I sat in math class wondering why Andrew was so interested in me now. I could his face in front of me, clear as day. Those cunning blue eyes, his perfectly messy blonde hair. But the daydream in front of me started to get hazy, the beautiful face morphing into something terrible - my math teacher.
"Miss Grace, what is the answer to number four?"
To be honest, I almost yelped Andrew. But instead, I cleverly said, "Abraham Lincoln." Cause, you know, I'm cool like that.
"So, Izy, the only reason I asked you to be my girlfriend this morning was because I need help."
I was packing my math books into my bag and Andrew was leaning casually beside me, oblivious to the stares we were recieving.
"Everyone here thinks that I'm just some hotheaded player _ "
"Which you are."
"_ and that I can't be in a serious relationship. They think that I just make out with a girl and forget her."
"Which you do."
"But I don't wanna be seen like that anymore. So I am asking you to be my fake girlfriend until I can prove to these people that there's more to me!"
"Why don't you actually get a girlfriend?"
"Because no girl wants to be my girlfriend. I'm a one-time thing."
"Here's a wild idea. Maybe," I said, "you should tone down the horny teenage boy side of yourself and play up the miniscule caring side. If it exists."
"Very funny. Really. You're hilarious."
"I've been told." I stood on my toes to reach for the hook on the top of my locker to retrieve my bag, but because I was vertically challenged, I couldn't reach, exposing the white skin on my wrist, but not noticing it.
Andrew's eyes flickered to my arm and then his hand was suddenly grasping it.
Startled, I stared at the raised white scar that circled around my wrist and snaked up my arm, disappearing in my sleeve.
"Nothing," I snapped, yanking the fabric down the cover my skin.
"What happened to you?" Andrew's eyes had softened, taking on a lighter, warmer shade of blue than usual. He searched my dull grayish eyes for a hint of emotion, but my face remained impassive.
"Nothing. I'm fine. Just an old scar." The scar really was particularly fresh, only two months old, but I would never tell him that. Firmly but gently, he grabbed my chin and forced me to look in his eyes, asking again what happened. I stared fearfully at him, a deer caught in headlights. He was getting angrier, that I could see, but it wasn't the angry I've lived with. This wasn't an anger that was threatening me; it was an anger that wasn't aimed at me, it was an anger that was worried about me.
I could feel my eyes watering as I took in all his features. A strong jawline, tensed as his teeth were clinched together, full pink lips that were questioning my lie, a small scar above his lips. But his eyes were enchanting. Swimming pools of sky blue, flecked with only the faintest chocolate brown, framed by eyelashes so long I wonder how they don't tangle up when he blinks. (Hunger Games moment!)
"N-no-nothing. I just... um... I fell down the stairs," I whimpered meekly, hoping he would believe me.
No such luck.
Angrily, he slammed my locker and dragged me up the stairs to the abandoned second-story girls bathroom, which no one used because the first-floor one by the cafeteria was more convenient.
"You can't be in here."
"Why are you lying to me? I know something happened to you and you're lying to me!"
"Nothing happened!" I screamed at him. "Why can't you just leave me alone!" I backed against the wall and sank to the floor, hands covering my face to hide the tears streaming down my cheeks. Mere seconds later, I felt him pry my hands away from my face and gently dry my tears with his sleeve.
"Do you want to talk?"
I slowly shook my head.
"Do you want me to leave?"
I vigorously shook my head no.
"Do you want to talk about something else?"
"No," I whimpered, pushing hair away from my face.
He sat back against the cool tiled wall and swept a stray tear away with his thumb. I reached up to cling at his hand before he lowered it again, and pulled the sleeves of my shirt up to my elbows. Lines and lines of thin, white, raised skin trailed up and down and around my arms, masking them in a thick fog. I felt a tear drop to my exposed flesh.
It didn't come from me.
I looked up to see tears silently streaming down Drew's cheek's, dripping off his sharp, angular face. His face was slowly turning tomato red, and I could practically see the steam from his ears. The light blue eyes that had been consoling me flickered to my legs, sprawled out in front of me, and I gave a solemn nod. Slowly, Drew rolled up the soft denim of my jeans and closed his eyes. Tears were freely flowing out of his eyes now; little rivers of salt water. I leaned towards him and held his hands against the scars, his fingers lightly feeling the cold, pale skin beneath them.
