AN: So this is the final chapter dun dun dun… of the first book that is. I feel I should take a break between this one and the second one (which is barely fleshed out). I actually wrote the outline for this ENTIRE story from beginning to complete end, so I know the direction I'm headed in. But the second one is probably only… 5% done beginning to end. But this story wasn't too far along before I started so we'll see. But there'll definitely be a hiatus TBA. If nothing else but to leave proper suspense.

oo

Angelo flipped through the channels on the hospital television, scanning through them mindlessly. He couldn't even remember the last time he'd watched TV. The white-walled room was bright and sunny, there was a potted plant left by his kind older nurse who'd told him that someone had left it and she thought such a handsome young man would enjoy a nice plant. She actually made quite a few references to his looks. He couldn't really distinguish the line between flirting or her just being nice, but he was thankful all the same.

His doctor had been condescending, probably assuming that he was in a gang fight and was some vagrant off the street. But Angelo didn't let that faze him. His left leg had been stitched and bandaged and he would need crutches for a while until the wound healed. There was still plenty of soreness and standing up was almost impossible but lying down in the white covers with the sun streaming in, he wasn't looking to move anytime soon.

He thought about the romp with Julian the night before and wondered how he'd felt virtually no pain in his leg that whole time, the adrenaline and endorphins pumping through his body like crazy. Angelo was sure it'd been Julian who'd called the hospital and he awoke to loud pounding on the front door, followed by the RA frantically sticking in the key and turning the loud lock and being rushed by EMTs with a stretcher in tow.

It was nice, though he'd missed breakfast. His kind nurse had given him an apple juice and a muffin once they'd suited him with his stitches and after he mostly slept.

Now that it was late noon he was awake, and with nothing worthwhile on the television he shut it off. He sighed, thinking of his laptop back at the dorm and stared out the window. He had a nice view of the city, though it was mostly obscured by the large old trees surrounding the property. It made him think back to his conversation earlier in the semester with Angelica about the trees in the city. These were huge and nearly made it up to his sixth floor window. He relished the view. His view on campus was an uninspiring view on the inner courtyard of his dorms as his room was situated inside the box shape. No wonder Julian was never there.

There was a soft knock on the door and Angelo responded with, "Come in," assuming it to be his nurse.

When Angelica poked her head in, he immediately sat up. She glanced around the room before walking fully in. She smiled beautifully as she approached him.

"So I hear you're a cripple now." She sat on the edge of the bed against his thigh and he swallowed.

Angelo chuckled. "I guess. How'd you know?"

She put a finger to her pastel pink lips. "I can't give all my secrets away or you might not find me mysterious anymore." She winked and Angelo knew she was joking, but he did think she was a mystery. He couldn't imagine what she wasn't telling him and she didn't seem the type to keep secrets or have any secrets to keep. But there was a maturity in her eyes sometimes that haunted him. And a falter in her smile sometimes that made him wonder. She didn't talk about life much outside of school, though, Angelo knew that she and her parents weren't close.

They shared a laugh and Angelica's gaze settled outside of his window he took the opportunity to rake his eyes over her features. Over her petite nose and big dark brown eyes. She was pale. Not as pale as Julian, but paler than Angelo's own olive brown. And the dark waves were pulled back away from her face in a ponytail at back of her head and Angelo noted her exquisite bone structure and how perfect her cheekbones were. But under her eyes was dark and the skin was loose. As if she hadn't been sleeping. Angelo wondered how he hadn't noticed it before.

"So you're really not gonna tell me?"

She shifted her eyes to his and they seemed weary though she was smiling faintly. "So how's your leg?" She nodded toward the thoroughly bandaged limb. "Also…" She pulled a colorful package from her purse that Angelo beamed at immediately.

"Skittles! Gracias, mi amor," he teased.

Angelica laughed. "You're welcome."

