Slammed, p.12
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       Slammed, p.12

         Part #1 of Slammed series by Colleen Hoover
 

  My mother sighs and takes a seat next to Will on the sofa. “Both of you need to accept the severity of this situation. I know my daughter, and my daughter likes you, Will. A lot. If you share even a fraction of those feelings, you will do whatever you can to distance yourself from her. That includes ditching the nicknames. This will jeopardize your career, and her reputation.” She stands up and walks to the front door, holding it open for me to follow her out. She wasn’t allowing us the opportunity for any private time.

  Kel and Caulder brush past us as they run into Caulder's bedroom. Mom's eyes follow after them as she gazes down the hallway that the two boys just ran through.

  "Kel and Caulder don't need to be affected by this," she says as she brings her attention back to Will. "I suggest we work something out now so that the contact between you and my Lake can be minimized."

  "Absolutely. I completely agree," he says.

  "I sleep in the mornings. If you want to take them to school, Lake or I will pick them up after school. Where they go from there can be up to them. They seem to do pretty well going back and forth."

  "That sounds good. Thank you."

  "He's a good kid, Will."

  "Really, Julia. It's all fine with me. I haven’t seen Caulder this happy in a …” Will’s voice trails off and he doesn’t finish his sentence.

  “Julia?” he asks. “Will you be talking to the school about this? I mean, I completely understand if that’s what you need to do. I would just like to be prepared, beforehand.”

  She looks at him, then at me and holds her stare as she speaks. “There’s nothing currently going on that I would need to inform them about, is there?”

  “Not at all. I swear,” I quickly reply. I want Will to look at me so he can see the apology in my eyes, but he doesn't. As soon as he shuts his front door behind us, I can’t hold my tongue any longer.

  “Why would you do that?” I yell. “You didn’t even give me the opportunity to explain!” I dart across the street and don't look back at her as I run into the house and into the solitude of my bedroom where I will remain until she's left for work.

  ***

  “Layken, do we have any packets of Kool-Aid?” Kel is standing in the entryway, covered in snow slush.

  It’s not the oddest thing he’s ever asked me for, so I don’t question him as I grab a package of grape out of the kitchen cabinet and take it to him.

  “Not purple, we need red,” he commands. I grab the purple package from his hands and return with a red one.

  “Thanks!”

  I close the door behind him and grab a towel and lay it down on the tile of the entryway. It’s not even nine in the morning and already Kel and Caulder have been outside in the snow for over two hours.

  I take a seat at the bar and finish my cup of coffee, staring at the pile of junk food that I’m no longer excited about eating. My mother got home around seven-thirty this morning and climbed into bed where she’ll stay until around two o’clock. I’m still angry with her and don’t feel like confronting the situation at all today, so it looks like I have about five more hours before I’ll lock myself in my bedroom again. I grab a movie off the bar and, despite my lack of appetite, a bag of chocolate. If there is any man who can take my mind off of Will, it’s definitely Johnny Depp.

  Halfway through my movie, Kel comes bounding in the house, still covered in snow and slush as he grabs my hand and starts to pull me outside.

  “Kel, stop. I’m not going outside!” I snap.

  “Please? Just for a minute. You have to see the snowman we made.”

  “Fine. Let me get some shoes on at least.”

  I put my shoes on and Kel grabs my hand again and pulls me out the door. I continue to allow Kel to pull me along as I shield my eyes. It’s taking them a moment to adjust to the suns reflection on the snow.

  “It’s right over here,” I hear Caulder saying, but not to me. I look up to see Caulder handling his brother in the same way that Kel is handling me. We are both led to the rear of the jeep where they position us inches apart, directly in front of a casualty.

  I now know the purpose behind the demand for red Kool-Aid. In front of us, lying flat on the ground beneath the rear of my jeep, is a dead snowman. His eyes are small pieces of twig, shaped into a grim expression. His arms are two thin branches lying at his side, one of them broken in half under my rear tire. His head and neck are sprinkled with a trail of red Kool-Aid that leads to a pool of bright red snow about a foot down from the snowman.

  “He was in a terrible accident,” Kel says seriously before he and Caulder break out into a fit of giggles.

  Will and I look at one another, and for the first time in a week, he smiles at me.

  “Wow, I need my camera,” he says.

  "I’ll grab mine,” I say as I head back inside.

  So this is what it’s going to be like from now on? Conversing under false pretenses in front of our brothers, avoiding each other in public? I hate the transition.

  When I return with the camera, the boys are still admiring the murder scene as I snap a couple of pictures.

