A/N: I still don't know about pairings T^T There are so many characters. xD So, R&R please.
I don't know what to think. Yeah, what he did was sick, but it's amazing how much the whole school can hate him for it. The thing I fear most right now is having to face Mials again. I don't know how I should go about talking to him. Just smile and listen to him talk or ask him about the incident?
"So, now you know," Jenna says, standing and shrugging. "If I were you, I wouldn't talk to that dude anymore."
"Yeah, thanks, Jenna," I say. I want to tell her that she's not me and that I know what she would do only because I want to defend the first friend I made here, but I knew from the beginning that he'd be something faulty. The bell rings and Jenna waves goodbye before heading off for her next class. I'm stuck sitting there, trying to work out the proper way to reject Mials' friendship.
Soon enough, I stand and saunter off to class when I get a text from Paige. It reads:
Omg Kaine goes 2 ur school!
I text her back questioning her who Kaine is. Sometimes I think Paige is really popular and that she knows a lot of people, but when she spends so much of her time with Archer and the rest of us, I realize this can't be true. She texts me back.
My x! u shud put hate notes in his lockr or trip him in the hall or sumthing
I want to laugh at this. It really can amaze how many exes Paige has had in her short teenage life. It's almost shocking that only one goes to Timber Oaks High. I text her that I won't do that which earns me a response chock full of colorful language. Regardless of what I had said, Paige sends me a picture of the two from their dating days so I would know how he looks.
Next class was an elective, journalism with Ms. Drew. Ms. Drew is a short, cute old lady with graying blonde hair and a sincere smile. Her clothes are coordinated and accessories matching. I think I'm going to like her.
As soon as I enter the class, I check for Dagan. I chose journalism because I have a knack for being curious and wanting to find things out. It doesn't seem like Dagan's cup of tea. I sigh in relief. He's not there. Someone else is though with snakebite studs sticking out from under his lips and black hair hanging above shaggy eyebrows. He has a distant expression and Polaroid camera hanging around his neck. A detailed tattoo travels up his arm and another peeks out from underneath the top of his V-neck shirt. Kaine. Paige's ex-boyfriend.
According to Paige, Kaine broke up with her for a guy saying that he thinks he might be bi and needs to find himself. This pissed Paige off a lot for some reason.
As I take my seat behind him, I wonder if I should do something like ask him if he knows Paige or kick the back of his seat. I decide that either wouldn't be very discreet or maybe even come on a little strong or creepy. I recall Jadon's way of spiting me, draw in interest and then ignore. I put my feet on the back of his chair and look into my notebook as though busy with something else.
He turns around and glances at me. I gulp, nervous that he's staring so long.
"Hey," he eventually calls out after what felt like forever. "Your feet."
Don't retreat, I tell myself. "Oh, sorry," I say quickly before putting my legs down. Damn.
"Nah, it's okay. You can leave'em," he says. "I like your shoes."
I have no idea how to respond. He's supposed to be the enemy, Paige's evil ex and he's complimenting my footwear. Act nonchalant.
"Yeah, they're cool, I guess," I say, flipping my hair. The shoes I'm wearing are pretty awesome. They are converses, black with multi-colored eyelets. Mom bought them for me as a surprise. I faked how much I liked them then too, I didn't want her to think I was weird for flippin' out over awesome shoes.
Kaine looks at me up and once again before turning around in his seat. Something about it made me feel violated. I wasn't expecting this. I was hoping to annoy him, but he doesn't appear bothered. Maybe more… intrigued?
Everyone is settled once Ms. Drew starts speaking. Across the room, I can see Ashley with a pack of tissues. I wouldn't have guessed that she'd take journalism then again, I can't really make any assumptions about her really. She makes me curious as a lot of people around here seem to do.
Ms. Drew is counting something then furrows her brow in confusion. "We should have… Hmm." She puts a finger to her mouth then says, "Seniors, raise your hands."
Three others in the class and Kaine raise their hands. I flush a bit. He's a senior. I was failing at bothering a senior. Thank goodness. I don't want any of them to think badly of me. I call off all attacks on Kaine. Angering the class above me only spells out danger. It's best to befriend him.
"Ah," Ms. Drew says with a smile. "Mr. Kaine Bume. I almost didn't see our 5-star photographer. What happened to your arm?"
"Tat," Kaine replies.