Angelo tore into the packaging and popped a red one into his mouth, sucking off the sour crystals the way he liked to. "Apparently I had some bruised ribs and a fractured elbow as well." He lifted the bandaged limb. His body was actually covered in dark bruises. "They got me on painkillers so the world is just… right, right now. Are you really here? This could just be the side effects of the drugs making me hallucinate that an angel is in my presence."

Angelica barked a laugh. "That was such a bad line!" She slapped him playfully on the leg and it stung.

"Ssss! Ah! Why?"

"You felt that, right?"

Angelo frowned at her, feeling silly for forgetting his charm never worked on her.

Angelica was still laughing though and Angelo wanted to feel insulted but seeing her laugh made him realize that she'd needed a laugh.

When she calmed down some, she wiped a tear from her eye. "Wow, that must be the drugs..." She chuckled again before adding, "… because I'm no angel."

Angelo caught the tone in her voice and though she maintained the meager smile, the tone matched the sallowness in her cheeks and the weariness in her eyes.

"Angie, are you okay?"

She shook her head. "I'm fine." She smiled down at him but her eyes were wet. She bent down to kiss him on the forehead and stood to leave. He grabbed her hand.

"Angie, wait." She looked down at him and a tear rolled down her cheek. Angelo looked horrified with concern. "Angie, what's wrong?" he whispered, pulling her back to him and forcing her to sit.

She wiped the tear from her cheek roughly as if ashamed it was visible. "I'm gonna fail."

"The test?"

"At life."

"Why do you say that?"

She didn't say anything right away. "My parents are talking about cutting me off."

"What do you mean?" His voice was soft but laced with concern, the Sour Skittles lay forgotten on his lap.

"They don't wanna pay for my tuition anymore."

"What? Why?"

"Because they hate me."

"Your parents don't hate you."

She scoffed and looked at him squarely. "Yes, they do."

"What about your scholarships and grants?"

"I didn't get scholarships and grants, Angelo."

Angelo opened his mouth to speak when a knock came gently on the door, one he recognized as his nurse. "Come in."

She poked her head in and grinned her wrinkled rosy lips down at the two of them in what Angelo assumed would appear to be a very intimate situation. Her grin widened upon approaching them.

"Hello dears, I hope I'm not interrupting anything. I'm just in to check up on him and see how his dressings are holding up." She stepped further into the room and clasped her hands in front of her.

"No, it's fine," Angie answered a little hoarsely. She looked back down at Angelo. "I'll see you later, okay?"

Angelo frowned as she smiled weakly and slid her hand out of his own. She ducked around the nurse who watched her go. Angelo settled back onto the covers and sighed.

"Is that your girlfriend?" she asked, stepping over to touch up his bandages.

"No. She's just a friend."

"Not for long, sweetie. You're way too handsome for her to resist." She winked and somehow it didn't make Angelo feel better.

o

Angelo had a few more visitors that day. Around 4pm the crew had stopped by. Assessing his situation and asking whether or not he thought he was going to be able to skip finals or not. Then they asked if he wanted to smoke on the roof of the hospital with them, which he readily declined, wondering as they left whether or not they had fully thought that one through.

Around 2pm as Angelo finished his decently portioned and decent tasting Salisbury steak from the hospital cafeteria, Paul and Mahari made a visit to his room. They asked him similar questions that he'd answered previously.

"A dog?"

"Yeah, some mutt." Angelo bit into his crusty bread.

"Just roaming the streets?"

"I guess so."

"You guess so?"

"Mhmp."

"Ah don't thank that's what happened." Paul spoke absently as his eyes were plastered on the baseball game on the screen. Sex and the City and sports. Angelo wouldn't ever understand.

"Well, deal with it." Angelo chewed and swallowed while Mahari studied him. It was awkward and Angelo waited for him to speak.

"I talked to Julian last night."

Angelo's chewing stuttered and his eyes rose, but otherwise he didn't react. "What about?"

"I just gave him some advice."

"On what?"

"Babe, what are you watching?"

"Red Sox."

"That's his favorite team."

"I know. Advice on what?"

"Just on life."

Angelo paused, waiting for more. "Well, what did you tell him?"

