"Fight, fight, fight, fight, fight!" I hear people yell from around the corner. I shake my head. Seriously? Why do people enjoy watching these? Who are the idiots this time?
I round the corner, still sighing, and I suddenly stop short as I catch sight of the very angry face that my boyfriend is making, his arm moving up and down so fast, it's superhuman. I don't catch sight of the person he's beating up but I run up, shouting.
"Jake! Jake, stop it!" I scream. But he can't hear me over the crowd's yells and cheers. So I do the one thing I shouldn't: I go tell the nearest teacher, who is already walking out.
She runs into the middle of the makeshift ring that Jake is fighting in and grabs Jake by the shirt sleeve. "What is wrong with you? This school has a zero-tolerance policy for violence and fighting. What do you think you're doing?"
Jake's hair is messed up, sweat is glistening on his forehead, and he's panting hard. Then he stops breathing as his eyes connect with mine.
I can just imagine how I look. Angry… surprised… confused… sad.
His eyes darken and his face changes and he pushes off the teacher. She grabs him again and says, "No. To the office!"
He starts to beg. "Please. I need to talk to—"
"I do not care, Mr. Lloyd!" She pushes towards the office. "Come on! We're going to settle this with the principal."
Jake yells my name as the crowd disperses, muttering and laughing. I can't believe it. My boyfriend… beautiful, calm, kind Jake Lloyd… fighting?
Suddenly, I remember the other guy who Jake was fighting. He's still on the floor, and he's groaning, his face on the floor. I rush over and kneel down by him.
"Are you okay?"
Then I stop. My hands grow cold and I take a sharp intake of breath.
He turns over, moaning and wincing. Then his eyes go clear as he stares at me, registering my face. "Megan?" His voice is soft, almost weak.
I kneel down by him as tears spill over my eyes. "What happened? Why was Jake…" I stop. "We need to get you some help."
"Shhh… don't talk." But he continues.
"Please. I'm… I'm sorry." Those are his last words before he fades out and falls into the world of unconscious delirium.
I see him before he sees me. He's talking to Shaw, his face expressionless. I take a deep breath and try not to think about Luka's messed-up face as I walk towards Jake, the boy I thought I loved, the boy who just beat up my ex.
"What the hell, Jake?" I start. The words are out of my mouth before I can think. Jake turns to me, his eyes darkening.
"Don't ask, Meg."
"No. You can't just so that to Luka and then expect me to forgive you, especially without an explanation. What happened? And tell me the truth." I'm demanding now, my hurt and fear and sadness taking over me in a wild bout of anger at this boy, this boy who's standing right in front of me.
"Follow me," is all he says. So I do. I still trust this boy though I'm wavering.
He leads me into an empty classroom and he flips on the lights. He takes a deep breath and says,
"He said that I don't deserve you."
I reel, taking a step backwards. I collide with a desk but I don't even feel the pain.
I thought he hated me.
Until the apology after the fight, I thought he resented me. Hated me with an anger that only he could understand.
But he defended me?
Jake's hands clenched into fists. "He said that you were too good for me. He said that you deserved better and that someone else would treat you better than I would. He said that I would never fully understand you." Jake looks at me. "Am I really that bad?"
I don't say anything. If this were just two hours before, two hours ago when a fight did not occur between my boyfriend and my ex, two hours ago when everything was fine between me and Jake, I would have said no. I would have cried for Jake and I would have denied every bad thing said against him, even if it came from Luka Laurence. I would have kissed him and tried to make everything all better again. I would have done whatever it took for us to stay together. I wouldn't have been able to handle another breakup.
But now, something has changed. Because it's two hours too late. And I have to say the words that will end this, because I have to.
So I take a shaky breath and I start to speak. "Jake… you're not a bad person. You make mistakes just like any other person. You're a great guy, you're sweet and kind and funny and awesome and romantic…" I can't say it, I can't say it, I can't say it…
"Why doesn't this sound like it's going somewhere good?" Jake asks, his voice rising, almost as if he's panicking. "Megan, what are you trying to say?"
I can't hold back the tears any longer. "But you're just not right for me."
Jake slumps to the ground, all the power taken out of him at those words. My eyes are overflowing with tears as he says, "Is this because of the fight?"
"It's because of a lot of things," I say through the tears. "I thought I loved you… I really did. I did feel something for you if that's any consolation." I know it wasn't. "But… after the fight, I knew. You're just not right for me. My boyfriend is not someone violent or dangerous."
"I'm sorry, Meg, I'm so sorry," Jake says, crying now too. My heart aches for him, this boy, but I can't do this anymore.
"I took a chance with you because I wasn't sure how I was supposed to choose between you or Luka. I didn't know how to control my own feelings. I felt different things for both of you, but now I know… It was Luka all along."
Jake sucks in a breath and I feel as if I killed him. I feel as if I just deleted Jake's soul in a few words. But I know that what I said was the truth.
I love Luka Laurence.
"Megan, please… we can't be over."
"I'm sorry, Jake," I say, sounding deranged to my own ears. "But it is."
I run out of the classroom. Into the parking lot. I open the car door. Drive, drive, drive. Drive to the hospital that he is resting in.
"Luka," I say.