Ms. Drew shakes her head and clicks her tongue. "Not good, Kaine, not good."
Kaine doesn't say anything to this, just goes back to daydreaming. He's pretty out of it. I would label him a druggie, but he doesn't appear to be that type. I think he's just weird.
Ms. Drew then groups four or five people students to each senior. Ms. Drew takes us all outside the classroom then tells the seniors to show the rest of us around the school. A few juniors groan. The sophomores and freshman get excited however. It must be something the journalism class does every year, conveniently enough for me. I'm put into Kaine's group along with Ashley, a sophomore, and two freshman who remain quiet for the most part except for a girl who keeps asking random questions.
Kaine walks backwards, pointing to different halls and classrooms as Ashley texts out of boredom. The senior's speech is very lethargic and sometimes it seems he forgets what he's doing. At first I thought this was pointless, but already the tour gives me inspiration and ideas. It helps me with knowing which teachers to go to for quotes and hopes for being put on the school bulletin board, the Week's Roar where important info, articles, and pictures are tacked on. A few things from last year are left up, two photos have Kaine's signature scribbled underneath them.
"They won in contests," he explains to me as I stare at the hand-colored photo of a girl crying, she almost looks like Paige. "That one got third."
His finger slides to a photo of a familiar boy standing amidst a field, looking straight ahead into the camera. In the grass, there are faceless bright eyes.
"That one got first," Kaine tells me sadly while Ashley sits bored at a bench and the freshman look at things lower down on the board, too short to observe the pictures up top. "I don't like it anymore." He scratches at the dark stubble on his jaw.
I squint. "Is that Jadon?"
"Good model, but I don't like that picture anymore."
As Kaine says this, I can feel him looking at me. I turn to him.
"You have a clean face," he says, eyes half-lidded. "Just a good face. Would you model for a few photos one day?"
I don't know what to say to this, so I don't say anything and we continue with the tour.
Once we return to class, Kaine asks me for my cell number. I lie and tell him I don't have one. He really admires this. Saying something about them being mainstream and connecting through deeper more meaningful ways or something. Like I said. I think he's weird.
After journalism, I attempt at doing a quick recap of the school day so far on my way to English, but I'm suddenly pulled into the boy's bathroom. By Mials.
"Did someone tell you?" He asks worriedly.
I'm not prepared for this, but his voice automatically elicits my pity.
"Yes, but it's okay," I say. What am I talking about? What he did was sick.
"Please don't think badly of me," he begs.
I want to tell him how wrong what he did was, but I can't. And he's probably heard it a thousand times. Maybe he can't really be trusted, but I might be the only chance at having a friend that he's got. My heart softens for him, though I don't yet know if he deserves it.
"I don't," I say, but that's not completely true.
Slowly, he smiles gently and a little more of my heart softens. He seems like a good guy who just made a mistake last year. Possibly even at the wrong place at the wrong time? I don't know, but I don't think I should be throwing paper balls at him and calling him names.
He pats my shoulder and says, "Awesome. Meet me after school at my car. It's the gray Passat parked in the back. See ya!"
He leaves the bathroom just as Dagan enters. The tall boy shoves me to the side. "Out my way," he grunts. He rushes into a stall and I'm reminded of how much contempt I have for him. Maybe he'll find a way to redeem himself.
As the last few class periods pass, I feel that the clock is taking forever to tick to 3:10. The bell rings. I have never felt more eased and eager. I can't wait to talk to Mials, hear his version of the story and all. And put at ease now that I wouldn't have to worry about Dagan handing me evil looks for the rest of the day (now the rest of the year is something else entirely…).
I rush out the school and to the senior parking lot. There are so many cars, I consider giving up and tomorrow just telling Mials that I couldn't find him. I really don't want to do this though because he'll most likely assume that I hate him. Right when I was going to give in, I hear someone screaming. I spin on my heel to see a gray car parked far away, off campus, and someone near it flailing their arms and calling out to me.
It takes some time for me to get there and Mials laughs at my tuckered out self once I arrive.
"The walk is kind of a bitch, isn't it?" he asks, he strokes the hood of the car. "It's all for her though."
I raise an eyebrow.
"Can you imagine what they'd do to my car if I left it on school grounds? Teenagers are brutal. They'll spray paint her, key her, tear her apart!" Mials shouts, slipping into the driver's seat. "Come on, I'll give you a ride home."