  “Kel, let’s kill a snowman with Will’s car now,” Caulder says before they dart across the street.

  The tension is thick as Will and I stare excessively at the snowman in front of us, not knowing what else to look at. He eventually glances toward his house at our brothers.

  “They’re lucky to have each other you know,” he says quietly.

  I analyze this sentence and wonder if it has a deeper meaning, or if he was simply just making an observation.

  “Yeah, they are,” I agree.

  We both stand there watching them gather more snow when he takes a deep breath and stretches his arms out above his head.

  “Well, I better get back inside,” he says. He turns away.

  “Will, wait.” He swings back around and puts his hands in his pockets, but doesn’t say anything.

  “I’m sorry about yesterday. About my mom,” I say as I stare at the ground between us. I can't look him in the eye for two reasons. One, the snow is still blinding me; two, it hurts for me to look at him.

  “It’s fine, Layken.”

  And we’re back to the official first name.

  He stares at the ground where the ‘blood’ has tinted the snow and he kicks at it with his shoe. “She’s just doing her job as a mom, you know.” Sadness spreads across his face as he speaks. “Don’t be so mad at her. You’re lucky to have her.”

  He spins and walks back to his house. Guilt overcomes me as I think of what it's like for them to just have each other, and here I sit complaining about the only parent left between the four of us. I feel ashamed for bringing it up. I feel more ashamed having even been mad at my mother for what she did. It was my fault for not talking to her about it sooner. Will is right, as usual. I am lucky to have her.

  ***

  The shower in my mother’s bedroom is running after lunch, so I heat up some leftovers and make her a glass of tea. I place them at her usual seat at the bar and wait for her. When she finally emerges from the hallway and sees the food, she gives me a slight smile and takes her seat.

  “Is this a peace offering or did you poison my food?” she asks as she unfolds a napkin into her lap.

  “I guess you’ll have to eat it first to find out.”

  She eyes me cautiously and takes a bite of her food. She chews for a minute and takes another bite after she fails to keel over.

  “I’m sorry, Mom. I should have talked to you about it sooner. I was just really upset.”

  She looks at me with pity in her eyes so I turn away from her and busy my hands with the dishes.

  “Lake, I know how much you like him, I do. I like him too. But like I said yesterday, this can’t happen. You have to promise me you won’t do anything stupid.”

  “I swear, Mom. He’s made it clear he wants nothing to do with me, so you don’t have anything to worry about.”

  “I hope not,” she says as she c
ontinues to eat.

  I finish up the dishes and return to the living room to continue my affair with Johnny.

  6.

  “Your heart says not again

  What kind of mess have you got me in?

  But when the feeling's there

  It can lift you up and take you anywhere.”

  -The Avett Brothers, Living of Love

  Chapter Six

  The next three weeks fly by as my homework gets more intense, along with the isolation in Will’s classroom. We haven’t spoken since the day the snowman was murdered. We haven’t had eye contact since then either. He avoids me like the plague.

  I haven't been adjusting very well to Michigan. Maybe everything that happened with Will ended up making the move even harder. All I ever feel like doing is sleeping. I guess because it doesn't hurt as bad when you're asleep.

  Eddie keeps bringing up possible fillers for the obvious hole in my boyfriend department, but I’ve rejected them all. She has finally resorted to switching places in Will’s class with Nick in the hopes that something will bloom there.

  It won’t.

  “Hey, Layken,” Nick smiles as he sits in his new spot nearest me. “Got another one for ya. Wanna hear it?”

  In the past week alone, I’ve had to endure at least three Chuck Norris jokes a day from Nick. He incorrectly assumes that since I’m from Texas, I must be obsessed with "Walker, Texas Ranger."

  “Sure.” I don’t try to deny him this privilege anymore, it doesn’t work.

  “Chuck Norris got a g-mail account today. It’s [email protected]"

  It takes me a second to process. I’m normally quick with jokes, but my mind has been sluggish lately, and for good reason.

  “Funny,” I reply flatly in order to appease him.

  “Chuck Norris counted to infinity. Twice.”

  As much as I didn’t feel like laughing, I did. Nick did annoy me quite a bit, but his ignorance was endearing.

  When Will walks into the classroom, his eyes dart to Nick. Although he still doesn’t look at me, I like to imagine a twinge of jealousy building up inside of him. I’ve been making it a point recently, once Will comes into the room, to become more attentive toward Nick. I hate this new desire that has overcome me; the desire to make Will jealous. I know I need to stop before Nick starts to get the wrong idea, but I can’t. I feel like this is the only aspect of this entire situation that I have any control over.

 
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