"You know," I started weakly, "when I was little, really little, my parents used to pick Dezzie and me up to catch the first snowflakes of winter, or to see the fireworks on the fourth of July. And it felt like I was flying. It was the only time that the prospect of flying wasn't trapped in a fairytale's pages. It was real. Perfect was real. Happiness was real. Everything I wanted to be real... was real. But real is not a fairytale. It's not a movie and you can't turn put it on pause or turn off the TV when you get tired of it. You can't control real. And real doesn't go away. But real is also the sound of my muffled screams against my father's hand. Real is the pressure of random men's bodies crushing mine. Real is the blood I can always feel pouring from my mouth, or a cut on my face, or dripping down my legs. Flying had been real. But what I had forgotten about flying was that you could never fly forever. Eventually you had to fall. For the first time in my life falling was real. Real wasn't beautiful. Real was not perfect. Real was not happiness.
"I started falling when I was seven years old. Started falling really fast and really hard. I fell off the top of the Empire State building. Pushed over the edge. And sometimes I wish I would stop falling and just hit the ground already. But I can't. I couldn't fly forever, but I can fall. The second you get weak, or tired, or scared, and stop flying, you fall. You always fall. No one ever hits the ground. Or if they do, they've already been pushed too far. Then they are already cold. Everyone feels it. God and his priests and his kings. They turn their faces away. But even they feel the cold. I'm still falling, though. Right now, I'm falling head first. I need someone to catch me before I'm too cold."
Drew turned his watery blue eyes up towards my face and tried to wipe away his tears with his sleeve. His eyes weren't as bright as they were before.
"We all fall at some point in our lives. Sometimes something triggers it. You're flying though, aren't you?"
Drew pushed a hand though his hair and slouched against the wall, still holding my hands.
"My parents are divorced. I have two younger sisters and one older sister. I am the only boy in the family. I live with my mom. I haven't seen my dad since I was six. My parents divorced because it was the first time my dad hit my older sister. I've broken almost every bone in my body at some time or another. When I was eight I cut all my hair off because it was in my eyes and my mom screamed at me for hours." He looked at me to see my reaction.
"My mom abandoned us with our alcoholic father who abuses me. I have more scars than you see." I took a deep breath and managed to mumble my next sentence.
"He sold me. I can't even remember how many times, or how many different people."
Andrew Lanier was only confused for a moment before his eyes widened and a stream of cuss words erupted from his mouth. "That mother fucking son of Satan's bitch!"
"I am a human punching bag. During the summer, when there is no school, it gets worse. I once had a black eye for a whole month before. And sometimes they're just horny men looking for a good time. But this is how we survive. It's my fault, you know. There are so many times when I could have escaped. I was miles away even, but I didn't, because I know that if I left he would use Dezzie instead of me. So no, this isn't something I can't change, because I chose this life. I chose to be abused and beaten, and taken advantage of. But my father really is quite pleasant when he's sober. We go shopping and he goes to work and we can eat dinner without worrying that he will wake up and slash me with a knife." I turned my head to watch his face. A fine red hue had covered his skin, and he was grinding his teeth.
"Come with me," he growled, trying desperately to push the anger out of his voice. "Get your sister and we'll go to my house. My mom's a nurse. She can help you."
"Drew, I _ "
"Please, Izy. I am begging you. Come to my house and we can tell the police and you and Desdemona can live with me and my family. Please."
"No. If I leave he can find me. If I leave I might stop falling for a little while; like being suspended in air. But he will find me and I'll start falling again."
"Can you at least let my mom look at you? I'm sure than she can do something."
He stood and walked to the door, pulling me along behind him.
"I'll get your stuff and you find your twin."
Mere minutes later, Dezzie, Drew and I were trudging through the slush like snow to his house across town, in the only gated community I like to call The Gates of Hell, but is more commonly known as The Gates of Altoona. Yeah, they got really original with that name, right?
"Hey, Dez?" My twin looked curiously at me. "When we get back to the house, I want you to pack a bag with the neccesities. Only the neccesities. Just in case."
"I've had that bag packed for a long time."