Mahari didn't answer right away. "If it was useful, you'll know."

"It was about me?"

"Not just you."

Angelo frowned, wondering what that could mean. What else could be going on in Julian's life that Mahari would know about?

"Anyway, I hope everything works out well for the both of you. And I hope everything goes well for your leg. Is it serious?"

"They said it's pretty deep, but with time in should heal."

Mahari frowned in concern. "Well, stay safe. And no more provoking stray dogs."

o

The knock on the door was unexpected and startled Angelo from his doze. He looked up at the ticking clock beside his TV and the big hand was on the five and the little hand was between the four and five.

"Come in."

The door clicked softly and swung open gently.

Angelo's breath hitched and the hair rose on the back of his neck his hand twitched as he immediately thought to reach for the nurse button, but Rashad threw up his hands.

"Calm down, bruh. It's just me, nobody else." He closed the door behind him.

"Leave the door open." Angelo's voice was stiff and laced with caution.

Rashad cracked the door open enough for Angelo to feel comfortable.

"How'd you find me?"

Rashad chuckled walking over to him and kneeled next to his bed. "Let's see, only hospital in the area. Went to the front desk. Asked for your name. Six floor, third door on the right."

Angelo swallowed, peering into Rashad's pale brown eyes and it was weird, how things could seem so familiar and so distant.

"Were you following me?"

Rashad smiled familiar and stolid, the thin gap between his teeth having gone without braces marking his face like a signature. "No. We were in town for Trent's b-day. Went to a strip club. He just got out a week ago."

Angelo nodded stiffly.

Rashad regarded him watchfully. "We weren't trying to kill you. At least I wasn't."

"Coulda sworn you tried to land one on me."

"Damn right I did. You deserted us."

Angelo lowered his head and after all that had gone down, the guilt was gnawing at the already frayed edges of his past. "Do you blame me? For what happened, I mean." Angelo's dark brown eyes shifted over to Rashad's.

Rashad considered for a moment and glanced across the room to stare out the window and the evening sun as it poured directly into the space. Angelo thought of how he still looked the same after two years. Same oversized white t-shirt and oversized shorts. Same light brown skin and lighter eyes and Caesar haircut faded just right on the sides. He'd been closest to Rashad growing up and he was the only person Angelo had ever cried in front of.

"I don't blame you. You're my brother, and you'll always be that. You did what you had to do. You were better than us. And look where you are. My boy's in college now. I'm proud'a you."

Angelo felt a lump in his throat for how much he'd wanted to hear that. His eyes were wet and he blinked back the tears.

"What happened? After I left."

Rashad took a breath. "We were all convicted on unlawful entry and took a year in the pen."

"What happened to Trent?"

"Trent…" Rashad lowered his head for a moment and Angelo steeled himself internally. "They uh… tried to slash his throat in prison, but just ended up severing his vocal chords."

Angelo grimaced in pain and thumped his head back into the inclined bed. He didn't stop the tear from rolling down his cheek.

"Why?" He whipped his head over to Rashad and his eyes wear wet, too. "He was so quiet and—" Angelo felt angry and disgusted. Trent had been the youngest, only fifteen when everything happened. He was always kind and said "yes ma'am" and "no ma'am" to his mom.

"I don't know what happened man, we don't talk about it."

Another tear rolled down his cheek and Angelo swiped it away.

"Look man, I have nothing against you. But Christian hates you. And that's one crazy muthafucka, stay away from him. I'll try my best to keep him away from you, okay? I want you to finish school and be somebody. One of us has to."

Angelo sniffed and nodded. Rashad stood up, though his face was still grim. He nodded at Angelo and began walking toward the door.

"What about Avery? You still talk to him?"

Rashad nodded. "All the time. That's my brother, too."

"How's he feeling?" The question was dumb, but Angelo asked anyway.

Rashad's face was impassive and he shrugged. "What difference does it make? He's in there. For good. If he… ever gets out, though. He'll kill you." He spoke without mirth or expression, it wasn't a joke or a warning, it was the truth and Angelo had known it since they were kids.