I nod, hopping into the passenger's seat, thinking of all the rides in Quillan's and Vic's cars. All the obnoxious singing. All the smiling and laughing. All the joking and pranking. We're lucky to not have died that time a high Archer covered Quillan's eyes on the expressway. It wasn't nearly as funny then as it is now.
During the drive, Mials asks me to tell him exactly what I was told. And I do.
I go over how our school's mascot is a lion and several years ago a janitor found a sandy colored cat with fur sticking out around her neck like a lion. She liked the school and everyone pitched in with taking care of her. They named the cat Mustafa. She soon had kittens which were Simba, Nala, Scar, etc. Each year, some of the most popular students tend to play a prank over spring break. Mials and a super handsome, super amazing, best guy ever (as Jenna described him, I rolled my eyes during this exaggeration) named Culter Simons were at the Timber Oaks High working on the prank when Mustafa came up and started meowing. Mials heard someone coming, so he drowned Mustafa in the school fountain afraid of being caught and expelled. They were making their escape when they were caught anyways and the dead cat was found. Mials pointed fingers at Culter, blaming him for everything while Culter was not only expelled, but also jailed at a juvenile delinquent center for 21 days along with probation and a small fine. Scar, Nala, Simba and the others were given to a shelter since the school feared someone might hurt them too. Now, everyone hates Mials for killing Mustafa and lying. To them, he's a backstabber and a prick.
Mials laughed after I finished telling him what Jenna had said.
"It changes a little each time I hear it," he says, wiping a tear from his eye.
I blink. "Then… what really did happen?"
"Look, Culter and I were as best of friends as best friends get. We had only known each other for a couple of years, but I'd felt like we were born in the same frickin' womb."
"Then why aren't you friends anymore?"
His expression saddens. "I'll get to that," he says. "We were pulling the prank, right? Confetti everywhere, paper banners, and some graffiti. It was me, Culter, and some other guys, Hansen and some guys or whatever." A deep sigh. "And it was late and we were fuckin' up the school like him and I were really fuckin' it up, you know? I was starting to get kind of scared 'cause we were fuckin' it up so much that I knew we'd get the boot if we were caught. We were being real quiet and then I hear a meow and I freak out 'cause Mustafa starts meowin' like crazy and we're trying to get her to be quiet. Culter's up on a ladder, hanging shit up and Mustafa's meowing and I hear footsteps. And now I'm like shit, shit, shit. I put my hand over Mustafa's face like shh, like getting her to be quiet, you know? Culter finishes hanging stuff up and when I take my hand off Mustafa she's like not moving. I start crying 'cause I think I suffocated her by accident – which I did – and Culter freaks and tells me to run 'cause he hears someone coming. I'm telling him I… I need to wake Mustafa up first. He starts yelling at me that she's dead and I need to go. So, I do. Turns out the bastard wanted to say it was all his fault." We stop at a red light and he slams his fist onto the edge of the steering wheel out of anger.
"Mials…" I say. I don't know if I should believe him. But I guess it doesn't matter whether I should or not because a tear leaks from his eye and I believe him.
"We were best friends, man," he says. "And he screwed it all up!" He wipes the tear away and blushes. "Sorry, about that. It's just that story gets me so emotional." He laughs nervously.
"That's why you and Culter aren't friends anymore?" I ask as the car starts off once again.
"Not quite," he says. "Of course, I was angry at him about that because we both should have gotten in trouble. Mainly me. But he not only took the blame, but now everyone sees him as a victim and hates me. Still, I can forgive him for all that, but…"
"But…?" I repeat.
"But this is your stop, buddy." Mials stops the car in front of my sparkling new house.
I groan. "Fine," I say. "But you have to tell me about it next time!"
"You got it," Mials chuckles as I get out the car. Looking down on him, I can only wonder how the short man can see over the dashboard. This joke in my head makes me laugh a little then he waves to get my attention. With big eyes he looks up at me and bites his lip nervously. "But this…" he starts. "This does mean you're my friend, right?"
I smile back at him. If he is a backstabber. If he is manipulative. If he always softens hearts with those large green eyes. Then he's damn good at what he does.
"Yeah, I am," I say, enthralled in his apparent innocence. He smiles as he switches gears and drives off. I stand there for a bit, watching as he disappears in the distance. Standing there even when he can't be seen. Standing. Thinking. I pull out my cell phone and text everyone.