarm, but I don't really care. If Kenzie has a probably with it, he doesn't complain. He simply sips his own, waiting for the moment to strike.
Finally, he puts his bread down. I brace myself. "According to Sam, it was some guy named Jonah?"
My spoon goes soaring across the room. My hand aches from how hard I smash it against the table. Seriously- what the hell have I done to this women? I get it, easy scapegoat, obvious choice to knock her precious cousin down a few pegs, socially- but really, Jonah? What the hell did I do to make her think that wrecking the lives of my few friends is justifiable as well?
Kenzie winces, picking his spoon up. "I'm guessing you know who that is?" He gives me a sympathetic look, "I think it's supposed to reflect bad on me- something about not being able to please you or keep you in check or something."
"So I'm your bitch now? Brilliant! And how is this supposed to look on me- on Jonah? Shit, I only met him today!" As soon as the words are out of my mouth I'm grabbing up my phone, fear filling in my gut and thrumming through my veins. No one could be that cruel, could they?
Please tell me you aren't planted. I Text. Almost automatically, I get a response.
Planted? Am I a tree?
A sigh crashes from my lungs as I put down the phone. I take my glasses off, rubbing my face. I don't think he's in cahoots with Monica. He would know more. His response would show... something, at least.
I no longer have the energy to finish my half-assed dinner.
Kenzie shifts in his chair, his earlier frustration seeping from him along with mine. Now he just looks tired. I'm tired. "I'm sorry about yesterday," he licks his lips, "I acted without thinking. I should have done that. And while it complicates things, you being, you know, it doesn't mean I should have called you what I did."
"Bravo," I snap, his few simple sentences powerful enough to bring back my fight, "ten points for being the first to notice your mistake." None of the others have yet, clearly.
"Like you aren't a guilty party," he glares, "What you did was so not cool. You should have told me earlier."
"So you could let me die on my own? Maybe join the force against me?" I bite back, "Great advice. Next time I think everyone is going to kill me, I'll just come right out and tell the one person who might help me why they should fight for the other team."
He clenches his fist. I don't even car if he wants to punch me- at this point, it'll just be another bruise to add to my collection of slowly healing wounds. And yet, a blow never comes. He deflates, just like that, the tension seeping from his shoulders as he sags against the counter, his body like a popped parade balloon. "I'm not homophobic, Calvin. I sure as hell wouldn't have come up with this plan if I was. I wouldn't be here trying to convince you to get back in on it." He brings a hand up to rub his forehead, his brow scrunching. "You're really lucky that you had people around you all day today. Things could have gotten really, really messy- Monica was pissed. More than pissed. She wouldn't be fighting back if she wasn't. Somehow, our act is getting under her skin. Which is not good for you."
"But aren't you her target?" I ask, not impressed in the slightest.
"Yeah, but- she isn't as smart as she thinks she is. I don't care what people think half as much as she does. I do however care about letting her win- and about you not turning into pulp over our little rivalry. So, three reasons we need to keep this up- one, I can't have you dying on me, two, you have some pretty hot friends now, and three, destroying my cousin is crucial."
"... So, basically, you want to get back together with me to use my friends and fight against your cousin?" I'm frowning- more than that- I'm the one with clenched fists now. "This isn't some kind of game, Tallon, I'm not some kind of tool you can use to build your fucking birdhouse of victory."
"Do you even listen to the parts where I'm concerned about you? Christ, Calvin," he straightens up a little, "All of that is secondary. Keeping you safe is the goal here- getting back at Monica is more like a really awesome side effect. The mother of all side effects."
And what about Jonah? What about every other person who gets ploughed over in this stupid competition? I want to ask Kenzie who will protect them. Where are the acne speckled knights who plan on keeping them from Monica's wrath? I hold my words before they slip out of my mouth. Somehow, they don't feel right on my tongue. Jonah isn't like me- he has lots of friends, and always had. While he isn't popular, a lot of people do know him- and most of them like him. He'd the kind of guy no one would stoop to say a bad word about, but rarely would they pause to give him good thoughts either. No one would care about harassing Jonah- too much would be stacked up against them if they bothered. Not to mention, as a theatre kid, half the school probably thought he was gay anyway. Few people's opinions on him would really change... and if me and Kenzie got back together, the rumour would probably be considered false anyway...
"It would quell the accusations of infidelity if we got back together, right? They'll completely leave him alone?" I ask, my tone a little hopeful.
It takes him a moment to understand what I've said, but once he does, he's nodding. "Yeah..." another look takes over his face a moment, "Wait, is he actually your boyfriend?" He doesn't sound disgusted, just amused. Which is good, but-
"What- no," I sputter, "I only met him today. He's in my history class." Kenzie doesn't look convinced, but he says nothing else on the subject, simply giving a whatever you say look and a shrug. A smirk goes along with that, but I ignore it in favour of not punching him in the face.
"So, we're on?"
I sigh. "Yeah, I guess."
After formulating a quick plan, we worked on our project for a bit, getting more done than I would have by myself all night.
I texted Jonah to let him know all was well, and to warn him of his possible impending doom- which he, the bastard, thought was hilarious. He thought it was even funnier when I told him we had it under wraps- because he seemed oh so concerned in the first place. See if I warn him and try to help him next time.
A line is also dropped to Fame, letting her know I won't be on the bus this morning. Her texts quickly returned to the squealing girl variety when I tell her that the reason is because Kenzie is driving me- we're back together. Suddenly, we're made for each other again- more girl logic.
I fix up my concealer a little, trying to cover up one of the more resistant bruises on my poor face. I take the time to do my hair today, and pull on an outfit Kenzie put together for me last night.
I look so gay.