After he left, Angelo sat in silence watching the setting sun's reflection off the white walls of his room. The TV was still off the lights in his room all off and the curtains wide, the bright city reflecting inwards illuminating the room in the dull orange glow. He couldn't see much of the street from where he sat trapped in the bed, but he watched the skyscrapers. One off a ways in particular would change colors every few seconds from blue to green to white to red to yellow to blue again behind the tall trees. Flashing red lights reflected off of one nearby as one of the hospitals ambulances took flight to save a life.

He thought about how he hadn't even thought to call an ambulance that night, let alone the cops. That night. That was just yesterday! Not even twenty-four hours ago and it felt ages away. Rashad and Christian and Trent and Avery… they all felt ages away. Like they were another lifetime. They were actually. Angelo so rarely gave thought to them, he didn't even think what would happen if they ran into him again. It'd been so long. Two years and so much had changed. A year in juvie. A year that he'd put behind him as him having served his punishment with penitence. He let that year be his penance and he put it all behind him. How easy it had been then, when the wound was fresh and he was fueled by hate and rage and disgust with himself. He let that year suffice and he moved on. Avery was in jail. For good.

A soft knock echoed in the quiet, the softest knock of the day. Angelo figured it was the night nurse and murmured "Come in," his eyes never leaving the glass portal.

Angelo was surprised that he didn't hear the following footsteps and when he turned his eyes were met with round piercing orbs, stained gold by the light pollution filtering through the window.

After a long silence, he spoke. "Hey," Julian said weakly.

"Hey." Angelo's armpits began to prickle with heat and his breathing began to shallow, but he maintained eye contact.

"How do you feel?" He gestured with his chin to the bandaged leg while stuffing his hands into his jacket pocket.

"It only hurts when I move it."

"You know when you're getting out?"

"Doctor said to give it a few days first. Don't wanna fuck up the stitches."

"Mm."

It was quiet, but not uncomfortable as they both stared out of the wide window. Angelo could feel a rift between them, one he hadn't noticed until just now.

Angelo glanced over at him and the vibrant glow of the city illuminated Julian's face, washing out his features to one flat yellow. Angelo was disappointed that this was the last time he was going to see him and he couldn't even see his aquiline features clearly. The point of his chin, the angles of his cheekbones, and the rounded tip of his angled nose were awash in the glow.

"So this is it? Everything we've gone through this semester. Just… over?"

"What do you want from me, Angelo?" Julian's voice boomed in the small space as his eyes blazed, regarding Angelo's in the dark.

"I just wanna talk to you." Angelo's own voice was quiet and apprehensive, loaded with want.

Silence hung in the space between them.

"I'm not gay," Julian said firmly.

"Me neither," Angelo answered defensively.

Julian stared at him hard. Angelo knew he was looking for any cracks in the dim light the city provided. Anything to suggest Angelo was lying. But, after a while, his gaze lowered to the ground once more. "So, what does this mean?" he said without inflection, voice hard. Even the way his body was coiled in was defensive. As if Angelo was going to jump on him.

Angelo was hurt by the stiffness. He was just as confused.

"How do I know you're not?" he asked suddenly.

"What?" Angelo pushed himself to sit up completely.

"How do I know you aren't gay? You seem pretty close to Paul and what's-his-face."

"So, what, that means I'm gay?"

"I don't fucking know, Angelo!" he snapped.

Angelo responded in a quiet thoughtful voice, "Maybe we should, I don't know, sit down and think abou—"

"No! No. I don't want to fucking think about this shit." Julian had the heels of his palms pressed into his temples as he glared at the ground.

"What? You don't want to know what this means?" Angelo gestured between them.

"No."

"You just wanna ignore it? Like you didn't kiss me? Like you didn't want to—"

Julian was on him then, grabbing him by the front of his thin hospital gown and pushing him roughly back into the inclined bed.

"What is it that you want, huh? You want us to be boyfriends?" His face contorted at the word.

"No!" Julian pulled away roughly. "I just think we should talk about it."

Julian was shaking his head, pulling back toward the door.

"Julian, you can't keep running from this! You're gonna think about that kiss every time you see me!" Angelo pulled himself up and slid over the side of the bed. As soon as there was pressure on his leg the burn seared over his knee and up to his hip and he had to grip the plastic railing on his bed with a hand to keep himself up, but he ignored it, glaring at Julian's hard face.

Julian stared back at him. His eyes painfully uncaring. "I'm not staying here next semester." His voice flat.

Angelo swallowed. He was breathing heavily from his mouth after their scuffle. "What?"

"I'm moving out after the semester's over."

"Back to your parents?"

"No, I'm gonna be moving out… on my own."

Angelo gaped and didn't bother concealing the shock on his face.

"This wasn't… this wasn't supposed to be permanent. Me staying on campus was actually pretty last minute. I would've moved straight there but… I was waiting on my brother to decide whether he wanted my help or not since he's a fucking crackhead. If he did, I'd help him get better and stay on campus at least another semester while my scholarships paid for my housing. If not, I was going to dip out and say fuck him and his life."

"When the fuck were you gonna tell me?" Angelo couldn't keep the hurt off his face or from his voice if he tried.

Julian didn't meet his eyes. He shrugged in mock nonchalance. "I didn't know how to."

Angelo gave a dry huff. "Says the man who always knows the right thing to say."

Julian didn't respond. Didn't lift his eyes from the spot on the floor.

Anger roiled in Angelo's gut and curdled underneath Julian's impassive countenance. "Were we even ever friends, Julian?" He asked bitterly, noticing his use of past tense.

Julian huffed and shifted his gaze to Angelo's quivering leg. "You should lay back down."

"What was I? Your therapist? Your fucking diary? Tell me all your fucking problems and then throw me the fuck away?"

Angelo could see the shame crossing Julian's expression even as his pride tried to conceal it and it pissed him off even more because he knew it was true. Every meaningful quiet conversation they'd had rolled through Angelo's mind in an instant and he was pissed and he was disgusted, that disgust evident on his face.

"You know what I think? I think you're a fucking sociopath. And you'll never love anybody or even like anybody. And all of your emotions are fake. And anytime you smile or laugh it's fake. And you fake them because it gets you through life, and because you think that that's what you're supposed to do. And it makes you feel normal because you're scared that you're gonna end up like your mom."

As he said the words, Angelo had already prepared himself for the fist connecting with his jaw. There was so much power behind it, though, and as he fell back to the ground, part of him couldn't believe Julian could hit him like that. Julian was on top of him, his fist reeled back to hit him again. Angelo covered his face with an arm. He tried to push Julian back, but there was too much anger in him and he just held him down and battered him across his cheek. Angelo thrashed underneath him, trying to buck him off, his leg burning. Julian held him down by the neck and clutched so tightly Angelo couldn't breathe. Angelo grabbed that wrist and dug his nails in.

When Julian recoiled his arm Angelo seized the opening, lifting up and pushing Julian backward onto his back and hovering over him between his legs. Angelo held him down with all his strength, straining against the pain in his elbow as he held him down with a forearm. Julian continued swiping at him and Angelo struggled just to hold him down, let alone land a punch and there was no doubt who was stronger. Julian's face was contorted, snarling and enraged. He was actually snarling. Angelo tried his best to deflect the punches and took the knees to his sides, though he knew there would be dark bruises later.

Finally, taking hold of both of Julian's wrists and feeling the screaming protest in his elbow, Angelo used his towering advantage to pin him, but it was still a losing battle, and Julian was about to break free when Angelo ducked down and kissed him.

Julian's head snapped to the side and he thrashed harder. Angelo fought to keep him still and bent down again, burying his face into his warm neck. A growl tore from Julian and he bucked. Angelo pressed his full weight on him, his face still cradled in the crook of Julian's neck.

"Get off me! Get the fuck off me!"