I've got on my glasses, skinny jeans, a long sleeved blue shirt, a black beanie, and a scarf. Not the kind that might keep me warm, either- one of those thin, useless ones girls are always caught parading around in. I don't even know what to do with this thing. Do I just wrap it around my neck, let it fall in the front on both sides? What kind of guy wears a scarf anyway? I don't even know where Kenzie got this thing.
I'm still fidgeting with it, trying to figure it out, when the doorbell rings. I quickly grab my bag and head downstairs. My lunch sits on the banister and I toss it in, simply grabbing my shoes before opening the door.
"Looking good," Kenzie says, reaching forward to adjust my beanie.
"Looking gay," I mutter, and he laughs, moving out of my way so I can lock up. We head over to the car, tossing our bags in the back. Once we're on the road I bother with my shoes, struggling them on to my feet. Converse were not designed for easy accessibility when they were created.
I'm perfectly put together by the time we pull into the school parking lot, the court yard completely crowded today. Nervousness thrums through me- but then again, when hasn't it in the last week? I grab my bag and get out of the car, wait for Kenzie to come take my hand. There are eyes on us even now, before we've even left the parking lot. We should be the ones in theatre- we always have an audience.
Kenzie is feeling the pressure too, although it doesn't read on his face. His hand is clammy when it takes mine, and I know that can't be a good sign. I give it a squeeze, send him what I hope is a reassuring smile. Whether it comes across as that or not, I don't know. He gives me a bit of a raised eyebrow, before leaning over and kissing my temple. "Here goes nothing," he whispers, and I squeeze his hand again.
God, for the millionth time, this is such a bad idea.
We walk towards the courtyard, him leading me the entire way. By the time we reach his friends, I'm nearly shaking, my earlier resolve gone. How is it that one day I can fear nothing, be strong and self-assured, and the next, I'm a pile of insecurities, hanging off the one person on the planet who may or may not be helping them? It's hard to tell whether I should blame Kenzie or not- technically, if I had never been working with him, I would have never ended up in this situation, but... technically, he had never meant for this to happen. Really, Monica is the one at fault...
High school was not this complicated last week.
We reach Kenzie's friends in moments, each and everyone of them simply staring at us, like we've grown extra heads. Kenzie just sits on one of the benches, pulling me down on top of him like it's completely natural. I don't remember this being in our plans, but I go along with it anyway. Sure, why not. I lean against his chest, rest my head in his neck. He smells good today... I'm getting sidetracked, and this is really not the place.
"Good to see you, man,": one of the guys says, plopping down on the bench next to us. for a moment, I'm confused. Do I know him? His face isn't ringing any bells...
Kenzie gives him a grin, slaps him on the back. "Good to see you too, bro. Where've you been? We missed you at the last few practices." Ah- well, Kenzie seems to know him. If he's on the football team, I might have just not noticed him. I can't keep all the goons in check- there are a number of them.
"I messed up my leg last week, skateboarding, you know?" he says, scratching the back of his head. Kenzie nods like he knows. "Anyway- whose the chick?" He asks, pointing to me, "A little more... butch than your usual tastes?"
I'm pretty sure that's an extremely rude thing to say to a girl. Fame would be all over him in seconds. Not to mention, I am right here. He does realize I can hear him, right?
"My name is Calvin," I speak for myself, and the guy freezes. Clearly, I'm not a girl. "And I think you've thrown your lunch at me at least once." While I can't back that up, he probably has- most of them have.
"... have I? Sorry, man," the guy says, recovering from his shock quickly. "Better asked- why is Calvin on your lap?"
Kenzie raises an eyebrow and I elbow him before he can continue to bait him on with stupid questions.
"I'm his boyfriend," I tell him bluntly, my cheeks thankfully not betraying my anxiety and embarrassment. I can't believe I just said that- even more, I can't believe the guy didn't know. He must have really been out if hadn't caught on to at least that. I thought their king switching teams had been big news amongst the meat heads.
the guy, having gone still, slowly begins to nod, his bearings found. "Alright- you, boyfriend. Kanzie, when gay?" He asks. There's something wrong with his reaction, although I can't put my finger on what it is. It's like he's playing this up. Inside it's not a shock... is it a joke? There's just something in the tilt of his head, the aping of his words, the glimmer in his eyes... I can't place it.
"Bi- and a while. We just decided to go public," Kenzie explains, and I nod along.
Something is not right.
Luckily, the bell rings, and I'm saved from anyone else joining the conversation. I get up from Kenzie's lap and both him and the guy follow suit, upright but not moving.
"Anyway, I'll see you later, Randy," Kenzie says, taking my hand.
"Hey, hey, trying to shake me off already? I'm going the same way as you."
Kenzie looks at me and I shrug, he then shrugging in turn. Randy grins. I start towards the school, eager to get to class and see Jonah. He'll be curious about what happened last night... there was only so much I could tell him over text. I stop at my locker to exchange my things for my books, and carry on from there. I hardly notice Randy trailing behind, or Kenzie hanging on to my hand. When I get to the classroom door he actually has to pull me back to get his kiss, moving a hand to my hip. I place a hand on his chest, kiss him quick.
"Be careful, yeah?" he whispers, and I kiss him again, hiding the words as sweet nothings.
"I will," I tell him.
Over his shoulder, Randy grins, chills shooting through my spine.
I know what it is. I know what's wrong with him. Now that his smile touches his eyes, there is something poisonous in them, something menacing. That little gleam in his eyes speaks volume of pain. It tells the story of my attackers.
He wasn't missing practice because of an injury- he was missing practice because of me.
"You be careful too," I tell him, and kiss him once more. I don't give him time to answer, quickly darting into the class room, putting as much space between me and Randy as I can.