Angelo lifted his head and connected their mouths again. He released a hand to hold Julian by the jaw. The free hand then clawed at Angelo's shoulder. Angelo lightly pressed his lips to his temple. Then to the crook of his neck again.

"Get off of me." The desperation was clear.

Angelo kissed the side of his mouth. He didn't know what he was doing. The minute Julian was on top of him his anger was gone. The hurt from the betrayal dissipated. All he felt now was his want. He wanted to want him to leave. Wished he wanted Julian to get up and walk away. To say fuck Julian and his plans. Fuck Julian and his life.

He pushed with his tongue on the side of Julian's mouth and Julian opened it, turning his mouth into Angelo's to demand the kiss he didn't want and electricity struck them both like a live current through their wanting mouths. The hand still gripped painfully at Angelo's shoulder, but he allowed it. Angelo's elbow protested greatly but he ignored it as well as the burning in his thigh.

They kissed for a long time. Sucking in each kiss with every inhale and sighing out the discontent on every exhale. The hand holding Julian's jaw slid up into his soft gelled hair.

When Angelo pulled back Julian looked weak staring up at him. As if all his strength had burned away during that languid kiss. But Angelo noted that his pupils weren't large. His breathing wasn't irregular. He just looked worn and… Angelo knew well enough by now… regretful. But Angelo didn't want to move, not yet. Not until he said something to change Julian's mind. Or said something to make Julian say something else. And maybe that would make Angelo say the thing to change his mind.

But no words came. And he knew they wouldn't. And his hand on Julian's wrist went slack. He glanced at the other in his hair that had begun looking foreign and awkward there. But he was afraid to move. Afraid of what would come after this moment. What would happen after Julian got up and walked out of the door? When he wouldn't have his presence anymore?

But Angelo relented, moving slowly off of him and settling down beside him on the hard tile. His arm hurt all up down. His leg hurt and he could pretend it was so strong that the pain was throbbing in his groin and in his chest. His head hurt. All the bruises and scrapes hurt.

Julian pulled himself up, their shoulders brushing as he sat all the way up. He drew his knees up and rested his elbows on them. And they sat there in the shadow of the hospital bed as the yellow lights reflected off of the clean white walls.

o

A few weeks later, Angelo brushed his teeth back at home, fingers tapping quickly over the keyboard of his laptop while he checked his school account. He sighed at the oncoming wave of distress that would soon follow after clicking into the Funds tab. The school's crimson colors appeared across the screen's border and Angelo searched for the dollar sign, thinking at the same time of his Uncle, his grandmother, cousins, anyone who might loan him some money and the probability of any of them actually giving him some. He sighed again.

His eyes read the balance on the screen. He frowned. Then he pulled the laptop off his lap and stood up from the bed. He quickly finished brushing his teeth, spat out the refuse, gargled, splashed water on his face, dried it and bolted back into his room and looked at the screen again.

Balance: $0

Angelo felt his heart palpitate and reasoned in his head how the fuck this could happen. Immediately, he thought Did I get dropped? Did I get expelled? Did I forget to turn some paperwork in? He quickly clicked through into the Accounts Paid tab and found his history of payments. It said it was paid. His heart fluttered and he felt short of breath. Who?

He called the school, halfway wondering if he should just leave it be. Take it as a blessing from the heavens and pray to God that nothing fell through. But he couldn't, not out of curiosity, but what if it was a mistake that Angelo would have to pay for later. What if they dropped his classes?

"Yes, hello? Yes, my name is Angelo Jimenez … Hold on." He dug into his bag on the old brown La-Z-Boy next to his bed. He dug out his student ID. "The number is 610-888-9412 … Yeah, I wanted to check my Account Balance …" He tried not to breathe so hard into the receiver as the kind woman on the phone told him to wait one moment while she pulled up the requested information.

Upon hearing her reply the breath he'd been holding exited in a rush and he asked, "So does it say who… who paid?" As he waited for the reply his door opened.

His mother paused upon entering seeing he was on the phone regarding his wide-eyed expression, the raven curls spiraling about her face. She held up a white envelop indicating it was for him and he nodded. She placed the envelope on the dresser beside his door and left again, closing the door behind her.

"Yeah, I'm still here …" Angelo's heart pounded in his chest and his jaw dropped at the speakers next words and wondering if she knew how much his world was exploding right now. "Thank you. No, that's all."

As soon as he hung up he dropped the phone onto the bed with a soft thump. He ran a shaky hand over his face as his heart beat hard against his healed ribs. He sat back against his bed and thumped his head against the wall. The next hour was spent in reverie, thinking back on the semester. He hadn't thought about him in a while, blocking him out with his X-box and the internet and bags and bags of Skittles. He had to call him.

His door opened and Clara stood at the threshold once more.

"Baby, did you open this? I left this for you on the kitchen counter days ago. It says it's from the hospital. It's probably important."

Angelo groaned. "It's probably the bill."

"Oo, I forgot about that." She sighed heavily. Clara had been working all day and night at the hospital as an RN and she was worn and tired even now as she stood in her blue scrubs ready to leave.

Angelo frowned, feeling guilty. He was under his mother's insurance, but it didn't cover revenge beatings from childhood best friends.

His mother handed him the envelope from the dresser and he met her halfway and began tearing into it. He pulled out the documents; two slips of paper neatly folded into thirds and swallowed his nerves before reading it.

His eyes roved over the page and he frowned. His flipped over to the back and frowned harder.

"What?" Clara asked regarding his expression.

Angelo didn't answer, flipping to the front page again and scanning it again. His thick brows shot up as he read, Clara frowning as she watched.

"What?"

"This is a receipt."

"A what?" She snatched the top page away from him and read, "T.E. Morrison Medical Center has received your payment of… $3542.40. ¡Ea diantre! Did you pay this?"

"No." Angelo shook his head, going over the second page that listed everything he'd needed: stiches, bandages, Tylenol, shots, everything. Angelo's heart palpitated again and his breathing was shallow.

"Well, who did?"

"It doesn't say." Angelo didn't tell her that his thousand dollar tuition bill had also been anonymously paid.

"Well, who would?"

"I don't know."

"You don't know? Did you make a good impression on one of your professors or something?"

"Maybe?" Angelo didn't want to tell her. The truth was complicated and he didn't feel like coming up with some lie he'd have to remember all the details to. It was easier to leave out the truth, than to fake it.

After his mother left for work, Angelo stared down at his phone. He had to call. It would be rude not to. And he was grateful. So grateful. But he was also bitter. What was this supposed to mean? Paying for his silence? Paying out of guilt? Angelo knew it wasn't true. But his past made him think this way, pinning everyone as guilty until proven otherwise.

His fingers were clammy and trembled as he dialed, leaving damp circles on the glass screen. He swallowed his nerves and tried to control his breathing as he held the phone to his ear and waited.

"… … … … Hey, it's Julian. Leave a message."

Angelo chewed his lip and spoke. "Hey, it's me. Um…" He fingered the torn white envelope. "I just wanted to say thanks. And um… I'm really grateful and… I don't know what I would've done without your help so thanks again." He held his breath against another word before saying, "Bye."

oo

AN: And so ends book 1. What did you guys think? Seriously PLEASE CRITIQUE! I'm not asking to stroke my ego nor am I trying to have a lot of comments. Seriously, did you like it? Was it realistic enough? Did it hold your interest? Did you feel any characters (except where shallowness was intended) lacked depth or proper exposition? Could you picture the setting? Are you interested in its continuation? Are you confused about anything (plot/characters/setting)? What are you satisfied/dissatisfied with? This is the first story I've ever fully finished thanks to you guys and I want to create the best experience possible (ignoring all of my typos and grammatical errors :P).

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Lastly, if you want to stay updated with what I'm doing/working on follow me on Tumblr at thebricomplex. For everyone who already follows me, thanks so much! I promise that with school out I'll definitely post more. Thanks you guys! If you liked, tell a friend!